Research leads to creation of theatrical production

The Cornell College Department of Theatre is proud to present “Those that Fall”a story of love and loss in a town gripped by fear.

Students works for a year to write and create the show.
Students and faculty work for a year to write and create the show.

 Inspired by Iowa lore and supported by a year-long process of research and development, “Those that Fall” was written by an ensemble of Cornell College students, with Associate Professor of Theatre Janeve West helming the production as generative artist and director.

The resulting performance is an often hilarious, deeply moving story of a town desperate to save itself without losing its heart. The production opens April 22 in the Plumb-Flemming Black Box Theatre on the Cornell College campus.

In a series of actual news articles printed in September 1903, the Des Moines Daily News reported that the town of Van Meter, Iowa was “visited” by a giant bat-like creature that was seen throughout the town on four consecutive nights. With a light shining from its head and emanating a foul smell, the creature was seen, reported, and shot at by various people before disappearing into a local mineshaft. The entrance was barricaded to seal the creature beneath the ground.

Inspired by these articles, “Those that Fall,” tells the story of a fictional Iowa town garnering unwanted national attention due to circulating reports of a large bat-like creature terrorizing the town. While the town grapples with the threat of economic collapse and anxieties increase with the surge of immigrant newcomers, Lily and Henry try to balance the traditions of the past with their youthful hopes for the future. The town is faced with the stories, facts, half-truths and lies that will have to fall away for the community to survive.

Those that Fall” is the result of a year-long research and development process that started with the 2015 Cornell Summer Research Institute. Cornell students Jay Epps ’16, Katie Hogan ’17, and Madison Serrett ’17 joined Cornell faculty Janeve West, Jennifer Rouse, and then Cornell Writing Fellow, Shena McAuliffe in a research project that culminated in the creation of an archive of historic material, scene and design sketches, and character treatments.

The story was further developed during the Department of Theatre’s 2015 course titled Devised Theatre. The script was further enhanced through a week-long residency with the New York City based theatre company, The Mad Ones, which includes co-founder and Cornell alumnus, Joe Curnutte ’04.

“Those that Fall” runs April 22, 23, 29, 30 at 7:30 p.m. and April 24 at 1 p.m. in The Plumb-Fleming Black Box Theatre on the Cornell College campus. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for seniors, students, and youth. It’s free for Cornell faculty, staff, and students with ID. Audiences are invited to remain or return to the theatre for a talk-back with the ensemble on Saturday, April 23, immediately after the performance. They will have opportunity to learn more about the actual urban legend and the process of making this production.

The ensemble includes Serrett, Epps, Hogan, Rosemary Vigil ’19, Thomas Schulte ’19, Charlotte Tjaden ’18, Benjamin Wong ’18, Sara Cooper ’16, Rachel Landon ’19, and Bobby Nowak ’19. Cassie Gill ’18 is providing stage management. Collaborative Designers include Gabby Ferro ’17, Mitchell Chapman ’17, and Amanda Bentz ’18.  Cornell Theatre faculty Scott Olinger, Jenny Nutting-Kelchen, and Don Schneider mentored the students throughout the design process. Tickets can be reserved by calling (319) 895-4293 or emailing Reservations are strongly recommended as seating is very limited. This production is intended for mature audiences.