Place/Event: Des Moines Community Playhouse Tour
Location: 831 42nd Street, Des Moines lA 50312
Grade/age range: All ages are welcome but older students will gain more from the tour. Special tours can be arranged for preschool age.
Group size: Tour groups are split into groups of 25 or less.
Stroller friendly: No. Uneven walk ways and stairs make it challenging to use a stroller. Parents can wear a baby in carrier. If a special needs student attends the tour, accommodations can be made.
The first time I ever experienced the grandeur of the Des Moines Community Theatre was during the performance of Mary Poppins. Sitting in the front row, the curtain lifted before me and there was what I thought was a beautiful curtain backdrop of No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane. As the cast began the performance, the “curtain” started to move forward and then open from the middle like a giant dollhouse showcasing the home’s interior setting. After two more hours of astonishing entertainment, I was hooked. We have now been attending performances at the playhouse for a few years and inviting friends along with us.
To our delight, we were able to take a behind-the-scenes tour. The playhouse staff are excellent with children and can accommodate large or small tour groups.
During the tour, students are engaged in discussion and encouraged to ask lots of questions. In the Children’s Theatre, a crew member was building the set for the A Little House Christmas performance.
The Costume Shop was absolutely fabulous. The children became so excited as they spotted the costumes for their favorite characters in the upcoming performance of The Little Mermaid.
We learned about the fun history of the Green Room, which actually isn’t green. Originally, the rooms that performers waited in were typically painted green and the name has stuck ever since.
The tour is roughly 45 minutes long, but ours lasted an hour because the children had so many questions. Robin, the Education Director, was happy to answer all the questions and engage the students in dialogue.
The costume and prop storage room is mind-boggling. Kept very well organized, this room spans the length of the new lobby addition. Racks and racks of costumes are categorized to be reused in new performances. The theatre does accept donations of unique costumes or props, but they have to be very limited in what they keep.
The backstage area for the main stage theatre wasn’t like anything I expected. Housing a workshop and more prop storage, the theatre uses this space well. The backstage curtain is actually white and can be lit up with lights to showcase a variety of moods or designs.
It’s exciting to understand how the set scenes are lowered and raised using a complex pulley system. The main stage is smaller than it appears but can hold a large cast.
Going on the Des Moines Community Playhouse Tour didn’t take the magic away from enjoying future productions. If anything, our visits to the theatre are enhanced and we pay closer attention to some details we missed before.
The Des Moines Community Theatre is just that…community driven. Volunteers play a key role in all aspects of the theatre and on stage. Children can begin auditioning as young as eight years old.
“The Playhouse’s mission is to partner with volunteers to create and deliver extraordinary theatre and education programs for communities in Central Iowa through high-quality entertainment with special emphasis on issues of social significance; programs which allow for the development of individual self-expression and self-esteem; and programs which identify and encourage individuals to pursue professional theatre development.”
Consider how your family or class can partner with the theatre and be involved in this unique community.
If you are not from central Iowa, search through this thorough list and find a community theatre near you!