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A love story complicated by definitions of gender and sex opens at University Theatre

Monday, October 17, 2016

LAWRENCE—Exploring society’s standards of gender and sex, “Late, A Cowboy Song” centers around the complicated love triangle of a young married couple and an unexpected attraction between friends. “Late, A Cowboy Song” opens Friday, Oct. 21, at the University of Kansas University Theatre.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21-22 and Oct. 25-27 and at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 23 in the William Inge Memorial Theatre at Murphy Hall. See details below about a pre-show panel and discussions.

“‘Late, A Cowboy Song’ is a love story that tackles several issues about which I am passionate: gender fluidity, the threat of domestic violence and intersexuality,” said Jane Barnette, director and assistant professor of theatre. “I thought it was a great opportunity to produce a play that is both well-crafted and introduced conversations that our campus – and our world – need to have.”

Sarah Ruhl’s writing style and vision for the stage is truly inimitable. One of the distinctive qualities about her writing is that she tends to write characters who resist the psychological model of acting. Barnette says Ruhl’s characters “say what they mean and mean what they say.”

Although “Late, A Cowboy Song” could be called a dark comedy – there’s plenty of room for laughing — it’s a play that resists a happy ending. It instead forces the audiences to ask themselves what happens after the play ends and whether they would make the same choices as the characters do.

“If we do our job right, we’ll spark both delight and sadness — and leave room for plenty of lively conversation for spectators to enjoy after the show,” Barnette said.

Another unique characteristic of this play is its original music. Unlike a musical, “Late, A Cowboy Song” is a play with music; it is mostly dialogue with several songs that occur in pivotal moments. The music for this production is folksy and bluesy with a cowboy vibe.

“I am hoping the musical interludes create an opportunity for the story to transcend mere words and become something more universal or recognizable for spectators,” Barnette said.

*At 1 p.m. prior to the Oct. 23 show will be a panel featuring Darren Canady, playwright and associate professor of English; Charlene Muehlenhard, professor of psychology and women, gender & sexuality studies, and Jay Pryor, life coach, corporate trainer, speaker and author who transitioned from female to male in 2001. A discussion will follow each 7:30 p.m. production (except Oct. 27), with composer Brock Chart participating Oct. 25.

The company includes Elsa Burnauer, first-year student from Leawood, as Mary; Jake Gillespie, first-year student from Paola, as Crick; Isabella Hampton, Kansas City senior, as Red; David Ruis, Kansas City doctoral student, dramaturg; Liz Mitts, Lawrence junior, costume designer; Jordan Grant, Chicago senior, stage manager; Timothy Andris Sella, Owings, Maryland, senior, scenic designer; Elliot Yochim, Lawrence senior, lighting and projections designer; and Brock Chart, Salina graduate student, composer.

Tickets for “Late, A Cowboy Song” are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center, (785) 864-ARTS. Tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for children. KU student tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

The Department of Theatre is one of four departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies.

For more information on the Department of Theatre visit www.theatre.ku.edu. For more information on the University Theatre, visit www.KUTheatre.com. Follow KU Theatre on Twitter and Facebook.