The Kansas City Repertory Theatre has hired two theater artists out of California to fill high-ranking positions on the artistic staff.
Jason Chanos, a professional actor who has taught for six years at the Malibu campus of Pepperdine University, will become the Rep’s new associate artistic director, a position previously held by Kyle Hatley.
Filling the newly created position of director of new work/artistic associate is Marissa Wolf. Wolf is leaving her job as artistic director of Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco.
Chanos, 42, is a familiar face to Kansas City theatergoers. In 2003 he played the title role in the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival production of “Hamlet” and has appeared at the festival in “A Winter’s Tale,” “Richard III,” “Macbeth” and “Antony and Cleopatra.”
He performed “Fully Committed,” a one-actor show about an out-of-work actor manning the reservation line at a Manhattan restaurant, twice — first at the Unicorn Theatre and again at the American Heartland Theatre. He played 40 characters in each show.
Chanos also has performed at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Denver Center Theatre Co., among other regional theaters, including KC Rep and the Coterie.
A native of Parker, Colo., Chanos earned a bachelor’s degree in theater from the University of Northern Colorado and a master’s degree from the graduate actor training program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. When he heard Hatley was relocating to Chicago, Chanos put his hat in the ring. After a series of interviews with artistic director Eric Rosen, producing director Jerry Genochio and others on the staff, he won the job.
Chanos will be well-positioned to continue building relationships between the Rep and the theater community, and with UMKC. He is married and has four children.
The job of associate artistic director “has traditionally been kind of threaded with the gifts of the person with the responsibilities of the job,” he said. “I need to get to know some of the younger performers who have migrated to Kansas City since I left and continue promoting the UMKC theater department.”
Chanos said generally the job calls for “making the Rep important to people and expand that interest to the entire region … and make Kansas City a flagship for the arts.”
Hatley had directed Rep shows and performed in Rep productions. Asked if he might be in Rep shows down the road, Chanos said it was a possibility.
“We talked about it,” he said. “The specifics have yet to be worked out, but that is a background I have. It’s not an expectation that I have as a sort of contractual requirement. I am most interested in stirring up interest in the Rep. If acting comes into that, then great.”
Chanos begins work Jan. 5.
Wolf, who sees herself as an indie theater artist, has directed a series of world premieres and West Coast premieres during her tenure as artistic director at the Crowded Fire Theater. Hiring Wolf represents the fulfillment of a long-term goal for Rosen, who has wanted someone to develop new plays from the time Rosen arrived in Kansas City.
After the Rep contacted her, Wolf said she decided to do some homework.
“When I called around to mentors across the country and asked what do you know about Eric Rosen and Kansas City Rep, the reaction was very positive,” she said.
Wolf visited Kansas City more than once as she considered the job. She was impressed.
“I was excited that it’s clearly such a thriving arts scene there, and not only in performing arts,” she said. “To me that’s really important that you have not only the big theaters but the indie theater companies too. The staff was so warm and engaging. I really clicked at all these meetings. For me that was really indicative. It was a theater culture in which I could thrive.”
Wolf, 32, is married to Tom Toro, a New York cartoonist. She studied drama at Vassar College and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
She begins work Dec. 10.