The Coterie, a professional Equity theatre, is among the top five theatres serving families and young audiences in the United States, according to TIME magazine: "groundbreaking... one of the nation's most respected." Travel+Leisure magazine's top ten list of children's theatres described the Coterie as "a theatre that resolutely refuses to talk down to its audience."
The mainstage season consists of six full productions with something for every age. The emphasis is often on new or recent works.
Through ingenious programming, the Coterie plays a vital role in the greater Kansas City area developing new generations of audiences for the performing arts with plays that reach a variety of age groups. In 1995, the prestigious Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Award was given to the theatre for its world premiere of Alicia in Wonder Tierra, a great success for the theatre involving actors in the Latino community in that production and many others. In 1999, the Coterie world premiere commission of The Wrestling Season by Laurie Brooks went on to be produced around the country after it was presented at Kennedy Center for New Visions 2000: One Theatre World. The play was featured as the published play in American Theatre Magazine in November, 2000.
Several of the Coterie's premieres were developed at the Kennedy Center's New Vision/New Voices new play festival and at NYU's Educational Theatre Program at Provincetown Playhouse. A listing of the theatre's many commission and world premieres can be found in our Production History. Also see The Coterie's Lab for New Family Musicals section below.
In the fall of 2002, The Coterie underwent a tremendous renovation of its uniquely intimate facility. This renovation added a kinetic new lobby, a theatre lab for onsite classes, and an improved stage. The Coterie believes innovative sets, staging, set design, lighting and costuming allow children to visualize life in unique and personal ways. Shortly after this, the Coterie purchased new seating with a distinctive color scheme. We've continued our practice of seating young children on the floor for our elementary and family productions, for an up close and personal theatre experience. For our preteen and young adult productions, every audience member has a traditional theatre seat.
In 2004, Producing Artistic Director Jeff Church began The Coterie's Lab for New Family Musicals working with Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty to create a Theatre for Young Audiences version of Seussical adapted from the Broadway full-length. It has since become one of the most produced plays for eduational theatre in United States. The Coterie’s Lab for New Family Musicals has hosted new work by musical theatre artists Stephen Schwartz (Geppetto & Son), Willie and Rob Reale (The Dinosaur Musical), Harry Connick Jr. (The Happy Elf), Douglas Parker and Denver Casado (Life on the Mississippi), Henry Krieger and Bill Russell (Lucky Duck), and other works by Ahrens and Flaherty (Twice Upon a Time and Once On This Island). Recently the theatre hosted Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire to fashion a new version of Shrek the Musical.
Download a Lab for New Family Musicals Fact Sheet: PDF
The Dramatic Health Education Project: STDs/HIV is a collaborative program between The Coterie, UMKC Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing & Health Studies, and the University of Kansas School of Nursing. Professional actors and health professional students present hard-hitting monologues about the lives of HIV positive teenagers, followed by an intensive question and answer period. The program, free of charge, reaches between 8,000-10,000 annually. View a video of our powerful STD/HIV project in action!
Reaching the Write Minds is a unique dramatic writing program which gives a voice to emerging teen playwrights. It was created by Coterie artistic director Jeff Church when he was playwright in residence at the Kennedy Center. Schools participating in the program select nearly 400 students per year for the specialized, dramatic writing sessions, taught by professional playwrights. Following the in-school workshops, selected students continue on (free of charge) to the Young Playwrights' Roundtable. Each spring, The Coterie professionally stages respresentative work from the Roundtable members in its annual Young Playwrights' Festival. Each program is a powerful example of how The Coterie profoundly enriches children's lives.
THE COTERIE Acts is our arts education component offering a variety of theatre classes during the school year at MCC-Longview Campus in Lee's Summit, Miller-Marley School of Dance and Voice in Overland Park, Park Hill Community Education Center in the Northland, and in Crown Center. The Coterie offers summer camp classes at The Pembroke Hill School near the Plaza, Liberty Community Center in Liberty, Park Hill Community Education Center in the Northland, MCC-Longview Campus in Lee's Summit, and Miller-Marley School of Dance and Voice in Overland Park. The Coterie's Master Class in Acting, taught by Nancy Marcy, Jeanne Averill, and Kris Stoker, and Master Class in Comedy, taught by Coterie Education Director Amanda Kibler, continue to attract many of the most talented young adults in the city for the quality instruction they receive. Master Class enrollment is by invitation only.
Project Pride is a group of LGBTQ and straight allied teens creating theatre that gives voice to their experiences, culminating in a production that challenges the assumptions and celebrates the diversity of the participants and audience.
In this annual project, the troupe meets for four months to develop and create a unique theatre piece exploring and celebrating what it means to be an LGBTQ or straight allied teen in the Kansas City area.
The Coterie's outreach can also be seen in the collaborative partnerships that reflect and serve the Kansas City community, both in Missouri and Kansas. Examples include Carlyle Brown's Buffalo Hair, which merges the histories of the Buffalo Soldiers and Native Americans and brought these communities together under one roof. For The Wrestling Season, the Metropolitan Organzation to Combat Sexual Assault (MOCSA) provided valuable pre-performance workshops. Frankenstein's education partner was the Midwest Bioethics Center, delving into science and ethical issues raised in the play. The Coterie explores "real life" issues in a manner that facilitates dialogue between generations.
Other partnerships at The Coterie include a long-standing relationship with the MFA Theatre Training Program at UMKC. Actors and designers work at The Coterie in their final years of training, marking their professional debut to the community. In addition, acting apprenticeships are offered to five to eight elementary, middle and high school-age students throughout the year, allowing them to act alongside professional actors.