Coterie Theatre, UMKC team up for “Secret Soldiers: Heroines in Disguise”

We are well aware of the brave and selfless acts of men in stories of the Civil War, but did you know that many women disguised themselves as men to serve in battle as well?

“Secret Soldiers: Heroines in Disguise” tells the stories of some of these inspiring women, and provides a fun, engaging and thought-provoking theatre experience for all ages.

The play is a co-production between The Coterie Theatre and UMKC Theatre, featuring performances from several MFA acting candidates such as Freddy Acevedo, Yetunde Felix-Ukwu, Emilie Karas, Chelsea Kinser and Marianne McKenzie, who all previously appeared in last semester’s production of “Dracula” at Spencer Theatre.

Though the play has been adapted for younger audiences, it is an interactive experience with substance for all ages. The audience plays as significant a role as the company on stage during this highly immersive performance.

At the end of the show the audience is called upon to act as a jury of medical officers. They must decide whether the medical records of Private Lyons Wakeman/Sarah Wakeman, a soldier who really served on the front line during the Civil War, will state her birth gender, or whether her service as a woman should remain hidden.

Though the audience interaction worked quite well for the most part, it was sometimes easy to sense nervous tension in the actors as they addressed the audience to the best of their abilities in the off-script portion of the play. The sequence breaks the conventions of theater in a unique and interesting way, but risks blurring the lines into reality a little too closely.

One convention of theater that “Secret Soldiers” adheres to in a highly successful way however, is the fact that it is so in the moment. The play is different each time it is performed because the audience is different. It’s certainly an experience you won’t want to miss.

“Secret Soldiers: Heroines in Disguise” is now showing at The Coterie Theatre in Crown Center until February 10th.

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