A New Vision at the OKC Repertory Theatre

Kelly Kerwin takes the helm, looks ahead
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Photo by Edward T. Morris

Twenty years after founding Oklahoma City Repertory Theater and serving as Artistic Director, Donald Jordan announced in 2020 that he would be retiring. Following a nationwide search, rising star Kelly Kerwin was named as his replacement last May.

Kerwin has an extensive theater background, with a BFA from the Theatre School of DePaul and an MFA from Yale School of Drama in Dramaturgy/Dramatic Criticism. “The core is theater history and dramatic theory,” Kerwin said of her degree. “You learn about new play development, how to write and think critically, as well as the skills to work as an artistic leader for an organization, such as artistic director.”

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Photo by Edward T. Morris

At New York’s Public Theater, Kerwin was line producer for Girl From the North Country and producer from 2018-2021 of The Under the Radar Festival, a premier showcase for avant-garde theater from the U.S. and abroad, giving her the opportunity to work with talent from around the world.

Under her direction, OKC Rep is moving Oklahoma City’s theater scene in a more progressive, diverse direction unlike anything we’ve seen before. Kerwin said that she is hoping to produce “cutting edge work that speaks to the collective communities here in OKC, and presentations that bring in artists from around the country and around the globe. I’m hoping to give our audiences the experience of seeing something that they would usually never be able to see in Oklahoma City, and giving artists here opportunities to imagine how they can generate theatrical work.”

Becoming the new Artistic Director is the perfect chance for Kerwin to bring her vision to stage. “Adventurous works of theater can come from musicians, poets, and writers. You don’t have to be a trained playwright or a director. We can work together to find out how to make a story from beautiful ideas and other disciplines of art.”

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Performer Inua Ellams

The first two shows are in partnership with Oklahoma Contemporary in its theater space. An Evening with an Immigrant, Jan. 22-23, is an autobiographical solo piece by U.K.-based, Nigerian-born artist Inua Ellams, who draws on his own history of struggling with hostile immigration policies to speak directly to the audience. This two-night performance consists of poetry and personal stories set to music by DJ Sid Mercutio. An Evening with an Immigrant has received worldwide critical acclaim as well as the Human Rights Award from the human rights advocacy group, Liberty.

The innovative and exciting Piano Tales, written, composed, and performed by duo James and JJJJJerome, comes to the OKC Rep stage in early April. Piano Tales is a musical storytelling show, with James Monaco telling stories in rapid style as JJJJJerome Ellis performs original compositions on piano. Each night, audiences will get to choose which of the fictional tales are performed that evening, with no two stories repeating, meaning each performance will be different. Director Andrew Scoville and Production Designer Marika Kent will transform the theater space to make the experience completely unique.

Stay tuned—this May, OKC Rep will create a theatrical audio tour for groups of people to enjoy together. This will be commissioned by a few artists, both international and domestic, in collaboration with local artists to produce this tour specifically for Oklahoma City. This narrated walking experience will involve music, public art, and architecture, as well as stories incorporated for our city.

For more information on these upcoming shows, as well as special events happening throughout the upcoming season, visit okcrep.org.

Categories: Culture & Events, In The Magazine