World premiere comes to Unicorn to kick off ’18



Unicorn Theatre presents a Rolling World Premiere


By Karen Hartman

Directed by Heidi Van 

In this vital and surprisingly funny new play, seven actresses play fourteen characters on both sides of a radical new courtroom experiment. Every day these lawyers, judges, and social workers provide support for women desperate to escape the cycles of drug addiction, prostitution and poverty. In the tradition of Orange is the New Black, get a glimpse inside the lives of women struggling to change their circumstances against the odds. Playwright Karen Hartman explores the thin line that separates freedom from incarceration, inside the real life Project Dawn Court in Philadelphia, PA.

Project Dawn is produced at Unicorn Theatre as part of A National New Play Network Rolling World
Premiere with People’s Light and Horizon Theatre. Commissioned by People’s Light, Malvern, PA
as part of the New Play Frontiers Program (Executive Leaders: Abigail Adams, Ellen Anderson, & Zak Berkman).

 “Gritty and harsh, but with flashes of humor and hope, Project Dawn tackles a vital issue and doesn’t shy away from showing its worst repercussions.”

–          Tim Dunleavy, DC Metro Theatre Arts

Project Dawn is an artistic achievement that lights a way forward to a more empathetic justice system.”

–          Anders Back, Digital First Media

Project Dawn is on Unicorn Theatre’s Levin Stage located at 3828 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64111. The show runs January 24th to February 18th, 2018. Previews are January 24th, 25th, and 26th. Opening Night is January 27th. Featured Friday pre-show events are scheduled for February 2nd and 9th. Talk back performances, where patrons are encouraged to stay after the show and discuss the play with the actors and director, are scheduled for January 30th, February 4th and 11th.

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. For those who are unable to afford a full price ticket, they may “Pay What U Can” at performances on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; because we believe art is for everyone.

Tickets are now on sale. Call 816-531-PLAY (7529) EXT. 10, go online at or buy in person during box office hours located at 3828 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111. Special discounts are available for groups of 10+, seniors (65+) and students.

About the Director, Cast, and Creative Team:

Cynthia Levin (PRODUCING ARTISTIC DIRECTOR) is in her 39th season with the Unicorn. Over the years she has served as a director, actor, designer or producer for over 300 productions.  At the Unicorn, she recently directed ChesapeakePriscilla Queen Of The Desert(co-directed with Missy Koonce), Eclipsed, Hand to God, Heathers: The Musical (again, with Missy), The Oldest Boy, Women Playing Hamlet (world premiere), Bad Jews, Grounded, Venus in Fur, My Name is Asher Lev, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, The Soul Collector(world premiere), Hungry (world premiere), Red, Two Jews Walk Into A War…, Distracted, Green Whales (world premiere), Miss Witherspoon, My First Time, The Clean House, Mauritius, 9 Parts of Desire, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Bat Boy: The Musical and additionally the world premieres of rightnextto me (both at the Unicorn and Geva Theatre Center, Rochester, NY), How His Bride Came to Abraham, Light:Damage, Mercy Killing, Innocent Thoughts and Jack and Jill. At Coterie Theatre, she has directed Number the Stars, And Then They Came for Me, Frankenstein, Gatherings in Graveyards (I and II), Valley Song and To Kill A Mockingbird. At the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., she directed readings of Occupants, In The Belly Of The Whale, The Friendship Of Her Thighs, The Last Pair Of Earlies, Tigers Be Still and White Devil and Loving Mother for the MFA Playwright’s Workshop. Cynthia is a graduate of Park University which also awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in 2002. She is a founding board member of the National New Play Network, an organization dedicated to the development and production of new works. She has been honored with the Pinnacle Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award. She shares her home with Zia (the beagle), Dodger (the cat) and the spirit of the big red dog, Sylvia.

Heidi Van (DIRECTOR) is making her directorial debut at the Unicorn after appearing in Hand To GodLast FallThe Vibrator Play, andBright Ideas. She’s also appeared at The Coterie, The New Theatre Restaurant, The American Heartland Theatre, KC Rep, KCAT (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Private Lives), and Fishtank Theatre as Marilyn Monroe in Marilyn/God by Rosary Hartel O’Neill and directed by Jeff Church. She is Producing Artistic Director of Fishtank Theatre, a company she founded in 2009. Most recently producing: her original works: (Death By Shakespeare, LIMINAL STATE: A TRAVELER’s GUIDEHeaven & Hell) her curated works: (The Insubordinates: Adaptations of DystopiaALONG THE LINE: A rapid-fire theatrical response to a specific moment in history) and new work: Dry Land by Ruby Rae Spiegel, and Young Black Victorian by Rasheedat Bandejo.) Other directing credits include  FRIDA: A Self Portrait by Vanessa Severo (KC REP), Cat in the Hat (Coterie Theatre) Motherfreakinghood! The Musical (Moonshine Variety Company.) Heidi’s drawn to this play from her artist residencies in prisons and detention centers focusing on playwriting as community dialogue. She hopes we use this play to front focus and localize support the organizations that provide vital social services to our fellow citizens.  She’s is a 2012 Charlotte Street Fellow, Rauschenberg Grantee, and Pitch Mastermind. Her next projects are Good Men & Citizens, a Heidi Van original, Belfast Girls by Jaki McCarrick, and another installment of ALONG THE LINE: A rapid-fire theatrical response to a specific moment in history. Find out more about Heidi and her work at

Jennifer Mays (CASSIE/GWEN) is honored to join this group of amazing women! A graduate of UMKC, Jen is a proud member of SAG/AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association and has been a professional actress in and out of KC for 20 years. Her favorite local theatre credits include Clybourne Park and last winter’s one woman Application Pending (Unicorn); August: Osage CountyChristmas CarolGuys and DollsLes Liaisons Dangereuses (KC Rep); On Golden Pond, GypsyBeau JestBarefoot in the ParkLeading Ladies (New Theatre); Miracle WorkerSeussical (Coterie); Picnic (KCAT); and the KC debut of MotherFreakingHood: The Musical. You can find Jen this summer in New Theatre’s Mamma Mia. Thank you for supporting local live theatre!

Kathleen Warfel (BONNIE/JUDGE ROBERTA KAPLAN) is so happy to return to the Unicorn! Her work includes:  Unicorn (Women Playing HamletGrey GardensRabbit Hole, Beauty Queen of Leenane);  Kansas City Actors Theatre (My Old Lady, PicnicGood People (co-produced with Unicorn Theatre), Fifth of JulyCripple of Inishmaan); Starlight Theatre (The Sound of Music); KC Repertory (The ForeignerAugust: Osage CountyA Christmas Carol); The New Theatre Restaurant (The Game’s Afoot); American Heartland Theatre (Making God Laugh; The (female) Odd CoupleSteel Magnolias); and The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival (Richard IIIRomeo & JulietMacbeth).  Kathleen also appears frequently in commercials and films (Belong to UsJayhawkersTrust FundA Perfect Match).

Nedra Dixon (SHONDELL/KYLA) Broadway, Off-Broadway, National Tours: Bubblin Brown SugarTintypesHairJesus Christ SuperstarGodspellBy Strouse. Regional: Into the WoodsChildren of Eden; Anything GoesThoroughly Modern MillieMan of La ManchaAnnie; The King and IOklahomaMusic ManSouth PacificSongs for a New WorldAnd The World Goes ‘RoundLittle Shop of HorrorsJerry’s GirlsAll Night Strut; Let’s Call The Whole Thing GershwinHaving Our SayThe Rocky Horror Picture ShowA Midsummer Night’s Dream. Local: A Raisin in the Sun (KC Rep); Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (Spinning Tree Theatre); Black Pearl Sings! (Spinning Tree Theatre); The Wiz (The Coterie); Ruined (Unicorn Theatre); The Women of Brewster Place (Unicorn Theatre). Special Event Performances: The White HouseThe Kennedy Center HonorsCarnegie Hall; Madison Square Garden.

Amy Elizabeth Attaway (TRACY/SISTER CAROL) is thrilled to be making her Unicorn Theatre debut in Project Dawn! Her credits include What Would Crazy Horse Do? (Kansas City Repertory Theatre); Photograph 51, M. Butterfly (Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre); I’m Not RappaportHamletRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Kansas City Actors Theatre); Justice in the EmbersEquus, …Some Girls, Fool For Love (The Living Room Theatre); HairSordid Lives (Mind’s Eye Theatre); Pies from the Porn KitchenThe Nervous Set Concert(Lawrence Arts Center), and Bedtime Solos (Central Standard Theatre). Amy wants to thank her husband and family for keeping her smiling and inspired.

Vanessa A. Davis (LOLA/NIA) is happy to be back at the Unicorn and working with an ensemble of amazing women. Previous works include Bastard and Love Song at The Living Room, The Normal Heart at Off Center and The Ghosts of Lote Bravo here at The Unicorn Theatre. She is a film and commercial actor and the Director of Drama Kids of NKC, an after-school educational program that uses theatre to teach social skills and build confidence. Vanessa thanks all of the humans around her that help keep her sane. Especially her daughter… who needs to stop growing so fast.

Leah Swank-Miller (ASHLEE/NOELLE) is thrilled to make her Unicorn debut with such a fantastic cast and crew.  KC credits include Out of Order (The New Theatre Restaurant), Hana’s SuitcaseThe Nine Who Dared (Coterie), TommyGuys and DollsSunday in the Park with George, Oliver (MTH), Nine (Spinning Tree Theatre) 9-5, ParadeFull Monty (MET). Upcoming: Sister Act the Musical (New Theatre).  Endless love and thanks to her best friend and husband Brian and her two adorable children.  Thank you Heidi, Cynthia, Jen and all of you for supporting KC theatre. Go Shockers!

Lanette King (KRYSTAL/RUTH) fell in love with acting while attending Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, NC. After college she landed a role in Hold On, a music video with Actor/Musician Idris Elba and Musician 9thWonder. This is Lanette’s debut production with Unicorn Theatre. Her recent productions include Dream Girls with The Kansas City Black Repertory Theatre, Every 28 Hours and  Along the Line with Fishtank Theatre, LoveJoy’s production of Tea with Malcolm and MayaThe Taming of the Poo at the K.C. Fringe Festival, and Michelle Tyrene Johnson’s The Green Book Wine Club Train Trip.

Tanya Brown (STAGE MANAGER) has been working with the Unicorn for the past eleven seasons. Some of her all-time favorites have been Bloody Bloody Andrew JacksonMy Name Is Asher Lev, Women Playing HamletCock, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical.

Emily Swenson (SCENIC DESIGNER) is thrilled to work on this inspiring new project. Emily is Production Manager and Resident Designer at Unicorn Theatre. Recently at Unicorn Emily Lighting Designed Chesapeake and Assistant Directed Disgraced. Last season Emily Assistant Directed The Way We Get By, Projection Designed Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Lighting Designed Application Pendingand Scenic Designed Eclipsed and Hand to God (co-scenic designer). She premiered as a Playwright in the 2017 Kansas City Fringe Festival with Walls Suck which was awarded best in venue. Many thanks to her Unicorn family!

David Kiehl (SOUND DESIGNER) is excited to be back at the Unicorn where he has worked as sound designer for over 50 productions. Previous Unicorn productions date back to 1997 and include SylviaThe Laramie ProjectProof and Closer; more recently, they include ChesapeakeDisgracedPriscilla Queen of the Desert: The MusicalI’m Gonna Pray For You So HardHow to Use a Knife, and Heathers: The Musical. You may have heard his work around town at KCAT (A Streetcar Named Desire), the Living Room (recently: Milking ChristmasBastard, and The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe) and over 100 productions at the Coterie (recently: A Charlie Brown ChristmasWe Shall Not Be MovedGarfield: The Musical with Cattitude and Elephant and Piggie: We Are In A Play!).

Art Kent (LIGHTING DESIGNER) is happy to be back designing at the Unicorn Theatre. Last season Art designed I’m Going to Pray For You So Hard. Another show you might remember is Faith Healer.  Art has a long history of designs with the Unicorn which includes over 80 productions through the 1980’s and 1990’s. During that time Art was the Technical Director for the Unicorn Theater.  Art also has a long history with the Coterie Theatre where he has a 31-year history and hundreds of design credits.  Art also has design credits with MTH,  Kokopelli Theatre, Black Repertory Theatre KC, Late Night Theatre, KCKCC Theatre, The Lawrence Arts Center, and The Pembroke Hill School to name a few.  When not in the theater Art is a massage therapist working at the Sastun Center for Integrative Health Care where he works with client issues ranging from stress to chronic pain.

Georgianna Londré Buchanan (COSTUME DESIGNER) is happy to return for her fortieth costume design at the Unicorn, having most recently designed The Whale and The Ghosts of Lote Bravo. Previous favorites include Women Playing HamletHands on a Hardbody, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane. She is the resident costume designer for the Coterie Theatre with the recent We Shall Not be Movedand A Charlie Brown Christmas. At Quality Hill Playhouse she continues to costume the season with That Old Black Magic. Many thanks and love to her family, and our wonderful and inspiring theatre community.

Eric Palmquist (PROPERTIES DESIGNER) is a graduate of the University of Kansas Theatre program and has served as a scenic/props artist and carpenter for 6 years with the Lawrence Arts Center and the New Theatre. Recent designs include Casa ValentinaFinian’s Rainbow (Spinning Tree), SpamalotHairsprayMacbeth (LAC), and the upcoming Superior Donuts (OCTA). As an actor and fight choreographer, he has performed with the Unicorn, the Coterie, the Living Room, Kansas Repertory Theatre, KC Fringe, the MET, and the Buffalo Room.

Mary Allison Joseph (DRAMATURG) is a student in the M.A. program in Theatre at UMKC, where she was recently awarded a grant to support her thesis project, Curating Contemporary Chilean Women Stage Directors. She has over seven years’ experience in Latin America, having studied dance and theatre in Brazil and researched folk music with a Fulbright grant in the Dominican Republic. She holds a B.A. in Spanish from the University of South Carolina and is fluent in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. Local Credits: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (KCRep). Regional Credits: Lost in Yonkers (Corbin Theatre).

Gregory Chafin (TECHNICAL DIRECTOR) is a Kansas City native and is excited to be working at the Unicorn Theatre and the showProject Dawn. A UCM B.F.A. in Performance led to  a well-rounded theatrician  with a penchant for directing. When not at the Unicorn he is often on an adventure with his loving, supporting and patient family (Kerry, Ashton, Kaylee and Tucker).

Chloé Robbins (PRODUCTION ASSISTANT) is excited to return to the Unicorn for another all-female show! Previously at the Unicorn, she has worked on Stupid Fucking BirdMen on BoatsHow to Use a Knife, and Clybourne Park. She has also worked with The Coterie, KC Rep, Egads!, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, and The Fishtank Performance Studio. She has a brown belt in tae kwon do (testing for black belt in April) and reads, writes, and draws in her “spare” time.


About the Playwright: Karen Hartman writes about human beings in the crosshairs of history. This season three acclaimed recent plays continue around the country:  Roz and Ray (2016 Edgerton New Play Prize) at San Diego Repertory Theater and Theater J in Washington DC, Project Dawn (NEA Art Works Grant, National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere) at People’s Light in Malvern, Horizon Theater in Atlanta and Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, and The Book of Joseph at Everyman Theater in Baltimore. SuperTrue (Kilroy’s List of top plays by women) premieres at Know Theater in Cincinnati.

 Current projects include Good Faith, a commission for Yale Repertory Theater about race in the New Haven Fire Department, Alice Bliss (with Jenny Giering and Adam Gwon), a musical for Playwrights Horizons based on Laura Harrington’s contemporary wartime coming-of-age novel, and the musical Waterfall (with Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire), a cross-cultural love story set in Bangkok and Tokyo between the World Wars. Ms. Hartman’s plays have been performed in New York at the Women’s Project, National Asian American Theatre Company, P73, and Summer Play Festival, and at regional theaters including Cincinnati Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, Magic Theatre, and elsewhere. They are published by Theater Communications Group, Dramatists Play Service, Playscripts, Autumn House Press, Backstage Books, and NoPassport Press.

 Ms. Hartman grew up in San Diego and graduated from Yale University and the Yale School of Drama. She lived in Brooklyn until 2014, when she became Senior Artist in Residence at the University of Washington in Seattle.

About Unicorn Theatre

Founded in 1974, Unicorn Theatre enhances the Kansas City community by developing and producing high-quality, thought-provoking plays that have never been seen in the region. We illuminate social issues by shining a light on diversity and inclusive stories which include race, religion and gender identity. Unicorn creates 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).  After a year-long capital campaign Unicorn Theatre was able to purchase the building outright in 2014.  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

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