Seasons Open with Vigor, Humor and Naughtiness

There’s something almost magical as the calendar year rolls toward September and October. Opening seasons for performing arts groups across the metropolitan area are getting ready for opening season. Some artistic directors and spokespeople for various venues offer their thoughts about the opening show or the shows early on that might just stand out for the audience.

Olathe Civic Theatre Association
Company by Stephen Sondheim, book by George Furth
Directed by Jason Coats
Sept. 6-Sept. 8, Sept. 13-15, Sept. 20-22
The Olathe Civic Theatre Association, renamed from Olathe Community, kicks off its 40th season with Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY.

Coats says, “COMPANY is considered by many to be the first ‘concept’ musical. That is, there is a concept, or idea, that drives the show forward, rather than a linear plot. Events occur out of ‘real time.’ In our version, these occur in the main character Bobby’s memory, as he tries to process the consequences of turning 35 and being single. These memories, and the commentary that surrounds them, push Bobby through his personal crisis. The music was first produced in 1970 and was very reflective of the time’s culture. When it was revived on Broadway in 1995, some revisions were made to make it feel more current. There is still controversy among some as to whether the themes of COMPANY are too unique to the 70s culture to be re-set, or are universal and can surpass time restrictions. OCTA’s production is set in the present, and subtle elements of the design help accomplish this without altering the show itself.”

And Coats wants people to hear a jazz club with the sounds similar to Vince Guraldi Trio. “The orchestrations are going to lean this way for this show,” he says.

Unicorn Theatre
Venus in Fur
Sept. 4-29
KcStudioVenus NEWTo kick off the 40th season at the Unicorn, Director Cynthia Levin takes the 2012 Tony-nominated play and puts it on the Jerome Stage as the season opener. Actors Vanessa Severo and Rusty Sneary play the actress and playwright who take an audition to a whole new level.

“I will continue the mission to find the best, most interesting and most provocative plays. The trick is to grab them when I find them. First and foremost, I fall in love with the plays and then I go about getting the rights. With Venus in Fur, it was one of the first plays I got for the 2013-2014 season and I always like the opening show to be provocative.  It’s not the typical Broadway show, but when I saw it, 15 minutes in, I knew I had to do the play. Two-character plays are interesting and for these two characters, you have an actress who seems to be ill-prepared for an audition, but slowly through the play, this seemingly powerless woman shows how to use sex and power. It’s shifting roles and male and female relationships and as things get brought up, they are a surprise to the audience and to the characters.”

Levin knew she had to have two actors who trust each other and her. “I have worked with Vanessa and Rusty worked several times so I wanted to dive right in. … I have been doing this for 35 years because of what we get to learn about behaviors and situations. The journey is so exciting with this play. It’s not a safe and easy play, but it’s the perfect Unicorn Theatre show.”

City in Motion
Dance in the Park
Sept. 7
Artistic Co-Director Andrea Skowronek says City in Motion’s professional company has started its season with the Dance in the Park. “We are co-producers with five neighborhood associations – Volker, Roanoke, Valentine, Coleman Highlands, and West Plaza. The show in Roanoke Park marks our 15th anniversary. It’s really special because we have gotten to know the great people of the neighborhoods and because it is a free program.”

The dance program brings in different ethnic groups to offer up their cultural dances, Skowronek says. “In the past, we have had West African dance, Flamenco and Indian. We also had an aerial group, the Moon Drop Circus. It’s a way for local groups to get exposure.” The average attendance is about 1,000 people. “Some people may not be able to afford a dance performance, but with the wide variety of dance, we can inspire people, perhaps even inspire them to take a dance class. It’s a feel-good event to see all these people in the community enjoying the performance.” The children’s dance theater also performs, she says.

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