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Melancholy Play:

A Chamber Musical

By Todd Almond & Sarah Ruhl
June 7-16, 2024

Run Time: 2h

Cast: 3w, 3m

Genre: Musical, Dramatic Comedy, Farce

Setting: Illinois in the present moment

Themes: love, mental illness, friendship, feminism, nostalgia

Despite its title, this musical version of one of Sarah Ruhl’s earliest plays is a farce. In store for you: radical whimsy, love scenes, organic outbursts of song, strings, and a fight scene—all within the confines of the intimate Stoner Theater at the Des Moines Civic Center.

Lead character Tilly’s melancholy is of an exquisite quality. She turns her melancholy into a sexy thing, and every stranger she meets falls in love with her. One day, inexplicably, Tilly becomes happy, and wreaks havoc on the lives of her paramours. Frances, Tilly’s hairdresser, becomes so melancholy that she turns into an almond. It is up to Tilly to get her back.


Melancholy Play was first produced in 2002 at the Piven Theatre in Illinois. Melacholy Play: a chamber musical was first produced in 2012 in New York.


Sarah Ruhl is widely considered one of the best living American playwrights. Her plays include In the Next Room, or the vibrator play (Pulitzer Prize finalist, Tony Award nominee), The Clean House (Pulitzer Prize Finalist), Passion Play (Pen American Award), Dead Man’s Cell Phone (Helen Hayes award), and Eurydice.

An alum of 13P and of New Dramatists, Ruhl won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006 and the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award in 2016. The Steinberg committee said, in part:

Her work sparks conversation in audiences of all ages with its emotionally vivid language [...] Sarah Ruhl is unique. She fills her intelligent and highly theatrical plays with striking oddities and playful humor.


Sarah is also the author of four books: Smile: The Story of a FaceLetters from Max: A Book of Friendship, 44 Poems for You, and 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write, which was a Times Notable Book of the Year. She hails from the suburbs of Chicago and currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their three children.


for information about Talk-Back/Pre-Show Talk dates and a special interview with Sarah Ruhl by Iowa Stage!

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Maggie Schmitt*


Katie Shepard


Craig Petersen


Giovanni Bahena*


Jennifer K.D. Hughes*



Playwright: Sarah Ruhl

Composer: Todd Almond

Director: Emily Davis

Assistant Director: Rachel Meyer

Musical Director: Lexie Thiessen

Intimacy Coordinator: Stephanie Schneider

Fight Choreographer: Alex Wendel*

Stage Manager: Katrina Colahan*

Set Designer: Zach Hodgson

Lighting Designer: Eli Heginger

Costume Designer: Jill McMahon

Props Manager: Macey Brackin


Producer: Davida D. Williams

Production Manager: Sarah Couer

Technical Director: Todd Warming*

Artistic Producer: Alex Wendel*

*Iowa Stage Resident Artist

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