May 14--Funny how things go.
American Theatre Magazine, published 10 times a year by Theatre Communications Group, includes articles about activities at theater companies across the country. For years -- make that decades -- readers would have been hard-pressed to find the words "Kansas City" anywhere in its pages.
Now, within a matter of months, the magazine has twice shone a spotlight on worthy theater companies here.
Last fall, Kansas City Repertory Theatre's world premiere production of "The Tallest Tree in the Forest," Daniel Beaty's one-man show on the life of Paul Robeson, was the subject of a lengthy article. And the current issue offers a company profile of Kansas City Actors Theatre, the small, artist-led company that produces some of the best theater in the city.
The article by Peter Zazzali focuses on the way KCAT succeeds as a collective, eschewing conventional corporate structures while being guided by a system of committees that includes theater artists, board members and members of the community. Aside from a small office, the company has no physical home and virtually no overhead. At the same time, it has an endowment that has grown to $100,000.
The attention comes just as KCAT is preparing its 10th season, which gets underway in August. The over-arching theme for the 2014-15 season will be "The Science of Family."
First up is Paul Zindel's "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds," which claimed the Pulitzer Prize in 1971. Kyle Hatley will direct the drama about a dysfunctional family consisting of Beatrice, an abusive single mom, and two daughters, the shy but brainy Tillie and the cowed Ruth.
The production will feature Melinda McCrary as Beatrice, but this won't be McCrary's first association with the play. She played Tillie in a production in the 1974-75 season at what was then Missouri Repertory Theatre.
The rest of the cast so far includes Joicie Appell and Daria LeGrand. The show runs Aug. 13-31 at the Living Room, 1818 McGee St.
Next will be perhaps the company's most ambitious undertaking: productions of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" in rotating repertory. Stoppard's absurdist play focuses on two minor courtiers in "Hamlet" who in Stoppard's version have no idea who they are, where they've been or where they may be going.
Mark Robbins will direct "Hamlet," which will feature Jake Walker in the title role. The cast includes Scott Cordes as Claudius, Cinnamon Schultz as Gertrude, Walter Coppage as Polonius and Dianne Yvette as Ophelia. Matthew Lindblom will play Laertes, Kyle Dyck is set to play Horatio, and Robbins will play the ghost of Hamlet's father.
The Stoppard play will be directed by Richard Esvang and feature Vanessa Severo as Rosencrantz, Rusty Sneary as Guildenstern and Brian Paulette as the Player King.
All actors will appear in both shows, which run Aug. 26-Sept. 28 at the H&R Block City Stage at Union Station. The schedule will include three "festival days" in which audiences will have a chance to see one show in the afternoon and the other in the evening.
The season continues into 2015 with "Crimes of the Heart" by Beth Henley. This 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning family dramedy focuses on three sisters, each of whose life journey has been unique if not particularly successful. They gather in Mississippi as the family patriarch, their grandfather, is in rapid decline. No cast has been announced for the show, which runs Feb. 25-March 18 at the Polsky Theatre in the Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College.
The fifth show of the season will be British playwright Caryl Churchill's "A Number," a futuristic drama that considers the ethical and scientific repercussions of cloning. The play focuses on a father moved to reproduce a lost son.
KCAT is seeking a nontraditional venue for the show. In the past, KCAT produced "Boston Marriage" at the Webster House and "Three Viewings" at the Muehlebach Funeral Home. Performances are expected to be in January and February.
For more information call 816-361-5228 or visit kcactors.org.
For theater hounds with an interest in something absolutely out of the ordinary, we direct your attention to "Flowers in the Wardrobe," which opened last weekend at Arts Asylum, 1000 E. Ninth St.
Kevin King's original play is, as you might guess from the title, a campy marriage of elements from "Flowers in the Attic," the lurid best-seller about imprisoned adolescent siblings who turn to each other to satisfy certain needs, and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," the classic fantasy for young readers by C.S. Lewis.
This world premiere from Whim Productions is directed by Steven Eubank and features a cast that includes Stefanie Stevens, Matt Sweeten, Alisa Lynn and J. Will Fritz as "the children."
The supporting case reads like a who's who of weird alternative and/or low-budget theater: Amy Kelly, drag performer Genewa Stanwyck, Andy Perkins, Pete Bakely, Diane Bulan and Philip blue owl Hooser. The production also has an impressive design team: Tabatha Terry-Treml (costumes), Regina Weller (props), Laura Burkhart (set), Alex Perry (lighting), and Joseph Concha (sound).
The show runs through May 31. Get tickets at flowersinthewardrobe.brownpapertickets.com.
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