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ITAC visits Dysart this weekend

September 5, 2014
Dysart Reporter

For the past six years the Iowa Theatre Artists Company (ITAC) of Amana has been traveling to Dysart to perform at the Union Middle School as a fundraising event for the Dysart and Garrison Lions Clubs. Performances of the new comedy, "The Old Guy" written by Thomas P. Johnson, on September 6 & 7, will bring this successful collaboration to a close. ITAC Co-Producers, Johnson and his creative partner and wife, Meg Merckens, will be "semi-retiring" their theatre company after the 2014 Season. Though the theatre will continue to produce one or two shows in future years in venues close to their home in Amana, owning a theatre building and touring productions will come to a close at the end of this year. Johnson remarks, "It's a bittersweet feeling to know that 2014 will be our final year of touring a show into Dysart. Meg and I love coming back to our "home" area of Garrison, Dysart and Vinton and seeing all of our friends from the 'old days" at the Old Creamery Theatre. We are grateful to all of the many friends in the area who have continued to support our work from 1971 through this year. What a great theatrical life we have enjoyed right here in Iowa." Merckens adds, "The Old Guy" is the perfect play to finish up our Dysart performances. The first ITAC show to come to Dysart in 2008 was our original comedy called "Dates With A Nut." It seems fitting to bookend our seven year history with the Lions by featuring another one of our original shows, We just know that our audiences here in Benton and Tama counties are going to really enjoy this production."

"The Old Guy" premiered on the ITAC stage in November of 2013. Positive audience reaction and media reviews encouraged Johnson to continue to work on the new script. This past January, Johnson applied for and was accepted into a weeklong playwriting seminar at the Kenyon Institute in Gambier, Ohio. In early June, he began to rework his play on the Kenyon campus. "I thought I'd be working on Act Two, which felt to me as if it needed the most work," explained Johnson. "But the intensive course prompted me to start at the top and to begin reworking the script from page one." The story centers around a reclusive, out-of-work auto mechanic who rediscovers his own worth and purpose when he comes to the aid of a young student who hopes to take "a trip of a lifetime." With the challenges of a bothersome neighbor and a less-than-honest businessman in the mix, and the barrier of age discrimination to overcome, the "Old Guy" must discover what only he can do to help his young friend realize his dream while in the process, creating a dream of his own. Johnson is looking forward to the response of new audience members as well as the response from those who saw the play last season.

Stepping into the "well-worn slippers" of the Old Guy is veteran performer, Robert Gardner (St. Peter, MN), replacing Steve Shaffer, who originated the role. Artistic Director, Meg Merckens commented, "When Steve Shaffer was unable to return to Iowa due to prior commitments in the Twin Cities, Rob was the obvious choice to join the cast and take over the lead role. He has the skills needed to bring this role to life and our audience has enjoyed his work since he first stepped onto our stage in 2009." Gardner has performed in numerous ITAC productions over the past five seasons including "The Dining Room," "The Drawer Boy" (appearing opposite Shaffer), and "Foxfire" He also was a member of the cast of "From the Home Front" another original script by Johnson that went on to win the Iowa Cultural Corridor's Award for Excellence in Theatre Programming. Gardner is joined on stage by ITAC veteran performers, Meg Merckens (South Amana) and Marshall Nielsen (Cedar Falls) along with 12-year old Elijah Jefferson (Amana), a 7th grader at Clear Creek Amana Middle School. All three actors appeared in the original 2013 production of "The Old Guy."

Article Photos

Robert Gardner (left) and Elijah Jefferson in “The Old Guy” by Thomas P. Johnson. Two performances are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 6 at 7 pm and Sunday, Sept. 7 at 2 pm at the Union Middle School in Dysart.

Performances are Saturday at 7:00 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm at the Union Middle School Auditorium. Ticket prices are $16 for Adults and $10 for Students. Tickets can be purchased from all Dysart and Garrison Lions Club members or by calling: Dick Flickinger: 319-477-8423 (Garrison) and Dwayne Luze: 319-476-4949 (Dysart). Tickets can also be purchased at ITAC in Amana. This play is suitable for Junior High School and older. Information about ITAC and the entire 2014 Season can be found by visiting:

In Dysart:

What: The Old Guy by Thomas P. Johnson

Who: Iowa Theatre Artists Company

Where: Union Middle School

505 West Street Dysart, IA 52224

Dates: September 6 -7

Performance Days/Times: Saturday: 7:00 pm

Sunday: 2:00 pm

Ticket Prices: $16 Adult; $10 Student

For Tickets: Dick Flickinger: 319-477-8423 (Garrison)

Dwayne Luze: 319-476-4949 (Dysart)

ITAC: 319-622-3222 (Amana)



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