LAWRENCE — Through 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 Thursday, April 29, as the University Theatre’s season finale. "Changemakers" showtimes are 7:30 p.m. April 29-30 and 2:30 p.m. May 2 online and for a limited, in-person audience.
"Changemakers" was co-written by members of the cast in collaboration with 20 professional playwrights commissioned for this production. Among the KU alumni playwrights are Bill Russell and James Still. This production is directed by Markus Potter, assistant professor of performance, and Darci Jens Fulcher, visiting assistant director, 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 Morrow, Lori Elizabeth Parquet, Bill Russell, Tammy Ryan, Andrew Saito, Sevan Greene, Nandita Shenoy, Vera Starbard, James Still, Chandra Thomas, Sheri Wilner and Michael Wysong. Student playwrights are Jeremiah Coleman, a sophomore microbiology/pre-med major from Wichita; Stella Rose Garibaldi, a senior theatre performance major from Parkville, Missouri; India MacDonald, a sophomore theatre performance major from Topeka; and Chloé Ryan, a senior theatre performance major from Sapulpa, Oklahoma. 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, Minnesota; 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, Oklahoma; 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 Smith, a sophomore theatre performance and art history double major from Topeka; Mary Spencer, a senior vocal and theatre performance major from Mount Vernon, Missouri; 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 members are John Dylan Rohr, a MFA student in scenography from Arkansas City, scenic designer; Trevor Rodgers, a junior theatre design major from Olathe, lighting designer; Nik Schrag, a junior theatre design and film production student from Collinsville, Oklahoma, costume designer; and Jillian Wilson, a senior theatre performance major from Chanute, stage manager.
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. Potter 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 New York City 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).
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 and 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, Fulcher spent 2007-2011 working for Epic Theatre Ensemble, where she taught, performed and produced theatre off-Broadway.
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, had a five-week run with the Underscore Theatre Company in Chicago and was nominated for seven non-equity Jeff Awards. He also served as composer/music director for a new Christmas musical with Friend Dog called "Milking Christmas" at The Living Room Theater in Kansas City. 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.