Washburn University stages premiere of play

Topeka native Gary Jackson’s poem cycle "Missing You, Metropolis" won the prestigious Cave Canem Poetry Prize in 2009. Now his poems will come to life on stage at Washburn University through a collaboration of Washburn faculty members Tom Averill, Eric McHenry, Israel Wasserstein and Penny Weiner. Weiner directs the world premiere, which opens Feb. 15.

The poems in "Missing You, Metropolis" tell about coming of age as an African-American in Topeka, losing a sister and the suicide of a good friend. Through it all, the author’s love of comic books and superheroes provides a mythic framework and texture for the poems. On stage, the intersection of Magneto, Spider-Man and Juggernaut with the lives of Jackson, his friends and family is expressed through new art and music produced especially for this show.

Director Penny Weiner says the blend of poetry, theater, visual art and music is essential to relay the richness of this tale of reality, fantasy, love and loss. “Together with the actors, these elements bring Jackson’s beautiful, humorous and poignant poetry from page to stage,” she said.

Performances of Missing You, Metropolis are Feb. 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 24 at 2:00 p.m. in the Andrew & Georgia Neese Gray Theater on the Washburn campus. The poet, who now lives in Albuquerque, will attend the Feb. 22 and 23 performances. A reception and book signing will follow the Feb. 23 performance.

Visual artists who have created work for the stage adaptation include George Renault, Juliet Renault, Dane Shobe, Jessica Weiner and Will Willmott. Todd Schwartz is producing the visual effects and images, while Robert Baker and Michele Flanagan have composed and will perform the sound score.

The play includes graphic language about teenage sexual themes. General admission is $8. For more information, contact (785) 670-1639.

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