WATERLOO — A new independent theater project in the Cedar Valley is aiming to shine the spotlight on those who aren’t typically in it.
Scene D, a new theater company co-founded by Jacqueline Kehoe and Jen Brown, who goes by Orion Risk, is bringing quality independent theater to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area.
Their first production, “Stop Kiss,” will premiere at 7 tonight at the Waterloo Community Playhouse’s McElroy Theater in the Walker Building, 224 Commercial St. There will be other performances at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Their goal is to present work that focuses on the stories of marginalized people and bring them to the center, to give the community something not seen anywhere else in the area and to empower local artists.
“Stop Kiss” takes place in 1998 New York City and follows two women, Callie, played by Kehoe, and Sara, played by Madison Fairbanks, through violence, romance and the challenges life presents in two parallel timelines “split around a key event,” according to Brown.
“It’s modern, it’s good and it makes people think,” Kehoe added. “It’s subversive.”
The idea to start their own independent theater project began when Brown and Kehoe were in a production of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” at the Waterloo Community Playhouse last September.
“We wanted theater that we would go to,” said Brown.
They are choosing to call it a project because it is in process and they are currently figuring things out.
“It is built on the backs of all these people, and we’re all creating something together at any given time,” Kehoe said. “It will always be a project.”
When brainstorming ideas, they discussed the difficulty women may face in finding strong lead roles. Brown explained when they were looking for plays that fit their vision, they realized just how scarce they really are.
“Finding stories that revolve around women, that’s hard,” Brown said. “Much less, finding stories that revolve around queer people. There is a reason that shows with a strong female lead is a sub-genre.”
In addition to the support from WCP, they gained sponsorship from Cedar Valley Pridefest, UnityPoint Health and Cottonwood Canyon.
“It’s just like, wow, this tiny little conversation over a makeup mirror before a show is suddenly potentially a real thing,” Brown said. “From the beginning it was always, we are going to do work that we care about, because this is a lot of time and a lot of effort, and the theory that if we care about it, other people will too.”
The tech team for the production is 95 percent female, and Risk, the director, identifies as transgender.
Risk and Kehoe agreed the Cedar Valley is a great place to launch an independent theater company.
“It is the perfect place to do projects like this because the other theaters that exist are doing things like musicals and farces,” Kehoe said.
“We have such potential here,” Risk added. “We have this burgeoning arts community. We’re producing work we care about, [so] how can we help other people do the exact same thing? I think they would if they were given the platform.”
Tickets are $15 and are available at wcpbhct.org, at the door before the show or by calling 291-4494.