The Unicorn Theatre passed a milestone a week ago.
After almost a solid year of fundraising, the nonprofit theater company owns its physical home near 39th and Main streets outright. The closing documents were signed April 17.
“We raised just over a million dollars,” producing artistic director Cynthia Levin said. “We did that in exactly 11 months.”
The purchase price was $650,000, but Levin said the goal was to raise additional funds to cover maintenance costs for the next few years. One of the top priorities is to replace a roof that leaks every time it rains. Because of the successful fundraising campaign, the company will not have to dip into its annual budget to cover improvements to the building.
Levin said 60 to 70 percent of the funding came from major foundations and corporations with a history of supporting the arts in Kansas City. The rest came from individuals.
The same week the Unicorn took possession of the building at 3828 Main St., the board of directors made a decision. The Unicorn’s main stage would have a formal name: the Levin Stage.
Levin, now in her 35th year at the Unicorn, had no inkling the board was considering such a choice.
“It kind of threw me,” she said. “I must say I have rarely been speechless in my life. And when the board told me this the other day, I was speechless. I never thought about that. It was such an honor. I feel like I was knighted.”
Levin said her mom cried when she heard the news. Having her family’s name on the stage where Levin has devoted so much time and effort as an artistic director, director and occasionally as an actor was humbling.
“I feel like it’s an honor, and now I have to live up to this and work harder than ever,” she said.
The Unicorn this week continues its season with Quiara Alegria Hudes’ drama “Water by the Spoonful,” winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. The show began previews Wednesday and officially opens Saturday. (Look for an in-depth story about the play and the production Sunday in A+E.)
Even as this season continues, Levin and her staff are preparing for the 2014-15 season, which was just announced.
• “Hands on a Hardbody,”
a musical with a score by Trey Anastasio (lead guitarist/vocalist with Phish) and Amanda Green (“Bring It On: The Musical”), lyrics by Amanda Green and a book by Doug Wright (“I Am My Own Wife”), Sept. 3-28.
In this show, based on a documentary film about a Texas car dealership that staged a promotional stunt in the form of an endurance contest, several financially strapped competitors fight to win a new truck by keeping at least one hand on the vehicle, no matter how long it takes.
Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty described the show as “a Red State musical that Blue State audiences won’t hate themselves for enjoying.”
The production will be directed by Missy Koonce.
by Joshua Harmon, Oct. 22-Nov. 16.
Harmon’s comedy ran on and off Broadway in 2013 and depicts first cousins fighting over an heirloom that belonged to their grandfather, a Holocaust survivor recently laid to rest. Cynthia Levin will direct.
• “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,”
by Rajiv Joseph, Dec. 3-28.
Directed by Cynthia Levin, this show will be a co-production with the UMKC Theatre Department. Joseph’s piece, which ran on Broadway with Robin Williams, depicts two American Marines and an Iraqi translator whose lives are changed by the ghost of a tiger roaming the streets in search of meaning.
Anyone who saw Joseph’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries” at the Fishtank last year knows to expect the unexpected.
• “Lasso of Truth,”
by Carson Kreitzer, Jan. 28-Feb. 15, 2015.
Directed by Johnny Wolfe and co-produced with the UMKC Theatre Department, this show is a “rolling world premiere” from the National New Play Network, a national coalition of small theaters, including the Unicorn.
Kreitzer’s play examines the strange life of the man who invented Wonder Woman as well as the polygraph, and who lived with both his wife and his lover.
• “Women Playing Hamlet,”
a world premiere by William Missouri Downs and directed Ian R. Crawford, March 4-29, 2015.
The play depicts a young actress who auditions for Ophelia, only to be cast as Hamlet. Despite a history of notable actresses playing the Melancholy Dane, she is in shock and seeks the counsel of “self-important humanities professors, supercilious Shakespeare scholars and barflies,” Downs’ University of Wyoming Web page says.
The script calls for four actresses to play 19 male and female roles.
by Mike Bartlett, April 22-May 17, 2015.
Bartlett’s play, which ran in London and later in New York, depicts a protagonist named John who decides he needs a break from his boyfriend but complicates his life considerably when he meets the “girl of his dreams.” Jeff Church directs.
by Nina Raine, June 3-28, 2015.
Raine’s family drama initially ran in London and later opened at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York, where it became a major off-Broadway hit and won the 2012 Drama Desk Award for outstanding play.
The comic drama depicts a British family headed by an academic father and a novelist mother, one of whose three grown children is deaf. When he falls in love with a girl who is losing her hearing, he discovers a new way to see life. Some scenes are performed in sign language.
Theodore Swetz, head of the UMKC acting program, directs.
For more information on season subscriptions, call816-531-7529 or go to UnicornTheatre.org.