Shawnee Mission North Theatre

Thespian Troupe #413

Alumni News

 

Funky Mama helps bring the silly to Jiggle Jam

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/05/19/5033249/funky-mama-helps-bring-the-silly.html#storylink=cpy

May 20 2014

BY LISA GUTIERREZ

The Kansas City Star

If Funky Mama had these preschoolers pop-pop-poppin’ any harder they would have launched themselves right through the roof of the Hillcrest Christian Church sanctuary.

“Every time you hear those two magic words, pop-pop, pop-pop, jump!” she told them one recent morning before launching into one of her most popular songs, “Pop ’N Hop.”

“Ready, my popcorn army? I am the popcorn colonel. Get it?”

Silence.

She laughed.

Funky Mama — aka Krista Eyler, 37 — doesn’t misfire often. She’s been entertaining children in Kansas City for nine years since hanging up her TV reporter’s hat to do what she’s loved since she was a little girl: Make music.

The kiddie rocker and mother of two is a rarity on the local male-dominated children’s entertainment scene. Many of them will perform this weekend at the Jiggle Jam family music festival at Crown Center.

Krista Eyler, who performs as Funky Mama, entertains a group of children at Hillcrest Christian Early Learning

So let’s learn the ABCs of Funky Mama, who will perform at 11 a.m. Saturday on the Jiggle Jam main stage with her band, “Play Dates.”

is for active. When she writes a song for children she includes “lots of activity” and movement — clapping, jumping, waving, hopping, high-fiving. “I don’t like a lot of sit-down time. Kids need to be engaged.”

is for birth to third grade, her target audience.

is for Christian. “My faith is very important to me.” She is a also preschool teacher at Colonial Presbyterian Church in Overland Park.

is for “Down, Down Baby,” which is one of her standards, along with “Grandma’s House” and “Moo Juice.”

is for earworm. Kids listen to her songs so much at home that one mom jokingly told her, “I’m sick of your voice in my kitchen but the kids are lovin’ it.’ ”

is for fun. “I don’t have an alphabet song. I don’t have a ‘let’s learn Spanish’ song. I just really like to be a goof and I really like to bring that joy.”

is for gospel. “I wish I sounded like my favorite gospel singers. I wish I sounded like Mahalia Jackson. I wish I sounded like the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. That’s what’s in my heart when I open my mouth. If you could put Bonnie Raitt and Patty Griffin and Aretha Franklin together, I would want to sound like a hybrid.”

is for humility. “I don’t need applause at the end of my songs. And I’d rather avoid it because it takes the focus away from the show and keeping the kids engaged.”

is for inspiration. She became close to the family of one little fan who had cancer. “They played my music for their daughter and I got to play at her funeral. It was one of those things where you get included in families in ways that you would never imagine.”

is for jumping. She does a lot of it on stage. It’s like she has pogo sticks for legs.

is for karate, which she’s practiced since she was 8. A friend of her father nicknamed her Funky Mama for her martial arts competitions. She tells kids she was born with that name.

is for league of her own. “That’s the reason I started — I didn’t see any women doing it.” Today she says she’s only one of a few women performing for kids in Kansas City, though “nationwide there are tons of women doing children’s music. Kansas City is so big that any other mom could do what I’m doing if they play guitar and love kids and make up silly songs and can sing a little bit.”

is for Mr. Stinky Feet. She was inspired by Kansas City’s veteran children’s entertainer, Jim Cosgrove, when she caught one of his shows. “And I thought, ‘I could do that.’ ”

is for a new generation. “I don’t write a lot of new children’s material because I realized about three years ago that I wasn’t seeing familiar faces. Where are all my people? They’re in school and there’s a second generation of Funky Mama people. So it’s great to have a catalog of music that you can go to that people have never heard before. It’s all new to them.”

is for Oklahoma City, which is about as far as she’s willing to drive to do a show. “I go six hours in one direction and six hours back because I can do it in one day. If it’s too far, then it’s no because then my whole life gets shifted. This has to fit into my life as it is now. Faith and family first. Always.”

is for patience. She needs it when kids get grabby with her gear or equipment. “They’re just children and there’s no point in getting upset. … How can you get upset when they’re 4 and they’re so excited to see you that they don’t know what to do other than unplug your gear?”

is for quick impression. Once she took a master class from Tony Award-winning singer Barbara Cook, who said, “You have one second to connect to their (a listener’s) heart. If you don’t connect with me in that one second, you’ve lost me for the entire song.” Says Eyler, “I think it’s the same with children.”

is for red and black. Eyler grew up in Overland Park and graduated from Shawnee Mission North. Alas, her two sons will someday attend rival Shawnee Mission South. “I don’t know how I’m going to wear the green and gold. I’m a red and black girl.”

is for silly. “I think most people who know me know that I can be very silly, and I think I like to be silly. And kids are my people.”

is for TV reporter. Eyler got her undergraduate degree at Texas Christian University in Forth Worth, Texas, and her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas. She was a reporter for KMBC-TV from 1999 to 2004. (She went by her maiden name Krista Tatschl then.)

is for the “undercurrent” of her life: Music. She plays piano, guitar and “I have played cello, but very poorly.” Her mother sings with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus, her father and brother play piano. “I have sung since I was 4 years old. I grew up singing in church. I did a ton of musical theater.”

is for vulgarity — not. “I think kids like funny things if it’s smart funny. I don’t like any vulgar humor. I don’t like dumbing things down for children. I think children are so smart and so clever.”

is for White House. She performed at the White House Easter Egg Roll in 2007. She was nine months pregnant at the time. Coming out of one of the “nice” portable toilets set up on the lawn, she ran into a “pretty woman” in a pink suit. It was first lady Laura Bush.

is (sort of) for expectations. High ones, for both kids and parents who come to her shows. “Oh my gosh, what some parents let their kids get away with. OK, mom, I’m not our baby sitter. Jim (Cosgrove) and all of us have stories about parents who let their kids go crazy because they’re here to have a break from them. I’m a mom first. … I would never let my boys do that (because) we are leaving if you cannot act like a human being.”

is for young at heart. “She’s not standoffish,” says Ann Porter, director of Hillcrest Christian Early Learning in Overland Park, who has hired Eyler three times to entertain kids there. “She gets down there with the kids so they feel more comfortable with her. And then they want to do what she’s doing and they want to dance with her and they want to have fun with her. The kids love her.”

is for zingers. Patience is one thing, but wildly out-of-control kids shaking speakers and pulling out chords? “I stop them and I will escort them back to their parent and say ‘I’m afraid your child is going to get hurt, and you don’t want to pay a $500 copay tonight at Children’s Mercy when my speaker falls on their head.”

Jiggle Jam

Family music festival featuring more than 25 bands and entertainers including: Dino O’Dell, Mr. Stinky Feet, the Doo-Dads, Brady Rymerand Funky Mama. The fest also features arts and crafts, workshops and other children’s activities.

When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Crown Center Square, 25th Street and Grand Boulevard, Kansas City.

Cost: $10 presale; $15 at the gate; $18 weekend pass (online only); younger than 2 get in free. eventbrite.com.

Info: For a full schedule of performers, go to kcjigglejam.com or call 816-274-


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/05/19/5033249/funky-mama-helps-bring-the-silly.html#storylink=cpy


Congratulations to David Hastings(SM North theatre alumnus, current Olathe South theatre teacher) for being recognized by one of his students.

 JOCO SPOTLIGHT

The Kansas City Star, May 15, 2014 :

 

We’re grateful for our A+ teachers

It’s high school graduation season and with that, 913 salutes seniors and those who helped get them here: Their teachers.

As the school year began last fall, The Star enlisted the six school districts in Johnson County to help us honor teachers and students. We asked districts to put the word out to seniors that we wanted to hear about their favorite teacher — of all the teachers they had during their 13 years of school. Who affected you, touched your life? Why was that teacher special?

We asked seniors to write an essay. One from each district would be published in The Star. In some cases, the district chose one; in others, we chose the top essay. In all cases, the students wrote from the heart.

What you’ll find here are six stories of teachers in the trenches. They are teachers who challenged their students intellectually and morally. Teachers who reached out to hurting kids. Teachers who took time to say, “You are worth my time, my attention.”

Incidentally, they are all high school teachers. We had visions of posing an 18-year-old in an under-sized elementary school desk for a sweet photo, but not one essay submitted was about anyone other than a high school teacher. Perhaps high school teachers come along at an especially intense, special and dramatic time in a student’s life. It’s clear these kids are listening, learning and watching. They know — and feel — when a teacher cares. And they are receptive to the adult who reaches out.

Teachers feel under fire of late.

The Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback just enacted a law that ends due process rights, meaning they can be fired without a hearing for any reason — or no reason. Lawmakers argue that teacher unions have too much power and that it’s too hard to get rid of a bad teacher.

They are dealing with new academic standards from their district’s version of the Common Core curriculum and new standardized tests that go along. They face rapid technological changes and pressures to adapt. In most districts, they are facing more students than ever before who don’t have enough food at home or parental stability.

And yet, excellent teachers abound.

These six teachers all have touched a life, mostly likely many. They are recognized leaders.

Shawnee Mission South band director Steve Adams has led award-winning bands. David Hastings, Olathe South drama teacher, is a well-known director at Theatre in the Park. Maria Worthington, a Blue Valley North language arts teacher, earlier this year was named a Kansas Master Teacher. That’s one of the most prestigious honors a Kansas teacher can earn.

“She’s known to be the hardest teacher at our school,” Kaitlyn Cotton told The Star about Worthington, her favorite teacher. “There were other teachers but I wanted to challenge myself as much as possible and I knew that staying in her class would do that for me.”

These are teachers who challenge their students — in the classroom and in life.

To them and the many, many others who work so hard to bring out the best in their students, we salute you.

David Hastings Olathe South theatre teacher and former SM North alumnus

A career path

“I can’t teach you how to act. I can only teach you the basic instruments, and you have to teach yourselves how to put them into motion.”

When Mr. (David) Hastings said this to my acting one class on the very first day of freshman year I was slightly confused. I wondered how he planned to teach a class called Acting One if he wasn’t planning on teaching us how to act. Little did I know that this method of instruction would not only allow me to improve my skill but it would also teach me many lessons about myself.

Over the next four years I took every single acting class possible, and I participated in all of the plays and musicals throughout the year. Some might say I became obsessed with theater.

One of my favorite experiences was the play “Our Town.” It was the end of my freshman year and I had just received the lead role for the show. I was shocked.

At our first rehearsal I was very intimidated because of the overwhelming amount of talented upperclassman I was surrounded by. After rehearsal Mr. Hastings called me aside and said, “I can tell you’re intimidated. You performed today like you were scared. If you had performed like that at auditions, I never would have given you the role.”

His words really struck a chord with me. I wanted to prove to him and everyone else in the room that I was meant to play this part and that I had the confidence to succeed. From that day forward I vowed to always act with confidence. Even if I didn’t feel it in that moment, I pretended like I did, and soon enough I believed it.

And because of this, my confidence transferred into other things as well. I walked job interviews, important meetings, unknown situations and many situations with a new air of confidence. Not arrogant, but not timid.

I will always thank Mr. Hastings for inspiring me to acquire this trait. It is solely because of the words that he said to me on that very first day of “Our Town” rehearsal that I have come to believe in myself and walk with my held high on every occasion no matter how nervous I am.

Although I will forever be grateful to Mr. Hastings for inspiring me to have confidence, among many other important lessons, I think the most important thing I learned from him is to follow my dreams.

Once I figured out how much I loved acting, I started thinking about doing it for a living when I grew up. He encouraged me and helped me every step of the way. He spent so much of his time talking to me about different college theater programs and helping me decide which would fit me best and helping me pick material for auditions. He never doubted me or my desire to become a professional actress for a second.

And because of this, because of his dedication and his effort, in four short months I will be attending the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music to major in dramatic performance. It’s a school that I had only dreamed of attending. But Mr. Hastings forced me to make my dreams a reality. He forced me to believe in myself, and he always encouraged me to take it one step further. And because of this I could not be more grateful.

Kenzie Clark, 17, of Olathe.


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/05/13/5021819/were-grateful-for-our-a-teachers.html#storylink=cpy

 

SM North Theatre Alumnus Nathan Darrow shines acting among some of the best.

THEATER

Shakespeare hits the road with Kevin Spacey

April 26 2014

BY ROBERT TRUSSELL

The Kansas City Star

Kevin Spacey likes to do things his way.

When he agreed to co-produce and star in “House of Cards,” the political-thriller series from Netflix, he embraced the plan to release the entire season all at once for viewer bingeing. Nobody had done that before.

When he became artistic director of the Old Vic, one of London’s oldest and most historic theaters, he was the first American to do so.

When he teamed up with director Sam Mendes (who had collaborated with Spacey on the Oscar-winning “American Beauty”) to form an international touring company of British and American actors (including Kansas City native Nathan Darrow) to perform “Richard III” around the world, nobody had attempted such a thing.

And now, a documentary about that 2011 tour across three continents will take an unusual distribution route: “Now: In the Wings on a World Stage,” produced by Spacey, will play for one night only across the country in select theaters, including the Tivoli Cinemas in Westport, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. It will become available for a fee on Friday as a digital download.

“Well, I’m just sort of continuing my disruptive behavior,” Spacey said by telephone Friday. “After my McTaggart lecture, in which I talked about new talent and new platforms … I felt like I had to walk the walk, and to some degree the industry undervalues a film like this.”

At the annual lecture — named for pioneering Scottish television producer James McTaggart — Spacey in 2011 told producers and presenters that they need to embrace the online world or die. Multi-platforming, he said, was the future, whether the old guard liked it or not.

Spacey said just putting the movie out there for online consumption made more sense to him than going the traditional film festival route or lobbying a TV network to find room on its schedule.

“If you like ‘House of Cards,’ this is where it all began for me,” Spacey said. “If you don’t know about theater, this is a way for you to get into it, and if you do it’s something that will interest you.”

On “House of Cards” Spacey plays Francis Underwood, a politician who murders and schemes his way into the White House. Underwood is modeled on Shakespeare’s Richard III, while his wife, Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright), is based directly on Lady Macbeth. It’s a kind of meeting of Shakespearean villains, which Spacey said comes directly from the original novel by British writer Michael Dobbs.

The “House of Cards” cast includes a couple of actors Spacey worked with in “Richard III,” including Darrow as Edward Meechum, Underwood’s tight-lipped security guard. Darrow played Romeo and Henry V for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and appeared in productions with Kansas City Actors Theatre, includng “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Translations.” He even put on a dress to play a farce at the New Theatre. He relocated to New York in 2009.

“First of all, he was great to work with when we did ‘Richard III’ and we became very good friends and tennis rivals,” Spacey said. “But he’s a remarkably talented actor who does incredible classical work.”

Spacey praised Darrow’s performance as Edmund Tyrone in a 2012 “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Spacey watched with a keen eye because he had once played Edmund himself.

Meechum, he said, is an example of how a seemingly minor role on a series can grow into something larger based on an actor’s abilities.

“I think it has everything to do with it,” he said. “We brought in a number of actors who were intended to play one or two episodes but because of what the actor did … we would say, ‘This actor is interesting, so let’s continue the storyline.’ ”

As the artistic director of the Old Vic, Spacey said there are moments when the company’s storied past is tangible. The theater traces its history to 1818. Many of the leading Shakespearean actors of the 19th and 20th centuries performed there — Edmund Kean, Edith Evans, John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness. The list goes on.

Spacey said he had seen performances at the Old Vic, but he vividly remembers the first time he stepped onto the boards.

“I walked to the edge of that stage and looked up into that extraordinary, dome-shaped, curved arc of that audience (seating) and I felt instantly at home,” he said. “The history is in its walls, in the plaster, in the boards. You can feel it. But it’s very welcoming. The ghosts at the Old Vic are very friendly, welcoming ghosts.”


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/04/26/4983084/shakespeare-hits-the-road-with.html#storylink=cpy

 

Kansas City Public Media, Oct. 30, 2013 :

Kansas City Actor Goes From Shakespeare To ‘House Of Cards’

In the Netflix series, House of Cards, actor Nathan Darrow, a native of Kansas City, plays Edward Meechum. It's an understated role, but he's the keeper of secrets as the bodyguard and driver for ruthless Congressman Francis "Frank" Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey.

Darrow graduated from Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kan. He earned a bachelor's in theatre performance and literature at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Ind., and continued his training as an actor at New York University in New York City.

After graduate school, he returned to Kansas City in 2003, performing at Kansas City Actors Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Unicorn Theatre and the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, including the roles of Romeo and King Henry V.

In 2009, Darrow moved to New York. He says it was another Shakespeare play,Richard III, that led to House of Cards.

On the House of Cards casting process

Shakespeare's Richard III opened at the Old Vic in London in 2011, and then toured internationally. Nathan Darrow played two roles: Lord Grey and Henry Tudor. The production ended its run in March 2012 in New York.

"It (Richard III) was a co-production between the Old Vic and the Brooklyn Academy of Music," says Darrow. "Sam Mendes directed, and Kevin Spacey played Richard (III) in that.

"And he (Spacey) was already about to do House of Cards and they were casting it around the time we were touring Richard III. And he kind of put me up for it. So I went in for (director) David Fincher and the folks, and that's how I got on the show."

On the role of Meechum

The character Edward Meechum, a U.S. Capitol police officer, is an observer, charged with keeping lots of secrets.

As Underwood (played by Spacey) tells him: "You are a rock. You absorb nothing, you say nothing, and nothing breaks you." Meechum is clean cut and wears a dark suit, but viewers aren't told a lot about him as a character.

"I was originally up for a different role, but then this one became the one that was right," says Darrow. "His mystery appeals to me, possibly, his loneliness."

Darrow says he had loosely created a backstory for Meechum, including a military background, that was confirmed by the writers of the show.

"Even before we shot that scene, and I got those pages where he says he was in Afghanistan, I was already thinking that could be it," he says. "I was already trying to imagine that, and trying to let it just feed me physically in the work. The writing and what I had invented sort of met, which was nice."

On working with actor Kevin Spacey

"He's a very, very special force as an actor. On stage, especially, and in that part (Richard III), all of his physical gifts could really, just really, kind of carry it," says Darrow. "And then, going into House of Cards...he almost seamlessly re-calibrates. And then he can take all of that and turn it into this brilliant cinematic focus.

"He takes his position as kind of a mentor really seriously. And also, he understands that this is all a very long tradition. And he was kind of given opportunity and given attention as a young actor, and that's very important for him. He kind of sees that as part of his job, really, to continue it, to pass it along."

On differences between theater and television

Darrow has played a wide range of roles on the stage, but House of Cards marks the "first sustained experience" he's had in front of the camera.

"In the theater, it's almost like they give the actors the play, more or less. The lights go up and the actors are kind of in charge. A lot of the other work has maybe kind of already been done," he says. "But, on a film set, you have all these artists working with you in the moment. And they're there with you."

by Laura Spencer You can also read this article at the following link: http://kcur.org/post/kansas-city-actor-goes-shakespeare-house-cards

The Kansas City Star, July 25, 2013 :

Small troupe throwing big gala

The emcees for Play On Productions' gala (from left): Ben Gulley, Coleman Crenshaw, Kelsey Kallenberger and Mike Ott(SM North '00 Grad.)

Established arts organizations throw fundraising galas each year to raise a chunk of money to cover operating costs. The idea is to attract the well-heeled with cocktails, food, entertainment and that all-important feeling of exclusivity.

So Play On Productions, a theater company that produced its first show only about a year ago, is taking its cue from the big arts groups to raise a relatively modest sum to cover its activities for the coming year. Play On’s first gala will be Aug. 5 at Union Station, beginning with cocktails in Pierpont’s loft followed by a host of singers from the theater community at H&R Block City Stage.

Play On made its debut at the KC Fringe Festival last year with “Skillet Tag,” by Kansas City playwright Pete Bakely, a company co-founder. The edgy farce is about a corporate retreat that goes terribly wrong. Later the company restaged the piece under the title “Skillet Tag: The Remount” at the Living Room.

Play On didn’t have a show in this year’s Fringe, in part because lots of energy was going into planning the fundraiser.

“We haven’t done anything else other than those two shows,” artistic director Kelsey Kallenberger said. “When I decided to do the gala, because of the sheer size of what I’m doing, I thought I needed to focus on that and make sure we get all the money we need. We also didn’t exactly have a show ready for Fringe. I have a couple of (plays), but they were both full length.”

Her mission is to produce work by Kansas City playwrights. She plans at least two productions next year, including a new play by Bakely, the company’s resident writer, in March at the Fishtank Performance Studio.

Kallenberger, 21, attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City theater department briefly but decided she didn’t have the right mindset for school.

“I was just kind of done with being an actor,” she said. “I got tired of auditioning and auditioning, and for me it was getting really hard to be rejected. And I decided to sit on the other side of the table. I decided I could be an OK producer.”

Kallenberger said she hoped to raise about $5,000 at the gala. Tickets are $35 for the show only, or $50 for the cocktail reception and show. A silent auction will include Play On memorabilia and gift cards to local restaurants and coffee shops.

“Actors, we have no money, and we all need to eat,” she said.

Emcees for the evening will be Kallenberger, tenor Ben Gulley and actors Coleman Crenshaw and Mike Ott. Among those scheduled to perform are Gulley, Mandy Morris, Mackenzie Dehmer, J. Will Fritz, Daria LeGrand, Justin McCoy, Kenna Hall and Stefanie Wienecke.

Down the road, Kallenberger said, Play On will apply for tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization. But that will come after the gala, which will be affordable to people who might find galas at larger organizations just a little too pricey.

“I’ve been a patron of the Rep for a very long time, and I go to the gala and I look around and I think, ‘This is the way to do it,’” she said. “It’s a wonderful night everyone can remember, and they come back for more. And for me it’s nice every so often to put up your hair and put on a nice dress and go to a soiree.”

Tickets to Play On’s fundraiser are available at Brown Paper Tickets ( brownpapertickets.com/event/418140).


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/25/4366747/small-troupe-play-on-productions.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/25/4366747/small-troupe-play-on-productions.html#storylink=cpy

By ROBERT TRUSSELL http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/25/4366747/small-troupe-play-on-productions.html

The Dispatch,  Dec. 24, 2012 : 

Drummer From Shawnee triumphant onstage after loss of leg

In August of 2005, 28-year-old Billy Brimblecom went through surgery to remove his left leg.

Earlier that year, doctors had identified the source of the pain Brimblecom had been experiencing in the leg for several years: Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancer of the bone. Brimblecom had always attributed the pain he would feel off and on to an earlier car accident. But worsening pain had motivated the trip to the doctor’s office, where multiple tests, including a biopsy, led to the discovery of the cancer.

“They said, ‘Here’s what we’ll do. We’re going to try to do everything we can to remove the cancer,’” Brimblecom, a professional drummer and actor, recalled. But doctors warned that losing his leg, “in an effort to save your life,” was also a possibility.

That possibility soon turned into inevitability, and Brimblecom still recalls how he felt in the days and weeks following his surgery to remove his leg above the knee.

“It was terrible. I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody,” said Brimblecom, who is originally from Shawnee but now resides in Nashville, Tenn. “Definitely it was very painful physically, it was very painful emotionally. It was very scary.”

But now, more than seven years later, Brimblecom said things have turned out better than he ever could have imagined.

“The most rewarding experiences of my life happened to me since I had my leg amputated, without a doubt,” he said.

Some of those experiences have included meeting his wife, Allison, whom he married in 2007, and touring in Japan with his band, Blackpool Lights, only a year after his surgery. He said he also developed a stronger relationship with God, which he largely credits for getting him through the experience of losing his leg.

“I knew that God had a plan for me, and any strength that I had ultimately came from him,” Brimblecom said.

Early musical ambitions

Also getting him through, Brimblecom said, was a lifelong passion for performing and playing music. He’s been playing the drums since the sixth grade, and even before that, he said, a love for music was being developed.

“When I was a little kid growing up, my dad was really into music and just always had the radio on,” he said. “And my grandmother sang a lot around the house, my mom sang around the house, and my uncle was a musician who played clubs and stuff. So I was exposed to music at a really early age.”

Inspired by popular hard rock bands of the day, Brimblecom started his own cover band with friends in middle school, playing Def Leppard and Guns N’ Roses songs.

“Very poorly, I might add,” he said with a laugh.

And though it had a “rotating cast of people” through the years, that band lasted through high school at Shawnee Mission North. At that time, Brimblecom was also developing an interest in acting, performing onstage through SM North’s award-winning theater program.

“He was easygoing but intense at the same time,” recalled longtime SM North theater teacher Maureen Davis. “He played Herod in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ his senior year and also played the drums in the pit, not an easy feat. He could juggle so many things at the same time and do it spectacularly.”

Right around the time of his high school graduation in 1995, Brimblecom got hired to perform improv comedy at Comedy Sportz, now known as Comedy City, in Kansas City, Mo., where he would stay as a frequent performer until 2002. Fellow performers at the improv comedy club at the time included Saturday Night Live cast member Jason Sudeikis, one of Brimblecom’s “best buddies.”

In the fall of that year, Brimblecom also enrolled at Kansas University, where he lasted one semester.

“I was failing out of college by my own design,” Brimblecom said. “I barely went to any classes that didn’t involve hitting drums.”

He also dropped out, he said, to devote more time to playing music. He joined the now-defunct Lawrence hard rock band Stick and then, in 1997, formed the band Creature Comforts with “three of my closest buddies to this day.”

“Creature Comforts was this thing where we were all, like, really on the same page,” Brimblecom said. “It was one of two of my greatest band experiences that I’ve ever had.”

The second, Brimblecom said, was Blackpool Lights, which he formed in 2004 with Jim Suptic of Kansas City-based alternative band The Get Up Kids.

Pulling through

Brimblecom said he was released from the hospital about a week after his surgery and, by the end of 2005, had gone through 13 rounds of chemotherapy. In the beginning, he said, the thought had crossed his mind that he might not be able to play the drums again. But determination and a characteristic positive attitude won out over any initial doubts.

“I had kind of worked out the science of it in my head, like how I could make it work,” Brimblecom said, “and I was right.”

With the help of his first, temporary prosthetic leg, which he received in October of 2005, Brimblecom went to work.

“I was drumming pretty well way before I was walking well,” he said. “It wasn’t easy. I just worked really hard at it.”

The hard work paid off, and Brimblecom was touring with Blackpool Lights by the next year.

“I realize I kind of have this survival instinct, this kind of fight or flight thing,” he said of the experience. “And I was just like, let’s get through this.”

He also received support from friends, who rallied together in 2006 to stage two benefit shows in one day at the Record Bar in Kansas City, Mo., raising the $30,000 Brimblecom needed to purchase a $60,000 permanent prosthetic leg, of which insurance would only pay half.

“It was a very humbling and overwhelming display of care and love from a lot of people that I knew and a lot of people that I didn’t know, and I had friends fly in from all over the country to take part in it,” Brimblecom said. “It was incredible. It was one of the most memorable days of my life honestly.”

Now what?

Now living in Nashville, where he moved in 2009 “in search of a better living,” Brimblecom is finding success both as a professional musician and actor. In November, he performed onstage in a small, off-Broadway production of “Son of a Gun,” a new semi-autobiographical musical about a family band from Appalachia written by Kansas City-based musician and music producer Don Chaffer. Brimblecom also worked with Chaffer on writing music for the show.

“We’re talking with investors and interested New York theaters about what the next move is,” Brimblecom said of the show. “Hopefully, there will be another production, a larger production, in the summer. We’ve got our fingers crossed.”

He’s also been working as a “freelance musician,” playing drums for well-known Nashville-based musicians such as Katie Herzig and Matthew Perryman Jones.

But while life is good in Nashville, Brimblecom wants to make this clear:

“I think Kansas City’s a better city ... but there were not the resources that I needed to make a living as a musician here full time.”

Thankfully, the cancer hasn’t come back, but Brimblecom said he’ll always have “a constant reminder” where his leg used to be.

“My leg is not going to grow back, not here on Earth,” he said. So it’s a “reminder to not sweat the petty things and to keep in mind that we’re here for a reason.”

by Melissa Treolo -The Dispatch -Shawnee-  You can also read this article at the following link: http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2012/dec/24/drummer-shawnee-triumphant-onstage-after-loss-leg/

The Kansas City Star,  Apri 30, 2011 : 

KC actor Nathan Darrow takes his Shakespeare experience on the road

Nathan Darrow, a Kansas City actor who moved to New York in 2009, will soon share the stage with Kevin Spacey. Darrow will appear in a major production of Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” directed by Sam Mendes with Spacey in the title role.

The cast includes American and British actors and marks the final season of the Bridge Project, a collaboration between the Old Vic in London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Neal Street Productions to produce classic theater with Anglo-American casts for an international audience.

Spacey is artistic director of the Old Vic. Mendes previously directed Spacey in the film “American Beauty” and staged a memorable revival of “Cabaret” in London and New York in 1993.

The production opens June 29 at the Old Vic, embarks on an international tour and will open at the Brooklyn Academy in January 2012.

Darrow, 34, appeared several times in the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and on other local stages.

For his “Richard III” audition he used a speech from “Henry V,” which he performed in 2006 for the Shakespeare Festival.

“I was very proud to be able to say to Sam Mendes that I was from Kansas City,” Darrow said last week.

Since moving to New York, Darrow was hired as an understudy for the Broadway production of Sarah Ruhl’s “In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play” and played Happy in a production of “Death of a Salesman” with Christopher Lloyd as Willy Loman at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont.

He was appearing in a production of the Greek classic “Ajax” at American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., when he got word from his agent about the “Richard III” audition.

Darrow plays two roles in “Richard III”: Lord Grey, one of Richard’s numerous murder victims, and Henry, Earl of Richmond, who kills Richard in the final battle and becomes King Henry VII.

“So Richard gets me and then I get him,” Darrow said.

He added that playing roles in Shakespeare’s history plays offers actors unusually satisfying opportunities.

“It is nice to daydream about playing somebody who really lived and really walked around,” he said.

Darrow was born in Kansas City, attended Shawnee Mission North High School and earned a bachelor of science degree in theater performance and literature from the University of Evansville in Indiana. For his graduate degree he attended New York University.

In Kansas City, he played Romeo in the Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” appeared in Kansas City Actors Theatre productions of “Translations” and “Taking Sides” and at the Unicorn in “The Pillowman.”

Darrow said he’s accustomed to getting quizzical looks when he tells people in New York that he spent six years in Kansas City as an actor.

“With as little edge as possible, but not with no edge, I explain that, yes, we do theater in Kansas City and take it seriously and try to do it well.”

To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to rtrussell@kcstar.com.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/04/30/2833731/kc-actor-takes-his-shakespeare.html#ixzz1LUQc4U9d

Funky Mama is coming home to Shawnee Mission North

Krista (Tatschl) Eyler, a SM North graduate known to her fans as “Funky Mama,” is a local entertainer and playwright specializing in spirited Rock ‘N Roll for kids and families.

Eyler’s newest work, “moo juice,” is a musical about some of the most important aspects of children’s lives, like writing, recess, and snack time. She returned to Shawnee Mission North this winter to direct the spirited show with a cast of students from the high school.

“Moo Juice” opens Friday at SM North. The musical, which follows one busy day in a preschool, runs at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 4th and 5th 2011. It is an all-ages show.

Tickets are $5 and available at the door.

The director and the cast will also take the stage for television at 9:30 a.m. March 9th for a Shawnee Mission Performing Arts Symposium. Second-graders from East Antioch, Funky Mama’s elementary alma mater, and Brookridge will be on hand to ask questions, hear stories, and watch live excerpts from “Moo Juice.”

The symposium will be rebroadcast on SMTV, Time Warner Cable channels 2 and 18, this spring.

Check out what former North graduate Tyler Gilmore is up to by clicking the following link:

http://newyork.improvteams.com/performers/1631/tylerj_gilmore

University of Central Missouri Spring, 2009 Department of Theatre: 

Theatre Department sends students to Nationals at the Kennedy Center in April.

The University of Central Missouri Theatre Deparment received top honors at the Kennedy Center American College Region V Theatre Festival held at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas January 18-25, 2009.

The festival included 96 universities and over 1500 faculty and students from theatre departments in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota.  The festival presents performances and scenes from invited productions from the top shows in the region and hosts acting, directing, design, playwriting, stage management, dramatic criticism and dramaturgy competition.  Five faculty members and thirty-four Central students attended the event.

Top honors were received by Central students in the area of acting, costume design, playwrighting and theatre management.  Peter Macy and his acting partner Callie Ott received 1st place in the Irened Ryan Acting Auditions.  They competed against 308 actors for this top honor.  They will receive an all expense paid trip to the National Festival held at Kennedy Center in Washington DC in April.  In Washington they will compete for the national title as well as audition for numerous acting scholarships and for theatre companies.

Irene Ryan Finalists: Callie Ott and Peter Macy

Former North graduate Brent Crawford's novel

Carter Finally Gets It is now available! ! !

 

Make sure to ask for it at your local bookstore or library.

 

Learn more about Carter and his crew at

 

www.carterbooks.com

 

or see what Brent is up to at

 

www.brent-crawford.com 

Sun Publications,  FEB. 26, 2009 

Shawnee Mission North premieres new rock musical

Shawnee Mission North High School, 7401 Johnson Drive, Overland Park, will premiere a new rock musical "Joan the Maid" at 7 p.m. March 5, 6 and 7 in the school auditorium.
The musical about Joan of Arc was written by Andrew Smith, a Kansas City actor, director and playwright. Music and lyrics are by Jen Appell.
The co-director, vocal director and choreographer is Megan Birdsall, 1997 North graduate.
The musical takes the life of Joan of Arc as a historical figure and merges history and recent events with two battling rock bands and film footage.

- Posted by Kristin Babcock in Everything Entertainment  You can also read this article at the following link:  http://sunpublications.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=Shawnee-Mission-North-premieres-new-rock-musical.html&Itemid=159

The Kansas City Star,  Dec. 14, 2008  STAR MAGAZINE: 

Megan Birdsall finds her voice and sings again

Megan Birdsall has a cold. A knit cap covers her straight blondish-red hair. She’s poking around near the piano at Jardine’s looking for something, then sound-checks the microphone.

It’s early on a Wednesday evening, and after her trio warms up the room, Birdsall, 29, a vibrant and tiny woman, steps onstage and points a video camera toward the audience.

“It’s amazing that you’re here,” she says before launching into cold-be-damned, torch-jazz takes on “Too Close for Comfort” and “Old Devil Moon” and then a languid, full-throated version of the Beatles’ “Something.”

What most of those who fill the room know as they listen is how amazing it is that Birdsall is standing in front of them and singing again.

It was exactly a year-minus-a-day earlier, on Nov. 27, 2007, when a Dallas oral surgeon sliced Birdsall’s facial muscles, replaced her decaying jawbones with titanium implants and straightened a pinched windpipe that threatened her life.

Late last April, when she sang a comeback gig in the same Main Street club, she found out she could, in fact, sing again, though her doctor kept pressing her to slow down and let her mouth properly heal.

She’s still healing, and every now and then when she cocks her head and opens her mouth as if to pop a plugged ear, it’s a reminder that she’s got a long way to go before everything works the way it’s supposed to.

Playing only one club gig a month leaves room for other things, so Birdsall has been working on what would be her third CD.

Those who’ve grown accustomed to the young singer’s pop-inflected jazz may be surprised by the project’s new direction.

But, as Megan Birdsall has discovered in the last year, when life deals you a curve ball like the one that bore down on her, it don’t mean a thing — apologies to Duke Ellington — if you don’t take a swing.

It was an April morning in 2007 when Birdsall’s reign of pain began. She woke up, couldn’t open her mouth and wondered how she’d be able to sing a studio session that day.

A muscle relaxant helped, and soon she learned she probably had a routine case of temporomandibular (TMJ) disorder, which typically involves clicking and tightening of the jawbone. But the pain never went away, even as she sang jazz gigs regularly around town.

Eventually an MRI revealed a far more serious condition. The cartilage attaching her jaw and skull had disappeared, and bone scraped against bone. Her mandibles, or jawbones, had eroded precipitously. This kind of rare auto-immune disorder most often occurs in women and for some it’s thought to be connected to hormonal changes that begin in puberty. Birdsall had just turned 28.

But even worse: As the shape of her mouth and head slowly shifted it put backward pressure on her spine and crimped her trachea. A typical windpipe measures 14 mm; Birdsall’s was down to 4 mm. That was astounding, to the few around her who knew what was happening, given the power of Birdsall’s singing voice.

By August she and her mother, Jeri Birdsall, were meeting at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas with Larry Wolford, a facial reconstruction specialist, and she and her family were fretting over the riskiness of the procedure. And the enormous cost — more than $30,000 just to get the titanium prostheses made, a requirement for scheduling the surgery, and at least $100,000 more in medical procedures and hospitalization.

Birdsall hid her condition from friends and audiences through the summer, hid the pain that often gripped and pierced her head, but the word got out and efforts to raise money on her behalf began.

When Birdsall sang a gig in late October 2007, about the time she released her second disc, “Little Jazz Bird,” it was just weeks before the scheduled surgery. She knew it would be her last performance for many months. Or much longer.

For weeks she carried around the real fear that everything she’d worked for in the last few years — to become a vital presence on her hometown jazz scene — was about to be taken away.

The night before the surgery, Birdsall’s actor father, Jim, captured the family’s anxiety when he announced, “We’re outta here.”

Maybe he was joking, but not so much. He couldn’t bear the uncertainty. This surgery was rare enough, but it had never been done on a singer.

“It really was a transformation for all of us on one level or another,” says her mother. “It required a lot of surrender and trust. It was not your ordinary medical situation.”

The next day their daughter spent more than seven hours under the knives and saws of Wolford and his surgical crew. They sliced. They peeled. They cut bone and screwed metal pieces into place.

In her hospital bed at Baylor for nearly a week, then recuperation in a nearby hotel for two more, Birdsall was surrounded by her parents, sister Rhiannon, brother Cameron and boyfriend Michael Andrew Smith. “It was like Christmas every day,” Birdsall says.

And within days of the surgery, groggy and scarred, Birdsall started hearing songs in her head.

New songs with melodies and lyrics of her own: There was an old man standing in front of me, and he waited till the end of the show / I played with my eye on him, not knowing which way I should go.

She and Smith started killing time by working together on that song and others. They were just having fun. She’d been a performer since childhood and veered into music from theater. He’d gone the other a way: a onetime musician now an actor on Kansas City stages.

Birdsall’s recovery from the surgery turned out to be much faster than anyone expected. Though her face remained as round as a Cabbage Patch doll, she could eke out enough voice to know that she might be OK.

After Birdsall got home, she and Smith kept up with the songwriting. She’d pull out her violin, he’d play guitar and they continued to churn out new tunes and arrangements. One after another. A love ballad, a road narrative. Mostly dark and introspective songs, Smith says.

“We wrote this stuff because we didn’t think I could go back to singing,” she says, “and if I didn’t go back, maybe we could sell these songs.”

Every now and then, it helped make her feel as if she could still think of herself as a musician.

But also in that period after the surgery, Birdsall had the blues.

Braces trellised her teeth, and stitches crisscrossed her swollen face and gum tissue.

She was medicated and anxious, and it took a lot of physical energy just to close her mouth.

Because she wasn’t working, she didn’t have her musician friends around. Smith was often away at work and school. She spent most of her time numb and feeling alone.

The day after Christmas, she decided she had to get off her pain medication, liquid hydrocodone.

“It was totally stupid,” she says, and indeed she soon suffered withdrawal symptoms serious enough to send her to the emergency room.

“Everyone said to go back on it, and I said no way.”

Last winter and spring she held her ground, stayed off the painkillers, all the while not knowing whether she’d be able to go back to making music.

A regular teaching gig, helping Shawnee Mission North students prepare their annual musical (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”), gave her a respite, and eventually the songwriting project gathered enough steam that Birdsall and Smith recorded a dozen tracks for a demo. They sent it to an old family friend, Jack Sundrud, who produced records in Nashville. They thought he could shop the songs to other performers.

All along, Birdsall had been warned that recovery from the surgery could take as long as 18 months. By last April, though, she was ready to try again.

She and her regular backup band — pianist Paul Smith, bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Tim Cambron — didn’t even rehearse. Birdsall was tired, and she planned to limit her sets to 25 or 30 minutes each. She didn’t know what would happen with her voice or her stamina.

As she launched into the Harold Arlen-Truman Capote love song “Sleeping Bee” — When a bee lies sleeping in the palm of your hand, you’re bewitched — the microphone cut out.

Something to ease the tension: “Just the way I hoped it would be,” she joked.

It’s a quiet Sunday night in October. Chapman Recording Studios in the Crossroads Arts District, a cozy warren of soundproof rooms and limestone-walled hallways, operates nearly around the clock. In one room, two engineers man the soundboards as lights and colors bounce on meters and computer monitors.

She and Michael Smith have spent hours at Chapman in recent months, encouraged by Sundrud’s enthusiasm over the demo. No need to sell the songs. Why couldn’t Birdsall sing them herself?

Sundrud, a onetime member of the country-rock band Poco, has been working with her to refine tracks, add musicians and vocal harmonies.

“What I’m trying to do is help Megan and Michael achieve what they’re hearing in their heads,” Sundrud says.

“I think they’ve written some really cool songs, and we have to find a way to make them sparkle. She’s dynamite.”

From the speakers comes the sound of acoustic guitars in ballad mode and Birdsall’s voice.

She stands alone, behind a window in an adjacent room. At the microphone, she perches her hands at her waist so her arms angle backward like wings.

On this Sunday night the work includes a brief discussion with the Chapman engineers about the sound of a single word in one song.

In several takes, Birdsall emphasizes the word “places” by modulating it through two rising notes, then a falling third, so it comes out “puh-LAY-sez.”

She tries it another way, singing the word in two straightforward syllables: “play-sez.”

What to do?

She sings it each way again, and finally they settle for the three-note word.

“We’re ready for harmonies,” she eventually says. “Now we’re telling a story.”

On the intercom comes Smith’s voice: “You sound freaking awesome, honey.”

Birdsall still sounds much like the singer she was before her face was reconstructed, although maybe she projects a fuller and more resonant tone.

“My voice has changed,” Birdsall says. “Some people notice, some people don’t.”

She points to her cheek. Inside, her mouth has actually expanded by three millimeters all around.

“Everyone said to go back on it, and I said no way.”

Last winter and spring she held her ground, stayed off the painkillers, all the while not knowing whether she’d be able to go back to making music.

A regular teaching gig, helping Shawnee Mission North students prepare their annual musical (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”), gave her a respite, and eventually the songwriting project gathered enough steam that Birdsall and Smith recorded a dozen tracks for a demo. They sent it to an old family friend, Jack Sundrud, who produced records in Nashville. They thought he could shop the songs to other performers.

All along, Birdsall had been warned that recovery from the surgery could take as long as 18 months. By last April, though, she was ready to try again.

She and her regular backup band — pianist Paul Smith, bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Tim Cambron — didn’t even rehearse. Birdsall was tired, and she planned to limit her sets to 25 or 30 minutes each. She didn’t know what would happen with her voice or her stamina.

As she launched into the Harold Arlen-Truman Capote love song “Sleeping Bee” — When a bee lies sleeping in the palm of your hand, you’re bewitched — the microphone cut out.

Something to ease the tension: “Just the way I hoped it would be,” she joked.

It’s a quiet Sunday night in October. Chapman Recording Studios in the Crossroads Arts District, a cozy warren of soundproof rooms and limestone-walled hallways, operates nearly around the clock. In one room, two engineers man the soundboards as lights and colors bounce on meters and computer monitors.

She and Michael Smith have spent hours at Chapman in recent months, encouraged by Sundrud’s enthusiasm over the demo. No need to sell the songs. Why couldn’t Birdsall sing them herself?

Sundrud, a onetime member of the country-rock band Poco, has been working with her to refine tracks, add musicians and vocal harmonies.

“What I’m trying to do is help Megan and Michael achieve what they’re hearing in their heads,” Sundrud says.

“I think they’ve written some really cool songs, and we have to find a way to make them sparkle. She’s dynamite.”

From the speakers comes the sound of acoustic guitars in ballad mode and Birdsall’s voice.

She stands alone, behind a window in an adjacent room. At the microphone, she perches her hands at her waist so her arms angle backward like wings.

On this Sunday night the work includes a brief discussion with the Chapman engineers about the sound of a single word in one song.

In several takes, Birdsall emphasizes the word “places” by modulating it through two rising notes, then a falling third, so it comes out “puh-LAY-sez.”

She tries it another way, singing the word in two straightforward syllables: “play-sez.”

What to do?

She sings it each way again, and finally they settle for the three-note word.

“We’re ready for harmonies,” she eventually says. “Now we’re telling a story.”

On the intercom comes Smith’s voice: “You sound freaking awesome, honey.”

Birdsall still sounds much like the singer she was before her face was reconstructed, although maybe she projects a fuller and more resonant tone.

“My voice has changed,” Birdsall says. “Some people notice, some people don’t.”

She points to her cheek. Inside, her mouth has actually expanded by three millimeters all around.

Steve Paul is a senior writer and editor at The Star. Allison Long is a staff photographer. To reach them, call 816-234-4762 or e-mail paul@kcstar.com.

You can also read this article at the following link:  http://www.kansascity.com/starmagazine/story/927990.html

CRITIC’S CHOICE in the Chicago Reader:

Read a review by one of the top newspapers in Chicago about Nicole Thurman’s('01) play: Yes, This Really Happened to Me.  Her picture was also prominently featured in the paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YES, THIS REALLY HAPPENED TO ME Theatre Seven of Chicago's hour-long one-act is a first-rate piece of story theatercrisp, funny, moving, and utterly devoid of self-indulgence. A nine-person cast, all in their 20s, perform autobiographical texts by five writers who also appear on video to provide reflective commentary. Familiar themeschildhood friendships, family relationships, sexual experimentation, drug experiences--get fresh, idiosyncratic spins. Playing multiple characters (this is an ensemble work, not an evening of monologues), the actors are precise, detailed, confident, and emotionally authentic, while directors Margot Bordelon and Cassandra Sanders maintain a pace thats brisk but never rushed. If these young artists represent the future of off-Loop theater, we're in very good hands indeed.

Albert Williams

New interactive website

 

www.briannigus.com

 

Created by Brian Nigus('07). 

 

New online Literary and Art magazine!

 

www.offbeatpulp.com

 

Created by Michael Chritton('95), Jacob Johanson('95), and Richard W. Daley('94)

 

Contributors of this issue also include: Duane Cunningham('94), Cliff Robinson ('93), and Larry D. Murphy('95) as well as other writers and artist from all over the country, and a couple other continents.

Tom Duncan('04) playing Tom Wingfield in A Glass Menagerie at Illinois Wesleyan University

 Modern ‘Menagerie’ captures audience

There were a few brave souls who battled the bitter cold Tuesday evening to see the opening of “The Glass Managerie” at Illinois Wesleyan University.  But those who did were richly rewarded.

            Under the meticulous directions of Rhys Lovell, Tennessee Williams masterpiece finds a fresh voice, proving that this classic has lost none of its punch with contemporary audiences.

            “The Glass Menagerie’ is a memory play, as told from the point of view of Tom Wingfield about life with his mother and sister, Amanda and Laura, Just before he leaves home.

            In their tenement apartment in St. Louis, the family barely makes ends meet.  Tom is their sole supporter, Tom’s father having fled years before.

            It is Amanda’s greatest fear that Tom will become a drunkard, just like his father.  She is also consumed with worry about Laura, who is so painfully shy that she cannot hold down a job, or interact with anyone outside of her family.

            Amanda thinks the answer to Laura’s problems would be marriage, and she demands that Tom bring home a “gentleman caller” for his sister.  Tim Martin plays the caller with an infectious, natural friendliness, which heightens Laura’s social awkwardness by contrast  Katie Whalley is exceptional as Laura, who is as fragile as the animals in her glass menagerie.

            Her mother s more resilient, and Lauren Summers as Amanda plays the faded Southern belle with subtlety and desperate determination.  The Wingfield home is exquisite designed by Laura Woodley with its lines of drying threatening to encroach upon Amanda’s lost genteel world.

            The haunting original music composed and performed by Rhys Lovell and Tom Duncan is almost another character in the play, heard between scenes and eloquently establishing the mournful atmosphere.

            While Duncan sets the show’s tone as a musician, he also does so as an actor, playing Tom in a performance that exudes a maturity beyond this young man’s years.  He does so with sensitivity and biting sarcasm, mining much undiscovered humor in this American classic.

            Marcia Weiss - a freelance writer who reviews plays for The Pantagraph.

Shawnee Dispatch,  June 19, 2007 : 

SM North grad plays Romeo in local Shakespeare Festival  

By Leann Sulzen

Shawnee Mission North High School graduates might see a familiar face if they go to the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival in Southmoreland Park, in Kansas City, Mo.

That's because Nathan Darrow, a 1994 North alumnus, will play Romeo in the Shakespeare Festival's production of "Romeo and Juliet."

This will be Darrow's first time playing the role of Romeo, or any other role in "Romeo and Juliet."

However Darrow, 31, has studied the role a few times while in school. While at North, he started acting. He then went on to get a degree in acting and literature from the University of Evansville in Indiana. Finally, he went on to graduate school at New York University where he received a master's degree in acting and literature.

Darrow said the thing that attracts him to the character Romeo is that he seems like a real person.

"I'm actually attracted to Romeo's idealism and almost manic need for the truth," he said.

Last year, Darrow played King Henry V in the Shakespeare Festival. He said he enjoys doing classic pieces.

"I feel like it exercises a lot of muscles," he said. "It's emotionally demanding, physically demanding, technically demanding."

The production of "Romeo and Juliet" opened Tuesday night and will play every night at 8 p.m. through July 8 except for June 25 and July 4. Admission is free and open to the public.

The Kansas City Star,  Feb. 18, 2008 : 

Brent Crawford jumped from sports to acting to writing

By EDWARD M. EVELD
The Kansas City Star

One big leap can make an ordinary life interesting, even unlikely. Then there’s the double leap, as performed by Brent Crawford.

“Hey, any chance I saw you last night on ‘Sex and the City’? They were all at this club called Bed, and there was this guy, looked just like you, hitting on Miranda.”

That’s a conversation starter Crawford hears from time to time around town.

Yes, he was that guy in Episode 81, “The Post-It Always Sticks Twice.” Circa 2003, it takes its turn on late-night television.

But “Sex and the City” is not the best place to pick up Crawford’s story, at least in terms of “making the leap.” To understand Crawford’s first big leap you have to go back to high school.

That’s when Brent the jock, after enduring summer workouts before senior year at Shawnee Mission North, decided to quit football and audition for the fall play. North’s excellent drama program had a way of luring such leapers.

For Crawford, the journey out of his comfort zone led not only to a part in a high school play but also to an audition for a spot at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles.

It was a good audition. He was invited to enroll. He got his parents’ blessing and, after high school graduation, off he went to L.A. It would be total immersion in the performing arts.

“That just sounded incredible,” Crawford said.

And it was. His schooling led to commercial and theater work, including a play attended by the manager of Ed Harris and Jeff Bridges. The manager hooked him up with a prominent talent agency. That led to work on the TV show “Silk Stalkings” and in “After the Storm,” a made-for-TV movie starring Benjamin Bratt and based on a Hemingway short story. The latter took him to Belize for 10 days of filming.

But after the storm, so to speak, nothing. A year went by with no bookings. He got a call from a New York agent, who suggested he relocate to Manhattan.

“That sounded fantastic,” he said.

And it was. The move led to spots on “Guiding Light,” “All My Children” and “Law & Order,” in which he played a heroin-addicted investment banker.

He also did theater in New York and back in L.A., where he played Happy in a four-month run of “Death of a Salesman.” He won awards. He scored an important film role as Dale Rounds in the 2003 movie “Red Betsy.”

Then, back to slow motion.

Meanwhile, Crawford had hit 30, and it was time to take stock. His leap had been amazing, no doubt.

Parts of it.

Other parts weren’t that special, including all those auxiliary jobs: waiting tables, bartending, baggage handling, swinging a hammer.

One year he was hired and fired eight times.

That’s because when you call a French restaurant in New York, say, to tell them you aren’t showing up for work, they don’t want to hear it’s because you’re shooting a commercial in New Jersey.

“I always felt bad,” he said about punting work for auditions and photo shoots. “I hated doing that.”

And while the living arrangements were sometimes squalid, they also were storied. There was the time he shared a loft in Brooklyn with a DJ who thought of the place as more of an after-hours club and even engaged a bouncer. One night the bouncer wouldn’t let Crawford in.

Here was the ultimate problem: “I wasn’t feeling very vital. I wasn’t very important to the acting world.”

And so, a second leap, this one back to Kansas City and to a new vocation. Crawford had written some scripts at school in Los Angeles, and people had responded to them. He loved telling stories. He would give writing a go.

Soon enough, he wrote a screenplay that attracted an agent, although not a sale. Then, a conversation with his sister, Lindsey Schneider, a KCK school reading specialist, elevated his second leap.

“Her job is to feed literature to kids,” Crawford said.

His sister’s advice was this: Write a novel geared to adolescent boys. They’re a tough audience for reading. They need boatloads of encouragement. They need good stories.

Crawford knew that was right. He had been one of those boys who didn’t get the point of reading, mostly because he never gave it a shot.

He began with a story he was well-qualified to tell: What happens when a high school jock discovers the drama department.

The change in Crawford’s life was substantial, and not just the move back to Kansas City, a place he loves. (He and his girlfriend are renovating a house on Strawberry Hill in Kansas City, Kan.) He had switched from a very public endeavor, acting, to a very solitary one. He landed a space at the Arts Incubator in the Crossroads, where he could alternately hole up and make human contact, wandering the warren of artists’ studios.

Writing and acting also have their similarities.

“You have to really step into someone’s skin and invest yourself in that character,” Crawford said.

His book, tentatively titled Carter Finally Gets It, languished for a time, but when several publishers finally took a look, they got it. In fact, his agent heard from four publishers, all in one day. He chose Hyperion, which scheduled it for release in spring 2009 and asked for a second book.

Now Crawford, 32, may have a series on his hands, a good thing for him and for that teenage boy thinking about picking up a book.

“I want to entertain that kid,” he said. “I want to engage him. I want him to come away with something, to see that what he’s going through is really universal.”

Now that’s a leap, or two, worth making.