About Tallgrass

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Our Mission: Tallgrass Theatre Company strives to enrich the greater Des Moines community by providing a venue for new and unique performance work that is both entertaining and evocative.

TTC reaches for these goals by:

  • Performing original collaborative works as well as the works of established playwrights
  • Reaching out to community members who may not normally patronize the theatre
  • Providing an outlet for local talent to explore and develop
  • Encouraging company members to become involved in multiple aspects of productions

Tallgrass Theatre is the brainchild of two post-graduate theatre students who found themselves without a venue for their collective artistic vision.  The two had discussed the idea of a local theatre company that, like the tall grass prairie, had deep roots within the state. Another appealing metaphor that the thespians agreed fit their ideals was the rebirth of the prairie from year to year, which allows them to stay fresh with constant change, yet with firm and steady bases from which to spring.

Jessie Phillips, Artistic Director
A native of the Des Moines area, Jessie graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Theatre in 2000. While at Theatre UNI, she was active in many productions and in various capacities including director, stage manager, costume designer and technical assistant. She has been a member of Theta Alpha Phi, the national honorary fraternity for theatre artists, since 1997. Jessie co-founded Tallgrass Theatre Company in 2002 and serves as its Artistic Director. She is responsible for heading up the season selection committee as well as helping to coordinate the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. She also oversees the acting and directing side of Tallgrass, and works with the Board of Directors to ensure that Tallgrass’ publicity and other business needs are met. Jessie has directed a number of productions for Tallgrass (Rounding Third, Newsroom, Steel Magnolias, Einstein and the Polar Bear) and has also designed costumes for a number of shows.

James Stephenson, Technical Director
James has lived in the Des Moines area for over a decade, during which he co-founded Tallgrass Theatre Company in 2002. He’s held several roles within the company, including Artistic Director, Technical Director, and Production Manager, as well as being a consultant to the Board of Directors. James also co-founded the Iowa Playwrights Workshop under the umbrella of Tallgrass Theatre in 2006, where the annual program continues to bring the fresh work of Iowa writers to the stage. James’ design and occasional performance work can be found gracing the Rex Mathes stage where Tallgrass presents its season productions, though he has also worked with several other production companies around town throughout the years. James graduated from UNI with a BA in Theatre in 1999.

2012-2013 Board of Directors

(Clockwise from top left) Lauren Hardison, Erin Bishop, Mark Mayhew, Jeff Phillips, Sarah Lepert, Robin Boelkes, Caitrin Wheeler, Kelly Mayhew, Liz Stephenson