LAWRENCE — The Department of Theatre & Dance at the University of Kansas has announced its 2022-23 season, which offers lightness, love and plenty of action. This year, the University Theatre and University Dance Company, the two production wings inside of the department, are preparing for five in-person productions.
"Our team of students, faculty, staff and special guest artists is committed to giving our community performances that inspire and entertain, whether new works or re-imagined classics,” said Henry Bial, professor and chair of the department. “The support of our audience helps students develop the skills necessary to succeed in the performing arts while gaining the confidence to advocate for positive change in the future.”
This fall features two contemporary adaptations of classical European theatre: “The Labyrinth of Desire,” a cloak-and-dagger romance adapted by playwright Caridad Svich from a 17th-century Spanish classic by Lope De Vega, guest directed by Paris Crayton III; and “Everybody,” adapted by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins from the classic morality play “Everyman” into a dark comedy on the topic of death, directed by doctoral candidate Timmia Hearn DeRoy. The University Dance Company Fall Concert showcases the work of guest choreographer Kristopher Estes-Brown of Kansas City as well as works by faculty members and the recently formed Jayhawk Tap Company.
Spring brings two productions that leverage the collaboration of both the University Dance Company and the University Theatre. Text and movement collide in “Love and Information,” an innovative and dynamic production of a 2012 play by Caryl Churchill, co-directed by KU associate professors Jane Barnette and James Moreno. With an intimate staging by Markus Potter, artistic director/assistant professor, with choreography by Michelle Heffner Hayes, professor of dance, and music direction by Ryan McCall, the award-winning classic “Cabaret” serves as the season finale.
Individual and season tickets are available for purchase online at kutheatre.com, by calling 785-864-3982, or in person at the box office in Murphy Hall, noon-5 p.m. weekdays. KU Theatre & Dance offers discounted tickets for KU faculty, staff, students and retirees, as well as group discounts. The Jack B. and Judy L Wright Student Ticket Endowment is a resource for KU and Haskell students needing assistance attending shows. Contact Jim Dick, managing director, at 785-864-3985.
When the department is contractually allowed, performances will be livestreamed. Those prices will be listed on the website and may vary from in-person prices.
2022-2023 Theatre & Dance Season
“The Labyrinth of Desire,” Oct. 14-22: Masquerading suitors pursue Laura for her beauty, her wit and her dowry. When Florela’s fiancé Alejandro joins the pursuit, Florela pursues him. Florela goes undercover, befriending Laura and falling in love with her, too. This breezy comedy of romance and hijinks asks, “What compels us to hide our true self?” and “To what lengths will we go to satisfy desire?” Adapted by Caridad Svich from Lope de Vega's play “La Prueba de los Ingenios,” the production's sharp dialogue and timeless themes mixes cloak and dagger comedy alongside contemporary drama to question the power of love and transformation. Guest directed by Paris Crayton III.
University Dance Company Fall Concert, Nov. 11-13: Faculty choreographers James Moreno, Ashley Brittingham and Maya Tillman-Rayton, together with select student dancers, show their communal love for ballet, modern/contemporary dance and hip-hop. Guest choreographer Kristopher Estes-Brown, the founder and artistic director of Concept Zero, presents a new contemporary work. The Kansas City-based composer, choreographer and educator has had his works produced around the country and has danced professionally with the Milwaukee Ballet, Sacramento Ballet and Eugene Ballet, among others. The newly formed Jayhawk Tap Company is also featured in the concert. Electrifying works explore the connection between emotion and physiology, as well as the agency we give ourselves – and others give us – to feel happiness and pleasure.
“Everybody,” Dec. 2-8: Random is not random. Chance is not by chance. These themes are explored in this modern adaptation by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins of the 15th century morality play. Each night the audience will choose which member of an ensemble cast will face Death and who will play the people, things and morals of which their life (was) composed. With quick, offbeat humor and contemporary dialogue, the play shines a spotlight on that terrifying, illusive, question that we have all had to face, especially in the last few years: What would happen if Death called? In this journey through the meaning of life, we are asked to reflect on love, friendship, materialism, religion and regret. Directed by Timmia Hearn DeRoy.
“Love and Information,” Feb. 9-19: Teasing out the truth and assigning it meaning is difficult, especially in a multifaceted, 24/7 media landscape where misinformation spreads and we find ourselves constantly, mindlessly scrolling. In "Love and Information," student actors, dancers and designers are given the freedom and responsibility to make a play that resonates for them and their unique perspectives, choosing the order and setting of short scenes which explore the intersections of emotion, knowledge and the search for community. Join us for the department’s first fully collaborative production between theatre and dance, and witness a kaleidoscope of experiences and encounters that investigate how humans create meaning and purpose. British playwright Caryl Churchill has earned several Obie Awards for her work and is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame. Co-directed by Jane Barnette and James Moreno.
“Cabaret,” April 20-30: Willkommen to the Kit Kat Club. In this provocative, Tony Award-winning musical, the euphoria of free expression, new relationships and the seedy nightclub scene slowly fades away against the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party. An ominous and violent situation begins to emerge; some remain oblivious or apathetic, while others sound the alarm or flee. With grit, dance and a highly celebrated musical score, “Cabaret” ultimately proclaims, “It can happen here.” KU's unique staging allows for a more immersive experience for audience members. Book written by Joe Masteroff, based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. Directed by Markus Potter and choreographed by Michelle Heffner Hayes.
In addition, the department will present the Fall and Spring Senior Showcase, which are academic events open for public viewing. The showcase is the KU Dance major’s capstone project in which students present their in-depth embodied research. Each semester, a different group of students is selected to create works in multiple styles of dance that explore a wide range of subject matter. This year, the department plans to incorporate a few theatre pieces from its courses into the showcase.
The University Theatre and University Dance Company are production wings of KU's Department of Theatre & Dance, offering five to six public productions throughout the academic year. The University Theatre and University Dance Company productions are funded in part by KU Student Senate fees, and the theatre’s season is supported by Truity Credit Union.