News Column

UMKC Theatre opens season with August Wilson's 'Seven Guitars'

October 2, 2013


Oct. 02--The UMKC Theatre Department kicks off its academic season with one of August Wilson's most evocative plays: "Seven Guitars," set in Pittsburgh in 1948.

This 1995 play, never produced professionally in Kansas City, depicts the return of blues musician Floyd Barton to his home after his release from jail. He renews relationships with friends and family while hoping to jump-start his recording career. The play's tragic elements figure into a later Wilson drama, "King Hedley II."

"Seven Guitars" is part of Wilson's 10-play cycle depicting the African-American experience in each decade of the 20th century. The production marks the first time the theater department has staged a Wilson play. The director is Scott Stackhouse and the cast and design team are drawn from the department's graduate and undergraduate programs.

The show began previews last week and runs through Sunday in Studio 116 on the lower level of the UMKC Performing Arts Center.

Other graduate programs this season include:

--"Big Love," a comedy by Charles S. Mee based on "The Suppliants" by Aeschylus, in which 50 brides flee forced marriages with their cousins, who are in pursuit. Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian. Oct. 18-27 at Copaken Stage, 13th and Walnut.

--"Almost, Maine," a romantic comedy by John Cariani set on a winter night in view of the northern lights. Directed by John Rensenhouse. Nov. 29-Dec. 8, Studio 116.

--"Contemporary One-Acts," titles to be announced, directed by Theodore Swetz and others, April 23-28, 2014, Studio 116.

--"Love's Labours Lost" by William Shakespeare, directed by Ed Stern, May 2-11 at the Spencer Theatre.

In addition, the department will produce two undergraduate shows: "Three Sisters" by Anton Chekhov, directed by Michael R. Pauley, Oct. 11-20 at Grant Hall on the UMKC campus; and J.M. Synge's "Playboy of the Western World," March 14-23, 2014, at the Genessee Stage, 4501 Genessee. Directed by Tom Mardikes.

The department is also participating in previously announced co-productions of "Seminar" by Theresa Rebeck at the Unicorn Theatre, Oct. 16-Nov. 10; "Chekhov Shorts," Oct. 31-Nov. 10 at the Fishtank Performance Studio; "Clybourne Park" by Bruce Norris, Dec. 4-29 at the Unicorn: "Romeo and Juliet," co-produced with Kansas City Rep, Jan. 17-Feb. 9, 2014, at the Spencer Theatre; "Afflicted Daughters of Salem" by Laurie Brooks, Jan. 28-Feb. 23 at the Coterie Theatre; "Journey's End" by R.C. Sheriff, co-produced with Kansas City Actors Theatre, Feb. 13-March 2 at the National World War I Museum; and "Samuel Beckett Intensive," Feb. 20-23 at the Fishtank.

For ticket information, call 816-235-6222 or go to

New shows

The Living Room, 1818 McGee St., inaugurates its new season with the Kansas City premiere of "The Mistakes Madeline Made," an acerbic, offbeat comedy by Elizabeth Meriwether. The play examines filth -- both the physical kind and the figurative variety -- as we follow the experiences of a young woman who responds to her soul-killing job by refusing to bathe. Weirdness ensues. Actress/playwright Natalie Liccardello makes her directing debut with this show, which features Melissa Fennewald, Carrie Lenehan, Brian Huther, Ben Auxier, and Seth Macchi. "Madeline" runs through Oct. 20. Call 816-533-5857 or go to Tickets are available at

Egads! Theatre Company returns with the local debut of "Carrie the Musical," a property that rose from the ashes after a brief 1988 Broadway run made it one of the most expensive flops in history. Based on the Stephen King novel about a darkly gifted teenage misfit who at the high school prom uses her telekinetic powers to brutally punish the peers who tormented her, the show has been reworked by the creative team and found a post-flop life.

Steven Eubank directs the Kansas City production. The cast includes Stephanie Weinecke, Shelby Floyd, Seth Jones and Coleman Crenshaw, among others. Kevin Bogan is the musical director and the choreographer is Tiffany Powell. The show opens Friday and runs through Nov. 2 at the Off Center Theatre on the third level of Crown Center. Call 816-842-9999 or go to

Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St., kicked off its season last weekend with "Your Hit Parade: The American Songbook," a revue featuring a lineup of strong singers: Lauren Braton, Molly Hammer, Kathryn Long and Tim Scott. J. Kent Barnhart is at the piano with support from drummer Julian Goff and bassist Brian Wilson.

The show celebrates tunes made famous on "Your Hit Parade," a widely popular radio show in the 1930s and '40s that also ran on television in the 1950s.

The Quality Hill production runs through Oct. 27. Call 816-421-1700 or go to

To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to


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