Leaving Iowa

Jun 10 – Aug 13
Barter Stage II

“A comedy about family vacations.”
By Tim Clue and Spike Manton

The spark behind Leaving Iowa comes from being children of parents from the now dubbed “greatest generation.” The story is a toast to their idealism and character and a little roast of their undying dedication to the classic family road trip. More specifically, it is the story of Don Browning, a middle-aged writer, who returns home and decides to finally take his father’s ashes to his childhood home, as requested. But when Don discovers Grandma’s house is now a grocery store, he begins traveling across Iowa searching for a proper resting place for his father. This father-and-son road trip shifts smoothly from the present to Don’s memories of the annual, torturous vacations of his childhood. Don’s existential journey leads him to reconcile his past and present at the center of the United States. Leaving Iowa is a postcard to anyone who has ever found him or herself driving alone on a road, revisiting fond memories of his or her youth.

Director's Notes


Family vacations hold an interesting spot in the history of a family.

Think back to your own family vacations and how you remember them. How you talk about them. Family vacation stories are often recounted with a mixture of laughter and tears. Over time, the stories become more exaggerated, the details more vivid, and truth takes a back seat to family lore. (“I caught a fish this big!!)

Whoever said, “getting there is half the fun,” however, never rode with my family from Chicago to Florida. The smell of the car after a three-day drive. The all out brawls with my brother in the “way back” seats of our Ford Country Squire station wagon, as my mom yelled at us and my dad threatened to “turn this car around.” The hours of “I Spy With My Little Eye,” to pass the time. And, finally, tumbling out of the car in a cloud of fast food wrappers, smelling the ocean air, eager for the adventure to come. An adventure that would bring days of swimming, ice cream and miniature golf.

Now that I have my own family, I appreciate our vacations in a different way. Yes, they are an opportunity for adventure, but mostly what they are is the chance to spend uncompromised time together. Our daily lives are so busy now that sometimes it’s easy to forget what’s really important. Too often my response to my daughter’s question, “will you read me a book” or “can we go ride bikes” is, “maybe later.” Vacations are a chance to replace “maybe later” with, “absolutely”! On our last vacation I decided that my rule was going to be whenever my children asked if we could do something, the answer would be an immediate yes. “Can we go to the beach right now?” “Sure!” “Can we get ice cream after breakfast?” “Yup.” And what I found is that “yes” led to great memories.

Right before I became a father for the first time someone told me that the best thing I can do for my kids is give them great childhood memories.

Leaving Iowa is a tribute to those wonderfully awful vacations that we all know well, and have provided us with those awfully wonderful memories.

Nicholas Piper

Director, Leaving Iowa

Cast & Credits


Don Browning:
Rick McVey
Dad: Michael Poisson
Mom: Tricia Matthews
Sis: Wendy Piper
Fruit Cart Guy/Joe Hoefingers/ Civil War Guy/Wayne: Zacchaeus Kimbrell
Grandpa/Jack Singer/Fred: Taylor Marrs
Bob/Cart Chaser/Uncle Phil/Amish Guy/Hotel Clerk: Joe Veale
Judy/Aunt Phyllis/Shopping Lady: Sarah Laughland
Amish Gal/Jamie/Jessie: Jenna Haimes
Grandma/Museum Assistant/Drunk Lady: Mary Lucy Bivins

Rehearsal Assistant Stage Manager: Victoria L. Sutton


Nicholas Piper
Set Designer: Derek Smith
Costume Designer: Amanda Aldridge
Lighting Designer: Camille Davis
Sound Designer: Tony Angelini
Wig & Makeup Designer: Whitney Kaibel
Stage Manager: Sara Douglas

Corporate Sponsors
Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center

Media Sponsors
The Business Journal
Johnson City News & Neighbor