Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Heartland Theatre's production of Deanna Jent's Falling continues this week, with performances at 7:30 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a 2 pm matinee on Sunday. Although it's standard operating procedure for Heartland to do three weekends of performances, Falling stands out for Heartland in several ways.

For one, this production features the same director (Lori Adams) and scenic designer (John C. Stark) as the productions in St. Louis (the play premiered at the Mustard Seed Theatre) and New York City (off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre).

For another, there are short talkbacks -- post-scripts -- after almost every performance, allowing audience members a chance to hear more about how families and society deal with autism, since that is the challenge for the family in Falling, and to allow a backstage look at how director Adams, scenic designer Stark and the cast and crew have brought Falling to life in Bloomington-Normal. The complete schedule of post-script topics and speakers is available here.

Deanna Jent
But the biggest news about Falling this weekend is that playwright Deanna Jent, an alumna of Illinois Wesleyan University who now lives in St. Louis, will be in town for a series of events grouped under the heading IWU WEEKEND WITH DEANNA JENT. Jent's visit has been made possible by Illinois Wesleyan University and Provost Jonathan Green.

As the mother of an autistic child, Jent balances her time with a thriving theatre career. She is artistic director of the Mustard Seed Theatre, a professor at Fontbonne University and also a working director and playwright. Jent acted as the commencement speaker at last spring's IWU graduation ceremony, when her son graduated, and she wrote a piece for the IWU Magazine in 2013 about some of her Falling experiences. 

On campus, Jent will speak to theater and psychology students about Falling and her life and career, and at Heartland, she will be in the audience for the Saturday night and Sunday afternoon performances of her play on November 15 and 16. She will also be present after the show on both Saturday and Sunday to speak to audiences and take questions. And she will be there on Sunday evening for a reading of her new play, Blood Lines, which takes place in a group home for adult autistic women. That reading will feature actresses from Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University and from Heartland's pool of actors. Actors Olivia Candocia (ISU), Alexa Eldridge (IWU), Debra Madans (IWU), Melissa James Shrader (Heartland) and Jaimie Taylor (ISU) will take part under the director of Dr. John Ficca, Emeritus Professor from the IWU School of Theatre Arts.

The talkback sessions with Deanna Jent will follow the performances, with the Saturday night discussion beginning at approximately 8:50 pm and the Sunday session starting at about 3:20 pm. The Sunday night reading of Blood Lines will begin at 7:30 pm. Both post-show discussions and the reading of Blood Lines will take place at Heartland Theatre, and all three are free and open to the public.

For Heartland Theatre reservation information, click here. To read more about Deanna Jent and Falling, you will definitely want to check out this essay, written by Jent in 2013.

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