Let’s hit the road: CHS Theater Program, Leaving Iowa, is a success!

For the second time this semester, the CHS drama program performed a marvelous play for countless students, staff and parents to enjoy. Completely contrasting the most previous play, “Amelia Earhart Flights of Fancy,” this hilarious comedy cracked up the audience with its clever jokes and relatable content.

“Leaving Iowa” puts a spin on the classic family road trip by presenting Don Browning’s existential journey, as he brings his father’s ashes to his final resting place. The family is all grown up when the mother discovers the ashes that were unintentionally left on top of the furnace in the attic for three years; she decides Don should take them to the grandparent’s house.

Don, played by Ian Cochran wears an orange baseball cap during the memories of his childhood and takes it off for present- day scenes. Cochran juggles this difficult acting technique exceptionally well; he engages with the audience and speaks directly to them when describing his interesting family situation.

After Don leaves for his grandparents’ house, Aunt Phyllis (Katie Slanina) and Uncle Phil (Evan Walters) arrive at the house to give little Joey a new scooter for his birthday. While Mom (Lily Richard) fills them in on where Don has ventured and what he intends to do, Sis (Brooke Kelly) is adamant that her brother must be home for dinner in time. Sis explains how she feels overwhelmed with her new son, Joey, and declares their lack of responsibility to be the reason why the family forgot to spread their dad’s ashes.

While on his trip, Don is taken back to the day his dad told him and his sister his plans to travel to Hannibal, Missouri. Even through Don assures the kids it will be a fun vacation, they are less than satisfied. Dad explains that money is tight, and they can’t afford much else, but the kids really want to go to their grandparents’ house.

Don and Sis pitch a fit, but Mom shuts that down quickly, saying their father is excited for this trip, and they better behave.

The family sets off for vacation. Don explains to the audience that it’s not uncommon for them to stop at odd places along the way. Dad is eager to purchase some apples from the fruit cart sisters, (Kandice Lucas and Briley Brannan); he hops out of the car and instructs his family to do the same. When Mom says that they need to check the apples for worms, the sisters rightfully get offended.

Before the family leaves, they ask the girls to take their picture. Don explains that it’s tradition for them to take a “useless picture for Grandma,” so everyone puts on a shining smile.

The classic family stereotype is unveiled here when Sis punches Don and then tells the parents that he punched her. Not only do they believe her, but they also get angry at Don. The audience laughs at the scene because they relate to it, for the youngest is oftentimes the favorite child and more likely to get away with things.

Once they get to Grandma (Kaylee Kula) and Grandpa’s (Sebastian Hines) house, Grandma is ready to spoil her grandkids with huge Rice Crispy treats, but she instructs them not to give any to Grandpa. However, Grandpa is persuasive, and he tries his hardest to convince the kids to share a bite with him. Don claims his grandfather was the “Willie Wonka of Iowa.”

Once he arrives at his grandparents’ house, present-day Don is shocked to find a grocery store in its place. The theater is filled with a roar from the audience when The Cart Chaser, played by Bella Ramsey, enters the stage chasing a shopping cart. While Don is contemplating what happened to his father’s childhood home, Cart Chaser warns Don that there is a “slope” for which he must watch out. While the viewers laugh, Don fills with anger; he loses his temper, and yells at her and The Shopping Cart Lady (Liliana Vargas).

Dad decides to make another stop to ask for directions. This time the kids stay in the car because they are afraid of Joe, (Brandon Broskin), for he is rather strange. However, Joe is actually a nice guy and gives them an arrowhead over which the the kids fight for the rest of the trip.

Devastated he can’t spread his dad’s ashes at his grandparents’ house, Don stops for a drink with his old friend, Professor Jack (Oliver Mullen). The whole conversation consists of Jack complaining about how lackluster his students are and Don awkwardly drinking alongside him.

Don gets the short end of the stick when he chooses to go shopping with his mom instead of a historic graveyard with his father and sister. Don believes he will have more fun with Mom, but ends up attending an Amish flee market. Two women (Mackenzie Glover and Tessa Ghassemzadeh) attempt to persuade them to buy a handmade quilt and wind chimes. Less than impressed and kind of weirded- out, they retreat to the car where Dad and Sis tell them about the amazing time they had.

Afraid that he will once again be let down with Mom’s idea, Don chooses to do the next activity with Dad, while Sis goes with Mom. However, Don is devastated when they visit a Civil War museum with a monotonous museum assistant (Emma Barns) and the overly enthusiastic Lieutenant Dan (Frog Vassy,) who teaches them about the war rifle. Even though it embarrasses Don, Dad volunteers to be an example. After they take a picture for Grandma, they meet up with Mom and Sis who -no surprise- has a better time than Don.

Back in the present, Don is having car troubles, so he calls the mechanics. He meets Fred (Turk Blanton), a goofy mechanic and his co-worker Jamie (Bella Fillyaw). While Jamie attempts to fix the car, Fred continuously interrupts her, asking her to do impressions. Jamie gives in, and the audience laughs at her stellar Elvis impression. The mechanics declare they don’t know when the car will be fixed, leaving Don hopeless.

Disappointed, Don goes to a hotel to ask for advice when Hotel Grandma (Kaylee Kula) interrupts Don’s conversation with the hotel clerk (Mackenzie Glover) to ask for another room key. While Hotel Grandma tries to recall her room number, she flirts with Don, but Don is quite terrified of her. The hotel clerk tells Don about Ghost Caverns and he is soon taken back to a memory of the time the family visited there.

While he waits for the car to be fixed, Don goes to a diner to eat, where an overly enthusiastic waitress named Jessie (Hannah Quesada) takes his order. Jessie and the hostess, Wanda (Tessa Chassemzadeh), are opposites of each other, for Jessie is bubbly, and Wanda is chill. Don doesn’t seem to be interested in anything they have to say until Jessie reads a pamphlet advertising “The Center of the Country.” Don jumps out of his seat and races to his car.

The opening scene appears again and the once sleeping family is now awakened by a loud HONK! Dad explains that they are lost on the road because he was following a billboard for “The Center of the Country.” Upon finding this out, his family is angry, but Dad explains he knows they are almost there, and he is really excited. However, everyone else votes to turn around, and he never gets to see the center.

Bob (Oliver Mullen) and Judy (Shaoey Pace) own property at the center of the country and welcome Don when he tells them his story. Bob leads him to the pole that represents the center, and that’s where Don leaves his father’s ashes. The play ends with an emotional scene between Don and Dad, standing outside of the car after their road trip.

The play is more than a comedy- it’s a nostalgic representation of what family meant as kids and what family means when you grow up. “Leaving Iowa” inspires its viewers to cherish the time with loved ones before it is too late.

CHS is thankful for Dr. Burn’s leadership and the role she plays in these talented students’ lives; the show could not be done without her. Congratulations to our Cherokee Players for another amazing production!

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