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: three for older students (junior high and high school) and adults, and three for younger audiences and families. The emphasis is often on new or recent works. Recently, the Coterie launched a series it calls The Coterie Ignites, which performs exclusively at night at venues other than the Coterie, targeting ages 17 to 21.
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, serving 82,000 per year. An milestone in 1995 was the award of prestigious Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Award, 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 the late 1980's and into the 1990's, the Coterie's world premieres included: Sheldon Harnick's Dragons, Edward Mast's Wolf Child: The Correction of Joseph as well as The Very First Family, Across the Plains, Nate the Great, Gatherings in Graveyards, Oz and numerous premieres from the Little House series. Further, the Coterie mounted the professional American premiere of Lord of the Flies in its Great Books/Banned Books season, and the first staging of the opera Green Eggs and Ham, after its concert premiere. Regional premieres have included Athol Fugard's My Children! My Africa! and Valley Song.
A MOVE TOWARDS NEW PLAY PREMIERES
In 1999, the Coterie world premiere commission of The Wrestling Season by Laurie Brooks went on to be produced around the country after it transferred to Kennedy Center for New Visions 2000: One Theatre World. The play was featured as the published play in American Theatre Magazine in November, 2000. Brooks has often been a playwright-in-residence over the years, premiering a number of works here.
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.
In 2004, Producing Artistic Director Jeff began the Coterie's Lab for New Family Musicals by working with Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty to create a Theatre for Young Audiences version of Seussical adapted from Broadway. It has since become one of the most produced plays in educational 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), and other works by Ahrens and Flaherty (Twice Upon a Time and a TYA version of Once On This Island). Click here to read KCUR's interview with Lynn Ahrens on this collaboration. Recently the theatre hosted Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire to fashion a new version of Shrek the Musical.
In addition, the mainstage season includes the Young Playwrights' Festival, which features the works of teen playwrights fostered through the Young Playwrights' Roundtable, facilitated by Artistic Director Church. Click here to read Dramatic Publishing's interview with Jeff Church about this program.