Charlotte Street Foundation identifies the needs and fuels the evolution of an ever-changing multidisciplinary arts ecosystem, acting as its primary provocateur. We cultivate the contemporary, the exceptional, and the unexpected in the practice of artists working in and engaging with the Kansas City Art Community
I dove / fell into my studio residency head first.
Whim is my theater production company, and Alphabet Soup is an LGBT-focused short play festival, now in it’s 2nd year.
As with any production, the week or so leading up to the first curtain is a blur of gentle (or extreme) chaos. For me, this show is a little different and completely the same. I’m the overall producer and I have five directors, myself included, working on a total of 6 short plays. The directors are Chip Miller, assistant artistic director of the KC Rep; Mackenzie Goodwin-Tran, who regularly directs and produces the hilarious Stuffed Buffalo Staged Readings at The Buffalo Room; Pete Bakely, Whim’s Playwright-in-Residence; and Diane Bulan, who often directs over at the Barn Players. It’s wonderful have such dedicated hands breathing life into the plays. Having the other directors makes it so much easier for me than with last year’s Alphabet Soup, when I directed all five shorts. But, there are still a lot of moving pieces and there are fires that I didn’t know were smoldering that suddenly burst, filling my production schedule with smoke. It’s been wonderful, though, and I’m beyond happy to have such amazing people involved in this project that’s so important to me.
The plays in this production are amazing! I’m pretty humbled to be trusted by these writers with their works.
I’m directing this adorable and multi-layered piece by Jesse Ray Metcalf. It’s titled “Boys Suck” and tells the story of a kid who goes to scout camp and falls in love for the first time. It’s an age-old tale interpreted through a very fresh lens. I can’t wait for this to be on stage! “Boys Suck” features Ricky Farrell, Nickels Nickelsen, Ai Vy Bui, and Briana Marxen McCollom. I’ve been fortunate enough to rehearse this in Charlotte Street’s Paragraph Gallery. We’ve had a lot of great, quite curious, audiences pass by. Each night it’s been like putting on a window play.
Then there’s Cynthia Hardeman’s piece, “Mannford and Son.” Cynthia was in last year’s show with “In Transition,” a piece which explored the changing relationship dynamics between a lesbian and her partner who was transitioning from female to male. This year, she’s back with a very fun piece that plays with some characters that some older audiences might recognize. It answers the question “what happens when a guy in drag visits his dad in the hospital?” This fun piece has some great touching moments, as directed by Pete Bakely. It features Harvey Williams, Brad Shaw, and Dashawn Young.
Jamie Mayo also has a great storytelling piece. It’s an episode from her college days. Jamie is a first rate storyteller. I’ve seen her shows in the past two Fringe festivals and I’m excited to have her work in Alphabet Soup! Jamie is working with director Diane Bulan. I’m excited to see how these two ladies work together.
Diane Bulan is also directing Diane Hightower’s play called “Lesbian Potluck.” Diane (Hightower)’s playwriting debut was in this year’s Fringe festival, titled The Last Michigan. “Lesbian Potluck” features a pansexual woman, played by Rebecca Ralstin, discussing the politics of lesbian potlucks with a friend, played by Nicole Hall. It’s fun and insightful. It’s definitely an insider’s view that I’d never seen before.
The talented David Wayne Reed, a former Charlotte Street Studio Resident himself, has contributed a play called “Peggy and Paul at the Post Office in Provincetown.” DWR wrote this play while he was vacationing in Provincetown so it really captures the flavor of P-Town. It’s directed by Mackenzie Goodwin-Tran and features Bob Paisley, from The Met here in KC, and Margaret Shelby. I’ll let you guess who is playing who. This a cute piece that David describes as being “about transitions, letting go, and the advancing winter of our lives.”
I’ve got a piece in Soup as well. It’s called “In the Sauna.” It’s a silly and sexy take on an awkward meet-cute between two men – in a gym sauna. It’s the most upfront sexual piece in this production, and the most graphic work I’ve had on stage, since Flowers in the Wardrobe (2014) in which a brother and sister got it in while the sister wore a necklace with a curious … bauble? that her dad gave her. That said, there’s no sex depicted. There’s just some flirting and some pretty detailed descriptions about a man’s particular online purchase. It’s directed by Chip Miller. It features Vincent Wagner and Christopher Steinauer. (Costuming for this short was the easiest ever… “Just grab a towel from your closet.”)
And now for some serious talk: As proud of this production as I am, it’s incomplete. See, in last year’s festival, we had Cynthia’s piece that featured a trans character. We also had a fantastic solo piece by Raphael Isabella Tate about a gender fluid youth exploring their place in the world and their identity. (Tate now goes by Isabella.) This year, the pieces in Soup are all focused on cisgender queer folk. I can offer this as an explanation, but not an excuse: this production was put together based on submitted works. I didn’t receive any works featuring trans characters or experiences. In the time between now and next years’ festival, I am committed to doing outreach to ensure that this festival truly reflects the full spectrum of queer lives and experiences. This goal, which I will meet, is not an act of tokenism, but is in the spirit of representation and inclusion. I know that people will be disappointed by the omission this year. I understand and truly apologize. Submissions for next year can already be turned in at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome works featuring all facets of LGBTQ+ identity and expression.
Alphabet Soup: Stories from Queer Voices opens this Friday, Oct 7 at 8 pm at MTH Theater in Crown Center. It runs for just three nights. It’s Oct 8, also at 8, and Oct 9 at 2 pm. Tickets are $15 (plus a $2.75 ticketing fee).