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KU Theatre's The Christians Explores Belief and Conflict with a Congregation

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Production Features Guest Musical Director Kelley Hunt

A pastor’s sermon shakes the foundation of his megachurch in The Christians, playing weekends Sept. 27 through Oct. 6 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre at Murphy Hall. The play opens the season for KU’s University Theatre and features musical direction by guest artist Kelley Hunt, an internationally touring recording artist and pianist. She will lead a choir made up of 30 community members and students.

The Christians had its New York premiere in 2015 and earned an Obie Award for playwriting in 2016. Playwright Lucas Hnath wrote this play because he saw a gap in theatrical work about Christianity, specifically work that was not satirical, said director Markus Potter, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance. The Christians has been recommended by secular and non-secular publications such as Christianity Today, the National Catholic Reporter and The New York Times.

Markus Potter portrait

“The whole play is a kind of sermon which urges us to take a look at our own moral compasses as we explore the human face of ideology,” Potter said. “The Crafton-Preyer Theatre will be transformed into a megachurch. Patrons of all backgrounds and faiths will experience a welcoming feeling from the very beginning and will be hooked within the first five minutes of the play when the lead character states ‘we are no longer a congregation that believes in hell.’"

Tickets to The Christians are on sale now at the KU University Theatre ticketing office in Murphy Hall and online at kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre at 785-864-3982. Ticket prices are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors/KU faculty and staff, and $10 for children. KU student tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Group rates are also available.

portrait of Kelley Hunt

The creative team is rounded out by Lexey Jost, an MFA student in scenography, as scenic and lighting designer; Spencer Walker, an MFA student in scenography, as costume designer; Kayleigh Shaffer, an award-winning KU theatre design senior from Olathe, as sound designer; Jane Barnette, Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance, as dramaturg; Alysha Griffin, a PhD student in theatre studies, as associate director; and Hollyanna Mathews, a senior theatre performance major from Bentonville, Ark., as stage manager.

The cast is comprised of Noah Parker, a senior theatre performance and psychology major from New Strawn, as Pastor Paul; Lusie Cuskey, a PhD candidate in theatre studies from Louisville, Ky., as Elizabeth; Kieran Regan, a senior graphic design major from San Clemente, Calif., as Associate Pastor Joshua; Dominique Waller, a senior theatre performance major from Shawnee, as Congregant Jenny; and Riley Fullerton, a senior film & media studies major from Sioux Falls., S.D., as Elder Jay.

The choir is comprised of the following KU students, faculty and staff: Heather Anderson, assistant director of communications and recruitment for the School of the Arts; Jill Branch, a sophomore theatre performance and creative writing major, from Houston, Texas; Tehreem Chaudhry, a junior theatre performance and accounting major from Lawrence; Ella Galbraith, a sophomore theatre performance major from Wichita; D.A. Graham, University of Kansas Ombuds from Lawrence; Petricia Hall, a junior theater performance major from Salina; Gracie Horvat, a senior strategic communications and theatre performance major from Olathe; Ahsha Jones, a junior occupational therapy and psychology major from Salina; Laura Kirk, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance from Lawrence; Michael Murphree, a first-year theatre performance major from Lawrence; Matthew O’Brien, a senior theatre design and performance major from Kirkwood, Mo.; Ryan Reeves, a junior film & media studies major from Dallas, Texas; Malcolm Reynolds, a senior theatre performance major from Upper Marlboro, Md; Jack Rischer, a senior film & media studies major; Chloé Ryan, a junior theater performance and global studies major from Sapulpa, Okla.; Helena Salt, a senior mechanical engineering major from Lawrence; Ty H. Skillman, a senior theater performance major from Burlington; Jenny Sledge, PhD student in theatre studies from Annapolis, Md.; Asher Suski, a first-year theatre performance major from Ames, Iowa; Samantha Wallace, a first-year linguistics major from Liberal; Jillian Wilson, a sophomore theatre performance major from Chanute; and Taylor Worden, a junior journalism major from Wichita.

Additionally, the following community members are part of the choir: Debbie Baldwin of Emporia; Tim Baldwin of Wadena, Iowa; Mary Conn of Lawrence; Michelle C. Kirk of Baldwin City; Kim L. Murphree of Lawrence; Bri Nicoletti of Prairie Village; John D. Pryor, of Scammon, Kan.; and Diane Silver of Lawrence, KS.

Markus Potter is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance at the University of Kansas, where he also works as Co-Artistic Director of the Department’s summer theatre program Kansas Repertory Theatre, for which he recently directed Chasing Gods. Additionally, Potter serves as the Producing Artistic Director of NewYorkRep. Recent direction includes the off-Broadway production of Stalking the Bogeyman at New World Stages (Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, New York Times’ critics’ pick), London’s Southwark Playhouse (Off West End Award nomination for best production and direction), Church & State at New World Stages (off-Broadway Alliance nomination, best new play), Red Speedo at Center Rep (Bay Area Critics recommended, Shellie Award nomination for best direction), Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods at The Portland Stage Company, and Why You Beasting (Time Out NY critics’ pick). As an actor, credits include seasons at The Guthrie Theatre, Long Wharf, Berkeley Rep, ACT, Denver Center, and Tour of Death of a Salesman with Christopher Lloyd. As a producer, The Velocity of Autumn on Broadway (Estelle Parsons’ Tony Award nomination). Markus received his MFA from Columbia University.

Singer songwriter and recording artist Kelley Hunt’s career comprises over 1,800 live performances including some of the most significant festival stages in North America and Europe, airplay on five continents, six acclaimed commercial releases, and hundreds of thousands of indie units sold and downloaded. Her music crosses roots music boundaries referencing soul, roots R&B, gospel, folk, funk and Americana forms and the piano vernaculars of Kansas City, New Orleans and St. Louis. Her music is also known for taking on social observations and political commentary and for messages of hope and uplift. The singer, keyboardist/guitarist and writer also maintains a robust schedule of teaching and vocal coaching. She is also a skilled workshops presenter on subjects covering various facets of songwriting, piano and vocal performance. For 14 years she has co-hosted the Brave Voice Writing and Singing For Your Life retreat and workshops with poet/author and former Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam Goldberg, which attracts participants from all over North America. She has been a guest artist and presenter at The Power of Words, Circle of Music, and KidsTLC / International Dyadic Developmental Psychoterapy Institute Conferences. Hunt is currently at work on her 7th album due out in 2020.

The University Theatre is a production wing of the University of Kansas’ Department of Theatre & Dance, offering six public productions during the academic year. The University Theatre productions are funded in part by Student Senate fees, and supported by Truity Credit Union. For more information on the University Theatre or to purchase tickets, visit KUtheatre.com.

The department is one of three departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies.

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