‘O Beautiful’ gives acting challenge to MFA students at UMKC


Count on Theodore Swetz to find challenging material to put his MFA students through their paces and expand their talents on and off stage as he does with the first play of this semester’s classes with the play, “O beautiful,” now playing at Spencer Theatre on the UMKC campus.

The play by Teresa Rebeck takes on a unique twist when a TV host brings in founding fathers who explain their stances on issues as they crafter our Declaration of Independence, other historic documents and their stances about issues in the late 1700’s. That is contrasted by current situations involving students in modern times still struggling with those issues and new ones as well.

Today’s struggles include Second Amendment rights an challenges, LGBT issues, equality, bullying, the woman’s right to choose, and other issues that are trumpeted in this year’s election campaigns. All are topical, current and present challenges today in such a different world than our forefathers’ world. Guns were to protect from such things as Indian skirmishes, and defend the home from intruders. The time was immediately proceeding the American Revolution. Bullying probably occurred but was not a political issue as well as the LGBT concerns.

Another problem stripped bare in “O Beautiful” is suicide. At any time suicide is a painful issue to explore. The MFA students flexed their acting chops with “O Beautiful.” Not only was their acting on display, but all of the behind the scenes work on from stage management, to props, to projection usage, lighting, sound, costuming…just all phases of play production provided chances for the MFA students to further their knowledge.

To the audience, they will see a seamless show that changes sets and scenes with relative ease. All actors gave strong on stage performances. Many of the students undertook multiple roles, so to single them out is difficult. Amy Brillroth-MacLurg, Charlie Spiliers, Duncan McIntire, Jay Love, and Chioma Anywanu did stand out above the rest for their strong characterizations. Anywanu’s Joan of Arc was especially strong.

Take nothing away from the balance of the cast. With many of them mounting different and minor parts, their jobs encouraged them to create individual characters in the ensemble. Suffice it to say “O Beautiful” showcased some of the best developing acting talent in the KC Metro. UMKC produces well-rounded MFA graduates annually. The experience they gain in the MFA program propels them in the mainstream of KC theatre, even before they graduate.

Watch for these students’ names to begin appearing in shows at other venues, soon. Some may attain acting roles by second semester. Others may begin showing up at KC Fringe shows next July.

“O Beautiful” continues this week at UMKC. Those interested in seeing a play that will challenge them to think and talk about current topics should not miss this show.

The cast is: Amy Billroth-MacLurg, Charlie Spiliers, Duncan McIntyre, Mecgan Sells, Jay Love, Chioma Anywanu, Heather Michelle Lawler, Ken Sandberg, John Conklin, Conner Woodson, Peter Morgan, Jaani Kumar, Megan Kroeger, Hilary Metzger, Hannah Woolsey, Pearl Fuller.

Production Crew: Director, Theodore Swetz; Director, Stephanie Roberts; Sadie DeSantis, production manager; Elizabeth Sampley, stage manager; Nils Emerson, technical director; Colleen Shea, properties master; Greg Mackender, composer; Paula Fritz and Emma Dodge, assistant stage managers; Ethan Zogg, dramaturg; Pearl Fuller, production assistant; Pamela Meadows, assistant lighting director; Shannon Barondeau, assistant projection designer; Hector Quintero, master electrician; Andrew Steele, Robert Ortiz, Austin Aschbrenner, and Kyle Wormelduff, carpenters; Tristan James, scenic charge artist; Sandra Lopez, Mark Exline, Kelli Herrod, Rafael Torbio, Christian Taylor, scenic artists; Josh Austin, light board programer; Zach Pierson and Jesus Riviera, sound engineers; Jesus Riviera, Jami, sound board operator; Elisa Bragaw, Frederick Riviera, Claire Hartman, Lauren Moore, Malarie Lindhorst, Sadie Klein, Maliara Huff, Connor Woodson, stage crew; Afton Earp, house manager; Claire Stenzel, Maya Washington, Jamie Leonard, ushers.

O Beautiful” runs Oct.14-23 in Spencer Theater.

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