Upcoming Unicorn play examines past, present racial politics


Slave auctions! Exploding steamboats! Racial politics?

“An Octoroon”

by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins


Directed by Damron Russel Armstrong

Co-Produced with UMKC Theatre

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An Octoroon transforms a 19th century plantation melodrama with a beautiful maiden, Indians, and slaves into a theatrical event that is equally hilarious and moving, subversive and provocative. Part period satire, part meta-theatrical middle finger, it’s a shocking challenge to the racial pigeonholing of 1859—and of today.

Critics have praised the innovative writing of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins: “Hilarious and harrowing… An eloquent theatrical statement on race in America today… [from] one of this country’s most original and illuminating writers…” — Ben Brantley, New York Times. In the Village Voice, Tom Sellar hailed the play as “a wildly imaginative new work… [An Octoroon] insists that making theater can be the best way to talk back to history.” This winner of the 2014 OBIE Award for Best New American Play has Helen Shaw of Time Out New York calling it “super oxygenating—despite moments of palpable fear and disquiet, we leave feeling somehow healthier.”

Directed by Damron Russel Armstrong, the play features Rufus Burns as BJJ/George/M’Closky, Logan Black as Playwright/Wahnotee/Lafouche, Michael Thayer as Assistant/Pete/Paul, Cinnamon Schultz as Dora, Jessica Franz as Zoe, Rasheedat Badejo as Minnie, Amber McKinnon as Dido, Teisha M. Bankston as Grace, and Peter Morgan as Br’er Rabbit/Ratts.

An Octoroon is on Unicorn Theatre’s Levin Stage located at 3828 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64111. The show runs Nov. 30 – Dec. 26, 2016. Previews are Nov.30, Dec. 1 and 2. Opening Night is Dec. 5. A Featured Friday pre-show event is scheduled for Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. Talk back performances, where patrons are encouraged to stay after the show and discuss the play with the actors and director, are scheduled for Dec. 6, 11 and 18.


Performances run Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. If you are unable to afford a ticket, you may Pay What U Can at performances on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, because we believe art is for everyone. The week of Christmas, there will be a Monday performance on December 19th at 7:30 p.m. There will be no performances on Dec. 24and 25. The closing performance will be on Monday, Dec.26 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are now on sale. Call 816-531-PLAY (7529) EXT. 10, go online at www.UnicornTheatre.org or buy in person at the box office located at 3828 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111. Special discounts are available for seniors (65+), students, and patrons under age 30.

About the Director, Cast and Creative Team:

Damron Russel Armstrong (DIRECTOR) is excited to be directing at the Unicorn. Now the Executive Artistic Director of The Black Repertory Theatre of Kansas City, audiences may remember Damron from such Unicorn shows as: Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, The Exonerated, Bat Boy, Topdog/Underdog, and Ruined. Other KC credits include: KC Rep: Harriet Jacobs; New Theatre: Buddy Holly Story; Living Room: Race; Coterie Theate: The Wiz; Late Night Theatre: Valley of the Dolls; Theatre for Young America: Junie B Jones. Regionally: OSTC, RI: Rent; Palace Theatre, NH: Dreamgirls; Showpalace, FL: The Full Monty. Off Broadway: The Cradle Will Rock (Theatre 1010, NY), Children of Eden (Paper Mill Playhouse, NJ).

Rufus Burns (BJJ/George/m’closky) is excited to be returning to the Unicorn, where he was last seen in The Motherf*cker with the Hat, Ruined, and The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge. Additional local credits: The African Company presents Richard III (Black Repertory Theatre of Kansas City); The Wrestling Season, The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza (The Coterie Theatre); Richard III, Macbeth, Twelfth Night (Heart of America Shakespeare Festival); Titus Andronicus (The Living Room Theatre). Education: MFA in Acting & Directing from UMKC, B.A. Purdue University.

Logan Black (PLAYWRIGHT/WAHNOTEE/LAFOUCHE) is so happy to be back at the Unicorn; he was last here in Seminar. Other KC credits include I’m Not Rappaport, Journey’s End (KCAT); Our Town, A Christmas Carol (KC Rep); and Merchant of Venice (Heart of America Shakespeare Festival). He has also been seen in his one-man show Bond: a soldier and his dog. Regionally, he has worked with Pioneer Theater, Colorado Shakes, Riverside Theater, Okoboji and the Oak Park Festival Theater. He earned his MFA in acting from UMKC and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity. Learn more at www.logan.black.com.

Michael Thayer (ASSISTANT/PETE/PAUL) is thrilled to be working with Unicorn Theatre again after making his debut as Musa in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Local: Our Town (KC Rep); Immeasurable Heaven, The Learned Ladies, Freedom Riders, Mere Mortals, Troilus and Cressida (UMKC Theatre). Regional: Children of Hercules (American Thymele Theatre); Arsenic and Old Lace (Wayside Theatre). Education: MFA in Acting, UMKC; BA, Theatre, University of Maine. Michael would like to give a special thanks to his partner Greg for being his rock and for the countless hours spent helping him learn his lines. One more thing: Hug someone today, we need each other!

Cinnamon Schultz (DORA) is excited to be a part of this production for Unicorn Theatre.  She has previously appeared with this theatre in The Whale, Other Desert Cities, God of Carnage, In the Next Room, Mauritius and Proof to name a few. She has also had the pleasure of performing at several other theatres in Kansas City: Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City Actors Theater, The Coterie Theatre, Theatre for Young America, the KC Rep, and The New Theatre Restaurant. While performing onstage, Cinnamon has also been quite busy in radio, television and film as well. She appeared as Victoria in the film Winter’s Bone, which was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and received four Oscar nominations in 2011, including Best Picture. Cinnamon lives in the KC area with her husband (the talented Brian Paulette) and their amazing children Anika and Leo.

Jessica Franz (ZOE) is excited to be making her Unicorn debut! Her favorite Kansas City acting credits include Long Day’s Journey Into Night (KCAT); Dog Sees God, Carousel (Living Room); Desperate Acts, Amish Project (KC Fringe); and The Seagull (MET). KC directing credits include Big Love (KC Fringe), Proof (Barn Players), as well as being an AD on several KC Rep shows, the latest being Our Town directed by David Cromer. Enjoy the show!

Rasheedat Badejo (MINNIE) is excited to be making her Unicorn debut as Minnie in An Octoroon. It has been a dream of hers to be able to perform for this company. Ras is a generative theatre artist born and raised in Kansas City. She received her B.A. in Theatre-Performance from UMKC in May of 2015. Ras is currently in her second year of her artist residency at the Fishtank Theatre and her first year as an Executive Assistant for the Black Repertory Theatre of Kansas City. Ras’ recent credits include The Nine Who Dared (The Coterie), her one-woman show Young Black Victorian (Fishtank Theatre), Every 28 Hours(Fishtank Theatre). Ras would like to thank Heidi Van, Brian Buntin, Jeff Church and Damron Russel Armstrong for their tough love and support in her theatrical growth, her family for believing in her, her boyfriend Phil, for never making her choose between love and her art, Ethan Zogg for being a supportive and understanding roommate and Cassius the cat for supplying snuggles and endless laughter throughout the process.

Amber McKinnon (DIDO) is delighted to make An Octoroon her debut performance with Unicorn Theatre. Previous theatre credits include: The African Company Presents King Richard III, Amadeus, Once On This Island, Sophisticated Ladies and A Mouthful of Birds. Amber holds a BFA in Drama from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She also trained at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and the Stonestreet Screen Acting Studios in New York City.  Amber has also appeared in numerous television commercials and print ads.

Teisha M. Bankston (Grace) is delighted to be back at Unicorn Theatre. She joins the Unicorn again after appearing in A House With No Walls and And Her Hair Went With Her… A few of Teisha’s other credits include Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, A Star Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hole in Heaven, Children of the Damned Corn, and Freedom Sisters at The Coterie. Teisha was also featured as Barbara Johns in a French documentary directed by Fabrice Chiambretto entitled Barbara Johns: The Making of an Icon and as a professional backup dancer for Neil Young in his Kansas City Tour engagement at Starlight Theatre, choreography by Russ Tamblyn. Currently, Teisha is the host of a science series on KCPT called SciTech Now. She is a teaching artist, actor, and musician-in-the-works. Teisha holds a BA in Theatre Performance and a minor in Spanish from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Teisha would like to extend her love and gratitude. Enjoy Everybody!

Peter Morgan (BR’ER RABBIT/RATTS) This is Peter’s first time working with the Unicorn and he couldn’t be more thrilled. He is currently attending UMKC, working toward a bachelor’s degree in Theater Performance. Most recently he was in UMKC Theatre’s O Beautiful. He would like to thank his family, the cast and crew of An Octoroon, and the UMKC Theatre Department. Enjoy the show.

The creative team for An Octoroon is Tanya Brown (stage manager), Tristan James (scenic designer), Shannon Barondeau (lighting designer), Hector Quintero (assistant lighting designer), Jae Shanks (sound designer), Caroline Allander (costume designer), Sandra Lopez(properties designer), Andrew Steele (UMKC technical director), Alex Perry (technical coordinator), Gregory Chafin (Unicorn technical director), Christian Taylor (scenic charge artist), Daniel Wally (master electrician), Pamela Meadows (programmer), Paula Fritz (production assistant), Lisa Tinker (production assistant), Dalton Pierce (dramaturg), and Mitchell Ward (sound board operator).

About the Playwright:

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ (PLAYWRIGHT) plays include Neighbors (Public Theater), Appropriate (Actors Theatre of Louisville, Victory Gardens Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and Signature Theatre), An Octoroon (Soho Rep), and War. He is a Residency Five playwright at Signature Theatre and a Lila Acheson Wallace Fellow at the Juilliard School. Additionally, his work has been seen at the Vineyard Theatre, the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles, Company One in Boston, and the HighTide Festival in the United Kingdom. He has taught at New York University and Queens University of Charlotte, and his honors include the Paula Vogel Award in Playwriting, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, and the inaugural Tennessee Williams Award. He holds an MA in Performance Studies.

About UMKC Theatre:

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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 theatre-making 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).

About Unicorn Theatre

Founded in 1974, Unicorn Theatre enhances Kansas City by developing and producing professional, provocative new plays. We create opportunities for the advancement of emerging and established actors, directors, playwrights, designers, technicians and administrative staff. Unicorn Theatre is under the artistic and executive leadership of Producing Artistic Director Cynthia Levin, who joined the company in 1979. From a newly expanded home in the Midtown neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri, the Unicorn houses two stages—The Levin Stage (formerly The Main Stage) and The Jerome Stage (added in 2008). A fully professional not-for-profit theatre, the theatre operates under agreement with Actor’s Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States. The Unicorn is a founding member of the National New Play Network, an alliance of not-for-profit professional theatres that champions the development, production and continued life of new plays for the American theatre; and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre.  Financial assistance for this theatre has been provided by The National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; corporate and foundation gifts; and the generous individuals throughout the community we serve.

Unicorn Theatre / 3828 Main Street / Kansas City, MO 64111   

Tags:  Theater, Performing Arts, Arts & Entertainment, The Unicorn Theatre, Kansas City, Kansas City Theater, “An Octoroon”

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