Kansas City Repertory Theatre: Taking it to Another Level

Photos courtesy of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre

A funny thing happened to Eric Rosen on his way to Kansas City Repertory Theatre to direct a memorable production of Metamorphoses several seasons ago. Unknowingly, he was setting the stage for his future here.

He returned to guest direct The Trip to Bountiful at Spencer Theatre and before long, a new nameplate fixed to the Rep’s office door said this: Eric Rosen, Artistic Director.

In the five years since, the Rosen-ambition and Rosen-aesthetic have been good for the Rep, good for us– and good for the season ahead. In a one-on-one interview with KC Studio, Rosen talked philosophically about the 2013-14 season– theater of the now, he called it.

Theater Of The Now
“People love to feel more alive and that’s what theater should do, whether we tell an ancient story or a brand new one,” he said. “In the presence of the story brilliantly told, you’re gonna feel. There’s nothing better.”
Clearly, there’s plenty to see and feel next season. There’s drama. And comedy. And music. Plus family-style fare. The Rep will be mixing it up, folding the familiar in with the fresh for an abundance of imaginative, original works and beloved classics. It’s inventive – with treasured pieces and others so original and new they’ve never been seen (anywhere!) before. Some, like this season’s Carousel, honor the text and yet, may be “reinvented without being damaged.”

Listening to Rosen, you’d think he’s modernized, eclectic, innovative and rarely cautious. But fear not. He hasn’t lost touch with tradition and he hasn’t strayed from core values. “We’re keeping art and artists at the center of what we do,” he said. “We’re doing things that I can stand behind and feel good about.”

There have been risks with edgy, illuminating and thought-provoking theater. And there are rewards. An expansive audience is still buzzing about the innovations and intensity of the current season. And as local, regional and national spotlights shine on productions that originated at the Rep, Rosen smiled and (though humble), admitted, “We’re sort of hot right now.”

What’s Hot
From Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to Sedaris’s Santaland … from world premieres to treasured classics … from seasoned directors to the voices of next-generation playwrights, expect a hearty menu next season. And expect a double surprise – two yet-unannounced shows that Rosen promised are worth the wait. One is, he said, “… an exciting new musical by another wunderkind genius writer. It’s a musical that’s moving and fun. To me, the most thrilling thing to do is make a play come to life and, as it’s happening, be making things that are a little more out there.”

Does a season like this nourish and satisfy a variety of tastes? Yes. It makes, Rosen said, “… a really delicious, substantive meal.”

A 2013-14 Sampler
Shakespeare returns to Spencer
Theatre midway through the next season when Rosen directs Romeo
and Juliet. But first!

The Season Opens Strong …
The famed Moisés Kaufman directs the World Premiere of The Tallest Tree In The Forest. Written and performed by Daniel Beaty, Tallest Tree showcases Paul Robeson, world-renown African American artist and human rights champion of the 20th century. The Rep’s relationship with Kaufman has continued since he guest directed (and we embraced) Into The Woods (2009). For Beaty, our relationship begins with this.

The Ink Is (Almost) Dry
It’s too soon to be announced but, luckily for us, the ink is (almost) dry on what promises to be one of the bright spots of the season – a “full-on” theatrical event Sept. 20-Nov. 3 at the Rep’s downtown theatre Copaken Stage.

Shakespeare Starts The New Year
Romeo and Juliet – a tale of woe – is a story of star-crossed lovers, kids caught up in a bloody knife fight and a conflict they don’t understand, a young generation enacting a war of the elder generation, in Rosen’s view. “The theme I’m really interested in,” he said, “is the way cultural, generational forces shape how we think.”

A Powerhouse Play (And Playwright) …
Kyle Hatley directs When I Come to Die by Nathan Louis Jackson, the Rep’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence. First staged at New York’s Lincoln Center, this is the powerful story of a death row inmate who survives a lethal injection, then struggles to find meaning in his unexpected time on earth. Local audiences remember Jackson from the poignant Broke-ology, his 2010 Kansas City Rep debut. A native of Kansas City, Kan., and graduate of The Julliard School in New York, Jackson is praised as a young, next-generation American writer.

Wrapping It Up …
A Christmas Carol spreads good will and cheer at Spencer Theatre while Copaken Stage offers David Sedaris’s “merrily subversive and fun” Santaland Diaries, both for the 2013 holidays. In Spring 2014, charming characters Charlie Baker and Froggy deliver laughs in The Foreigner, directed by Producing Director Jerry Genochio.

Wait For It!
As a bonus, a theatrical event is set for Sept/Nov 2013 at Copaken Stage. And a musical surprise is in the works for April/May 2014. That, too, is at the Copaken.

CategoriesArts Consortium

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