Comrades, uncover ironclad comedy behind ‘Iron Curtain’

March 22, 2011

Stern portraits of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin peer from a slyly subversive set piece in “Iron Curtain” at Village Theatre: horns for Marx, a propeller beanie for Lenin and Coke-bottle glasses for Stalin.

Yengenyi Onanov (Nick DeSantis, center) and actors portraying apparatchiks at the Soviet Ministry of Musical Persuasion perform in ‘Iron Curtain’ at Village Theatre. By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

Spoofing the godfathers of communism is a fitting introduction to the original musical.

“Iron Curtain” is no cobwebbed museum piece, even though the globe buried the Cold War era 20 years ago. Instead, the piece is unabashedly enjoyable — and nimble enough to shift from kitschy to heartfelt, often in the same number.

“Iron Curtain” carries a serious name, but the musical is as elastic as Flubber under the crush of so much history. The premise nods to classic Broadway musicals, spy-versus-spy potboilers and too many Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons to count.

The latest propaganda piece from the Soviet Ministry of Musical Persuasion — “Oklahoma!” rip-off “Oh, Kostroma!” — is a dud. Infuriated, the mercurial Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, commands the ministry to import Broadway playwrights to doctor the musical before opening night.

Howard Katz and Murray Finkel do indeed qualify as playwrights, although the duo is chronically unsuccessful at selling pitches to producers.

The idea for the latest Katz and Finkel musical, about a loveable-loser baseball team, sounds like a surefire smash. Oops, another set of scribes just sold something similar — something titled “Damn Yankees” — for a Broadway run.

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‘Iron Curtain’ offers Cold War comedy

March 8, 2011

Village Theatre readies original musical ‘Iron Curtain’ for launch

The generation brought up since the Cold War might not remember the arms race, duck-and-cover drills or backyard bomb shelters, but the fallout from the conflict continues to shape international affairs and, from time to time, pop culture.

In the latter category is “Iron Curtain” — a comedy set in the frostiest moments of the Cold War and a soon-to-debut original musical at Village Theatre. The musical is set in the late 1950s, as both sides stockpiled nukes for Armageddon, although “Iron Curtain” uses the conflict as a backdrop and plays up the red menace for laughs.

The cast from ‘Iron Curtain’ offers Cold War comedy at Village Theatre starting March 17. By John Pai

Nikita Khrushchev, the irascible Soviet leader, enjoys a good musical. Yengenyi Onanov — actor Nick DeSantis, in another Village Theatre turn — leads the Ministry of Musical Persuasion, the state agency responsible for churning out musicals as communist propaganda.

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‘Iron Curtain’ tickets go on sale at Village Theatre

February 8, 2011

Village Theatre is about to put the “commie” in comedy.

The original musical “Iron Curtain” debuts next month. Tickets for the show go on sale Feb. 9.

“Iron Curtain” recalls the chilliest days of the Cold War. Soviets set out to create a Broadway musical and — to complete the show — decide to import some real New Yorkers, by force if necessary.

Soviets kidnap a pair of downtrodden playwrights and force them to repair the worst musical ever written. The humorous and upbeat score follows the scribes as they toil under the gun.

The downtown Issaquah theater presents “Iron Curtain” from March 16 to April 24.

Theatergoers can purchase tickets at the theater website, www.villagetheatre.org. Or call the box office at 392-2202. Tickets can also be purchased at the box office, 303 Front St. N., from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

Tickets range from $20 to $60. Students and military members can pick up half-price tickets 30 minutes prior to curtain for any available seat. The theater also offers group discounts for parties of 10 people or more.

Cougar Mountain and the Cold War connection

June 29, 2010

Missiles atop peak defended region against Soviet threat

President Kennedy had a bad cold.

The leader of the free world begged off public appearances in October 1962, blaming a respiratory infection. Kennedy skipped a planned appearance in Seattle to close the Century 21 World’s Fair.

Except, the president had no cold, bad or otherwise.

The discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba pushed the United States and the Soviet Union — both nuclear-armed superpowers — to the edge of annihilation. The ersatz illness provided a ruse for Kennedy to duck the limelight and address the crisis.

U.S. military installations around the globe operated at heightened alert in case a spark ignited the Cold War flashpoint.

Sidewalks that connected barracks 50 years ago at Cougar Mountain's Radar Park are among the few signs that remain of the Nike Ajax Integrated Fire Control radar site, now a King County park. By Greg Farrar

High above tiny Issaquah, anti-aircraft missiles sat poised on Cougar Mountain. Installed less than a decade earlier, the system had been devised to protect the Puget Sound region in case bombers came screaming across the Bering Strait from the Soviet Union.

The program debuted in the late 1950s as a technological triumph — the first operational, surface-to-air guided missile system used by U.S. forces.

The military positioned more than 200 Nike Ajax installations nationwide — including 13 around Puget Sound — near major cities and key military and industrial sites as a last line of defense against a Soviet air attack. The missile network defended the economic and political center of the Pacific Northwest, as well as Boeing aircraft factories, shipyards and military installations.

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Endeavour students bring history to life

April 20, 2010

Fourth-grader Rose Didcock donned James Cook’s captain’s uniform for the third annual Night at the Museum event. All fourth-graders participate in the culminating project where they create reports, 3-D models and dress in costume to bring state history to life. By Chantelle Lusebrink

Ever wonder what James Cook, the famous Northwest Passage explorer, was like? Or maybe what Meriwether Lewis and William Clark would say about the Pacific Northwest?

Well, at Endeavour Elementary School, they break out the wax historic figures for the one night a year they come to life. Read more

Only questions remain after ’68 disappearance

December 15, 2009

When 8-year-old David Adams disappeared in May 1968, the still-unsolved case generated unprecedented news coverage and attracted hundreds of searchers to Tiger Mountain. Photo illustration by Greg Farrar

When 8-year-old David Adams disappeared in May 1968, the still-unsolved case generated unprecedented news coverage and attracted hundreds of searchers to Tiger Mountain. Photo illustration by Greg Farrar

Innocence Lost, a three-part series about the 1968 disappearance of David Adams.

Part 1: Missing

The walk home was short, but David Adams never completed the trip.

David left a friend’s house on a late spring day in 1968, and set off down a shortcut worn by neighborhood children. Somewhere along the path — whether by accident, misstep or chance encounter — the 8-year-old boy disappeared from Tiger Mountain.

Searchers volunteered by the hundreds and combed through dense forest for days. Tiny Issaquah, with 4,000 or so people then, was the nexus in the unprecedented search effort.

With the techniques and technology available to investigators and searchers in May 1968, the search for David unfolded as a rescue mission.

Searchers offered theories.

Maybe David fell down a coalmine shaft. Maybe a wild animal attacked the boy. Maybe — a more remote maybe in the 1960s — someone abducted David.

Searchers found nothing.

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London professor studies city’s role in Cold War project

February 9, 2009

project-revere-dodds-200902

Klaus Dodds

During the height of the Cold War, Issaquah was deluged by an aerial assault. The payload: 30,000 leaflets dropped on the city in an experiment to understand how messages travel through a community.

The U.S. Air Force, the University of Washington and it was widely suspected that the CIA, participated in the experiment, called Project Revere, said Klaus Dodds, a professor of geopolitics and the director of the Politics and Environment Research Group at the University of London.

“Project Revere we found fascinating, in part because of its central role in stimulating research into rumor and the role that geography plays in shaping rumor transmission and reception,” he said.

He said he wanted, 58 years after the event, to study why this research was so central to a lot of Cold War-era research into communication. Read more

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