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Local theatre venues thrive


Story by Katie Ericson

Theatre in Des Moines is flourishing. From show selections to ticket sales, everything is going uphill.

Last year, Des Moines Performing Arts had a record breaking 12,097 season ticket holders. With an average attendance of 329,000 people, 378 performances between its 10 venues and an economic impact of $31 million to the area, Des Moines Performing Arts is growing at an impressive rate.

Now it is aiming to do even better. Next year it will feature Broadway favorites “Wicked” and “Phantom of the Opera” along with the Tony winners “Once” and the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess.”

“The community has been incredibly supportive, generous and enthusiastic to Des Moines Performing Arts through the years. That’s why we are dedicated to bringing world-class entertainment and shows, as well as a variety of arts programs that are economically accessible to families, schools
and other organizations,” Cindy Hughes Anliker, communications manager, said.

It appears that Des Moines as a whole has fallen in love with the arts. This January, the Drake Theatre Department put on a production of “Chicago.” The show was put together during J-term and performed for three nights at the end of the semester.

On the opening night, Thursday, tickets were available for reservation, but Friday and Saturday night were sold out. Students were forced to wait for last minute cancellations in hopes of getting into the popular show.

The department has gotten even bigger recently with its performance of “Carmina Burana” with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. This cantata combines the singing power of all Drake choirs — totaling almost 300 people.

This does not address the other theatre companies in Des Moines, which are prospering as well. These companies include Stage West, the Des Moines Social Club and the Des Moines Community Playhouse.

“Des Moines is very supportive of the arts in general, and the playhouse  specifically. We anticipate this will continue,” Lee Ann Bakros,  marketing and public relations director of the Des Moines Community Playhouse, said.

After 95 years in Des Moines, the Community Playhouse has expanded to include a space for children’s theatre.

The Playhouse works with 1,400 volunteers each year, and puts on 11 shows a season. It has a steady audience with over 55,000 people attending its shows along with the largest education department of any community theater in the country.

The Des Moines Social Club too has had a successful year. Currently based in the Kirkwood Building, the non-profit organization is moving to a historic firehouse. This new space has been renovated and restored and will allow the theater to expand.

“We’ve had a growing attendance,” Matt McIver, artistic director of the Des Moines Social Club and its theatre company, said. “We want to continue that growth.”

By moving to the new firehouse, the Social Club will have more space, more seating and more opportunities.

“We’re experimental,” McIver said when describing their shows.

The company hosts around four productions a year with a small core group of actors and many others from the Des Moines community. While McIver admitted that it can be difficult to get good advertising in Des Moines, he added that the people here seem to be growing to love theatre.


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