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Director's Cuts: Katie Gilchrist And Scott Cordes On Five Years Of The Living Room

Julie Denesha

The downtown performance space known as The Living Room arrived on the scene in 2010 with a debut season that included two plays by John Kolvenbach. Five years later, Scott Cordes and Katie Gilchrist are back in the directors’ chairs with both plays being performed in repertory.

In this final installment of the series Director’s Cuts, the two directors talked about the plusses and pitfalls of putting on two shows at the same time.

You two are directing the next two shows at The Living Room, by John Kolvenbach. On An Average Day is about two brothers; one's a hoarder, one's obsessively neat. Love Song's lead character is called an oddball and exile from life. Am I correct in sensing quirky personalities in both of these plays? 

Katie: "Absolutely. Kolvenbach has written six characters who are so varied but, typical of the human experience, (and) you don't know it till you see the whole picture, I think. But they're very odd, endearingly so."

Scott: "Exactly. You pull for those characters. They're quirky but you understand where they come from."

Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR
Directors Scott Cordes and Katie Gilchrist.

What is it about Kolvenbach's playwriting that draws you in?

Scott: "Well, I like the idea that it's hilarious. That it's suspenseful. That it's poetic. And it's brutal. It's actually very beautiful, too. It covers a lot of ground." 

Katie: "You know, he can break your heart while making you laugh..."

Scott: "Exactly."

Katie: "…at the same time."

Is there a scene in either one of these plays that exemplifies Kolvenbach's point of view? Scott, what about On an Average Day?

Scott: "Some (scenes) are too revealing to tell the audience for storytelling purposes but I like the opening scene. I like the way it's written. It's funny. Again, it's very Pinter-est because you don't know where it's going. It's got a little True West feeling to it. And I think it sets up a great evening of theater."

You both have connections to these plays because you directed them in The Living Room's opening year.

Scott: "Yes, it was the first show of The Living Room. And we worked so hard on that first show, getting the theater ready, getting the show ready. And we loved the show, it was beautiful, and we decided we wanted to do it again. Not a lot of people saw it because people didn't know where The Living Room was." 

Katie: "And by the time we'd done Love Song in that first season, we garnered more of an audience but still not enough, and we had a small group of people saying, 'We loved those plays.' So here we are five years later doing them again and doing them in this way, which if people come to see a festival day, I think it would be a fascinating day of theater to do."

A festival day is a day when both plays will be performed on the same day, one in the afternoon and one in the evening because these plays will be performed in repertory. You can see one on a Tuesday and one on Wednesday. What kinds of benefits or drawbacks are there to performing in repertory?

Scott: "One of the drawbacks is that everyone is more busy. I love it because I know the audience loves repertory theater. I like going to see a company do two different shows in the same week."

Katie: "I think there are some thematic elements that tie the two together that we're kind of discovering more now that we're doing them at the same time. One of the things I love about performing or seeing any kind of rep is that there's a constant challenge that you don't get lazy. You can't get lazy. There's absolutely no opportunity for you to sit back at all because if you do, all of the sudden you're in another play and everyone around you has no idea where you've gone, so…"

Five years later, since its inception, The Living Room has become a vital, major player in the Kansas City theater community. As artists, what do you like about working there?

Scott: "I like the people. I do. I like that it's in the Crossroads. I like that it's a new company, a young company. You get a lot of young people who come to the shows, which I love. I love looking out at the audience because it's all different ages. It goes from teens to late seventies." 

Katie: "What's great is that Scotty and I were there five years ago. I was cleaning and sweeping when they were running these lines and these scenes. And that's why it's gratifying to see these shows again - to see how far this company has come. It does feel artistically like a home, which is nice.

'On An Average Day,' May 20 - June 28, and 'Love Story,' May 27 - June 28, and performed in repertory starting June 3 at The Living Room, 1818 McGee, Kansas City, Mo. 816-533-5857. 

The "In This Scene..." series is supported by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency. 

Since 1998, Steve Walker has contributed stories and interviews about theater, visual arts, and music as an arts reporter at KCUR. He's also one of Up to Date's regular trio of critics who discuss the latest in art, independent and documentary films playing on area screens.
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