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Of the Deep: Meditations Upon the Death of a Blue Whale

What does it mean when a massive whale carcass washes up on the shore of a coastal town? Created by members of the ISU Theatre community, this series of short shadow-puppet films reflected on the consequences and complexities of environmental crisis. 

Director, Puppet Co-Designer

Originally slated for performance in April 2020, the production was rescheduled and reconceptualized in light of the COVID-19 crisis.  Premiering in November 2020, the production featured various shadow puppetry styles and visual storytelling techniques.

adapted by Amanda Petefish-Schrag and Ben Schrag based on the play by Euripides

An ambitious general.  A king’s wounded pride. The greatest army ever assembled.  And one innocent girl . . .

Co-Adapter, Director, Puppet Designer

Within this development and production process, I explored the juxtaposition of a ritualized Greek chorus, large scale puppetry, and original music to capture the inherent social commentary and disruption present in Euripides’ original text. I sought to underscore parallels between an ancient world and our own – a world in which, too often, great men prove weak, deceitful, and all too capable of doing the monstrous and unthinkable to the women and children in their midst.

THE ENDURANCE OF LIGHT by Amanda Petefish-Schrag

Sophie refuses to leave her bed after suffering multiple miscarriages.  Now, lost in a surreal landscape with Sir Ernest Shackleton, Albert Einstein, and Hildegard Von Bingen, Sophie must navigate the mysterious forces that threaten to trap her forever as past and present, faith and science, collide.


Miscarriage inhabits the nexus of multiple existentially-anxious issues – sex, death, religion, science, when life begins, and the very definition of life itself.  In writing a play about the subject, I wanted to explore these intersections and reveal their inherent tensions while making them tangible, potent, and accessible. I integrated diverse stylistic elements - contemporary realism juxtaposed with surrealism; “real” characters from a fictionalized present colliding with imagined characters from the historical record; past and present timelines overlapping, intersecting, and interrupting as each informs the other.


Who are we and how did we get to “here”?  How does the idea of immigration connect to our community’s past and present? Iowa Odyssey is a collaborative project exploring our local stories of immigration and the idea of what it means to create community.

Facilitator/Lead Devisor

This process  combined practices from community organizing, devised theatre, and documentary theatre models.  By the end of the production process, over 80 people had attended a rehearsal/working session to contribute. Eighteen ISU students – some of whom had worked on the project for nine months, and some who had shown up less than a week before opening night –  participated in the performances of their own stories of immigration and community – stories lived, stories learned, and stories shared. 


In this collaborative performance with Mike Giles and the ISU Jazz II Ensemble, music and puppetry come together in telling short stories of discovery and renewal. 

Puppet Designer, Lead Puppeteer

This collaboration resulted in a variety of puppets built entirely from discarded plastics.  The nature of the specific material – it’s literal plasticity – created a foundation for the fluidity of the jazz music and the fixed puppet characters, as well as the dynamic tension for the storytelling itself.

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