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"A Man of No Importance," Hopeful, Holy and Haunted

Thursday, September 20, 2018

LAWRENCE — At first blush, the musical “A Man of No Importance” might seem to resonate only with theatre insiders (it features a play within a play) or with the LGBTQIA community (the main character is a closeted gay man), but Lusie Cuskey, the director of the upcoming University Theatre production, says a more accurate way to explain it is as a love letter to the theatre. And love is something everyone can understand.

“All of the characters in the musical in some way have an unfulfilled longing, but hope shines through,” said Cuskey, who is also working on her doctorate in theatre studies. “In the end, they find, as the script says, that ‘you have to love who you love.’”

“A Man of No Importance” plays weekends Sept. 28 through Oct. 7 at the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall. Its run time is approximately two hours. Tickets can be purchased at the box office in Murphy Hall, over the phone at 785-864-3982 or at kutheatre.com

The musical, which was based on the 1994 Albert Finney film of the same name, was written by Terrence McNally, with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. It won the 2003 Outer Critics Circle Award for best musical. The soundtrack features songs ranging from contemporary love songs (“Love Who You Love”) to more traditional Riverdance-type music (“Our Father”) and to almost vaudevillian style (“Going Up”). Led by Alfie Byrne (played by KU junior Jakob Reitz), the St. Imelda Players are an amateur group who struggle to produce Oscar Wilde’s “Salome” in the social hall of the Catholic parish church. They navigate the societal expectations of 1960s Dublin. The cast has learned the Irish dialect for this production. 

“This is an intimate look into the life of an ordinary bus driver who has an undying passion for community theatre. The members of his troupe are excited to be spending time with one another, to be part of a community. Ultimately, we hope you feel the love, hope and excitement, too,” said Katherine Pryor, director of University Theatre. “Your support means the world to our students who work hard to elevate themselves to the next level.”

The company includes Reitz, Seneca junior, as Alfie Byrne; Kaia Minter, Shawnee senior, as Lily Byrne; Matthew O’Brien, Kirkwood, Missouri, junior, as Robbie Fay; Noelle McDonald, Overland Park senior, as Adele Rice; Jeremy Ragland, Dodge City freshman, as Father Kenny/Rasher Flynn; Sarah Stowell, Scottsdale, Arizona, sophomore, as Mrs. Patrick; Jake Gillespie, Paola junior, as William Carney; Becky Phelps, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, junior, as Oona Crowe; Christian Boudreaux, Rose Hill senior, as Baldy O’Shea; Stella Garibaldi, Kansas City, Missouri, sophomore, as Maureen Curtin; Paul-Michael Johnson, Emporia sophomore, as Ernie Lally/Oscar Wilde; Chelsea Pitts, Topeka graduate student, as Maggie Grace; Garrett Claud,  San Clemente, California, junior, as Carson/Breton Beret; Maggie Puderbaugh, Topeka junior, as Kitty Farelly; Brandon Davidson, Hays junior, Sully O’Hara/Policeman; and Hannah Finch, Round Lake Beach, Illinois, senior, as Frankie Donaghue. It also features Gabrielle Smith, Lansing sophomore, and Stowell as choreographers; Taylor Zimmerman, a Gardner MFA student, as lighting and costume designer; Jenny Sledge, doctoral first-year student, as dramaturg; and Emma Genevieve Dodge, a senior, as stage manager. 

The production features the following faculty and staff members: Reaney, a KU theatre professor, as the scenic designer, and Ryan McCall as musical director/conductor/musician. 

Cuskey is a graduate student from Louisville, Kentucky. She served as the assistant director and dramaturg for the Kansas Repertory Theatre 2018 summer season and the assistant director for “Spring Awakening” and dramaturg for “Company,” both University Theatre productions. Cuskey has worked as a teaching artist, director, actor and technician in New York, Kentucky, Oregon and throughout the Midwest. Her directing work includes directing “[title of show]” and the world premiere of the bilingual play “Sonrisa del Coyote” at the University of Oregon, completing five tours as an actor and director with Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre, and directing “Honk! Jr.” at the Public Theatre of Kentucky.

With around 150 design credits, Reaney is a winner of national and international awards for scenic design. His University Theatre credits include “The Magic Flute” (2004), “The Tree of Life” (2010), “ Adding Machine-A Musical” (2013) and “Rhinoceros” (2017). 

McCall is a composer/arranger/performer who currently serves as the musical director/accompanist for the Department of Theatre & Dance. Recent KU credits include “La Cage aux Folles,” “Spring Awakening,” “Company” and “Next to Normal.” 

All theatre and dance performances are open to the public and ticketed. Tickets for “A Man of No Importance” are $25 for adults, $20 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, $15 for KU students at the door and $10 for children and KU students in advance. Season tickets are also available. 

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.

The newly merged 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. 

For more information on the University Theatre or to purchase tickets, visit KUtheatre.com.

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