Des Moines Spotlight Series: Meet Abena Imhotep of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE at Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre
When productions started to be postponed or canceled in March due to COVID-19, I wanted to figure out a way to keep putting out articles but wasn't sure what that format should be. This series was borrowed from fellow Broadwayworld Los Angeles contributing editor Shari Barrett. I am so grateful to everyone in the Des Moines theatre community who have been sharing their stories. As this crisis continues, I hope to be able to add more artists to this series as we continue to wait for the day we can all gather together and celebrate this fantastic art form again.
Over the last year, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to see the work done by our local theatres. I have especially enjoyed starting to get involved with some of the local theatre companies. This winter, I auditioned and was cast in Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre's production of "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe," which is a favorite story of mine.
Since you can't review a show you're in, I was hoping to do an article taking you behind the scenes of the production. Unfortunately, our rehearsal process was cut short due to COVID-19, and we were not able to complete the rehearsal process.
One of the things I enjoyed was meeting the many young artists taking the stage, as well as a few young at heart artist. One of those young at heart artists I had the immense opportunity to meet was Abena Imhotep, who is playing Aslan in the production. We continue our artist spotlight series with Abena from Des Moines Young Artists' Theatres' production of "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe," which was to open on April 10 and had performances continue through today, April 26.
DC Felton (DF): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?
Abena Imhotep (AI): My theater debut was in the ensemble of the 2016 production of Sister Act, the musical, with the Des Moines Playhouse. The same year, I won the Des Moines Playhouse Dionysus Award for Outstanding Female Performance in a Mainstage Play for You Can't Take it With You (Rheba). In 2017, I was cast in Pyramid Theatre Company's Mississippi Goddamn (Gertie) as well as an independent production of Aunt Lou's Pound Cake (Vanessa). In 2018, I worked with Pyramid Theatre Company again in the civil rights era play, Intimate Apparel (Mrs. Dickson).
(DF): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?
(AI): I was rehearsing for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Aslan) with the Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre.
(DF): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?
(AI): The director and assistant director kept the communication open with the cast and crew during rehearsals, but as the situation with coronavirus developed, rehearsals were canceled, and they notified everyone via email that the production would be postponed.
(DF): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?
(AI): It's going to be an amazing production and I'm happy to say that the show will go on! There are tentative autumn dates floating around right now, but nothing has been set yet due to the fluid nature of this pandemic.
(DF): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?
(AI): I've been staying in contact with friends in the theater community and supporting artists who share their talents online. I also believe it is important to financially support these organizations during disasters because the arts are an integral part of the community.
(DF): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the Des Moines Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return to the stage soon?
(AI): We are going to get through this tough time, and we will be better as a human community on the other side of it. As performing artists, we know how to meet the moment and rise to the occasion. We know how to listen and empathize. We know how to create an atmosphere of love and acceptance. This is our time to do just that. I love you all, and I can't wait to get on that stage with you soon! Stay safe, and be well!
The loss of ticket sales has been difficult for many theatres. It has been especially difficult for Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre. Due to the current loss of expected income from "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe," they are facing the difficulty of not being able to keep the stage light on.
Would you be willing to make a donation? Maybe you can do $10, or perhaps you can do $100, or maybe you can do more. If everyone who views this article made a small donation, we could help Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre keep their stage light on. If you can make a donation, you can visit their donation page at https://donorbox.org/dmyat
If you would like to find out more about the work being done with Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre, visit https://www.dmyat.org/
If you are an artist in Des Moines or the surrounding communities and would be willing to answer a few questions about how this shutdown has affected you, please reach out to us.
Interview by DC Felton
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