Circus, comedy featured in new WPAC season
The Wilson Performing Arts Center has announced a wide variety of shows with something for everyone for its upcoming 2023-24 season, with the theme “Meet Me at the Wilson.”
In addition to outside performances, three local productions will feature casts from in and around the Red Oak area. When it comes to choosing productions for each season, executive director Val Zane said it was probably her favorite part of the job.
“We accept calls from people, we also reach out to people, and we Google a lot of things. We’re always looking for what would be a fun balance for our season, as far as entertainment and community relations. We love to find a balance of fun, and learning,” Zane said. “We also like to try to find things that have never been here before, as well as things that we can bank on that will be a lot of fun and that people will want to see again and again. We’re open to bringing back shows from the past, but we also like bringing in a few different things so people can find out if they love that as well.”
Director of operations Candy Garey said it was also important to do a fair amount of research about each act or performer, to make sure they could deliver.
“We don’t just want to go on what a performer is going to send us, because that’s usually been edited and doctored up a bit. With Youtube, we can see their live concerts and get a full idea of what they sound like to make sure they can perform a live show without all the filters,” commented Garey.
Additionally, Zane said they structure their seasons around the feedback they get from audiences.
“We talk to a lot of our season pass holders, as well as first-time audience members and find out what they want to see, then take their feedback and try to figure it out. We decided on a 12-show season because we wanted to have some community theater productions in there. I think we have a “rock” type of season this year,” commented Zane.
Kicking off the season is “The Great DuBois: Masters of Variety.” The show will be held July 29 at 7:30 p.m. Garey said the show is a two-person circus that was featured in the film, “The Greatest Showman.”
“We’re going to be giving out treats, and we’re going to have a real good time. It’s the Wilson’s first circus,” Garey said.
Zane added that it took a lot of behind the scenes work to get them to the Wilson stage, as initially, they were above the budget.
“We had to wait for them to come through so we could get them at a good price. It was a treat to be able to get them into our building. I’ve been looking forward to doing this show. For a while I didn’t think we were going to be able to book them, and now that we know they’re coming it’s a very exciting thing,” Zane advised.
On Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m., and Sept. 10 at 2:30 p.m., Zane said they are hosting “Jimmy Ryan’s Heroes Behind the Hits: Music & Tales from the Legends of Rock & Roll.” Zane said Ryan has toured with artists such as Elton John, Carly Simon, and Cat Stevens.
“He has a ton of people he’s toured with, he’s written a book, and he’s going to tell the audience all the secrets about the people he’s toured with. He told me a lot of them, and I immediately knew we had to book him, because he was so entertaining,” stated Zane.
Sept. 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 1 at 2:30 p.m. will be the season’s first community theatre production, “Every Brilliant Thing.” The show is a one-person community-theater piece that highlights all the joys of life together in one show. It’s supposed to make the audience inspired and feel lucky to be alive. However, Garey said audience participation is needed.
“While it’s a one-person show, it requires audience interaction as well. They will be putting in their own twist on things. The audience doesn’t have to participate, but it will be helpful,” stated Garey.
The BelAirs, a blues, country, soul, and rock and roll group will perform Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m., and closing out October “The Everly Brothers Experience featuring the Zmed Brothers” will perform on Oct. 29 at 2:30 p.m. Zane said the BelAirs and the Zmed brothers are a very popular group around the area.
November will see the return of Rock 4 Vets, featuring the Southwest Iowa All-Stars, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11. Zane said the popular group performed to a sell-out crowd last year.
“In addition to hosting the show, we’ll also be doing a variety of fundraisers that will benefit local veterans associations. It’s on my birthday, which I’m very excited about. We’ll do some silent auctions and a live auction as well,” Zane explained.
The second community theater production on the Wilson stage will help ring in the Christmas season, with “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.” The show will be performed for two weekends, Dec. 8, 9, and 15 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 16 at 1 p.m., and Dec. 10 and 17 at 2:30 p.m.
The first Wilson show in 2024 is “Reza: Edge of Illusion.” Reza is the world’s top performing illusionist. The show will take place Jan. 28 at 2:30 p.m. Garey said Reza is a return appearance to the Wilson.
“He last performed here in 2017. He does a great magic act, and I helped bring in some of his equipment, and I couldn’t figure out how he did any of his tricks,” Garey said.
Another show Zane said she is excited about having at the Wilson is “Touch of Grey, a Grateful Dead Tribute Band.” Zane said it’s the Wilson’s first ever Grateful Dead tribute band.
“I’ve seen them perform several times, and they are absolutely amazing. The lead singer is Matt Wilbur, the district attorney of Pottawattamie County. He grew up in Carson, which is where my husband is from, so I reached out to him, and he said yes. In addition to Grateful Dead songs, they also cover a lot of other things,” Zane advised.
Moving on to March, the Wilson will host “Funny Fiddle, the Comedy & Music of Chris Pendleton.” Zane said audiences are in for a treat.
“Chris Pendleton is hilarious, so she plays the fiddle and tells jokes, and it’s going to be fantastic. She’s so funny. I don’t want to ruin too much of it, but if anyone misses that show, they’re missing out,” Zane commented.
In April, audiences can see “The Wilson’s Comedy Showcase” with headliner Austin Anderson, April 20 at 7:30 p.m.
“Austin is hilarious obviously, otherwise we wouldn’t have him as the headliner of a comedy show. We’re also going to try to get community involvement in this, like some skits and improv for local community members to get up on stage. That’s going to be very fun.”
Closing out the 2023-24 season is a final community theater production, “School of Rock,” which will also feature a rock camp for kids after the show. Val is hopeful they can turn it into a regular camp.
“We’ll invite kids to take some sort of classes over the summer. We’re also looking for a sponsor for “School of Rock” as well. All the shows are awesome, but we’re really excited about this show. It’s going to get a lot of kids in the community involved, and show off a lot of the talent in Southwest Iowa,” Zane said.
Like “White Christmas,” Zane said the show will be split into two weekends. June 14-15, and June 21-22 at 7:30 p.m., and June 16 and 23 at 2:30 p.m.
For more information, visit wilsonartscenter.org. To purchase tickets, call 623-3183.