OriginKC: New Works Festival at KCRep boasts World and Regional Premieres

Photo by Cory Weaver

Kansas City Repertory Theatre wraps up its 2017/18 season with its OriginKC: NEW WORKS FESTIVAL. Entering its third season, the OriginKC: NEW WORKS FESTIVAL, running April 27 through May 27, 2018, positions Kansas City as a major player and national center for the cultivation and production of new works, while offering theatre artists from across the country the financial, creative and artistic resources required to develop vital, diverse works of theatre.  

The New Works Festival includes two fully-produced productions, two script-in-hand-readings, a University of Missouri/Kansas City Department of Theatre production, and other ancillary events. Kansas City audiences have the unique opportunity to engage with the process of creating theater while giving emerging and established writers the resources to develop plays for future seasons at KCRep and beyond.

The OriginKC: New Works Festival is curated and produced by KCRep Associate Artistic Director/Director of New Works, Marissa Wolf under the leadership of Artistic Director Eric Rosen. “The New Works Festival is my favorite time of year when audiences come together to experience incendiary, breathtaking productions that spark illuminating dialogue after every show in our Community Conversation series,” explains Wolf.

For the 2017/18 OriginKC: New Works season, KCRep is proud to produce the WORLD PREMIERE of BROTHER TOAD, a new play by Kansas City, KS native, Nathan Louis Jackson and directed by Melissa Crespo. In Brother Toad, Jackson, KCRep’s Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence, asks us to bear witness to the humanity behind the choices we make regarding guns and family in our City’s African American community.

“Honoring our on-going commitment to providing actors with the resources they need to enhance their individual projects, KCRep has formally commissioned this urgent play and provided an impactful development journey tailored to Nathan’s unique process,” explains Artistic Director Eric Rosen. “Sticky Traps, the play Nathan wrote during his initial three-year tenure as playwright-in-residence, closed our 50th anniversary season, and since then, Nathan has been hard at work on Brother Toad.”

“It’s really exciting to have this play that’s ABOUT Kansas City not only premiere at Kansas City Rep but also feature so many talented Kansas City actors. The fact that it explores a topic that is both timely and vitally important to all the residents of our city, is just icing on the cake,” explains playwright Jackson.

Nathan Louis Jackson is an alum of Kansas City Kansas Community College and Kansas State University. He received the Lila Acheson Wallace fellowship and did his graduate work at The Juilliard School. His plays include Broke-ology (Williamstown Theatre Festival and Lincoln Center), When I Come to Die (Lincoln Center), Sticky Traps (Kansas City Repertory Theatre), The Mancherios, and The Last Black Play. Jackson has received commissions from Lincoln Center, The Roundabout Theater Company, and Manhattan Theatre Club. At Kansas State University, he was actively involved with the Ebony Theatre (as a director and as president) and participated in The Kennedy Center Summer Playwriting Intensive. Jackson has twice won the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, is the recipient of the Mark Twain Comedy Playwriting Award and was awarded the Kennedy Center’s Gold Medallion. He is currently working in his fifth year as Playwright Resident at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Jackson has written for television as well, with credits for “Southland” (NBC), “Shameless” (Showtime), “Luke Cage” (Netflix), and “13 Reasons Why” (Netflix).

In rotating repertory with Brother Toad is the REGIONAL PREMIERE of WELCOME TO FEAR CITY by Kara Lee Corthron, directed by KCRep Assistant Artistic Director, Chip Miller. In this electrifying and alive story, a South Bronx boy searches for his poetic voice and wrestles with his identity as his neighborhood struggles to survive in the wake of the 1977 New York City blackout. This fierce, hot, and funny account also looks at the epicenter of the American hip-hop revolution.
Corthron weighs in on the New Works Festival, “I’m so psyched that Welcome to Fear City is part of this year’s OriginKC: New Works Festival! Marissa Wolf and I began discussing the play back in 2016 and KCRep has been its biggest supporter since that time. I’ve come out here twice over the past year to further develop the play and what makes this program so special is that they are actually PRODUCING it–not just providing space for reading after reading. The importance of full production for new plays cannot be overstated.”

Kara Lee Corthron’s plays include AliceGraceAnon (New Georges), Holly Down in Heaven (Forum Theatre, DC), Listen for the Light (Know Theatre, Cincinnati), and Welcome to Fear City (CATF). Author of the young-adult novel, The Truth of Right Now, Simon Pulse. TV: NBC’s “Kings” (2008-2009). Awards: Proud member of New Dramatists, 2012-2014 Women’s Project Time-Warner Fellowship, Vineyard Theatre’s Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, Princess Grace Award, two NEA grants, Helen Merrill Award, Lincoln Center’s Lecomte du Nouy Prize (three-time recipient), four MacDowell fellowships, residencies at Bogliasco (Italy), Skriðuklaustur (Iceland), Hawthornden (Scotland), and the Millay Colony. She is a graduate of Juilliard.

Also being produced under the umbrella of KCRep’s New Works Festival is the workshop production of LETTERS FROM FREEDOM SUMMER, by Ricardo Khan, Denise Nicholas, and Sibusiso Mamba. FREEDOM SUMMER will be directed by Khan as well.

In the charged summer of 1964, college students from across the U.S. came together to fight for voting rights in Mississippi, a state known for intimidating and terrorizing Black Americans out of their right to vote.  Letters from Freedom Summer celebrates the courage and resilience of the young people who changed the fate of this nation.

Two additional new plays are also selected each season to be read as part of the Festival Weekend’s free public readings. On Saturday, May 12 at 10:00 am, playwright Dipika Guha’s work UNRELIABLE will be performed, followed later in the day after several ancillary New Works events, by a 4:30 pm reading of FRIDA…A SELF PORTRAIT written by Fox Foundation Resident Actress, Vanessa Severo.

“Severo’s exquisitely passionate and soul-searching journey into Frida Kahlo’s life, paired with Guha’s edge of the seat, hilarious and disorienting thriller, offers a deeply relevant, exhilarating ride for the 2019 festival,” says Festival curator Marissa Wolf.

The OriginKC: NEW WORKS FESTIVAL is made possible with support from the Copaken Family Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, H&R Block, and the City of Kansas City, MO Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund. KCRep is underwritten in part by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Performances for Brother Toad and Welcome to Fear City begin Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28th respectively and run in repertory through Sunday, May 27 at Copaken Stage. Press nights are scheduled for Friday, May 4 for Brother Toad and Saturday, May 5 for Welcome to Fear City.  Both shows will begin at 8 pm.

LETTERS FROM FREEDOM SUMMER performances begin Friday, May 4 and run through Sunday, May 13 at Spencer Theatre on the UMKC campus. Press night for this production is scheduled for Wednesday, May 9 at 7:00 pm.  Letters From Freedom Summer is a production of the UMKC Department of Theatre in partnership with Kansas City Repertory Theatre and is supported in part by the Hall Family Foundation Theatre Enhancement Fund. Press night for this production is scheduled for Wednesday, May 9 at 7:00 pm.

Tickets may be purchased at http://originkc.kcrep.org/ by calling 816-235-2700. For group ticket sales, please call Andrew at 816-235-6122.