It's the dream of playwrights everywhere to see their words make the leap from the page to the stage. The Crossroads venue known as The Living Room is currently helping young writers build that bridge with a project called The Writer's Den.
Widening the spotlight
For the last nine summers, the Kansas City Fringe Festival has presented shows all over the city that celebrate the emerging talents of local artists, writers, and performers. But there's a movement afoot to widen that spotlight throughout the year.
The performance space The Living Room has created a writers' showcase called The Writer's Den; it's designed to nurture and support new works.
"What we’re trying to do is establish pipelines. We're trying to make it so that playwrights have an opportunity to hear their works," says Bryan Moses, the venue's associate artistic director.
"And what’s great about Kansas City right now is there’s an overabundance of quality actors here," he says. "You can go four to five deep on your choices and you're still really satisfied on your choices. It’s a really great time in Kansas City to be a playwright because of that."
Power of stories told by local playwrights
Opening this week at The Living Room is a collaborative piece called Our Author Died Today, initially staged at this year's Fringe Festival. One of its authors, Brian Huther, says he looks forward to revisiting the story, as well as giving local audiences another opportunity to hear what's on the mind of local playwrights.
"If you’re doing a play that someone wrote ten years ago in a different city, with different actors in mind, you can get a lot out of that. You absolutely can," Huther says. "But there’s something about being very present and being able to say, 'These are people who live here and are working in this space and have seen a lot of shows here. And they live next door to you, and this is what they want to say.' And I think there’s something very powerful about that."
The play is an experimental piece melding two smaller pieces by Huther and co-writer Erika Baker. Huther says his contribution may seem abstract, yet it's inspired by the iconic short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce.
"The reason it can be difficult to describe any theatrical experience is that they’re designed to be experienced. But obviously anybody has a right to know what they’re getting themselves into," says Huther.
"You open up on a guy getting hung from a bridge and he’s thinking through regrets on his life. He's hung and the rope snaps and he escapes and runs to his wife and realizes this is what his life should have been about."
Transcending time and space
Hailey Jones, who calls herself the show's orchestrator, says her theatrical vision is about exploring how physicality and movement are prime ingredients in compelling storytelling.
"I think a lot about transcending the space when doing theater," Jones says. "So, when you go see a really good play, you leave your body or you become a a part of that world.
"And this company working together - we really try to transcend time and space, and we do that in the environment by really expanding our play space. It’s not traditional in the sense that you’re going to watch one single spot. We could be anywhere in the space."
The Living Room's Bryan Moses says the combination of their focus on new work with that of similar projects at The Fishtank in the Crossroads moves him to predict that 2014 is going to be the year of the playwright in Kansas City.
The Writer's Den series continues with 'Our Author Died Today,' December 12-22, at The Living Room, 1818 McGee, Kansas City, MO. 816-533-5857.