Grinnell High School presents “Crimes of the Heart”


Contributed by Ellis Donette

Grinnell College makes monetary donations and contributes props to Grinnell High School for theatrical shows.

Eleanor Corbin, Features Editor

Grinnell High School (GHS) ran performances of “Crimes of the Heart” on March 2, 3 and 4, marking the directorial debut of Steph Nefzger. The play was partly sponsored by Grinnell College.

“Crimes of the Heart” follows three sisters as they come together in the wake of their mother’s suicide, learning how to be around one another after many years apart. Nefzger said that the themes of found family drew her towards the show.

What this show kind of champions is understanding that your normal doesn’t have to be everybody else’s definition of normal.

— Steph Nefzger, Director of Crimes of the Heart

Prior to her current role as GHS play director and Grinnell Middle School (GMS) 5th grade special education teacher, Nefzger coached speech at GHS and three other Iowa high schools.

When a position opened up to direct at GHS, Nefzger said that she was excited to showcase her skills in theater.

“I have just a very deep love for theater and a deep passion for sharing that love of theater with other people, specifically students,” Nefzger said. “I just had a really positive experience growing up, myself, in theater settings.”

Just over 200 tickets were sold for the 3 performances, and Nefzger said that she saw a wide variety of community members attend the performances. 10 of those tickets were purchased and reserved for Grinnell College students as part of the College’s sponsorship of the production.

Grinnell College has been making contributions to GHS plays since the College and the high school became partners in education, said Donnette Ellis, community relations and grant coordinator at the College. The donation, this year around $250, went towards general funds to be used as seen fit by the production.

Ellis said that this donation is not regular in the sense that it does not happen at a set period of time. Rather, whenever someone from GHS reaches out to the Grinnell College Office of Community Partnerships, Planning and Research to ask for a donation, the College provides one.

Previous GHS play director, Liz Hansen, who currently works as the program director at the office of community partnerships, planning and research, connected Nefzger to the correct channels to coordinate the sponsorship.

In return for the contribution, the College asked for 10 tickets to raffle off to the student body. An acknowledgement in the playbill read, “Thank you! … Donnette Ellis and Grinnell College for the generous donations.” Ellis noted that she, individually, is not typically included in the thank-you.

Nefzger said that she is proud of the her students for their performance. (Contributed by Ellis Donette)

Beyond monetary contributions, Nefzger said that Kate Baumgartner `15, technical director for theatre, dance and performance studies, provided them with College resources, allowing GHS to use props and set pieces.“It really made for a collaborative process that really created a super cool end result,” said Nefzger, “it was nice to be able to say that the college in our community was able to help make the production what it was.”

Nefzger said that she learned a lot from their first run as director, from wrangling props to navigating complicated high school schedules. The show, having been in the works since November, is the result of months of work from Nefzger and her students.

In a play all about complicated personal relationships, Nefzger said that the students worked hard to understand their characters’ backstories and motivations. She said the cast did an activity in which she would tell one of the actors playing the main three sisters a secret that their character was hiding from the other two. The student would then need to incorporate that secret into their acting.

“We played around a lot with familial relationships and relationships with people in their lives in general,” Nefzger said, “and just kind of had really awesome conversations around reaction.”

Nefzger said she was pleased with her students and her first production. She said that she is consistently impressed with the amount of activities students are able to balance.

“I just am really proud of them [the students], and hope that they are proud of what they did,” said Nefzger. “It was just a joy for me to see, start to finish, what they were able to accomplish.”