May 11, 2007
Steven Eubank — a theatrical force in the making
by David Ollington
In 2005, Steven Eubank moved from Kansas City to New York City and lived there for a month and a half. He’d planned to stay a half a year.
“It’s a large city, a metropolis, and I wanted to see if it had everything I wanted or needed to satisfy what I need from theatre,” said Eubank.
Part of that was to make connections and meet people, and to see a show a day, if possible. In the 45 days he was in New York City, Eubank managed to take in 52 productions.
He also saw the struggles of his friends as they sought a career in theatre. Observing those experiences — and it being wintertime — helped him decide to return to KC earlier than expected.
“Plus,” said Eubank, “I really hadn’t tapped into all the wonderful resources in Kansas City.”
Eubank graduated from Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) in 2002 with a BFA in musical theatre. With impressive speed, he founded Eubank Productions and began making a mark on the Kansas City theatrical scene as a director.
Seeking to be a director musical theatre rather than an actor was purposeful. Doing so, said Eubank, helps him dispel the “bad rap” musical theatre gets about being a “lesser form” of theater.
His production company has produced an array of cutting-edge works, including The Rocky Horror Show, The Last Five Years, Debbie Does Dallas, and a tender manifestation of Hedwig and the Angry Itch, all with Eubank, age 23, at the helm.
“They all share a quirkiness,” Eubank said of his choices of productions. “I like off-kilter type of energy, fresh and youth oriented.”
The local professional theatrical community has raised an eyebrow at this “wunderkind.” Both the Unicorn Theatre and the American Heartland Theatre have engaged him, not as the director he is, but as a choreographer. Hopefully, he will be allowed to direct productions on the stages of the professional, union theatres — his true destiny.
Eubank recently purchased a home near the Kansas City-Independence city limit An early priority was to devote a substantial chunk of the home’s space to a rehearsal studio, including a smooth, wooden floor, a wall of mirrors and a piano. Currently, the workspace houses set pieces for the upcoming Kansas City premiere of the Tim Acito musical Zanna, Don’t!
Eubank began producing his own works at an early age. He said he was drawn to early MGM musicals, “especially the Technicolor ones,” when he was a kid.
While still at the Paseo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, Eubank mounted a production of the show Ruthless. As a college student, he staged the musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Penn Valley Community College.
His supportive parents encouraged his artistic pursuits and now make up a significant part of the staff of Eubank Productions. Barbara Eubank serves as executive producer and Jeff Eubank builds scenery. He designed the set for Zanna, Don’t!
Eubank’s current “day” job is as a singer/dancer at Worlds of Fun. This is his second season performing at the Moulin Rouge at the theme park. Recently, during a Zanna, Don’t! rehearsal break, he qualified his decision to return to Worlds of Fun.
“I decided to work there once I found out who else was returning. If there is going to be professional work ethic at a theme park, I’ll be there,” said Eubank.
Eubank has a laugh containing the full sound of an impeccably trained singer. One could say his enthusiasm over newer stage material reflects his daily exposure to contemporary theatre when he was in New York.
“There are too many projects where the rights have just become available. I’ve been waiting for these shows to get in the public eye,” he said.
Immediately after Zanna, Don’t! opens, Eubank Productions will audition talent for their next venture, the camp musical version of the cult classic film Reefer Madness. A straight play about the Peanuts characters as adults, Dog Sees God, also wins status on Eubank’s “new favorites” list.
He not only chooses plays that look to the future, he chooses actors of nascent years. Because of the strong gay themes in Zanna Don’t! the cast will be performing short excerpt in gay bars. “
“We’ve always had a loyal following in that community and we do cater to that demographic, and want to put our productions before the public eye. It’s marketing!” said Eubank.
At one rehearsal, the actors attacked the aerobic choreography, sang and played the quick scenes, all without an indication of exhaustion. At first glance, the play expresses young love, magical fantasy and a prom at an alternative, gay-is-normal universe. Given the lightning speed of the production and the thrust of a couple of the songs, however, a subtler theme appears: time.
Aurelie Roque sings “I Ain’t Got Time,” the third number. (Pay attention to Roque — her voice could knock down a billboard.) Cuz you know life ain’t got enough of time,” she continues.
A roller coaster of a song, “Fast,” has the three members of the show’s ensemble, Spencer Brown, Rachel Mears and Tyler Parsons, spitting out word after word, image after image, about how fast we fall in love. Then the number repeats double time: Life is short, so love.
The forces at work indicate that Eubank stands at the beginning of a mountainous career. He may be the face of Kansas City theatre’s future. With some support, encouragement and an already large following, he has set the stage to begin his journey.
Eubank Productions in association with Rick Raven presents Zanna, Don’t!, opening Fri., May 11 thru May 27 at the Just Off Broadway Theatre, 31st and Wyandotte in Penn Valley Park. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. Go to www.eubankproductions.com or call the Central Ticket Office at 816-235-6222.
Eubank Productions will hold open call auditions for Reefer Madness by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney Sun., May 13, 6:30 p.m., at the Just Off Broadway Theatre. Be prepared to sing a verse and a chorus of a rock song (from the musical theatre genre or from popular culture) — no traditional musical theatre pieces please. A CD player and a keyboard will be provided — please bring recorded music or an accompanist. A brief jazz dance combination will be taught at the beginning of the call.
Callbacks will be held Sun., May 20. Reefer Madness will begin rehearsing June 3. Performances are currently scheduled for July 6 through July 21. Call 816-224-3004 for more information.
David Ollington can be contacted at Ollington@aol.com.
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