The three-person cast of Kansas City Actors Theatre’s upcoming production of My Old Lady has a long history together. In fact, David Fritts, Kathleen Warfel, and Jan Rogge have been appearing on Kansas City stages in various combinations since 1987. They were first all cast together back when the KC Repertory Theatre was known as the Missouri Repertory Theatre in a production of A Christmas Carol, where Fritts and Warfel played opposite each other as the Cratchits for twelve years. Over the course of the last 30 years, they’ve had many opportunities to make an impression on one another. They recently chatted about their history before the first rehearsal of My Old Lady.
Warfel especially remembers when she and Rogge worked together in the Unicorn Theatre’s production of The Heidi Chronicles. Warfel knew right away that Rogge would be willing to dive right in to her performance. While Rogge jokes that can be attributed to her “big mouth,” Warfel insists that wasn’t the case. “She came in, sat down, and was ready to go,” remembers Warfel. “She acted as the lead of the train of who was authentic, and there were a lot of fantastic people in that show.” That spirit of willingness to work and bring authenticity would continue to inform their relationship for years to come.
Rogge especially remembers Fritts’ performance when working with him in a 1992 production of another Israel Horovitz play, Widow’s Blind Date, which she refers to as David’s breakout role. “It’s funny because David is kind of an unassuming guy,” says Rogge, “but he was just explosive in that role.” Fritts himself credits that performance with earning him a role in the Missouri Rep’s production of Death of a Salesman, an accomplishment he’s particularly proud of. Over the years, the sum of all these interactions have come to flavor how they work together.
As they prepare to work on My Old Lady together, they all agree that having such a deep background is a valuable asset. “Having worked together for so many years,” says Fritts, “you’re now working with people you have trust in. You don’t have to worry about someone just being over in their corner waving their arms around and not worried about anyone else.” That’s especially good, because the familiarity and trust they’ve built up over the last 30 years gives them the opportunity to go deeper into their characters and performance than they would be able to otherwise. This is especially useful for their current work.
“It’s all about establishing relationships,” Fritts says of My Old Lady, “because it’s an interesting, convoluted situation.” Indeed, the story of a failed writer who inherits a valuable Parisian apartment from his estranged father only to discover it contains a 92-year-old French woman and her daughter, is not without its surprises. In fact, Warfel sees the situation as a “pressure cooker” of conflicting agendas and intentions that is both funny and poignant. What’s undeniable is that all three of these skilled artists are more than ready to take the journey together, and are eager to share that journey with the audience.
Kansas City Actors Theatre will present Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady at Union Station’s H&R Block City Stage from January 11th to the 29th, with audience talk-backs following performances on January 15 January 18, and January 27. For tickets, call the Central Ticket Office at 816-235-6222 or go to www.kcactors.org.
Above (left to right): David Fritts, Kathleen Warfel, and Jan Rogge. Photo by Manon Halliburton.