USP Members Awarded for Excellence at ICTA

Jana DeZwarte shouted out "I LOVE YOU PELLA!" when she accepted the ICTA Award for Actress in a Featured Role for her portryal of Miss Hannigan in "Annie."

The Iowa Community Theatre Association (ICTA) held their annual festival in Newton this past weekend. Union Street Players (USP) has been a long time member and supporter of ICTA, though it has been a long time since USP has actively engaged in the annual ICTA festival and competition.

This year, ICTA was looking for a member theatre to perform at the festival, and so a group of cast from USP’s recent production “Vintage Hitchcock” chose to perform one of the three Hitchcock radio plays at the festival. While most of the festival productions were part of a national competition (winner moves on to regionals with the chance of moving on to the national event), USP chose to be a “showcase” production at the festival and not engage in the competition.

Nevertheless, Jonathon Gregg and Mark Moreland, two of the ensemble troup who performed “Vintage Hitchcock” were awarded for “Excellence in Character Acting” by the festival judges at a ceremony on Sunday morning.

On Saturday night, ICTA awarded USP’s Jana DeZwarte their annual “Award of Excellence” for an Actress in a Featured Role. Jana won the award for her portrayal of Miss Hannigan in last December’s production of Annie.

USP is proud of our productions and the incredible group of actors who grace our stage. Congratulations to Jana, Jonathon and Mark!

Jonathan Gregg in "Vintage Hitchcock"

Mark Moreland in "Vintage Hitchcock"

No More “Tomorrow” for Annie

Cast Photo of Union Street Players production of "Annie"

The stage is (almost) bare. The final curtain has dropped. This is the last installment of “Daddy’s Dailies.”

For the cast and crew of Union Street Players’ production of Annie, the week of post-production blues has likely set in. It is not unusual to experience a let down the first week after production. There’s the physical let down after a couple of weeks of long evenings of rehearsal/performance, short nights of sleep, and the intense adrenaline rushes that come from being on stage. There’s the emotional let down after the climactic actors high of performing gives way to the pile of things (like Christmas shopping, work projects, school assignments, etc.) that got shoved to the back burner for the past few weeks. There is also a social let down that comes when about 100 people spend hours a day together for weeks on end and it comes to an abrupt stop. Not that we aren’t all overdue for a little rest, relaxation and regular routine. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if things feel a little out of whack for the next week or so. Post production blues are a normal part of the experience (as are “actor’s nightmares,” so watch out!).

Final attendance figures for Annie were:

Fri Dec 3: 277
Sat Dec 4: 285
Sun Dec 5: 327

Thu Dec 9: 300
Fri Dec 10: 319
Sat Dec 11: 300

Total: 1808
Average: 301

While record keeping USP shows through our 23 year history has been erratic, there is no doubt that Annie ranks among the biggest, best attended, and highest grossing productions of all time. Congratulations to everyone for making it such a spectacular show!

Next Up

Pat Moriarity moves from the Producer’s chair to the Director’s chair for Vintage Hitchcock. This is a great show for adults who may be intimidated by the thought of all those lines to memorize. Hitchcock is a live radio play produced like the live radio theater shows of the last century. Actors read the script and use their voices to create different characters and sound effects.

Auditions are set for mid-January. Stay tuned to or follow us on Twitter @unionstplayers for more information. You can also contact Pat directly by emailing him at

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Blizzard of Activity as Final Performance of Annie Arrives

When you produce a show at Christmas time in Iowa, you take risks. We’ve been blessed with great weather the past two weekends, but it looks like that is about to change. A blizzard warning covers the state of Iowa as the cast and crew of  Annie prepare for our final performance.

The show will go on.

People are still calling asking for tickets. We have been keeping a waiting list and encourage those people to come to the Pella Community Center 15 minutes before curtain can wait on line for any unclaimed seats. If we have patrons who can’t make it because of weather, those seats may become available to purchase. On Friday night, there were several people who were able to get seats at the last minute.

Theatre is Like a Box of Chocolates

It was a lively and energetic crowd who packed the seats last night. The sold out crowd enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

I was sitting with Jim Emmert (who plays Cop/Foley Man) during “the half” last night. He was talking about the fact that someday actors in Hollywood will become obsolete as computer graphics will be able to create perfect looking people and can manipulate the pixels into perfect performances.

I thought about that as the evening wore on. There is something unique and special about live theatre. It is a “live” performance and almost anything can happen at any moment. The sheer possibility of the unexpected which happens when humans perform creates a healthy anticipation. You never know what you’re going to get. Every performance is different.

So it was last night. In the final climactic moment of the show, as the strains of “Getting a New Deal for Christmas” ring out, Annie (Rachel Peter) hugs her found stray dog and then runs into Daddy Warbucks’ (that would be me) arms. In that final moment of the show I pick Annie up and spin her around. I grabbed Rachel, picked her up and spun her around.

That’s when her wig flew off.

Fortunately, it held to the back of her head by a bobby pin. So as it flopped loosely behind her, I picked it up and put it back on top of her head. I felt awful that this was Rachel’s last moment on stage, but at least it was a very memorable one!

Live theatre is (to quote Forrest Gump) like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get!

Final performance today! Hannah Emmert will play Annie for the final curtain.

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Waiting, Waiting

Producer Pat Moriarity Warms Up the Cast of Annie during "The Half"

One of the things I love about theatre are the moments behind the scenes that most theater-goers never experience. As audience members enter the auditorium and settle into their seats, the 78 cast members and additional production team members of Annie pack into a room on the top floor of the Pella Community Center. It is known among stage veterans as “the half,” the 30 minutes before curtain. It can seem an eternal wait.

For Union Street Players, “the half” generally begins with a quick pep talk from director or producer. With musicals like Annie, the Music Director will often lead the cast in a quick warm-up song. Often a physical exercise to get the blood pumping is also included along with vocal exercises and tongue twisters to prepare mouths, teeth, lips and tongue to project lines clearly.

Once that is done, the cast waits for the cue for “places.” Actors talk, laugh, and share stories. There are hugs and high-fives. Pictures are taken. Some read books, newspapers and magazines. At the bottom of this post I’ve posted some more pictures I took during “The Half” before last night’s performance.

Waiting List

Speaking of waiting, the final two performances of Annie are sold out. A waiting list has been started for those who would be interested in purchasing a seat should tickets be returned or if there is a confirmed “no show.” Those on the waiting list are asked to show up 15 minutes before curtain (7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday) and, if seats are available, names will be called from the list in the order they were originally received.

Packed House for Thursday’s Show

A big pat on the back for cast and crew who kept the energy up and presented a great show on Thursday to a sold-out, packed house. Thursday performances are notorious for being “low energy” as people rush from busy jobs and lives to the show. After four days without performing, there’s always the increased threat of dropped lines, missed entrances or botched moments. That didn’t happen on Thursday as everyone performed up to the high standard set last weekend.

Closing Night for One

While tomorrow afternoon’s performance will be the closing performance for everyone, tonight’s performance will be Rachel Peter’s last performance in the lead role. Hannah Emmert will play Annie in the final performance on Saturday. Both girls have done an exceptional job in the role and have been exemplary in their selfless sharing of the starring duties. Well done, ladies.

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Ticket Update & Hilltop

First of all, let me thank our Director, Cyndi Atkins, for arranging a mid-week performance at Hilltop Manor here in Pella. A good number of the orphans, servants and the principal characters were on hand to entertain the residents last night. Both of our Annies (Hannah Emmert and Rachel Peter) were able to perform. The residents also heard “Hard Knock Life,” “I Think You’re Gonna Like It Here,” “Easy Street,” “Gussie Her Up,” and “Don’t Need Anything But You.” Thanks to all the orphans (for whom the trip was optional) and the parents who helped being taxi drivers!

Ticket Update

The word of mouth from last weekend’s performances prompted a flurry of phone calls and visits to the Pella Community Services office. Many heartfelt thanks to Brenda Ross who has spent much of the past two weeks managing the ticket board.

As of Wednesday afternoon, less than 10 single seats were left on the floor of the auditorium (that’s 10 total for all three shows). There are still General Admission balcony seats available for all three shows, but they are dwindling rapidly!

If you’re thinking of coming from out of town, we suggest that you call and order tickets by phone (call Tom or Wendy at 641.620.9107) Wednesday night or Thursday. If you live in Pella or the surrounding area we suggest you pick up tickets at the Pella Community Center between 7:30-11:30 a.m.  or 12:30-4:30 p.m. tomorrow.

After 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, there will be no advance ticket sales. All remaining tickets will be sold at the door.

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