Iowa Theatre Artists Company presents new show about Amana history

AMANA – Co-producers of the Iowa Theatre Artists Company, Tom Johnson and Meg Merckens, are creating a “new” show about “old” Amana that takes a close look at how community members coped with the end of their communal way of life in 1932 known as “The Great Change.”

The one-hour play is called “Oma Tales Stories My Grandmother Told Me.” The show opened June 13 and continues through Aug. 17 with performance times on Thursday and Friday at 2:30 p.m. and Saturday at noon and 2:30 p.m.

This new production features longtime ITAC performers Meg Merckens, of South Amana, and Marshall Nielsen, of Cedar Falls, and introduces the 2013 Internship members, Lauren Gentry, of Omaha, Neb., and Andrew Burlage, of Cedar Rapids.

The past few weeks, Johnson and Merckens have interviewed Amana residents who came of age in 1932 or just after. They’ve read first-person accounts, oral history transcripts and the historical accounts describing those frenetic months of 1931-32. This was familiar territory for the couple.

About a decade ago, Johnson wrote a very well-received, full-length play on Amana’s history, “Home On The Iowa.” More recently, the couple adapted oral histories of communal Amana into a one-hour stage show, called “Stories of Old Amana” that was presented at ITAC during the summer of 2012, and before that another show based on Amana history, “Remain True” that ran for two years.

“So many of the things I’ve read or the work we’ve done as a theater with the previous Amana historical dramas, have stopped when we reached 1932, the end of the communal times. We want to explore that period of time after the Change,” Johnson said.

In addition, clothing and other items from the period will be displayed in the ITAC lobby. After each performance, the audience will have the opportunity to talk with the actors about the show and the topics it introduces.

“We have found that audiences enjoy the ‘talkback’ sessions so much. They add to the overall experience for the visitor and they’re fun for the actors too,” Merckens said.

Seating is general admission but ITAC encourages patrons to call the Box Office, 319-622-3222, and reserve tickets due to the limited seating of its 99-seat theater. Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

“This is a wonderful show to share between generations. Though the youngest children may not be able to follow some of the stories, we think that this is an ideal show for fifth-graders right on up to their grandparents,” Johnson said.

The Iowa Theatre Artists Company is a small, professional nonprofit theater company that has been producing plays since 2008. The ITAC theatre is located on the upper level of the ITAC Performing Arts Center which was the former Amana Barn Restaurant.