Sunday, October 24, 2021
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UMKC co-productions train artists for success


Here’s how bad it can get for a Theater Major:

The story goes that a few years ago, one New York actor actually boiled water, then added ketchup to make himself a meal.

That’s poor.

UMKC is working to help its theatre students avoid this unfortunate plight.

UMKC partners with multiple Kansas City theatres to prepare students for the professional world. Graduate and undergraduate students gain immeasurable experience and begin networking long before receiving diplomas thanks to these co-productions.

The phrase “struggling artist” exists for a reason. Most actors and artists must endure a lack of stability and job security, sporadic employment, fierce competition, multiple employers, low-income and frequent rejection in order to follow their passions. Discouragement and dismay can infect theatre artists like a deathly plague, unless perhaps they study theatre at UMKC where the possibilities and opportunities are bountiful.

Sadie DeSantis, production manager for the UMKC theatre department, said, “The major goal of doing the co-productions is to essentially take our students and put them in a professional setting. They work side by side with professionals in their field.”

The Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Actor’s Theatre, The Coterie, The Unicorn and The Fishtank are among the several theatres which regularly collaborate with UMKC. Co-productions utilize actors, designers, and stage managers from UMKC to produce professional theatre. Professionals and professionals-in-training work hand in hand on and offstage.

Co-productions began when The Rep took flight in 1964. UMKC and The Rep began a partnership of incorporating students with professionals in the field.

“Co-productions are mainly a great resume builder, and it is great meeting actors and directors from KC and around the country,” said Mariem Diaz, a current second-year MFA graduate acting student.

Diaz recently performed in the KC Rep’s production of “Our Town” directed by David Cromer. Diaz mentioned how privileged she was to work with such an acclaimed director.

The New York Times illustrated Cromer with “his suddenly thriving career which has etched him as a visionary wunderkind, a genius in a black cape with secrets up his billowing sleeves.”

UMKC also recently employed Steven Eubank, Artistic Director for Egads! Theatre Company, to direct the undergraduate performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

UMKC consistently hires renowned directors from Kansas City and around the country. These partnerships provide great professional and potential networking experiences for students.

Additional bonuses for students participating in co-productions include gaining equity points. Membership into the Actor’s Equity Association is tallied through points gained by working on professional shows. Equity candidates must accrue 50 creditable points to be eligible to join the union. According to the AEA, “Equity seeks to foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of society and advances the careers of its members by negotiating wages, working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans.”

Morgan Lea Palmer, a first year graduate student in the stage management program, has already earned equity points from her involvement on a co-production with the Unicorn Theater’s “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.”

“I am accumulating equity points faster than I had expected because of working on co-productions,” Palmer said.

UMKC Theatre facilitates powerful avenues for its artists to succeed. Countless professional theatre companies around the world employ UMKC Theatre alumni. Graduates can even be sighted on shows like “The Young and the Restless,” “Shameless” andThe Newsroom.

Perhaps a theatre degree from UMKC could allow artists to upgrade to a can of Campbell’s soup instead of the aforementioned hot water and ketchup. Guesses are they will be enjoying something far greater.

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