January 6, 2016 – Giving opportunities to Kansas playwrights is the mission of Wichita’s Guinea Pig Lab Theatre, so it just makes sense that the fledgling company’s first full production stars Kansans, is directed by a Kansan, written by a Kansan – and oh, yeah, is set in Mulvane, Kansas. ‘f*sh,’ a new drama set during the dog days of a south central Kansas summer, is set to make its world premiere at 8 p.m. January 28, 29, and 30 on the stage of Wichita’s iconic Crown Uptown Theatre, 3207 E. Douglas. Tickets are on sale now.
A new drama by award-winning Wichita playwright Lisa Sillaway, follows a hot week in rural Kansas, as both temperatures and tempers rise at Diana’s childhood home. The three children of Burt and Wanda have come to help their parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and in doing so, rediscover exactly why they were happy to leave home in the first place. Wanda, a loving mom but passive aggressive, is eager to bring her family together and celebrate the marital milestone while Burt is more interested in planning for his upcoming fishing trip – and getting a few choice verbal jabs in at the kids. Diana’s saving grace during the week? Spending some time with her old high school boyfriend who has returned home and is eager to rekindle their relationship. But things like party preparation, family dinners, sharing a joint with grandma and even a little romance all abruptly come to an end with a tragedy – leaving the survivors to sort out their feelings and a few family secrets.
A graduate of Friends University, Sillaway is an established local writer who found success as a journalist, online content producer and advertising copywriter before returning to her first love, the theatre, when she began writing ‘f*sh,’ her first play in December 2013. In 2014, her piece ‘The Peacock’s War’ was the winner of the National Civil War Monologue Competition from Arena Stage in Washington DC, and her latest drama ‘blank’ had its debut in a showcase at The Hen and Chickens Theatre in London with help from members of the BBC Film Club.
A few months into her journey as a playwright, Sillaway said she became frustrated with the lack of opportunities locally for writers.
Wichita Community Theatre works with new playwrights and there is one contest associated with the University of Kansas, but that’s about it, she said. Sillaway added she very quickly got tired of looking for feedback and entering contests on the East Coast or in London and decided to start a theatre company based in Kansas that focused on Kansas playwrights. Thus the Guinea Pig Lab was created in November 2014 and has since produced several readings of new work, two playwriting contests, and is preparing to host a “Playwright Day” for area writers on January 30. ‘f*sh’ is its first full production.
To helm that production, the Guinea Pig Lab Board targeted Darian Leatherman, whose Midwest premiere of the musical ‘Heathers: The Musical’ was seen by several Board members this past summer, also at the Crown Uptown Theatre.
“It was a no-brainer,” said Sillaway. “We sat down to discuss who we wanted to direct the play and every single person at the table mentioned Darian. We were just fortunate that such a popular local director would take us on. We joke with her that she’s our young ‘hotshot,’ but it really is true.”
Leatherman attended Missouri State University, earning a B.F.A. in Acting in 2010. After graduating, she returned to her roots in Wichita, and has since worked to establish a solid base of relationships with local theatre organizations, especially in the areas of direction, performance, production stage management and hair/make-up design. Previous directing credits include: ‘Heathers: The Musical,’ ‘Glory Days,’ ‘Spring Awakening’ and she is slated to direct for the Guild Hall Players this summer. This is her first opportunity to direct a new script and work directly with a playwright.
“An opportunity like this – to take a brand new work and collaborate with so many wonderful people to make it come to life – is an absolute dream for any young artist. We are so lucky to have such a vibrant Arts Community here in Wichita, and I hope people will take advantage of this truly unique occasion,” said Leatherman.
Tickets to see the world premiere of ‘f*sh’ are on sale now at the Crown box office and online with instantseats.com. Tickets are $10 and seating is general admission.