‘Desire’ springs from short stories inspired from Tennessee Williams’ works


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Tennessee Williams lives on years after his death because he left behind a wealth of literature, including plays and short stories that have inspired actors, directors, playwrights, and artists who emulate his work, as seen in the current production by UMKC MFA students in the Darren Sextro directed, “Desire,” a play based on six of Williams’ short stories.

In this production, six short stories served as inspiration to six authors who used the stories as a springboard to a new story. “Desire” collects six stories, based on Williams’ works and crafts them into six short, one-act plays, about 20 minutes each.

“Tennessee Williams’s life-changing short stories depict loss of innocence, coming of age, fighting loneliness and isolation, and what it means to love and to lose it. Adapted by some of America’s leading playwrights, including Elizabeth Egloff, Marcus Gardley, Rebecca Gilman, David Grimm, John Guare and Beth Henley, Williams’s striking stories explode off the page, a press release stated.

The six new stories are: “Oriflamme,” by David Grimm; “The Field of Blue Children,” by Rebecca Gilman; “You Lied to Me About Centralia,” by John Guare; “Desire Quenched by Touch,” by Marcus Gardley; “Tent Worms,” by Elizabeth Egloff; and “The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin,” by Beth Henley.

 "Desire" stars (top row l to r) Megan Sills, Charlie Spillers, Chioma Anyanwu, Ken Sandberg (bottom row l to r) Duncan McIntyre, Amy Billroth-Maclurg, Jay Love and Heather Lawler

“Desire” stars (top row l to r) Megan Sills, Charlie Spillers, Chioma Anyanwu, Ken Sandberg
(bottom row l to r) Duncan McIntyre, Amy Billroth-Maclurg, Jay Love and Heather Lawler

Some of the plays had the texture of a Tennessee Williams work, especially “Oriflame” and “The Field of Blue Children.” The others did not seem to have the depth of Williams’ pen. They mostly take place in the South; they are all steamy; and they all have a twist. Some appear to be quite similar to Williams’ style. Several make LGBT characters or reference to such persons. Overall, the evening mix is extremely enticing. With their short format, they all grab the audience’s attention from the first few lines.

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To pass out acting accolades on such a piece is impossible. The cast played several parts. Sometimes they were more decoration than action, but that’s the nature of that particular piece, not a reflection on their performances in “Desire.” Each of the cast portrayed varied characters and did so with professionalism. Never did the same characterization come from the same actor. Obviously director Darren Sextro worked through character development with his cast and helped them give individualized personifications to each of the characters assigned them.

The MFA students appearing in “Desire” are Heather Michelle Lawler, Ken Sandberg, Charlie Spillers, Amy Bilroth-Maclurg, Duncan McIntire, Megan Sells, Chioma Anywanu, Jay Love. Each presented a strong stage presence, no matter the size of the character in each short play. Each took advantage of their chance to shine and announce their presence in the KC theater scene.

As a reviewer, I enjoy watching the young talent as he/she works into the bigger venues and receives more exposure and experience. These talented actors stand on the threshold of success. They will be snatching roles from seasoned actors soon. Watch for them.

“Desire” takes more than a director and cast to create the stage magic. The production staff led by Sextro includes: Sadie DeSantos, L.A. Clevenson, Zoe Still, Stella Tan, Afton Earp, Andrew Steele, Robert Ortiz, Tzu-Ching Cheng, Alayna Powell, Megan Kroeger, Jon Conklin, Rosalee O’Gara, Bryce Foster, Joshua Foster, Joshua Austin, Austin Abernathy, Niles Emerson, Kyle Womelduff, Colleen Shea, Kelli Harod, TJ Toribio. Glenn Linder, Zach Pierson, Jesus Rivera, John Livingston, Elaine Ng, Ezgi Karakus, Steven Miles, Alex Ritchie, Maddie Rowe, Olivia West, Catherine Lantz, Kaylin Shultz, Chelsea Leaver, Brandon Gibson, Katie Schieferecke, Hannah Woolsey.

Also worthy of note are: Mark Exline for scenic design; L.A. Clevenson, Zoe Still and Stella Tag for costume design; Maliara Huff and Ashley Kok for lighting design; Jon Robertson for sound design and original music and musical undertones; Ashley Kok for projections design; and Alton Earp as stage manager.

The show features adult content, adult language and is not for younger viewers. But, for those who have enjoyed Tennessee Williams’ works, come and see what other playwrights have created with Williams’ work as their inspiration.


Tags:  Theater, Kansas City Theater, UMKC, UMKC Theater, Performing Arts, Arts & Entertainment, Theater, Kansas City Theater, “Desire”,


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