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KS REP builds on success through timely, entertaining plays and local partnerships

Thursday, June 15, 2017

LAWRENCE—The 2017 Kansas Repertory Theatre season will entertain and appeal to audiences of all ages and interests with productions of the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning rock musical “Next to Normal” and the recent hit theater comedy, “The Book Club Play.”

The University Theatre is proud to partner with Headquarters Inc., the Lawrence Public Library and Laugh Out Loud for various events throughout the run of this season’s KS REP.

The 2016 season was lauded by “The Pitch” as the year’s “Best Discovery,” claiming the professional repertory theater had “made our mark” on the Kansas City theater scene.

“Audiences can expect to see excellent work that reflects the fantastic experience and standards of our directors, actors and designers,” Peter Zazzali, assistant professor of theatre, said. “I want to pick up right where we left off from last year’s success.”

Featuring an energetic pop/rock score, “Next to Normal” is an emotional powerhouse addressing such issues as grief, suburban life and ethics in modern psychiatry. It is an unflinching look at a family struggling with the effects of mental illness.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. July 7, 8, 14 and 15, and at 2:30 p.m. July 9 and 16 on Stage Too! in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre at Murphy Hall.

University Theatre is proud to partner with Downtown Lawrence’s kids play destination, Laugh Out Loud, for a Parents Night Out event for the July 15 performance of “Next to Normal.” With the purchase of an adult ticket, children ages 3-12 will receive free child care from the professional staff at Laugh Out Loud from 6 to 10:30 p.m. – allowing parents plenty of time for dinner and the show.

In light of the storyline of “Next to Normal,” KS REP is also partnering with Headquarters Inc. to raise money for and awareness of mental illness. KS REP will be raising money by selling KU Dining baked goods at a Depressed Cake Shop pop-up shop at each “Next to Normal” performance. Look out for local bakeries participating in the fundraiser at individual locations throughout the week as well.

“The Book Club Play” is a hit comedy about books and the people who love them. The play follows six devoted book club members whose weekly meetings form relationships and comic situations that are sprinkled with joy, wit, drama and hilarity.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. July 20, 21 and 22, and at 2:30 p.m. July 22 and 23 in the William Inge Memorial Theatre at Murphy Hall.

This play brought about a natural collaboration between KS REP and the Lawrence Public Library. Book clubs are welcome to a discounted ticket price to any performance of “The Book Club Play” and a special event following the July 23 matinee. The event will feature free snacks and beverages, a book swap and raffle, and a talkback with the director.

Tickets for the Kansas Repertory Theatre shows are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre at 785-864-3982 and the Lied Center at 785-864-ARTS. Tickets are $20 for adults, $19 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for students and children. Both plays include adult language and may not be appropriate for all audiences. 

The KS Rep company features Equity actors, guest artists, KU faculty, and select KU students and alumni. Kansas City-based actress Shanna Jones will play the signature role in “Next to Normal” and a major role in “The Book Club Play.”

The 2017 season also features the venerable director Elizabeth Turcotte, and music director Johnna Tavianini. Both are on faculty at Ball State University’s prestigious musical theatre program.

Kansas Repertory Theatre stands out among other summer theater, thanks to the collaboration of professional and student actors working together to make the plays come to life.

The company of “Next to Normal” includes Shanna Jones, Equity Actor, as Diana; Bronwen Capshaw, a Burbank, California, alumna, as Diana Understudy and ensemble; Ryan McCall, KU theatre musical director, accompanist and composer, as Dan; Noelle McDonald, Overland Park senior, as Natalie; Ethan Malin, Wamego junior, as Henry; Robert Crone, Emporia senior, as Henry/Gabe Understudy and ensemble; Henry Bial, Director of the School of the Arts and theatre professor, as Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine; Francesca Haynes, Overland Park alumna, as Natalie Understudy and ensemble; and Graham Wells, Overland Park senior, as Gabe.

The creative team of “Next to Normal” includes Beth Turcotte, Ball State University George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Theatre, visiting director; Johnna Tavianini, Ball State University assistant professor of musical theatre voice, musical director; Leah Mazur, a Cache, Oklahoma, alumna, scenic and lighting designer; Kelly Vogel, KU theatre visiting assistant professor, costume designer; Bronwen Capshaw, a Burbank, California, alumna, assistant director; Jenifer Cooper, Kansas City M.F.A. student, stage manager; and David Ruis Fisher, Kansas City Ph.D. student, dramaturg.

The company of “The Book Club Play” includes Shanna Jones, Equity Actor, as Ana; Eric Palmquist, Lawrence alumnus, as Alex; Ethan Malin, Wamego junior, as Will; Robert Crone, Emporia senior, as Will Understudy; Noelle McDonald, Overland Park senior, as Jen; Francesca Haynes, Overland Park alumna, as Lily; Drew Vidal, Mucie, Indiana visiting artist, as Rob; and Graham Wells, Overland Park senior, as Pundit.

“The Book Club Play” creative team includes Jane Barnette, KU assistant theatre professor, director; Mark Reaney, KU theatre professor, scenery and lighting designer; Kelly Vogel, KU theatre visiting assistant professor, costume designer; Jordan Grant, Chicago alumnus, stage manager; and David Ruis Fisher, Kansas City Ph.D. student, dramaturg.


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