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Meet Janet Schlapkohl

Article by Alesha L. Crews, Press Citizen, September 27, 2001
Photo by Benjamin Roberts

Why you should know her: Janet Schlapkohl, 56, is the founder of Combined Efforts Theatre, which opened in 2002 to give individuals with special needs an outlet to perform on stage with their peers. Schlapkohl, a former special education teacher at City High and MFA playwright candidate at UI, works with community members of all ages and abilities to bring both classic and new plays to life. She is in the midst of planning the group’s annual actor recruitment drive, Howling at the Moon — which includes short performances, a bonfire and a haunted woods walk on her acreage at 7 p.m. Saturday. To get involved or for more information, go to www.combinedefforts.org.

The goals of Combined Efforts Theatre is to: Our mission is to produce what we consider quality theater performances and target the skills that everybody brings to it.

Through the program, I’ve noticed: I’ve noticed that students that I had that were incredibly shy have grown. … Two are writing for me now and one wishes to direct and has been co-directing a couple things. I think the biggest thing is their growth in understanding what it takes to bring something to life in the theater and their acting growth; taking on roles and parts that initially they may have been afraid of. It’s the kind of growth you see in all people who have been in theater for a while, just the confidence.

I’m most proud of my involvement in: “Vaudeville Dreams.” We got to do that one at the University (of Iowa). It wasn’t truly a Combined Efforts show, but Combined Efforts kids were in it. It was my MFA workshop piece. It was the first time that a different population of people, besides the typical parents, but students, peers and faculty at the university got to see what we do. I was proud of that.

When I’m not working you can find me: At home, but I’m always working while I’m here, too, because it’s the kind of place that you have to maintain and I have the animals to take care of.

In the next few years, I’d like to see Combined Efforts: I would like to make Combined Efforts better known in the community, better known in the state, and I want to put together a traveling troupe. I

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