The Kansas City Repertory Theatre announced this month that Kyle Hatley, associate artistic director, plans to relocate to Chicago in August.
Hatley, a 33-year-old native of Memphis, started working at the Rep in 2008. During his time in Kansas City, Mo., he's earned a reputation as an energizing force in the theater community — as an actor and director, as well as the creator of innovative new works at the KC Fringe Festival and The Living Room.
The move to Chicago marks a return to the city where he first worked as an actor, director and script supervisor with the Rep's artistic director Eric Rosen.
Hatley says Kansas City "will continue to be an artistic home," and he'll maintain ties. But this next step reflects a shift in his personal life and career.
Describe your new role at the Rep as resident director.
While I am relocating to Chicago, I will remain associated with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre as a resident artist, directing the world premiere of Sticky Traps (April 24-May 24, 2015) by our resident playwright, Nathan Louis Jackson, and I will be performing in An Iliad (Jan. 23-Feb. 15, 2015).
I will no longer hold my administrative responsibilities with the Rep, but this transition keeps me a part of the artistic team as we hunt for new work, develop new artistic relationships, and discuss season planning.
What were your thoughts about the Kansas City theater scene when you first arrived – and how do you think of it now?
When I first arrived in Kansas City, I was eager to inject myself into the theater community. I had no idea what to expect. The theater scene, the whole artistic scene, was surprisingly explosive and impressive and ambitious and collaborative and fearless. I remember telling my family that I hit the jackpot.
The only thing that’s changed with the scene since my first day six and a half years ago is that it’s continued to grow and get smarter about itself. I’m a fortunate artist to have witnessed and lived among the astonishing creative minds that make up Kansas City’s arts scene. I am, without a doubt, a better artist and person for having lived, worked and learned in Kansas City.
In Kansas City, what was the most challenging production for you (to either direct, act in, produce or write)?
The most challenging segment of my time at the Rep was when I was performing the role of Caleb in The Whipping Man on the Spencer Stage, while directing Little Shop of Horrors at Copaken Stage. For two and a half weeks I was in the office, in rehearsal and in performance. During that time I was also finalizing a major edit on a rehearsal draft of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus for The Living Room, which started rehearsals a few days after Little Shop of Horrors opened.
While that was a thrilling chapter of my time in Kansas City, it was terrifying and exhausting and educational and I’d do all over again in a heartbeat.
How did you decide it was the right time for you to return to Chicago?
Four years ago I met the love of my life, Emily Peterson, an actress from Kansas City. Two years ago, I helped her move to Chicago. Six months ago, I asked her to marry me.
Life’s too short and this field keeps you busy and sometimes on the road. We don’t want to miss a moment of our lives together if we can help it. I love my work. But I love her more.
In Chicago, do you think your primary focus will shift to acting – or do you expect to stay involved in all aspects of theater?
I’d like to focus a little more on acting when I return to Chicago, though I identify myself as more of a director. But my recent acting projects in Kansas City have really stirred something up in me that felt dormant. Frankly, I’m excited to do both.
However, I will be spending a great deal of time with a couple of writing projects — a family drama called Honey Bee and I’m having very early discussions about some exciting history-and-science-based projects with a one of my favorite Kansas City collaborators, Sean Hogge. But for now, I’m prepping for The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds for Kansas City Actors Theatre, which opens Aug. 16.
I will move to Chicago on Aug. 17 and begin rehearsals on Aug. 18 in Chicago for a phenomenal new play at TimeLine Theatre Company called Danny Casolaro Died For You.
What will you miss most about Kansas City – and what are you most looking forward to about Chicago?
I will miss the Oklahoma Joe’s. I will miss summer nights on The Living Room roof. I will miss the Fringe Festival. I will miss opening nights at the Rep and the gala and all of my coworkers. I will miss the artistic office. I will miss first rehearsals and parties at Eric Rosen’s house. I will miss my future sister-in-law’s cooking and my future brother-in-law’s company. I will miss Rusty and Shawnna and The Living Room and ladder ball. I will miss the theater community and the Kansas City audiences. I will miss Kansas City.
As for Chicago: I’m looking forward to spending more time with Emily, reconnecting and collaborating with artists I deeply admire in a city I deeply admire, and Cubs games at Wrigley Field.
I have three life-changing things to thank Kansas City for: one, Emily, two, lifelong friends, and three, my artistic voice. Without these three things, I’d be nothing.