Kansas City Repertory Theatre wraps up its 2017/18 season with its OriginKC: NEW WORKS FESTIVAL, a month-long event featuring two fully-produced plays, two script-in-hand-readings, a University of Missouri/Kansas City Department of Theatre production, and more.
The festival gives Kansas City audiences the opportunity to engage with the process of creating theater while giving emerging and established writers the resources to develop plays for future seasons at KCRep and beyond.
“The New Works Festival is my favorite time of year,” comments KCRep Associate Artistic Director/Director of New Works, Marissa Wolf, who curates and produces the program. “When audiences come together to experience incendiary, breathtaking productions that spark illuminating dialogue after every show in our Community Conversation series,” she continued.
Entering its third season, the OriginKC: NEW WORKS FESTIVAL lineup includes the world premiere of BROTHER TOAD, a new play by Kansas City, Kansas native Nathan Louis Jackson. Directed by Melissa Crespo, the production features Shamika Cotton (Janelle), Shon Ruffin (Shayna), David Samuel (Randall), Jude Tibeau (Chris), and Donovan Woods (Marques). The production team includes Rachel M. Dyer (Production Stage Manager), Brittany Vasta (Scenic Design), Katherine Davis (Costume Design), Jeff Cady (Lighting & Projection Design), and Mark van Hare (Sound Design). From the press release: “In BROTHER TOAD, Jackson, KCRep’s Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence, asks us to bear witness to the humanity behind the choices we make regarding guns and family in our City’s African American community.” “It’s really exciting to have this play that’s ABOUT Kansas City not only premiere at Kansas City Rep but also feature so many talented Kansas City actors. The fact that it explores a topic that is both timely and vitally important to all the residents of our city, is just icing on the cake,” said Jackson.
The festival continues with the Kansas City premiere of Kara Lee Corthron’s WELCOME TO FEAR CITY, which will run in rotating repertory with BROTHER TOAD. Directed by Associate Artistic Producer Chip Miller, FEAR CITY features Christopher Reed Brown (E), Brandon Pierce (Cheky), Brianna Woods (Neesy), Nedra Dixon (Wanda), Jamal James (Jacques/Benji/Vagrant), and Walter Coppage (Rat/Voice/Man). The press release describes it as an “electrifying and alive story, a South Bronx boy searches for his poetic voice and wrestles with his identity as his neighborhood struggles to survive in the wake of the 1977 New York City blackout. This fierce, hot, and funny account also looks at the epicenter of the American hip-hop revolution.”
“I’m so psyched that WELCOME TO FEAR CITY is part of this year’s OriginKC: New Works Festival,” said Corthron. “Marissa Wolf and I began discussing the play back in 2016 and KCRep has been its biggest supporter since that time. I’ve come out here twice over the past year to further develop the play and what makes this program so special is that they are actually producing it — not just providing space for reading after reading. The importance of full production for new plays cannot be overstated.”
Also being produced under the umbrella of KCRep’s New Works Festival is the UMKC Department of Theatre workshop production of LETTERS FROM FREEDOM SUMMER, by Ricardo Kahn, Denise Nicholas, and Sibusiso Mamba. Directed by Kahn, the production features Danny Cox (Blues Man), Meru Kimi’Sung (Mrs. Combs), Harvey Williams ( Old Mississippi Man), Lanette King (Mamie Trace), Duncan McIntyre (Mickey Schwerner), Brandon Gibson (James Chaney), Frederick Rivera (Andrew Goodman) and Khalif Gillett (Mandla). “In the charged summer of 1964, college students from across the U.S. came together to fight for voting rights in Mississippi, a state known for intimidating and terrorizing Black Americans out of their right to vote,” says the show description. “Letters from Freedom Summer celebrates the courage and resilience of the young people who changed the fate of this nation.”
Two additional new plays are also selected each season to be read as part of the festival weekend’s free public readings. On Saturday, May 12 at 10:00 am, playwright Dipika Guha’s UNRELIABLE will be performed, followed later in the day by a 4:30 pm reading of FRIDA…A SELF PORTRAIT by Fox Foundation Resident Actor, Vanessa Severo. “Severo’s exquisitely passionate and soul-searching journey into Frida Kahlo’s life, paired with Guha’s edge of the seat, hilarious and disorienting thriller, offers a deeply relevant, exhilarating ride for the 2018 festival,” says Wolf.
The OriginKC: NEW WORKS FESTIVAL begins Friday, April 27 through Sunday, May 27. For a complete schedule, including showtimes and tickets, visit kcrep.org.