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In Search of the Beat, KU Theatre Goes "Head Over Heels"

Friday, October 15, 2021

LAWRENCE — Theatregoers will be dancing in their seats to songs by The Go-Go’s during a new production opening Oct. 22 at the University of Kansas. The jukebox musical “Head Over Heels” includes “We Got the Beat,” “Vacation,” “Our Lips are Sealed” and the song that serves as the title, among others. The comedy is based on the 16th century story “The Arcadia” by Sir Philip Sidney.

illustration of four hands touching a heart wearing a crownConceived and written by Jeff Whitty and adapted by James Magruder, the University Theatre’s production of “Head Over Heels” is guest-directed and choreographed by Nakeisha Daniel, a freelance director, actor, choreographer and assistant professor of African American theatre and performance at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. Live performances will take place Oct. 22-24 and Oct. 29-31 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre at Murphy Hall. Purchase tickets online at kutheatre.com, by calling 785-864-3982, or at the box office. Per KU guidelines, masks are required for audience members.

"This progressive love story is a delightful blend of heightened language with '80s pop,” Daniel said, adding it’s only the second show she’s directed in the pandemic. “The cast is fantastic, and the design team did an incredible job creating a world of wonder. I hope the audience rocks out in their seats."

Recognizing a need to feel excited about life and feel accepted in this moment in time, Daniel shared her hope that “Head Over Heels” not only entertains but also opens the door for audience members to reflect on who they are and stay open to new ideas. Together the characters in the show discover the answer to their woes lies in love, acceptance and dancing to the rhythm of one’s own heart, she said.

portrait of a woman sitting on a couch with her legs crossed. She holds the arm of the couch and looks directly at the cameraBorn and raised in Atlanta, Daniel earned a bachelor's of fine arts in musical theater, a master's of fine arts in acting from Penn State University and furthered her studies in London and Canada. She served as the first-ever guest artist in residence at the Citadel Military College of South Carolina and is a 2018 Eugene O’Neill Theater Center Cabaret and Performance Fellow. She has partnered with a variety of organizations, including The Alliance Theater Center, The Children’s Arts Guild (NYC), TYA USA, Charleston Gaillard Center, Engaging Creative Minds, and presented at SXSW ED Virtual Conference. Daniel is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association.

The creative team is rounded out by Ryan McCall, lecturer and musical director/accompanist for the Department of Theatre & Dance, as the musical director; Lindsay Webster, a master's of fine arts student, as scenic designer; John Dylon Rohr, a master's of fine arts student, as costume designer; Ann Sitzman, a KU staff member and the department’s technical coordinator, as lighting designer; Darci Jens Fulcher, visiting assistant professor in theatre & dance, as intimacy consultant; and Bailey Kirk, a master's of fine arts candidate at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, as stage manager.

“Head Over Heels” cast members are Jake Gillespie, a guest artist and recent KU graduate from Lawrence, as Basilius; Paul-Michael A. Johnson, senior in theatre performance, as Musidorus; Rachel Meyer, a junior in theatre performance from Topeka, as Mopsa; Ella Galbraith, a senior in theatre performance from Andale, as Pamela; Charles Nordquist, a junior in theatre performance from Marion, as Pythio; Olly Mitchell, a first-year student in theatre culture and society from Maize, as Philoclea; Anna Duntz, a junior in anthropology from Wichita, as Gynecia; and Dakota Morgan, a sophomore in Slavic languages & literatures and anthropology from Rose Hill, as Dametas, as well as ensemble members Yasmin Armendariz, a first-year student in theatre performance from Kansas City; Johnny Dinh Phan, a junior in biochemistry and dance from Overland Park; Jennifer Egley, a senior in dance from St. Louis; Aubrey Lape-Brinkman, a sophomore in exercise science from Papillion, Nebraska; Katherine Leverenz, a first-year student in behavioral neuroscience from Houston; Daniela Saljanin, a junior in political science and Legal Education Accelerated Degree (LEAD) from Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey; Basia Schendzielos, a sophomore in French and business from Bellevue, Nebraska; and Cicely Stevenson, a senior in theatre performance and dance from Nauvoo, Illinois. Additionally, the musicians accompanying the performances are McCall, on piano and conducting; A.J. Bonci, on guitar; Clark Russell, on bass; and Nick Urbom, on drums.  

The University Theatre is a production division of the University of Kansas’ Department of Theatre & Dance, offering six public productions throughout the academic year. The University Theatre is funded in part by KU Student Senate fees, with support from Truity Credit Union.

The Department of Theatre & Dance is one of three departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts & 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 & Dance, visit theatredance.ku.edu. For the most recent updates on KU Theatre & Dance public performances, visit kutheatre.com.

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