Unexpected Company was created by theatre artists Brian R. Lynner and Lisa-Norris Lynner. Together they have performed in, directed, written, composed for, or produced over a hundred plays for American audiences from New York to California. Des Moines is currently their home and base of operations.
Lisa and Brian met in the spring of 1992, as Brian was launching the first Iowa Shakespeare Conservatory. They became partners in the Iowa Shakespeare Project. After closing the Project in 1996, the two parted company for several years to pursue other ventures, then reunited in 2000 to form Unexpected Company. They made their partnership even more official in 2010 by getting married.
Unexpected Company engages artists from Central Iowa (and beyond) on a project-by-project basis. We employ actors, singers, musicians, directors, designers, and technicians. For most productions, all company members are paid at least a stipend.
Brian R. Lynner
Brian has acted at some of the nation’s leading theatres, including Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, where he also served as Musical Director, composing and directing scores for a number of plays. In the early 1990s’s, he also toured Iowa and the Midwest, playing the title role in an original one-man show: The Adventures of Mark Twain.
Brian began teaching Shakespeare workshops in Iowa high schools in 1991. These workshops lead to the creation of the Iowa Shakespeare Project, and to the development of the company’s Shakespeare & You educational outreach programs, including the summer Shakespeare Conservatory, a summer actor-training program for high school students, staffed with professional actors from the Iowa Shakespeare Project summer Shakespeare In The Parks Festival. As an Iowa Arts Council Artist-In-Residence for the Shakespeare Project, Brian visited schools throughout the state, bringing Shakespeare into the classroom for thousands of Iowa students from K-12 to college. As the Artistic Director for the Shakespeare Project Brian directed, acted in, and composed a music for a number of professional productions and community-based collaborations that paired theatre professionals with community and school groups.
From 2001-2003 Brian served as co-Artistic Director of The Drama Workshop, where he appeared as King Henry II in The Lion in Winter and directed The Taming of the Shrew. Acting roles include Hamm in Endgame for Repertory Theatre of Iowa, and the title role in Unexpected Company’s production of J.B. He is co-author of the company’s original works, Voices of the Civil War, Shakespeare On Love, Hearts of Freedom, and Thursday’s Children, for which he also composed original music.
Brian has provided private coaching services to actors looking to hone their classical acting skills, and to business people looking to improve their public speaking abilities. He has also taught acting classes for age groups from elementary school to adults for the Des Moines Schools Department of Community, Adult & Continuing Education. He has also taught classes as an adjunct instructor for the Drake University Department of Theatre, and is a guest lecturer on American theatre for William Penn University’s College of Working Adults. He has also appeared in several independent films, including The Yoofo Club, released in 1999, and in the feature film Dylan’s Wake, shot in Des Moines in 2009 and released in 2010.
Lisa has worked as a director, stage manager, scenic artist and designer for professional theatre companies in New York, California, Florida, Minnesota and Iowa.Lisa began working in educational theatre in 1989 at Studio Arena Theatre, where she served as production stage manager for a three-show educational outreach tour, directed and designed productions for Studio Arena’s Theatre School, and taught classes for adults and young people. At the Civic Theatre of Central Florida’s Theatre for Young People, Lisa served as production stage manager, taught acting classes for adults and teens, and wrote educator study guides for a number of productions.
As co-founder and Producing Director of the Iowa Shakespeare Project, Lisa served as producer for all of the company’s projects, including the Iowa Shakespeare Festival, supervising a company of more than 30 professional Equity and non-Equity actors, technicians and student interns on a statewide tour. She also directed several productions and designed sets and costumes for community collaboration projects. Lisa also served as administrator for the Project’s Summer Shakespeare Conservatory, developed curricula for the Shakespeare & You outreach programs, and worked as an Artist-In-Residence at Iowa elementary, middle and high schools.
From 2001-2003, Lisa served as co-Artistic Director of The Drama Workshop, where her tenure included directing The Lion In Winter and designing costumes for The Taming of the Shrew, and working with a group of Des Moines area high school students to create After 9-11, an original performance piece chronicling their memories of the events of September 11. Lisa has written a number of other plays and screenplays and co-written two original musicals, including Ever After Anonymous, which premiered at the Des Moines Civic Center and had its international premiere at the Freeport Players Guild in the Bahamas in 2000. Her original screenplay Timeweaver was a semi-finalist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholls Fellowship.
For Unexpected Company, Lisa directed and co-produced the Unexpected Company’s production of J.B. and Thursday’s Children. and directed staged readings for the New Voices Iowa Playwrights competition. She is co-author of the company’s original works Voices of the Civil War, Shakespeare On Love, Hearts of Freedom, and Thursday’s Children. Lisa is the primary provider of Unexpected Company’s grantwriting and program development services to non-profit organizations; her client list has included Metro Arts Alliance of Greater Des Moines, the Blank Park Zoo, Historic Valley Junction Foundation, Stagewest, Repertory Theatre of Iowa, the Iowa Historical Foundation, Inmate Art Project, ArtStop, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa, Tree Des Moines, ArtForce Iowa, and CultureALL.