Spinning Tree and KC Actors Theatre Announce New Seasons

Spinning Tree Theatre has announced a diverse grouping of plays and musicals, all Kansas City premieres, for its 2020-21 season. This, by the way, is the company’s 10th anniversary season.

The Shows:

“Miss You Like Hell,” a musical by lyricist Quiara Alegría Hudes (who wrote the book for “In the Heights”) and composer/lyricist Erin McKeown, depicts a road trip undertaken by an exceptionally smart but depressed teen and her estranged Latina mom, an illegal immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for decades. “The New York Times” judged the off-Broadway production to be a refreshing take on classic road stories that “offers two seriously rich roles for women, each with important things to sing about.”

The Spinning Tree production will star Vanessa Severo and be directed by Heidi Van. The show runs Aug. 14 – 30.

“Mothers and Sons,” by Terrence McNally, is the story of a woman who pays a surprise visit to her late son’s partner, who is now married to another man and has a young son. She must honestly assess how society has changed and adopt a new way of looking at her son’s life.

Nedra Dixon stars and Jeff Church directs. The production runs Nov. 6 – 22.

“Marie and Rosetta,” by George Brant, tells the story of blues-and-gospel guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe, an iconic African American singer and songwriter who influenced Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles, among many others. The show depicts Sister Rosetta’s first rehearsal with a young protege as they rehearse for a nationwide tour.

Illeana Kirven, seen by theatergoers in Spinning Tree’s production of “Caroline, or Change,” stars as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Michael Grayman-Parkhurst directs. Performances run Feb. 12 – 28, 2021.

“Disenchanted!” by Dennis T. Giacino, depicts Snow White and other fairy-tale princesses who rebel against their depictions in modern pop culture and are determined to set the record straight. The irreverent cabaret musical offers decidedly non-traditional versions of Cinderella, Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” the Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, et al.

Andrew Grayman-Parkhurst directs. The show runs May 14 – 30, 2021.

Spinning Tree performs at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf, Overland Park. For information and tickets, 817.235.6222 or www.spinningtreetheatre.com.

Kansas City Actors Theatre: Kansas City Actors Theatre has prepared an eclectic 2020-21 season that kicks off with “The Cake,” by TV writer Bekah Brunstetter. The production, to be directed by Missy Koonce, will feature KCAT-member Jan Rogge as Della, a bakery owner forced to examine her attitudes about same-sex marriage when asked to bake a cake for a wedding. “The Hollywood Reporter” noted a “decided sitcom quality” with dialogue “filled with amusing one-liners.” The show runs May 20 – June 7 at Union Station.

The season also includes:

“Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train,” by Stephen Adly Guirgis, best known for writing “The Mother******” With the Hat.” The dark comedy depicts several murder suspects being held at Rikers Prison. Among them are a young Puerto Rican being held for shooting a cult leader and a serial killer who also happens to be a born-again Christian.

Brian Paulette, well known as an actor in KCAT productions and who has appeared often at the Unicorn and other theater companies, will make his directing debut. The show runs Aug. 5 – 23 at Union Station.

“The Dresser,” by Ronald Harwood, a highly regarded play that was also a notable film, depicts an aging English actor facing the challenge of playing King Lear with the crucial help of his longtime dresser. The show features John Rensenhouse, Phil Fiorini and Carla Noack.

“The Dresser” will be directed by Darren Sextro and runs Sept. 9 – 27 at Union Station.

“Betrayal,” by Harold Pinter, is rightly considered a modern classic for its novel dramatization of a seven-year affair in reverse chronological order. Cinnamon Schultz, who staged KCAT’s memorable production of Sam Shepard’s “A Lie of the Mind,” will direct.

The show runs Jan. 13 – 31, 2021 at Union Station.

KCAT returns to “environmental theater” with “The Christians,” by Lucas Hnath (author of “A Doll’s House, Part 2”). The play depicts a sermon by a minister who has grown his congregation from storefront to megachurch but who now tells churchgoers of a revelation that throws his congregants’ beliefs into question.

“The Guardian” said of the play: “Hnath is playing a . . . complicated game, not least because he exerts pressure on every argument and counter-argument, trusting the audience to judge their strengths and weaknesses.”

The show will be performed with a choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City.
John Rensenhouse and Gary Heisserer will codirect. Exact performance dates are yet to be determined, but the show is slated generally for May of 2021.

For more information, visit www.kcactors.org.

Note: Spinning Tree announced June 11 that they are indefinitely postponing their season opener in August.

KCAT recently released this update: “Our current COVID reality requires us to be date-flexible in response to what we are allowed to do for the safety of our artists and audiences, and that is changing from week to week. Also, our artistic team is planning a more BIPOC-inclusive season of storytelling, including the artists involved in those stories.”

Robert Trussell

Robert Trussell is a veteran journalist who has covered news, arts and theater in Kansas City for almost four decades.

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