Wichita theatergoers have a lot to look forward to in 2013-2014 with at least 85 live stage productions, from Pulitzer Prize-winning dramas and Tony Award-winning musicals to original, locally written musical spoofs, melodramas and improv comedy.
Internationally renowned opera star and Kansas native Samuel Ramey is the artist-in-residence this fall at Wichita State University and will co-direct and perform one of his signature roles in “Susannah.”
Broadway veteran and Kansas native Ray Wills will dream the impossible dream as the “Man of La Mancha” for the Forum Theatre next spring.
The newly regrouped Forum Theatre will kick off the season with two regional premieres: the hit 2012 Tony-winning British farce “One Man, Two Guvnors” and the hilarious new satirical take on Sherlock Holmes’ “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”
And there will be sort of a double regional premiere of the fractured fairy tale musical, “Shrek,” next summer for adults at Crown Uptown Theatre and for kids at Music Theatre for Young People.
Since last year, Wichita lost one longtime theatrical troupe because of economic pressures after being unable to find a permanent home. For more than a decade, Theatre on Consignment sought out experimental and controversial niche works that other local theaters wouldn’t touch, like David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” David Rabe’s “Hurlyburly” and Edward Albee’s “The Goat (Or Who Is Sylvia?).”
“We feel we have done some exceptional work, brought forth productions that would have otherwise gone unseen in Wichita, and hopefully made folks think, laugh and feel with our intimate style of avant-garde theatre,” said Cherise Henderson, executive artistic director.
But while Theatre on Consignment has folded, performances have been revived in Old Cowtown Museum’s Empire House Theatre, which this fall will host locally produced burlesque and variety shows, old-fashioned melodramas and modern comedy improv on a regular, almost weekly basis.
Another local group has reorganized to keep up with new financial realities. The Forum Theatre, located in a beautifully restored old church south of Douglas and Hillside, is now a not-for-profit theater as it launches its third season. The goal is still to be a “fully professional regional theater with a resident company of actors and skilled staff” for presenting the latest comedies, dramas and musicals as well as reviving rarely seen vintage shows, said producing artistic director Kathryn Pate Hauptman.
But to help underwrite the shows, the Forum building will be available for revenue-growing activities like educational programs, weddings, parties and other private events overseen by new operations manager Aaron Profit, said Forum board chairman Paul Jackson.
Meanwhile, Wichita Scottish Rite’s Signature Theatre, has undergone a philosophical change from a purely children’s theater to an all-ages community troupe.
“We will be using more adult performers. It’s a growth issue,” said Deb Campbell, founder and artistic director. “Our plan was always to evolve into a community-based theater to do shows like ‘The Music Man’ and ‘Annie.’ Children will now be cast in age-appropriate roles.”
Here’s a look at what local theaters say they have coming. And, as always, all titles are subject to change depending upon rights changes.
Wichita Center for the Arts Theatre
National Theatre Live
Crown Uptown Theatre
Mosley Street Melodrama
Wichita Community Theatre
Empire House Live!
Guild Hall Players
WSR Signature Theatre
Wichita Children’s Theatre & Dance Center
Heather Muller Black Box
Once Upon a Time Series
Music Theatre for Young People
Wichita State University
Second Stage, WSU