LAWRENCE — A family struggles to find common ground following the Pulse nightclub shooting in “Chasing Gods,” a new play by Paris Crayton III, who is in residence at the University of Kansas this summer. As this work develops, the cast members – a mix of professional Kansas City-area actors and students from KU’s Department of Theatre & Dance – are investigating the concept of “radical empathy” in this new American play.
“Chasing Gods” is a seemingly simple story of a family dealing with loss and a clash of values across generations. It explores themes of faith, bigotry and radical acceptance as the family deals with the repercussions of their matriarch’s unyielding piety in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
“The audience will experience a story that is deeply relevant to this moment in time, and we have an all-star cast ready to tell a funny and heartfelt story that doesn’t cast blame or pick sides, but instead leads with beauty and grace,” said Markus Potter, co-artistic director of Kansas Repertory Theatre.
“Chasing Gods” opens July 12 under the direction of Potter, who is also assistant professor of theatre and producing artistic director of NewYorkRep, the award-winning theatre company that is co-producing the production with KRT. NewYorkRep will premiere the play off-Broadway in the fall of 2020. Tickets are on sale now for the KU production, and seating is limited. General admission tickets are on sale at the University Theatre Box Office in Murphy Hall, by calling 785-864-3982, and online at kutheatre.com. Patrons who arrive early for opening night will receive a show poster signed by the playwright.
Audiences will see the talent of Walter Coppage, an Equity actor who has appeared in featured roles at a number of Midwest theatre companies and in TV and film, as James “Pops” Allan, a good-natured yet ornery grandfather figure who always has a shoulder to cry on. Lynn King, an actor with extensive Kansas City professional theatre experience, most notably at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, is featured as Deidra, a Baptist pastor and matriarch of the Curtis family. Deidra’s husband, Immanuel, will be played by Theodore Priest Hughes, whose talents have been seen extensively at KC Melting Pot Theatre and Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, among others. Elijah and Olivia, the children of Deidra and Immanuel, will be portrayed by recent KU graduate DeAngelo Davis and KU theatre performance junior Gabrielle Smith, respectively. KU film & media studies senior Jané Franklin will play the role of Sandra, a friend of the family.
Rana Esfandiary, visiting assistant professor, is the scenic designer; Ann Sitzman, KU theatre & dance technical coordinator, the lighting designer; Kelly Vogel, KU Theatre’s resident artist and academic associate, the costume designer; Kayleigh Shaffer, an award-winning KU theatre design junior, the sound designer; Sheridan McKinley, an MFA student from University of Missouri-Kansas City, the stage manager; and Alysha Griffin, a doctoral student at KU, the assistant director. Original music is being composed by Mauricio Lozano and Bryan Guess, from Davidson College and Pace University.
A veteran Kansas City actor, Walter Coppage earned a Midwest Emmy for KCPT’s “Meet the Past,” Critic’s Choice for Best Actor for “Our Town” and Best Portrayal of an Icon for his role as Martin Luther King Jr. in “The Mountaintop” from The Pitch. He’s appeared with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., Kansas City Repertory Theatre, St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre, Coterie Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, Kansas City Actors Theatre, Spinning Tree Theatre and Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, in addition to his appearances on Comedy Central, NBC, CBS, ABC, Lifetime, HBO and Showtime. He’s also acted in films, including the Kevin Willmott films “Jayhawkers,” “Destination: Planet Negro” and “The Only Good Indian."
Lynn King regularly performs and directs at theatres in the Kansas City area. Recent acting credits include “Rachel” and “Ain’t No Such Thing as Midnight Black,” KC Melting Pot Theatre; and “Dark was Their Journey” and “Grape’s Vine,” In Play Theatre Company. She will direct “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” and perform the role of Mama in the classic “A Raisin in the Sun” for Melting Pot’s upcoming 2020 season. She’s appeared extensively at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, In Play, Unicorn Theatre, Theater for Young America and KC Melting Pot Theatre. Lynn played Mama in “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” at the Coterie Theatre under the direction of Kevin Willmott and has performed in his films “Jayhawkers,” “Destination: Planet Negro” and “The Only Good Indian.”
Theodore Priest Hughes has appeared in various roles at KC Melting Pot Theatre and Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, among other venues in Kansas City, Missouri. He earned an Ensemble of the Year award from The Pitch for “Jitney” at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre. His other recent acting credits include “Radio Golf” and “Ain’t No Such Thing As Midnight Black” at KC Melting Pot Theatre, “Seven Guitars” at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre and “A Raisin in the Sun” produced by Jeric Productions. He recently directed “Negro Whisperer” for the KC Melting Pot Theatre.
The cast is rounded out by DeAngelo Davis, a 2019 graduate of KU’s Department of Theatre & Dance; Gabrielle Smith, a junior KU theatre performance major who had featured roles in Kansas Repertory Theatre’s productions of “The Legend of Georgia McBride” and “La Cage aux Folles” last summer and is an education fellow with NewYorkRep, and Jané Franklin, a senior KU film and media studies major.
Kansas Repertory Theatre is an arm of KU’s University Theatre and the Department of Theatre & Dance. Its mission is to provide the Lawrence community the unique opportunity to see professional repertory theatre each summer. It is committed to professional quality work that underscores the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. KRT includes professional actors as well as KU Theatre students, faculty and staff.
The Department of Theatre & Dance is one of three departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies.