The Iowa Theater Renovation: Interview With The Fons Girls, Part II

That's a good-lookin' cup (atop Mom's kitchen sink in Iowa.) Photo: Me.
That’s a good-lookin’ cup (atop Mom’s kitchen sink in Iowa.) Photo: Me.


Today, the second half of the interview — and it gets extra good today. Catch up right here if you missed yesterday’s post. See ya at the theater!

PG: Tell me about these mugs. 

R: We knew a long time ago that we wanted to have a booth at Covered Bridge Festival this year.

PG: I love Covered Bridge Festival so much. It’s like, pure childhood magic.

R: Totally. Second weekend in October, every year. Well, we planned to do tours of the theater under construction and we’d sell said merch. We sold almost all of the t-shirts and all 70 mugs! They are really good mugs; like from an old-fashioned diner! You feel like that cup of coffee will be the best cup of coffee you’ll ever have when you drink it out of these mugs.

PG: The logo on it looks so good!

R: My lovely friend and graphic artist Mary Eileen Hayes worked with us on it. We just got a new shipment, too! The mugs and t-shirts — my husband looks very handsome in his, by the way — are available right here and you can also get mugs at the Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

PG: I love everything. Okay, talk big ideas. Mission. Passion. Mom, what’s your vision for the Iowa?

M: I see The Iowa becoming once again be the heartbeat of Winterset’s downtown area. A movie theater most of the time, the theater will also offer live performances of all varieties. We will be the official home of The Winterset Stage, our community’s live theater group. Music programs, magic shows, dance recitals, open mic nights, educational programs, and more will take place on the theater’s once-Vaudeville hardwood stage. The Iowa will be a “second run” theater, which means we’ll show movies 4-6 weeks after they’ve hit theaters in bigger cities. We hope people will love their theater so much they won’t mind waiting.

PG: I never did.

M: But we’ll have other, special movies, too: We plan to screen John Wayne classics and other old movie favorites, and movies for families and kids.

R: It’s going to be a multi-purpose art space for the community. I have these little daydreams all the time — ideas about what we can do, because the sky is kind of the limit.

PG: Like what?

R: Like, what if we did a “poster contest” with the elementary schools, and kids could draw their favorite scenes from their favorite movies, and then we framed and hung those posters all around the lobby of the theater?! I’m currently in love with that idea—can you imagine little crayon drawings of Frozen and Finding Nemo, nicely framed and on display for everyone to see?! And one of the artists coming to see a movie with their whole family and being able to point to their work and feel that ownership and excitement?!


R: I know, right?? I also want to work with the high school to form a film club. I was a real nerd in high school, but I found my tribe of people and together we made high school pretty fun for ourselves. I’d love to have a teen film club, 10-12 students who love film and who could meet to watch films together and then program a film presentation every month at The Iowa where they introduce the film and then present some sort of talk-back after.

PG: Teens love to talk back. Ha! Seriously, though, I love that. You’re so good at this.
R: Well, I was the Education Director at the Chicago International Film Festival, so a lot of my programming ideas filter through the lens of “Can this be for young people, and can we find federal, state or private funding for it?” Now, every trip I take and every conversation I have, I find my vision expands from there.

PG: Like…

R: We’ll talk to a bank about their programs for seniors and it’s like, “Hey, we could have a program that transports senior citizens to The Iowa door to door.” And we could do sing-a-longs to The Sound of Music, or Frozen.

M: I’ve never seen Frozen.

PG: I actually haven’t seen it, either, all the way through. We probably shouldn’t admit that, Mom.

R: Definitely not. Oh, one more idea! We are going to sell beer and wine, but when we do special John Wayne movie screenings, I want to offer Wild Turkey, neat — because that was supposedly The Duke’s favorite drink!

PG: How fun to play with these ideas.

R: There’s a lot to do. But to have a canvas as lovely as The Iowa — and how lucky to have 140 seats to fill, not 500! — and to be able to explore the intersection where these ideas and the needs of our community meet is a true creative and managerial joy.

PG: Is the equipment gonna be real fancy and stuff? And what about the popcorn?

M: We will deliver movies using brand new, state-of-the-art digital equipment with surround sound. We will serve popcorn with real butter, classic theater candy, locally produced wine and beer, and Coke products.

R: They used to serve Pepsi products but… Ew!

PG: This is the one problem I have with this project. I’m a Pepsi girl. Little-known fact. Okay, you two. Let’s wrap this up: What’s something you want everyone to know about the theater?

M: A theater is a place for shared experience, whether it’s a movie or a live performance. It’s a place to dream and learn, a place to fall in love. We are so lucky our town’s theater is a beautiful gem that was just waiting over the decades to be polished and reset. We are working daily to make The Iowa everything it can be — for the enjoyment of everyone in our community as well as visitors to our town and county.

PG: Woah, you’re good. That was beautiful. Rebecca?

R: I grew up watching movies, I went to film school, I worked at a film festival. Film is my magic, my escape. Think of a memory you have with a movie: Did your grandma take you to see Little Mermaid and hold your hand in that scary underwater storm scene? Did you have your first big make out sesh at a movie theater? Did your family rewatch a movie every Christmas or every Halloween? We want to give you new memories like that. Bring your honey or friend, your kid or a co-worker. Settle in and let a film be magic for you and create new memories. And that’s just the movies part of the theater! You might watch your child perform on our stage — or perform on our stage yourself someday! The Iowa is YOURS to enjoy. We can’t wait to see you there.

PG: Aaaand I’m crying. Thanks. I love you both so much. Good luck. Please don’t hurt yourselves doing things with…boards.