Kyle Hatley is headed back to the Second City.
Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s 33-year-old associate artistic director has been acting, directing, writing and producing for local stages virtually from the moment he hit town after moving from Chicago in 2008.
By doing so, he’s had a huge effect on the theater community and has sometimes exposed local audiences to a bold, experimental brand they never would have seen otherwise.
So now, armed with an impressive resume, Hatley is leaving by the end of summer. Sort of.
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Hatley plans to move to Chicago, where he once worked as a young actor and assistant director, in early September. But he’ll still be part of the Rep and he’ll have a new title: resident director.
For the Rep’s 2014-15 season, Hatley will star in “An Iliad” in January and then direct “Sticky Traps,” a new play by Nathan Louis Jackson, the Rep’s resident playwright.
“I’m still very much a part of the coming season and I’m in conversations about the season after that as well,” Hatley said. “The Rep has given me an amazing opportunity to grow as an artist for the last six years. And the fact that they’re keeping me part of the organization in a way means so much to me. I’m really speechless.”
Those who know Hatley know that he’s almost never literally “speechless,” but in a recent interview he repeatedly expressed his gratitude for the opportunities Kansas City offered.
For the Rep, Hatley has directed two of Jackson’s previous plays, “Broke-ology” and “Here I Come to Die,” fine productions that found sympathetic audiences.
In 2008 he took on the task of mounting the Rep’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” a duty that now falls to Jerry Genochio, a senior member of the Rep staff.
As an actor, he registered a succession of impression performances in Rep productions of “The Glass Menagerie,” “The Whipping Man,” “The Foreigner” and “Death of a Salesman.”
He also mounted his own plays at KC Fringe and later at the Living Room.
The reason for the move?
It’s the most basic reason of all: He’s following his heart.
Hatley’s fiancee, actress Emily Peterson, moved to Chicago from Kansas City two years ago, and they’re tired of maintaining a long-distance relationship. (Peterson, by the way, is appearing in the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival production of “The Winter’s Tale.”)
Hatley became a board member at the Living Room after the company incorporated, and became a key player at the small downtown theater company.
In addition to turning in an outstanding performance as movie-business bottom-feeder in “Hurlyburly,” Hatley staged innovative productions of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” and the classic musical “Carousel,” which he later restaged at the Rep.
And he’s used the Living Room as lab for his own plays, directing his offbeat epic “The Death of Cupid” and the world-premiere of “Master of the Universe,” which ends its run today
Hatley, a Memphis native, had known Rosen since about 2002, when Rosen directed the young actor in “Take Me Out” for About Face Theatre, the company Rosen co-founded in Chicago. Subsequently Hatley worked for About Face as an assistant director for Rosen, Gary Griffin and Moises Kaufman, among others.
“His full contribution hasn’t been realized yet,” Rosen said. “Kyle is and will continue to be a revolutionary force in our theater community.”
One of Hatley’s contributions, according to Rosen, has been to slowly but surely build an audience of 20-something theatergoers. Hatley said that was only possible through his connection with young theater artists.
When he moved here, he had no idea what kind of theater scene he would find.
“I didn’t really know anybody in the theater community. I later found that so many folks here have mutual friends … but I had no idea how big the theater community was here,” he said. “It was within the first month of living here that I saw how much was going on and what I had gotten myself into. And it was very exciting.”
In August, Hatley will direct “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” for Kansas City Actors Theatre at the Living Room. He has not directed for KCAT before.
“We open ‘Gamma Rays’ on Aug. 16th,” he said. “I will pack my U-Haul that same day and on the 17th I will drive to Chicago. And I’ll start rehearsals for a play I’m in on the 18th.”
That play, “Danny Casolaro Just Died For You,” will be at Chicago’s TimeLine Theatre, where Hatley worked 10 years ago in his first artistic internship.
Hatley said he has talked with Rosen and Rusty Sneary, artistic director of the Living Room, about developing opportunities for partnerships and co-productions involving companies in Chicago and Kansas City. A lot of Chicago artists have worked at the Rep, and Hatley and Rosen said they’d eventually like that to be more of a two-way street.
But no matter what the future holds, Hatley said the Kansas City theater community will always be part of him.
“It really does feel like I’m leaving home to go to college, but I get to come back,” he said. “It feels like I’m part of something that will never break. The artistic community will always be like family to me.”