LAWRENCE — A Kansas Repertory Theatre collaboration with a New York City theatre company will allow a new play to be shaped by local audiences before debuting off-Broadway.
Kansas Repertory Theatre will stage a production of “Chasing Gods” by Paris Crayton III, a new drama that explores what happens when unconditional love meets unbearable conditions.
The play will be directed by Markus Potter, co-artistic director of KRT and assistant professor of theatre. It’s produced in partnership with the award-winning NewYorkRep theatre company, where Potter serves as producing artistic director. The production is also sponsored by the city of Lawrence through transient guest tax funds and would not be possible without KU’s Friends of the Theatre.
Performances for “Chasing Gods” are July 12-14 and 19-21. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m., except for Sunday performances, which begin at 2:30 p.m. It will be set on Stage Too! on the stage of the Crafton-Preyer Theatre, a more intimate space. Tickets will go on sale at noon June 12. The cast list, which consists of professional actors and students, will be announced in the coming weeks.
Set in summer 2016, “Chasing Gods” picks up just weeks after the Pulse nightclub shooting, the deadliest, recorded act of violence against the LGBTQ community in U.S. history. From the pulpit of the Holy Ground Baptist Church, Pastor Deidre Curtis condemns the tragedy’s victims in the name of God and Christianity. Deidre’s controlling, judgmental ways alienate her from her husband and two children. Crayton explores a family searching to love and to co-exist with a matriarch whose religious devotion threatens each member's healing and growth. “Chasing Gods” is an artistic experiment in “radical empathy,” extending compassion and understanding even to those whose ideas and beliefs challenge our own, Potter said.
The playwright will be in residence during the entire rehearsal process to work closely with the creative team on rewrites, where he's excited to continue working on "Chasing Gods" with the KRT and NewYorkRep teams, according to Potter.
"I started writing this story from a place of pain and in creating these characters ended up searching for the true meaning of forgiveness, learning to give what some call ‘radical empathy’ to those who lack the ability to do the same,” Crayton said. “My hope is that through this story we learn not just how to find forgiveness for the mistakes, judgments and imperfections that make us human, but to see the human and realize that we all make mistakes, pass judgments and are imperfect.”
“I am continually inspired by Paris Crayton III’s vivid voice as a storyteller and excited to continue our collaboration on this special new play. Paris creates incredibly rich characters that we immediately fall in love with. The play has a good amount of joy and humor while investigating some pressing questions about tolerance, forgiveness and loving our neighbor,” Potter said.
“Chasing Gods” will play off-Broadway in New York as part of NewYorkRep’s 2020-2021 season.
Paris Crayton III is an award-winning playwright, actor and director. He was one of ArtsATL “30 under 30” and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Artist to Watch.” Creative Loafing ATL named him 2014’s “Best Local Playwright.” Critics have called him “a powerful dramatist” and praised him as “one of the most important emerging playwrights of our time.” His plays have been presented and/or workshopped by The Lark, Classical Theatre of Harlem, Aurora Theatre, Clark University, Working Title Playwrights, Stage Door Players, Rising Sage Theatre, 3 Hill Productions, Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, Beth Marshall Presents, Indianapolis Fringe Festival and more. He is an artistic associate with NewYorkRep. “Chasing Gods” is part of The Black Faith Plays, a six-play cycle chronicling the lives of black families and their complicated relationships with religion and faith.
Markus Potter is the producing artistic director of NewYorkRep. Recent direction includes the off-Broadway production of “Stalking the Bogeyman” at New World Stages (Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, The New York Times’ critics’ pick), London’s Southwark Playhouse (Off West End Award nomination for best production and direction), “Church & State” at New World Stages (Off Broadway Alliance nomination, best new play), “Red Speedo” at Center Rep (Bay Area Theatre Critics recommended, Shellie Award nomination for best direction), “Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods” at The Portland Stage Company, and “Why You Beasting” (Time Out NY critics’ pick). As an actor, credits include seasons at the Guthrie Theatre, Long Wharf, Berkeley Rep, ACT, Denver Center and tour of “Death of a Salesman” with Christopher Lloyd. As a producer, “The Velocity of Autumn” on Broadway (Estelle Parsons’ Tony Award nomination). Potter received his MFA from Columbia University.
Kansas Repertory Theatre (KRT) 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. For more information on the Department of Theatre & Dance, plese visit theatredance.ku.edu.