The New Ground Theater at the Village Theater has long been known for putting on compelling, cutting-edge contemporary plays, but the co-hosting of their latest is the first brand new staged there in many years.
Village General Manager Matt Moody (2113 E. 11th St., Village of East Davenport) conducts “Hands of Ivory,” a new play by Chicago-based Brian Leibforth, a 2018 graduate of St. Ambrose University. Originally slated for November, it had some pitfalls, and the diverse cast brings it to life in three performances, February 11-13.
How do we measure quality of life? How hard would you fight for it? How much would you endure for those who love you? “Hands of Ivory” is described as “a beautiful, intelligent piece that travels into some of the darker territory of those we allow ourselves to become”.
“It’s a great piece,” Moody said recently. “It’s the story of a young man who is a piano prodigy, who is about to go to music school, fresh out of high school, and discovers that he has a lump in his brain. . It must be surgically removed and everything depends on the consequences of this operation and the impact of this on herself and on her relationship with her mother.
“It’s a very human story, it touches on a real subject,” said the director. “For a doctor, a successful operation can be different from a success for the patient. Getting to the end there is a twist I would say on a really M. Night Shyamalan level.
The cast includes Nicole Collins Payney, Anthony Mitchell, DeMario Rankin, Julian Totten, Wyatt West, Makis Witt, Don Faust, Scot Gehret, Celtic Honey and Alicia Guzman.
Leibforth was a double major at SAU in Davenport, in acting and marketing. The 25-year-old Chicago native is an actor, screenwriter and director. At Ambrose, he directed the play “Lonely Planet”, in the black box theater.
After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles and studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory. After the March 2020 pandemic shutdowns, Leibforth returned to his parents, where he wrote the play (his first) and worked remotely for an insurance company.
“That’s actually when I had time to write this piece because I was stuck in my life and I was just like, I gotta do something,” he said. he recently stated. “I’ve had this idea for about 10 years.”
A pandemic silver lining
“Finally, there was an opportunity,” Leibforth said of his homecoming. “A silver lining of this pandemic, there was no excuse, like I was literally doing nothing.”
He finished writing ‘Hands of Ivory’ in October 2020. Leibforth does not play the piano and chose this subject in part based on his life as a creative artist.
“I kind of wanted to separate him from me. I didn’t want him to like me word for word,” Leibforth said. “My passion is comedy, but instead I changed it to the piano.”
“It’s hard to write about your life, to be honest about yourself, when you’re writing about yourself. And so you kind of need the disconnect,” he said, noting that he didn’t mean it to be selfish.
The writer described the play as “a sad cautionary tale of a young piano prodigy named Luke who struggles to cope with his life after receiving terrible news. And the stories of how we constantly have to fight to move forward in our lives and not be swallowed up by our past traumas,” he said.
The story somehow ties into actors and other artists whose careers have been derailed due to COVID, Leibforth said.
“I think we lost a lot of things and who are we when we lose those things,” he said. “I know a lot of people, they’ve spent their whole lives saying I’m going to get into this acting industry and for two years it’s been gone.
“I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with their identity – because who are you when you lose that thing, and are you able to move on, and what happens when you don’t move on? ” said Leibforth. “And that’s kind of what it is.”
Since he had the idea years ago, it wasn’t inspired by the pandemic, but coincidentally seems very timely.
“It’s like what happens when you take something away. Are we still the same?” says Leibforth. wrote it, it felt like a lot of people were going through it.”
He chose Village Theater to produce “Hands of Ivory” on the recommendation of his SAU acting teacher, Cory Johnson.
“You’ve put so much effort into it that it’s kind of like your kid and you send your kid to school and you don’t know if it’s going to be okay,” Leibforth said. “But you know, you have to take this chance.”
He did not participate in the village rehearsal process, but plans to attend a performance.
“I hope it works, but I know I gave them a good recipe, as long as they follow the instructions and all the instructions correctly.”
Village Theater housing many types of entertainment
The Village Theater has a pretty packed schedule overall, hosting a wide variety of events – including live music, open-mic nights, comedy, and burlesque (as home of Taboo Burlesque).
Popular improv comedy troupe Show Us Your Pokeballs puts on a sold-out show on Saturday night.
After seven years of corny, dirty hilarity in the Quad Cities and beyond, comedy troupe SUYP is closing the curtain once and for all with an event for the ages, according to its event description.
“Come celebrate SUYP’s history with a show filled with improvisation, sketches and stand-up – featuring the artists you know and love, and welcoming back special guests who were once part of the SUYP family. themselves!” it says.
Joshua Kahn and Nikki Murray are reuniting one last time to host this extravaganza that’s sure to be filled with laughter and tears, they said of Saturday’s 8 p.m. show.
Billy Branch will be attending a Mississippi Valley Blues Society fundraising event at the Village Theater on Wednesday, February 9. Advance tickets are $10; $15 at the door, MVBS members, $8 in advance, $12 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. and ends at 9:30 p.m.
Performances of “Hands of Ivory” will take place on Friday and Saturday, February 11 and 12, with doors opening at 7 p.m. and show at 8 p.m., plus Sunday, February 13, with doors at 2 p.m. and show at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.