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Troubled Paradise

Iowa Central’s fall play is a riff on reality television

-Submitted photo

Summer for some is a time of vacations and relaxation, but for Teresa Jackson, director of theater for Iowa Central Community College, it is a time for planning future productions.

Her latest production is “Trouble in Paradise Junction,” the college’s fall performance.

This 2017 comedy by award-winning playwright Todd Wallinger has become one of his fastest-starting plays. Thirteen productions were booked in the first 13 weeks that the show became available.

“Trouble in Paradise Junction” tells a story with a timely message about “reality” television, similar to last year’s “The Election,” which pointed out political foibles.

At the heart of the play is a question: “What would happen if a producer offered the picturesque small town of Paradise Junction, where the tomatoes are enormous and it’s always sunny, $5 million for the rights to film a reality television show there?”

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Jackson said the townsfolk jump at the chance to film their reality show. In addition to $5 million, who wouldn’t want their 15 minutes of fame?

But the show’s host, Wink Smiley, has his own agenda that may end up destroying the town.

Joe Goode, owner of the Rise ‘n’ Shine Diner, tries to save his beloved city when secrets are revealed, old arguments bubble back up again, and the annual pie-baking contest becomes a free-for-all food fight.

The story takes place in the Ozarks, and is based on Beaver Dam, the small Wisconsin town where Wallinger grew up.

“In the play, I poke some gentle fun at the townsfolk,” Wallinger wrote in a post on his blog. “Like the people in my hometown, the citizens of Paradise Junction can be very opinionated and obstinate and quick to judge others. But they’re also noble and kind and very, very generous.”

-Submitted photo

Jackson said she’s been having fun brainstorming ways to weave together some music and dance to add more flavor to the fun ensemble scenes, and said the play hit close to home for her.

“I fell in love with the town and its citizens on my first reading and heard their voices in my head immediately,” Jackson said. “Amazingly enough, the playwright’s ‘voices’ sound very much like the ones I heard in my childhood. I grew up in Missouri and the Ozarks was our stomping ground.”

“Trouble in Paradise Junction” will be performed at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11, 12 and 13 at Decker Auditorium on the Iowa Central Community College campus.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased on campus at the Iowa Central Bookstore, online at www.iowacentral.edu/bookstore or at the door on a first-come, first-serve basis.