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Professional Playwrights, Students Collaborate in KU Theatre’s Season Finale

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Musical, lyrical, and mighty, Changemakers reflects on the critical current events of our time with humor and hope

illustration of a figure holding more figures on their shoulders. Large lettering reads ChangemakersThrough a series of 20 short scenes and songs, Changemakers shares stories inspired by community leaders, activists, and front-line workers who have fought for change. This collaborative work, written by commissioned playwrights working alongside students, makes its world premiere April 29 as the University Theatre’s season finale. Changemakers plays April 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m. and May 2 at 2:30 p.m. online and for a limited, in-person audience.

Changemakers was cowritten by members of the cast in collaboration with 20 professional playwrights commissioned for this production. Among the KU-alumni playwrights: Bill Russell and James Still. This production is directed by Assistant Professor of Performance Markus Potter and Visiting Assistant Director Darci Jens Fulcher, with musical direction and live accompaniment by Ryan McCall.

The directors’ hope in creating the work is to “examine the tragic, humorous, poignant, inspiring stories about isolation, human connection, and our quest for change; to brainstorm, reinvent, and imagine what is possible in the days and years ahead.”

The production will be livestreamed via YouTube (@KUUniversityTheatre) and performed live with a limited, in-person audience. Digital access is simultaneous with the actual performances. Staged on the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall, Changemakers marks the first in-person production of the University Theatre since March 1, 2020. Tickets are free. The in-person performances are sold out except Sunday’s matinee. Reserve tickets and read Covid-19 protocols at kutheatre.com/changemakers.

The professional playwrights are Paris Crayton III, Sherri Eldin, Rodney Hicks, Stephen Kaplan, Aimé Donna Kelly, Leonard Madrid, Ryan McCall, David Don Miller, Lewis J. Morrow, Lori Elizabeth Parquet, Bill Russell, Tammy Ryan, Andrew Saito, SEVAN, Nandita Shenoy, Vera Starbard, James Still, chandra thomas, Sheri Wilner, and Michael Wysong. Student playwrights are Jeremiah G. Coleman, a sophomore microbiology/pre-med major from Wichita; Stella Rose Garibaldi, a senior theatre performance major from Parkville, Mo.; India MacDonald, a sophomore theatre performance major from Topeka; and Chloé Ryan, a senior theatre performance major from Sapulpa, Okla. These students are also cast members.

Inspiring the work and also performing in it are Kennedy Brandenburg, a junior theatre performance major from Wichita; Tehreem Chaudhry, a senior theatre performance and accounting double major from Lawrence; Haley Cogbill, a first-year theatre performance major from Olathe; Ella Galbraith, a junior theatre performance major from Andale; Cole Gomez-Maldonado, a senior theatre and film major from Wayzata, Minn.; Petricia Hall, a senior theatre performance major from Salina; Aubrey McGettrick, a junior theatre performance and Spanish double major from Wichita; Elijah Olson, a junior theatre performance major from Hiawatha; Katherine Patz, a senior theatre performance and linguistics double major from Tulsa, Okla.; Chris Pendry, a junior theatre and film major from Lawrence; Diego Rivera-Rodriguez, a sophomore theatre and film major from Lawrence; Gabrielle Smith, a senior theatre performance major from Lansing; Lauren K. Smith, a sophomore theatre performance and art history double major from Topeka; Mary Spencer, a senior vocal and theatre performance major from Mt. Vernon, Mo.; Kara Stobie, a senior theatre performance major from Overland Park; Kalen Stockton, a senior theatre performance major from Topeka; and Asher Suski, a sophomore theatre performance and linguistics double major from Ames, Iowa.

Changemakers’ creative team John Dylan Rohr, a MFA student in scenography from Arkansas City, as Scenic Designer; Trevor Rodgers, a junior theatre design major from Olathe, as Lighting Designer; Nik Schrag, a junior theatre design and film production student from Collinsville, Okla., as Costume Designer; and Jillian Wilson, a senior theatre performance major from Chanute, as Stage Manager.

KU Assistant Professor Markus Potter has recently directed the University Theatre production of The Christians by Lucas Hnath and the Kansas Repertory Theatre production of Chasing Gods by Paris Crayton III. Markus is the founding Artistic Director of NewYorkRep Theatre and served as Interim Artistic Director of Theatre Aspen. He’s the Associate Director for Blindness, currently running in NYC at the Daryl Roth Theatre, based on the novel by José Saramago, and adapted by Simon Stephens. Other off-Broadway productions include Stalking the Bogeyman at New World Stages (Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, New York Times Critic’s 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 critic’s pick). As an actor, credits include several seasons at The Guthrie Theatre, Long Wharf, Berkeley Rep, American Conservatory Theatre, 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).

Darci Jens Fulcher is an actor, deviser, movement coach, director and professor. She is an ongoing company member with Goat in the Road productions in New Orleans. She teaches at KU as a Visiting Assistant Professor introducing students to devising, movement & physical theatre. As a creator, she’s interested in storytelling with minimal dialogue, the subtle hidden stories within the body. Her original theatre and films have an emphasis on character movement within stylized worlds that feel absurd, surreal, and mischievous. Before earning her MFA in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre, ‘14, Fulcher spent 2007-2011 working for Epic Theatre Ensemble, where she taught, performed, and produced theatre off-Broadway.

Ryan McCall is the Music Director/Accompanist for the Department of Theatre & Dance. He has recently contributed to University Theatre productions as Musical Director and Composer. He was Musical Director for Bill Russell’s Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at the University Theatre in 2013. Recent professional credits include Composer/Music Director for the new musical The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe by Friend Dog Studios, which was performed at the Chicago Musical Theater Festival and for a new Christmas musical with Friend Dog called Milking Christmas at The Living Room Theater in Kansas City. The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe had a five-week run with the Underscore Theatre Company in Chicago and was nominated for seven non-equity Jeff Awards. He and his friend and longtime collaborator, Nathan Tysen, wrote the family musical Noah’s Art, and the new rock musical Stillwater, with their band, Joe’s Pet Project. Ryan is the senior music director for Lovewell Institute for the Creative Arts.

The University Theatre is a production wing of the University of Kansas’ Department of Theatre & Dance, offering eight public productions throughout the academic year. The University Theatre and University Dance Company productions are funded in part by Student Senate fees, and the theatre’s season is supported by Truity Credit Union. 

The Department of Theatre & Dance 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 Department of Theatre & Dance, visit theatredance.ku.edu.    

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