Too many small theater companies in Kansas City?
Katie Gilchrist, well-known in the theater community as an actress, singer and director, has now assumed a new title: founding artistic director of the Irish Repertory Theatre, Kansas City, a company dedicated to producing plays by Irish writers and works addressing Irish themes.
The theater, although independent, would in effect be a resident company at the Irish Cultural Center.
The center, meanwhile, is raising money to acquire Drexel Hall, a venue at Baltimore and Linwood used mainly for private events.
In 2016 Gilchrist intends to produce “She Stoops to Conquer,” a 1773 comedy by Oliver Goldsmith; “Dancing at Lughnasa,” a 1990 lyrical drama by Brian Friel; and “A Behanding in Spokane,” a 2010 dark comedy by Martin McDonagh.
In addition, the company will produce the annual staged reading of “Bloomsday” by James Joyce as well as a reading of Sean O’Casey’s “The Plough and the Stars” to be performed in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rebellion.
Gilchrist said she had been thinking about forming the theater company for years.
“When I moved back here from New York, which is almost 10 years ago, I’ve watched the city change and grow,” she said. “And being a company member at the MET and the Living Room I can see that it’s really, really hard work, and I’ve put a lot of years and thought and care into how this might happen. And it’s terrifying. Don’t get me wrong. I’d be insane if I wasn’t terrified.”
The Irish Cultural Center has called Union Station home since 2007 and has hosted staged dramatic readings, but executive director Nancy Wormington said the center wanted a larger venue to present not only theater but also concerts by touring Irish musicians.
The center announced the capital campaign at the recent Kansas City Irish Festival. The fundraising goal is $3.5 million, which Wormington said would allow the center to purchase the building, pay off debt and refurbish the venue. So far, Wormington said, the campaign has secured pledges of about $700,000, including $125,000 from the festival.
The goal is to have the purchase completed by the end of this year.
“It will be a great move for the center on multiple fronts,” Wormington said.
She said the center would continue to rent out the venue to private parties for wedding receptions and other events as well as using it for concerts, speakers and at least some of the Irish Repertory Theatre season.
“We need more room, and this gives us a chance to expand,” she said.
For more information, go to the Irish Cultural Center website at IrishCenterKC.org and the Irish Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Facebook page.