Despite changes because of the pandemic, Theatre in the Park is proceeding with its 2021 season.
April will bring later-then-usual auditions for TIP’s summer season, and the virtual premier of a locally-created and unique show. In addition, the theatre has started planning for its long-range future.
TIP’s auditions for outdoor summer shows produced onstage in Shawnee Mission Park usually take place in late February or early March, but this year, they’re set for April 17 and 18 inside the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park.
“We really wanted to get as far into the year and into the vaccination process as possible,” explained Producing Artistic Director Tim Bair. “This is as late as we could move them and still have time to begin rehearsals for our first outdoor show which will open the first weekend in June.”
Other alterations to the audition process have been made as well.
“We are going paperless,” Bair said. “Previously, those folks auditioning would have to bring 11 copies of their audition form with them. This year, all of our stage managers - one for each show - will have laptops with them, and the information for each person auditioning will be available to them electronically. No touching everyone’s papers! We’ve done them for quite a while, but we are also really encouraging video auditions this year.”
Everyone who comes to the in-person auditions will be provided with a clear shield face mask.
“We really need to see everyone’s face that auditions, and hear their voice,” Bair said. “So folks will wear their own cloth masks when entering the building and anytime they are inside JCAHC, and then they can change to the clear shield mask just before they begin singing. We are also utilizing different rooms in the JCAHC this year, which will provide more space for social distancing, and we are limiting the number of people on each production team that will be present as well.”
The ongoing pandemic will be a factor in how many people are cast as well, Bair said.
“We are trying to be mindful about cast sizes, and are trying to cast with an eye toward exactly what is needed and not a lot of extra,” he said. “At this point we really don’t know what restrictions will be in place for the summer months, and we are moving forward with onstage distancing in mind. We generally see 500 or so folks audition for our summer season. I’m not really sure how many we will see (this year) We’ve not had many opportunities in the last year for participating in theater, so we might see more than usual because people are excited for the opportunity to participate again! We shall see”
TIP’s Outdoor summer productions
this year will include: “Mamma Mia,”
which is on stage June 4 through 12; “Curtains”
on stage June 18 through 26; Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,”
July 2 through 10 with no performance on July 4; “Half Time - Gotta Dance,”
July 16 through 24; and “Newsies,”
July 30 through Aug. 7.
Complete information about 2021 auditions can be found at theatreinthepark.org
But before the summer season gets here, TIP has a production called “Songs For a New…Now,”
an original show in the form of a musical cabaret featuring brand new songs written by Kansas City regional composers and lyricists.
“At the heart of it, “Songs”
is really a showcase for songwriters in our area,” Bair said. “It’s also a way to highlight some wonderful singers! A quartet of singers will sing most of the tunes, along with a few special guests. The songs range from pop to country to what we will call “novelty” songs; much in the spirit of musical theater. Each will stand on its own. There will be a little dialogue mostly telling a little about the song writers and where the tunes came from, but the real stars are the songs themselves. A few of the numbers will have staging, movement, and choreography, but this is really about enjoying the music, lyrics, and voices of our singers. I think there will be something for everyone that enjoys exploring music!”
In all, 19 songs were submitted and 13 were selected. The songwriters come from all walks of life; from teachers, to a high school student, to people who love to write music just for fun.
Singers for this production are: Darcie Hingula, Kameron Cole, Maddox Bane, and Hewleek McCoy. Musicians include: Marsha Canaday (Music Director/Conductor), Blake Vignery (Drums), and Frank Annecchini (Bass).
“Songs For a New…Now”
is Rated PG for a little colorful language. The show will have a virtual opening on Friday, April 23, and will be available for streaming thereafter. The cost is $10 per streaming ticket which can be purchased at theatreinthepark.org/songs-for-a-newnow
TIP is also in the beginning stages of considering ways to improve its outdoor facility in Shawnee Mission Park.
“After 40 years in our current facility, it’s time for some upgrades,” Bair said. “Our world of ‘what is possible’ in theater has certainly come a long way in those decades! We are looking ahead and are in the beginning stages of seeing what we can do to upgrade our facility and still retain the spirit of TIP as it has grown through the years. We will always be a place that you can bring the entire family, and enjoy the talent of our local community on stage. There are some physical structure elements we need to address, and that will increase the comfort and usability not only for casts, crews, musicians, etc. but everyone who visits the park as a spectator!”
A public survey on this topic was sent out in March and received more than 2,000 responses, Bair added.
“Lots of folks were echoing some of the things that we are most interested in upgrading; bathrooms, parking, seating, etc.,” he said. “It was really wonderful to hear the comments from so many people as they reflected on their time at TIP and how much it means to them. The ultimate goal, really is to take us into our next 50 years with a more modern, and beautiful facility that can continue to provide great theater created for our community by our community and remain the place that families look forward to going during the summer (and beyond, hopefully!) months.”