Independent Artists

Heather Lawler and cast in "Story of the Century"  KC Fringe Festival

Every summer, Kansas City becomes home to an 11-day event promoting the independent theatre scene. The KC Fringe Festival, which has continued for the past 12 years, gives local artists an opportunity to showcase work that they might not otherwise get an opportunity to present. Several theatres in the city offer their venues for this event and a host of different shows can be seen, from revisions of classics, to existentialist science fiction dramas. The MFA and MA Programs at UMKC Theatre had several participants this past summer, displaying the wealth of talent that is to be expected from the department. These students were Ken Sandberg, Heather Lawler and Amanda Davison.

Ken Sandberg (MFA Acting 2018) performed in an adaption of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. Sandberg secured his work through UMKC faculty member Jeff Church, who connected him with Heidi Van who runs The Fishtank, a local KC theatre which promotes independent theatre. “This one was a unique process.” states Sandberg “With only a couple weeks to rehearse, most of our time was spent working on the physical stuff, and the text work was largely left up to us.” Sandberg notes that he had an excellent team, one of the key factors to putting together a successful Fringe show.

One of the most successful shows at this year’s Fringe was Story of the Century, a one-act musical which won the “Best in Venue” award at the Unicorn Theatre. This show featured, among others, Heather Lawler, a 3rd year MFA Acting student. Like many Fringe shows, this production was a workshop and the creators intend to turn it into a full two-act musical later on. Shows like this exist because of the wonderful opportunities given by the Fringe Festival. Lawler stated that “there was a lot of improv scene work in the rehearsal room, and my training from our acting classes was vital to this openness and freedom to explore”
Amanda Davison (MA Playwriting 2017) put together a one-woman show titled Seneca, which depicts a futuristic society that keeps one young woman from discovering who she really is. Davison states that her professors are a large part of her success. Her connections with these professionals is what led to her success as an artist. Davison notes on the KC theatre scene, “Part of what makes Kansas City so great is the incredible amount of enthusiasm for local plays.  Producing, writing, and acting in a one-person show is challenging, but the atmosphere of creative engagement you get from KC Fringe really helped.”

These students are only a few of the many artists gracing Kansas City right now. The Fringe Festival promotes new works and gives performers like Sandberg, Lawler, and Davison an opportunity to create something unique. They all have different reasons for participating in the festival, but they are united in their love of creating fresh theatre.


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