KC Rep continues Monday readings series


Press release posted by Bob Evans

KCRep Launches 2019/2020 Readings

in Popular Monday Night Playwright Series

 Kansas City Repertory Theatre (KCRep), announced the full schedule for this season’s popular Monday Night Playwright Series, which opened with BURIED ROOTS, its first play of the series, on Monday. The series features a line-up of new and returning playwrights including Michelle Tyrene Johnson, Darren Canady, James Still, Migdalia Cruz, Mashuq Mushtaq Deen and Ellen McLaughlin. These free public events take place on the UMKC campus at the Spencer Theatre Donor Lounge.

“This season’s Monday Night Playwright Series lineup,” says New Works curator and director Lisa Rothe, “features eight dynamic new plays and a breathtaking new musical. We are thrilled to share work by local Kansas City playwrights, Michelle Tyrene Johnson and Darren Canady, who are telling necessary and unheard stories with truth and complexity. We also look forward to welcoming back Kansas native, James Still, an award-winning playwright and four-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. We are excited to introduce two compelling theater artists, Heidi Armbruster and Bryn Magnus, who draw on their midwestern roots with rawness and honesty. We’re also featuring a lush and beautiful new musical by John McGrew, Jonathan Karpinos and Joseph Varca, that explores a timeless world through music, art, and puppetry. And finally, we truly look forward to supporting the singular voice of current New Dramatists fellow, Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, as well as two nationally prominent and powerhouse writers, Ellen McLaughlin and Migdalia Cruz, whose voices have added immeasurably to the American theatrical canon,” explains Rothe.

These events allow theatre lovers to step into a world of a new play as it is being built and meet fantastic playwrights from across the country. Monday Night Playwright Series brings to life script-in-hand reading of future hit shows, as well as other theatre-centric events. All events are free and open to the public.

Through OriginKC, KCRep provides playwrights the artistic resources they need to develop new, innovative plays of the highest artistic merit. In 2015-16, the first year of the OriginKC: New Works Festival, KCRep staged the world premiere of Rinne Groff’s FIRE IN DREAMLAND, which just completed a run at New York’s famed Public Theatre with KCRep’s Marissa Wolf taking the helm as director.

The 2019/20 Monday Night Playwright Series includes:




Jaime McBride, an African-American woman college professor, studies and teaches genealogy. She has improperly

used her resources to find out about her biological family. And without knowing that a blood tie exists, someone walks into Jaime’s life, which causes Jaime to question her life choices, her concept of family, and to figure out if it’s possible to re-plant an old family tree.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a public radio journalist, diversity and inclusion speaker, and a former attorney in the Kansas City, Missouri area. As a playwright, Johnson’s plays have been staged nationally, including in California, Texas, Illinois, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Kentucky. Several of her plays, such as Wiccans in the HoodThe Negro Whisperer, Trading Races: From Rodney King to Paula Deen and Echoes of Octavia have been in New York City festivals. Other acclaimed plays of Johnson include Justice in the Embers and The Green Duck Lounge. Johnson was one of the featured playwrights in the Obie Award-Winning 2017 The Fire This Time Festival in NYC.  Johnson’s  play The Green Book Wine Club Train Trip had a reading at The National Black Theatre: Institute for Action Arts in NYC in 2017, was being selected as the winner of the OCTA (Olathe, KS.) New Works Playwrights Competition and had a production at KC Melting Pot Theatre company. Johnson’s commissioned play Coloring Between The Lines was part of the 2019 “30 American” exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and she has been commissioned to write a play for Coterie Theatre that will have its premiere in Fall 2020.




Darnell, Cam, and Bruce are three queer black men with a deep friendship that goes back years and has sustained them over time, distance, and the instability of life’s vicissitudes. But when Bruce’s lover is killed in a murky encounter with police, the fallout tests the trio’s bond, forcing each man to confront the colliding complexities of race, sexuality, geography, violence, and male intimacy.

Darren Canady hails from Topeka, KS. His work has been produced at the Alliance Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, Aurora Theater, Congo Square Theater, Horizon Theatre, London’s the Old Vic Theatre, M Ensemble, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, American Blues Theater, and others. His awards include the Alliance Theater’s Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award, Chicago’s Black Excellence Award, the Black Theatre Alliance Award, and the American Theatre Critics Association’s Osborn Award. His work has been developed at numerous festivals including the O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwright’s Conference. His play You’re Invited appeared in The Best American Short Plays 2010-2011. His work has been seen or developed at the Quo Vadimus Arts’ ID America Festival, the Fremont Centre Theatre, Premiere Stages, the BE Company, Penumbra Theatre, and American Blues Theater. Darren is an alum of Carnegie Mellon University, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and the Juilliard School. He is a current member of the Core Writers Program at the Playwrights’s Center and Midwest Dramatists Center. He is an artistic associate with American Blues Theater and Congo Square Theatre. He currently teaches playwriting at the University of Kansas.




It’s Thanksgiving weekend1978.  An ominous feeling about his younger sister Laurie compels Gary to come back early from a hunting trip. He thinks she is reeling from the Jim Jones Purple Kool-Aid horror which is disrupting the quiet anarchy of local Dousman teens. But his return is too late to disrupt shocking acts of violence closer to home. It seems that everyone in their lives are ineffectually struggling to gather up their own shattered pieces, leaving each of them to seek transcendence on their own terms.  Blending naturalism with small town mysticism, Black River Falls is Wisconsin Death Trip meets The Searchers.

Bryn Magnus has written plays, screenplays, novels, short stories and poems. His plays have been produced by Steppenwolf Theater (Chicago), Curious Theater Branch (Chicago), Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), Unanimous Cohort Theater (London), Performers Under Stress (San Francisco), the Washington Ensemble Theater (Seattle), Virus Fest (Berlin, Dessau, Halle, Leipzig Germany). He was a Sundance in Chicago finalist for his Steppenwolf commission: Right To Your Feelings. At Free Street Theater, he taught writing to teenagers and helped develop 12 plays that toured multiple times to Germany, Norway, and Thailand. He has also emulated the career path of many writers by stumbling around the country working as a tree-planter, an apple picker, and a private eye.



Two adult siblings share one profound thing: a violent childhood trauma they both survived and have since gone

on to very different lives. While the siblings sustain an undeniable and troubled connection through the years, that event from childhood continues to shape their lives in contrasting ways. After losing touch for a couple of years, the sister and brother find themselves on a road trip traveling back to the rural setting of their childhood. Before they reach their destination, a series of mishaps strands them in a small town in the Flint Hills of Kansas where they are unexpectedly caught up in the lives of three locals each of whom have developed their own ways of coping with a quickly changing world. DINOSAUR(S) is a play about hard-fought love, about the unexpected people that shake us up, and about the supernatural in the ordinary.

JAMES STILL’s plays have been produced throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, South Africa, China and Japan.  His new plays include DINOSAUR(s); (A) NEW WORLD; and BLACK BEAUTY (premiering this fall at Seattle Children’s Theatre).  Recent work includes a trilogy of linked-plays:  THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT (Indiana Rep), APPOGGIATURA (Denver Center), and MIRANDA (Illusion Theater, Minneapolis).  Also: two plays about the Lincolns: THE WIDOW LINCOLN and THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK ( both premiering at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.); a play for one actor about culinary icon James Beard called I LOVE TO EAT (Portland Center Stage); a play for 57 actors called A LONG BRIDGE OVER DEEP WATERS (Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles); LOOKING OVER THE PRESIDENT’S SHOULDER (theaters across the country); AND THEN THEY CAME FOR ME (theaters around the world).  Still is an elected member of both the National Theatre Conference in New York and the College of Fellows of the American Theatre at the Kennedy Center.  He is a four-time nominee for the Pulitzer, five-time Emmy nominee, received the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award from the William Inge Festival and the Todd McNerney New Play Prize from Spoleto.  He is the Playwright in Residence at Indiana Repertory Theatre, Artistic Affiliate at American Blues in Chicago, and lives in Los Angeles.




The State of Wisconsin has the highest per capita of both Supper Clubs and Serial Killers. Brother and sister, Eric and LeeAnn, inherited their Supper Club in the woods of Wisconsin after their mother’s death. Family are the people you’d kill for or the people you’d like to kill. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Heidi’s play “Mrs. Christie” received its world premiere at Dorset There Festival in 2019. “Mrs. Christie” was developed at a workshop at Primary Stages in Spring of 2019, with DTFWAW, and at residencies at The Orchard Project in 2016 and 2018.  Heidi’s play “Murder Girl” has been workshopped recently by Red Caravan and The Playwriting Collective.  In 2015, Heidi was a member of Space on Ryder Farm’s resident writers group, The Working Farm.  “Every Good Girl Deserves Fun (and other misremembered things),” a commission from Clutch Productions, was produced in New York in the fall of 2015 at Walker Space.  “Where the I Divides” was recently read by San Francisco’s ReACT.  Heidi’s play “Dairyland” has been read and workshopped as part of Playhouse on ParkPrimary Stages ESPADrillsThe LarkRed Fern TheaterLuna Stage, was selected as the New Play Workshop at The Chautauqua Theater Festival in 2014, and will receive its world premiere at Playmakers Rep in the fall of 2019.  Her short play “Purgatory” was read as part of Red Bull Theater’s First 2011 Short Play Festival and published by Smith and Kraus in their “Best Ten Minute Plays of 2013” anthology and the recently released “Red Bull Shorts Anthology.” “Miss Angela’s Legitimate Home for Women Living in Sin” was performed as part of the ESPA short play series “Detention” at Jimmy’s 43 and is available on Indie Theater Now.




An ageless Traveler with nothing but a desire for vengeance and a pair of magical glasses becomes caught up in the stories of an obsessed bookkeeper, a cursed woodsman, and a haunted widow. The Village of Vale blends dynamic storytelling, music, art, and puppetry to create a timeless world where secrets lurk behind every door, and knowledge can lead to salvation or ruin.

John McGrew is a composer, storyteller, singer, multi-instrumentalist, teacher, and producer, based in Los Angeles, CA. The New York Times called McGrew’s music for Jack Ferver’s dance performance piece Death Is Certain both “ominous” and “delicate.” In 2009, McGrew was invited to create and perform a piece for DanSpace Project’s Food For Thought, a night honoring the year’s most influential dance artists. In 2013, McGrew composed the theme music for the TED Talk conference, TED Talk: The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered. (with Graham Fisk, Oliver Jeffers, and Mac Premo).  In 2014, McGrew was nominated as a Fellow in the Academy for Teachers for his work at schools in the New York Metro area. McGrew performs across the country with his rock group Apollo Run, whose “talent for quickly jelling melodies” was recognized by NPR’s Song of the Day, HuffingtonPost, Time Out NY, The LAist, and Future Sounds.

Jonathan Karpinos is a playwright and teacher based in New York. In addition to The Village of Vale, his current projects include Lost Letters (co-written with Creighton Irons), scheduled to premiere at Bloomington Playwrights Project in December 2019. Other work has appeared at Freeplay (NYU), Studio Tisch (NYU), the Louis Armstrong House Museum, the Queens College Play Development Lab, and Pew-ish. Jonathan holds an MFA from Queens College, where he also taught college writing and published an essay on the challenge of translating 2200-year-old Latin puns. He taught playwriting for several years at Acting Manitou, a summer theatre program for young actors. He is the co-author (with Benji Goldsmith and Meg Sturiano) of The Average Achievers, a musical for young actors, which received its New York premiere at Hunter College High School. He currently teaches Latin at The Masters School.

Joseph Varca is an actor, writer, and filmmaker based in New York. As an actor recent work in theater includes; Broadway: Network directed by Ivo van Hove; Off-Broadway: Pentecost and Monster (PTP, Atlantic Stage 2); LoveSick or Things That Don’t Happen (Project Y, 59E59th); Macrune’s Guevara (@ St. Clements). Other: NY premieres of Cut by Crystal Skillman, Song For A Future Generation by Joe Tracz; Poor Jesse by Emily Feldman (Sam French OOB Festival); and Lucky Girl (McCarter Theater Center). Film/TV: American Genius (NatGeo) Bastards of Young, Chilling Visions (Chiller TV), Bristel Goodman (Palm Springs International Film Festival) and the feature film, Lapsis, which he also produced. His work as a director in theater and film has premiered at the NYC Fringe Festival (Amerika – Best Ensemble Award and I Was Tom Cruise – Outstanding Play Award) the TriBeCa Film Festival and the Austin Film Festival. He is a graduate of Middlebury College.



An apartment on the 19th floor. Esther has been waiting for Darren to finish his amazing-fantastic-wonderful project for a while now. The kids don’t call enough, and when they do, they seem full of accusations. All she wants — it’s not too much to ask, is it? — is to sit and have some tea with her husband, someday, when he’s done with

building his masterpiece. Meanwhile, outside their apartment, the waters are rising, rising, rising…

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a 2019 Lambda Literary Award Winner. His full-length plays include The Empty Place, Flood, The Betterment Society, The Shaking Earth, Draw the Circle (productions: PlayMakers Rep, Mosaic Theatre, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre; published: Dramatists Play Service; winner Lambda Literary Award), and Where Children Play (Berkshire Fringe Festival). Deen’s work has been presented/developed/supported by a number of institutions including New Dramatists, Sundance Institute at Ucross, Blue Mountain Center, The Public Theater, NYTW, MacDowell Colony, Bogliasco Foundation, Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, Target Margin Theatre, Keen Company, New Harmony Project, Phoenix Theatre, Chesley/Bumbalo Foundation, Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, InterAct

Theatre, Page73, Ma-Yi, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, and Queens Theatre in the Park. He

has also received a 2017 Kilroy’s List Honorable Mention, been a Jerome New York Fellowship finalist (twice), O’Neill Conference semifinalist (thrice), Weissberger Award nominee, and Playwrights Center Core Writers finalist (twice). He is a member of the NYTW Usual Suspects, Ma-Yi Writers Lab, a founding member of the Public Theater Alumni Writers Group, and the Dramatists Guild. He is represented by the Gurman Agency.





A brother and sister, Annie and Paul, live in profound isolation in the ruined mansion they grew up in, where Annie listens to the floor and taps out Morse code messages to their dead father. Set in the Depression Era America, this extremely free adaptation of Antigone centers on the anguished love of siblings who attempt to escape their family’s tortured legacy.

Ellen McLaughlin has written numerous plays inspired by classic Greek texts, including The OresteiaThe PersiansAjax in IraqIphigenia and Other Daughters, The Trojan Women, Oedipus, Helen, and Penelope. Her other plays include Days and Nights Within, A Narrow Bed, Infinity’s House, Tongue of a Bird, Septimus and Clarissa and Blood Moon. The producers of her work include The Public Theater, National Actors’ Theater, Classic Stage Co., New York Theater Workshop, The Guthrie, The Intiman, The Mark Taper Forum, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors’ Theater of Louisville, Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Theatre, DC, and The Almeida Theater in London. She is the recipient of the Writer’s Award from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund as well as other honors, including the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, The Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting, and grants from the NEA.  McLaughlin has taught playwriting at Barnard College since 1995, among other teaching posts. McLaughlin is also an actor. She has performed at the Public Theater, Manhattan Theater Club, LaMama, A.C.T., Berkeley Rep, Yale Rep, Seattle Rep, Trinity Rep., Arena Stage, among others. She is most well-known for originating the role of the Angel in Angels in America by Tony Kushner, appearing in every U.S. production from its earliest workshops through its original Broadway run.




In this darkly whimsical tale of Anton Chekhov, marriage & consumption, Chekhov writes his play Three Sisters who long for Moscow, as he himself avoids Moscow and his engagement to Olga Knipper—lead actress of the Moscow Art Theatre. As he’s dying of consumption, he wonders: Why would a healthy woman attach herself to a fading man? Why is a fading man avoiding the woman who loves him? Why are servants the only ones to trust? And do horses in 19th Century Russia really talk?

MIGDALIA CRUZ is a Bronx-born, award-winning playwright, lyricist, translator, and librettist of more than 50 works including: The Book of Miaou, El Grito Del Bronx, Salt, Yellow Eyes, Satyricoño, Latins In La-La Land, and

Dreams of Home, produced in venues—across the U.S. and abroad—including BAM, Mabou Mines, Old Red Lion, National Theater of Greece, Houston Grand Opera, Ateneo Puertorriqueño, Teatro Vista, and CollaborAction. An alumna of New Dramatists, she was named the 2013 Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwright and was awarded a 2016 NYFA grant for playwriting.  Migdalia was nurtured by Sundance, the Lark, and by Maria Irene Fornés at INTAR. As writer-in-residence at Latino Chicago Theater Company from 1990-1998, she premiered several plays including Miriam’s Flowers, Lucy Loves Me, and Lolita de Lares. She was recently appointed co-Chair of the Playwriting Fellows at the Dramatists Guild. Recent Projects: Frida @ Cincinnati Opera & Long Beach Opera; a modern translation of Macbeth, with productions @ ASP (Boston) & African-American Shakespeare Company (San Francisco), and Richard III for OSF’s Play On! Project; and FUR, recently produced by Teatro Dallas, will have its NYC premiere at NextDoor@NYTW produced by Boundless Theater, Fall 2019.

KCRep is underwritten in part by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. This project is supported in part by the City of Kansas City, MO Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund and The Copaken Family Fund.

For more information about all New Works happenings at KCRep, visit the website at https://kcrep.org/mnps


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