Gay Wartime Love Story FLOWER OF IOWA Selected For Finals Gala On Theatre Row
Flower of Iowa, a bold new World War I drama about an unexpected and forbidden love between two soldiers - one American, one British - has been selected as one of the seven finalists at the 2018 New York New Works Theatre Festival, from a field of nearly 50 productions. Judging was determined by a panel of theatre professionals and by audience votes.
Flower of Iowa is a world premiere staging by playwright Lance Ringel, directed by his husband, veteran performer Chuck Muckle. It was adapted by Ringel from his own critically acclaimed novel, published in 2014. The show stars Ben Salus as Tommy Flowers, an American soldier from Iowa, and Bradley Johnson as David Pearson, his British buddy.
The NYNW Finals Gala featuring Flower of Iowa will take place on Saturday, September 22, at 7:00PM. The 25-minute excerpt will appear on the program with six other shows of similar length. The performances will take place at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row, 410 W 42nd St., New York, NY. Tickets are $35.00 apiece and are available by clicking here.
"It's been a creatively challenging and fulfilling task to take Flower of Iowa from the page to the stage," said author-playwright Lance Ringel, "and we are profoundly grateful to have such stellar young talents as Ben and Bradley bringing Tommy and David to life under Chuck's sensitive direction. Gene Fisch's New York New Works Theatre Festival offers a wonderful platform for new productions. We are proud to be back here for the third year, and thrilled to be in the 2018 Finals."
Flower of Iowa centers on Tommy Flowers, a naïve 18-year-old Iowan who is sent to France with the American Army during the final months of World War I in June, 1918. There, he befriends English soldier David Pearson. Even as Tommy begins to learn from David about the grim realities of the Great War, an unexpected intimacy stirs between the two young men. Playwright Lance Ringel adapted the drama Flower of Iowa from his own e-novel, which was released in May of 2014 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of World War I. It was digitally published by Smashwords and reached the top of their bestseller lists for both Gay and Historical Fiction.
Kirkus Reviews called the book "accomplished, touching historical fiction," adding, "Ringel packs a remarkable amount of flavor and detail into this debut work." Acclaimed actor, author and director Stephen Fry tweeted, "Reading a truly wonderful WW1 novel. ... So truthful and touching."
A winner of the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for LGBT Fiction, Flower of Iowa has captivated audiences over the past four years through dramatized readings by Ringel and his husband of 42 years, Chuck Muckle. The readings have taken place throughout the U.S. and in Dublin, London, and, most recently, in Paris during Gay Games 10. The NYNW premiere marks the first theatrical adaptation of the book.
The other productions in the Finals Gala are: A Pitch From Satchel Paige by Loren & Jim Keller; Why Not Black by Auslin Williams; Bacon Clickbait by David Don Miller; Having a Ball with God by David Garrett Shaw; Patti Did Us In by Patricia Lawler Kenet; and How Alfo Learned to Love by Vincent Amelio.
Gene Fisch, Jr., the director of the New York New Works Theatre Festival, had previously welcomed Ringel's show In Love with the Arrow Collar Man into the festival's 2016 competition line-up and Animal Story in 2017. The NYNW panel of theatre professionals voted both productions into the Semi-Finalist category. Arrow Collar Man went on to a successful engagement at Theatre 80 in the East Village in November, 2017.
Ben Salus (Tommy Flowers): The Philadelphia native earned his BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University and a degree in Classical Acting from LAMDA. Salus began his career in Boston, before he relocated to New York City. Prominent roles have included: Avram in Fiddler on the Roof (directed by original cast member Austin Pendleton, New Repertory Theatre); Squash Bernstein in Victor/Victoria (Ocean State Theatre Co.); and Office Krupke in West Side Story (New London Barn Playhouse). Most recently, Ben was Larry the Leprechaun in off-Broadway's Single Rider (The Players Theatre).
Bradley Johnson (David Pearson): Raised in the Midwest, Johnson began his career with Weathervane Playhouse of Newark, Ohio, the longest-running summer stock theater in the state. There, his many roles included Simon the Zealot in Jesus Christ Superstar; Rod/Princeton in Avenue Q; Leaf Coneybear in 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; and Matt in The Fantasticks. Previously, he performed at Pittsburgh Playhouse and CATCO Columbus. Bradley has a BFA in Musical Theatre from Point Park University.
Lance Ringel (playwright) is the author of Flower of Iowa, as well as In Love with the Arrow Collar Man and (with Chuck Muckle), the musical Animal Story. Ringel is also principal writer of two theater pieces created for Vassar College. Vassar Voices, a staged reading highlighting 150 years of the college's history, premiered at Jazz at Lincoln Center, starring Meryl Streep, Lisa Kudrow and Frances Sternhagen. It toured across America and to London. At Home in the World, directed by John Caird, spotlighted talented young performers from Japan, Uganda and America, and was staged to sold-out houses in all three countries.
Chuck Muckle (director) has been with Flower of Iowa since 2014, reading the part of Tommy Flowers in a series of dramatized readings across America, in Dublin, London, and in Paris, with Muckle providing renditions of songs made popular during the war. Muckle was also director of playwright Ringel's previous two entries in the New York New Works Theatre Festival, In Love with the Arrow Collar Man and Animal Story (for which he composed the music). He directed his own play, Running for My Life, at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival in 2017. The show business veteran co-wrote Mourning Becomes Ridiculous (with David Eisner) and directed its incarnations at Emerging Artists; for Manhattan Theatre Mission's 2nd Annual Musical Showcase, where it won four awards; and at the 2016 NYNW Festival.
An actor for four decades, Muckle appeared in the 2015 film The Night Before with Seth Rogen. He played in Brush Strokes opposite Joy Franz at the Hudson Guild Theatre and was in the world premiere tour of Four Play, The Musical. Muckle traveled the country and played London in the solo show At Wit's End, playing composer-humorist Oscar Levant. Muckle's national tours include South Pacific and Camelot with Robert Goulet, and A Christmas Carol with John Astin.
New York New Works Theatre Festival is an annual theater festival that supports talented writers. Their goal is help make the dreams of the next generation of Broadway and TV writers to become realities. For more information, visit nynwtheatrefestival.com.