Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre Celebrates 10th Anniversary Season

Emerging Arts Partners

Karen Paisley, MET producing artistic director
Karen Paisley, MET producing artistic director

More than 50 mainstage productions, eight seasons of Script-in-Hand performances with the Kansas City Public Library, international artist visits, KC Fringe show and more … for Producing Artistic Director Karen Paisley, all these add up to a great start.

As the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre gets ready for the 10th season, Paisley has her hands full. She knows the importance of producing a varied season that appeals to the cast and crew as well as the audience. “In truth, we are always thinking about the consumer. When audiences tell us they are happy, that appreciation provides a lot of motivation for us. The secret to staying and perhaps even success is to have a good plan, research well and work like crazy. Then surround yourself with talented people working on the same goal and the odd are more in your favor.”

Starting in 2005, Paisley has not forgotten the mission to produce American masterworks and contemporary classics all while being dedicated to serving the community with plays that can still make a difference in lives. “It’s difficult to say that I have a favorite play this season. The productions are like your children and you want to nurture each and every one.”

Up first is Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers Sept. 10-Oct. 5. Paisley calls it a great comedy where two young boys will enjoy a chance to act in starring roles. Not About Heroes, Nov. 6-30, looks at the real-life relationship between the poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. “Historian Peggy Noonan wrote about how World War I changed the landscape, but also how the outcome affected generations. The intellectual power involved in being a soldier took men away from their lives and all the things that might have been,” Paisley says.

Frederick Schiller’s Mary Stuart is Jan. 15-Feb. 8. “It’s a great story,” she says. August Wilson’s Jitney is Feb. 26-March 22. “I have never directed this play.” The Last Night of Ballyhoo is April 9 – May 3. This time the play centers on the start of World War II and aristocratic German Jews more interested in socializing. The anniversary season ends with The Full Monty May 21-June 7. Unemployed workers figure out how to make a little money and heighten their self-esteem. “It is a brave and funny show,” she says.

Steel Magnolias, a show from last season

Paisley expects some roles to be significant draws for actors. Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth I are “meaty” roles for actresses in town. “I expect the plays will be extremely interesting for audiences and performers,” she says. “When I am looking to build a season, I have some plays on my mind. As an example, Mary Stuart and the Full Monty are shows that I have been waiting for the right moment. Other times, I have to physically lay out books and look at the titles. It’s a little like building a winning hand in cards. Plays draw themselves together. With this season, I would say all the characters are trying to survive, but it’s even more than that. It’s not only survival, but the chance to truly be seen. It’s what all of us are seeking. No one wants to be invisible. It’s interesting because I pull the plays and then the thematic statement for the season resonates.”

As producing artistic director for 10 seasons, Paisley has learned the nuances of running a theater, but she knows there is more. “I need to listen more. I am listening to everything and everyone and I take in all I can, looking for the best solution,” she explains. “I still have to stand up for what I believe is best even as I have listened. That moves into the second area and that is aiding in the relationships with our audiences. To make our patrons happiest we have to listen and watch to accommodate their needs so their theater experience is first rate.”As the theater moves into the future, the MET will grow in its outreach to the community, Paisley says. “We can dig deeper, maintain our mission and reach the community even more.”

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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