UMKC Theatre announces season


Works by Jaclyn Backhaus, Bert V. Royal, Aaron Posner, Emily FeldmnAnd More Round Out Extraordinary Season of Graduate, Undergraduate and Co-productions


KANSAS CITY, MO (August 25, 2017) – Known for high-quality productions and successful collaborations with Kansas City and nationwide theatre companies, and ranked by Hollywood Reporter as having the #17 best graduate acting program in the English-speakingworld, UMKC Theatre announces its 2017-18 season.

“UMKC Theatre began the summer in consternation but was recognized with the amazing support of Kansas City: our co-producing partner theatres, theatre patrons, professional colleagues across the nation, our fantastic alumni, and of course our wonderful students who all came to our support in our time of need. Because of them, we’ve been able to put together a budget that will allow us to produce a quality season of plays,” said Tom Mardikes, Chair of UMKC Theatre. “UMKC Theatre and UMKC administration are still working on solving a number of issues for the future.  We have reached an agreement on the budget that will allow two faculty members to return and all our graduate students are being funded as promised. The best news is that Ricardo Khan has been rehired and will continue writing and directing Freedom Summer, the second play in our trilogy on the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s.”


The 2017-18 graduate season opens in October with Go. Please. Go. by Emily Feldman and directed by Joshua Brody. Storytelling Project, a devised theatre piece directed by Karen Lisondra, continues the season in February.  Stephanie Roberts directs an undergraduate production of Dog Sees God by Bert V. Royal in September. Four co-productions: Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus and directed by Missy Koonce at the Unicorn Theatre and King Lear  by William Shakespeare and directed by Ryan Artzberger at Kansas City Actors Theatre are featured. The season co-productions continue with Stupid Fucking Bird, by Aaron Posner and directed by Theodore Swetz.  The final coproduction features the Coterie Theatre, Imaginary Friends: Legend of Sinnissippi Park by Terry Brooks and directed by Graham Whitehead. Freedom Summer by Ricardo Khan, Denise Nicholas and Sibusiso Mamba, and directed by Ricardo Khan, completes the season. 

Undergraduate Production

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

By Bert V. Royal and directed by Stephanie Roberts

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead is a reimagining of our beloved characters as modern, dysfunctional adolescents. Drugs, sex, violence—good grief! This dark comedy dives headfirst into teen angst and the painful reality of trying to find one’s place in the world.


The production will preview Sept. 29 – Oct. 3, open Oct. 4 and run through Oct. 8 at Studio 116, Olson PAC.


Graduate Productions

Go. Please. Go

By Emily Feldman and directed by Joshua Brody

A couple decides: This isn’t working. He says he’ll leave, and then he doesn’t. He stays and stays and stays. Through seventy years of marriages, bar mitzvahs, baptisms, and funerals, he stays. People get drunk. People get sober. People plan vacations. People die. Somebody wins the lottery. A baby grows up. Everybody dances. Go. Please. Go. asks what it means to love somebody for a lifetime, and what a lifetime even means.

The production will preview Dec. 1 – 5, open Dec. 6 and run through Dec. 10 at Studio 116, Olson PAC.

Storytelling Project

Devised by Karen Lisondra and the second-year MFA Acting class, Storytelling Project aims to create a visual and musical experience through personal stories and physical storytelling.  With inspired compositions the creation of original instruments by Amado Espinoza, audiences will be pulled into the true collaboration that exists within us all.

The production will preview Feb. 23 – 27, open Feb. 28 and run through March 4 at Studio 116, Olson PAC.

Freedom Summer

by Ricardo Khan, Denise Nicholas and Sibusiso Mamba and directed by Ricardo Khan

When the hate and inhumanity of man against man makes it seem sometimes like the bad guys and bullies are winning, don’t fret. For there are always some who will stand up in the face of it, and with courage, love and a belief that we are better than that, prove the best of who we truly are. In the summer of 1964, groups of college students, black and white together from across America, gave up their summer vacations, their sense of comfort and safety, and travelled south into the very mouth of one of the most frightening, racist places imaginable at that time, Mississippi, where black Americans were being systematically terrorized and intimidated out of their right to vote, and good people were being killed just for trying to help. That summer, Mississippi burned and the country saw and bore the spiritual cost. But because of the efforts of these brave and beautiful young people, the light in us prevailed and history was made. And in the process, united for a cause greater than themselves, they also found joy, love, and music. Freedom Summer.

The production will preview May 4 – 8, open May 9 and run through May 13 at Spencer Theatre, Olson PAC.


Men on Boats

Co-produced with Unicorn Theatre.

Written by Jaclyn Backhaus and directed by Missy Koonce

Ten manly explorers. Four boats. One Grand Canyon. And an all-female cast! Men on Boats tells the true story of an 1869 expedition, when a one-armed captain and a crew of daring volunteers set out to chart the course of the Colorado River, dodging rapids and naming every landmark. This rowdy satire written in modern language about fearless pioneers takes on a whole new meaning with women at the helm.

Performances run Sept. 6 –Oct. 1 at Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main Street, KC MO. For tickets, please call (816) 531-7529 or visit online.

King Lear

Co-produced with Kansas City Actors Theatre.

October delivers a new take on Shakespeare’s King Lear, directed by Ryan Artzberger. Starring Theodore Swetz with a cast that includes Mark Robbins, Peggy Friesen and Logan Black, this classic tale of tragic hubris, sibling rivalry, and heated passions will be produced in a renewed partnership between KCAT and UMKC Theatre. We’re excited to introduce bright new talents alongside some of the city’s finest veteran actors, all of it in service to one of the Bard’s finest works.

Mardikes stated, “We watch a crowned leader who has never done a thing for others suffer tremendously through his own blindness and narcissism. At the moment his heart breaks, he is filled with human insights of love, compassion, grace, trust, and loyalty. He dies a better person, and Shakespeare gives hope to us all for a possible redemption, even in our dying breath.”

Performances run Oct. 13 –22 in Spencer Theatre, Olson PAC. (816)   For tickets, please call (816) 235-6222 or visit

Stupid Fucking Bird

Co-produced with Unicorn Theatre

By Aaron Posner and directed by Theodore Swetz. An aspiring director, a beautiful young actress, an aging Hollywood star and a famous author discover the messed-up joys and thrilling heartbreaks of the struggle to create new art. In this hilarious reimagining of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, Aaron Posner pits two tangled generations of star-crossed lovers against each other in the search for love and true meaning. With original songs, boundary-crossing innovation, and irreverent wit, Stupid Fucking Bird gives the finger to one classic play.

These production previews begin Nov. 29 – Dec. 1, open Dec. 2 and run through Dec. 24 at Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main Street, KCMO. For tickets, please call (816) 531-7529 or visit online.


Imaginary Friends: Legend of Sinnissippi Park

Co-produced with the Coterie Theatre

By Terry Brooks and directed by Graham Whitehead

A world premiere production with magic and wonderment, the play begins with 13-year-old Jack McCall learning some very bad news about his health. His best friend Waddy is not as concerned as he is, since you hear stories of people getting over this illness all the time. From there, reality blends with fantasy as Jack becomes convinced that he needs to find his way back to the magical park and the Imaginary Friends: Legend of Sinnissippi Park from his childhood. An elf named Pick along with an owl, a troll, and a ghost challenge Jack to an adventure to save the park from an evil imprisoned in a massive tree. But this adventure may not even be real, so what does facing this adversary in the park have to do with Jack’s sickness anyway?

Performances run Jan. 23 –Feb. 11 at Coterie Theatre, Crown Center, 2450 Grand Ave. KCMO (816) 474-6552.  For tickets, please call (816) 474-6552 or visit online.


Ticket Information

Single ticket adult prices are $20 for any performance.  All UMKC faculty and staff tickets are $13 and UMKC student tickets are $10 for any performance (limit one per ID). Senior (60+) ticket prices are $15.  Groups of 10 or more are $13 each. For tickets, call the Central Ticket Office at (816) 235-6222 or purchase online  here

Ticket sales for the co-productions are available through Unicorn Theatre and Coterie Theatre box offices.  Ticket sales forKing Lear with Kansas City Actors Theatre are available through Central Ticket Office.


Free event parking for Olson Performing Arts Center is on level 5 of the Cherry Street parking structure. Park near the Northeast Tower and use the skywalk to the theatres. The Olson Performing Arts Center is at 4949 Cherry Street on the UMKC campus.

UMKC Theatre has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top graduate theatre training programs in the country. Graduates from UMKC Theatre are invited to the most prestigious New York and Los Angeles professional reviews and auditions to exhibit their work and secure positions with national and international performing companies.  We build bridges. We assist the creative student in making the journey to becoming a creative professional. The practice of the department is to vigorously educate students in the many arts, crafts and traditions of theatre, and provide a basis for future careers in the creative industries. Our program offers intensive hands-on experience while at the same time fostering analytical and contextual skills. The practical experience of theatremaking occurs not only within the performing venues of UMKC, but also in professional theatres in Kansas City. Theatre is a passion. We seek it, we train for it and we embody it. UMKC Theatre is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) and the University/Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA).

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students.  UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health sciences, and urban engagement. UMKC has been designated as Missouri’s Campus for the Arts. More information is available online at



For interviews and press passes to performances, contact Ellen McDonald, 816.444.0052 or


2017-2018 UMKC Theatre Season






Dog Sees God:Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

Stephanie Roberts

Studio 116, Olson PAC

9/29 – 10/3

10/4- 10/8

Go. Please. Go.


Joshua Brody

Studio 116, Olson PAC

12/1- 12/5

12/6 –12/10

Storytelling Project

Karen Lisondra

Studio 116, Olson PAC

2/23– 2/27

2/28 – 3/4

Freedom Summer

Ricardo Khan

Spencer Theatre, Olson PAC

5/4  – 5/8

5/9 – 5/13

UMKC Theatre 2017-2018 Co-Productions


Men on Boats

Missy Koonce

Unicorn Theatre

9/6 – 9/8

9/9 – 10/1

King Lear

Ryan Artzberger

Spencer Theatre, Olson PAC

10/13 – 10/17

10/18– 10/ 22

Stupid Fucking Bird

Theodore Swetz

Unicorn Theatre

11/29– 12/1

12/2–  12/24

Imaginary Friends: Legend of Sinnissippi Park

Graham Whitehead

Coterie Theatre

1/23 – 1/26

1/26 – 2/11

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