Friday, September 11, 2009

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'Leaving Home' takes you back

By Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.11.2009

Frustration can be a powerful motivator. It's what got Tim Clue and his writing partner, Spike Manton, to put fingers to keyboard and come up with 'Leaving Iowa,' which Invisible Theatre opens next week.
'We were tired of not getting our calls picked up by our literary agent,' said Clue, speaking by phone from his Chicago home.



The cast of 'Leaving Iowa' includes, front row, Victoria McGee and David Johnston and, back row, Roberto Guajardo and Susan Kovitz.
Tim Fuller / Courtesy of Invisible Theatre


The two had written screenplays together, were comedians and had tackled other writing projects. Still, that agent was elusive.

Maybe a play would do the trick.

Theater was a new venture for them when they sat down to brainstorm a play about family vacations and coming to grips with life, love and death.
The two, friends since college, thought of 'the tortured trips of our past,' said Clue.
'We both shared that time-capsule experience of road trips where the destination is not nearly as memorable as the trips,' he said.

And they pulled from other memories growing up.

'My father was a bigger-than-life persona,' said Clue.

'He ran a tavern in a small town and was known for kicking people out. We wanted to do an homage to that generation, the greatest generation. … There was a beauty and simplicity to their own sense of purpose. Only in retrospect can you be almost awestruck by someone's purpose, someone's mission. And his mission, as a low-middle-class, small-town, non-college-educated man, was to make sure our life was better than his life. I thought to myself, how can we construct a play that honors him?

'And I wanted to honor father/son relationships where very little was spoken — it was a relationship of acts and deeds, not of psychobabble.'

'Leaving Iowa' is a raucous little comedy with characters that smack of 'that's my mom' and 'hey, my sister and I did that.'

It's about a son who returns home to bring his father's ashes to his requested resting place. As he drives, ashes next to him, he strikes up conversations with his dad and recalls family vacations to obscure, history-heavy, only-dad-would-love places.

'How many of us have a quintessential memory of something that our father or mother did on one of those trips?' said Clue, adding that voicing those memories often makes for emotion-laden moments.
Not that this play is a tear-jerker. It isn't, but there are soft, poignant moments that break up the story fat with one-liners and ridiculous but oh-so-familiar situations.

'I hope,' said Clue, 'that the play is a playful celebration of the profoundly simple.'
Oh, and that agent? Since Michigan's Purple Rose Theatre Company premiered the play in 2004, it's been staged by theaters around the country. Their agent takes their calls now.

If you go
'Leaving Iowa'
• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.
• Playwrights: Tim Clue and Spike Manton.
• Director: Susan Claassen.
• When: Preview at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; opening 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Regular performances 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 4.
• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Tickets: $16-$25, with rush tickets available for half-price a half-hour before curtain, if available.
• Information/reservations: 882-9721.
• Cast: Terry Erbe, Roberto Guajardo, Lori Hunt, David Johnston, Susan Kovitz and Victoria McGee.
• Running time: 2 hours, with one intermission.
Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at 573-4128 or kallen@azstarnet.com