Keeper of the Plans

Provocative performances returning to Wichita art gallery

Elizabeth Stevenson, a local artist, architecture consultant and director of the Fisch Haus in Wichita’s Commerce Street Art District, stands on the roof of her home and business on South Commerce.
Elizabeth Stevenson, a local artist, architecture consultant and director of the Fisch Haus in Wichita’s Commerce Street Art District, stands on the roof of her home and business on South Commerce. The Wichita Eagle

It may seem strange to some – live theater in an art gallery?

But at the Fisch Haus, it’s a core part of the mission, especially in March.

The gallery – known for its experimental, multidisciplinary programming – begins its third annual Theatre Thursdays program this week.

Every Thursday through Saturday in March, Fisch Haus hosts some sort of performing arts event at the gallery, 524 S. Commerce.

Fisch Haus’ idea, in general, is to provide a space where creative people of all kinds – visual artists, actors, musicians, dancers, etc. – can express themselves, said Stacy Chestnut, who coordinates the Theatre Thursdays event. Chestnut is a board member at Fisch Haus.

“In Wichita, we feel like there is an active community who is interested in perpetuating that movement as a collective,” she said. “We aren’t just actors, musicians or painters, but we are a community that wants to celebrate every person’s right to express themselves and to have a place to do that.”

The series fills somewhat of a void in the Wichita theater scene, providing a space to do small, intimate shows – usually on a shoestring budget – that are provocative and racy, perhaps ones that wouldn’t appeal to a broad audience.

There is a niche for these sort of avant-garde, experimental plays, Chestnut said.

“The main idea here is the spectrum of performance goes from traditional plays to spoken word to a playwright who is in process to this advocacy piece ... called ‘I Am an Emotional Creature,’ ” Chestnut said. “The arts in Wichita right now, especially, are doing something to promote conversation.”

Chestnut is already soliciting ideas for 2018’s Theatre Thursdays series. If you have an idea of an event you’d like to put on, e-mail her at stacy.l.chestnut@gmail.com or info@fischhaus.com.

Fisch Haus, which prides itself on being a venue for “alternative creative endeavors,” not only hosts theater but also film, dance and other arts performances, according to its director, Elizabeth Stevenson.

“(Theatre Thursdays) has drawn in the theater crowd – we didn’t have enough theater regularly that we’d be on the theater crowd’s radar, really, until we started Theatre Thursdays,” she said. “It’s solidified our relationship with the theater community.”

Tickets to Theatre Thursdays productions, which all start at 8 p.m., are $10.

This year’s schedule includes the following productions:

▪ “A Steady Rain” – Thursday-Saturday

Written by Keith Huff, “A Steady Rain” is a dark, noir-ish play. Two Chicago policemen release a young boy to a man claiming to be his uncle. The man turns out to be a cannibalistic serial killer. When the boy is killed, the two policemen grapple with their guilt over their mistake.

▪ “Re-Versed Word Play” – March 9-11

Fisch Haus presents a poetry open mic night and two other spoken word-related events in collaboration with the Confluence Community Center and CreativeRush. Workshops have been held since the beginning of the year at The Seed House. On Thursday, there will be a CreativeRush OrangeCouch Talk. On Friday, there will be “Re-Versed Word Play,” and on Saturday, the “Re-Versed: Poetry Edition” will be performed.

▪ “The Literary Concierge” – March 16-18

Written by local playwright Anne Welsbacher, in a collaboration with Stacy Chestnut and Paula Makar. Burned by love, scholar Katherine Alcott buries herself in her new business as a “literary concierge,” coaching Wichita’s social climbers on how to appear intelligent without having to crack a book. But then her former client, Vicki Tiara, shows up hawking her new book promoting her husband, a politician Katherine loathes. With the help of seasoned Kansas Senator Odella King – and over the objections of close friend and bookstore owner, Sarah Best – Katherine plots to exploit a guileless waitress, Brenda Dunn, as an undercover agent to destroy Vicki’s husband’s campaign for House. Katherine will soon learn the hard way that she has underestimated both Vicki and her student Brenda, and that the person she most needs to educate is herself.

▪ “I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World” – March 23-25

Featuring a cast of exclusively young women, this play explores the commonalities among girls around the world. It’s based on the 2011 book by Eve Ensler, which has been called an empowering call to action for girls – encouraging them to follow their dreams and ambitions, knowing that their thoughts and feelings are important.

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt

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