The latest troupe on the scene is FlyOver Productions, and the hunt for a venue in which to present The Family Flea, its Kansas City premiere, turned out to be less a deterrent than a stimulant. "I was working with friends some years back trying to put together a company and thinking of performance spaces when it came to me, 'We ought to do a show at a thrift store,'" says the show's author, Andy Garrison. Though the play won't be staged at the Salvation Army, its birthing reflects an unprecedented stretch of geography: FlyOver is based both here and in Denver, where the play received a staged reading in June.
"It's really the dumbest idea for starting a company, (but it's) truly intended to offer opportunities to theater artists in both markets," Garrison says. "When something's happening here, I do the legwork. When something's happening in Denver, it's my partner, Anna Hadzi, doing the legwork there." (Hadzi, however, cringes when she hears that Garrison has characterized the idea as "dumb," so Garrison calls back half an hour later to clarify: "Anna told me, 'You call the Pitch back and tell them the glass is half-full, not half-empty.'")
Garrison, an actor, director, and coach who opened the Actor Training Studio in 1998, says FlyOver hopes to launch its performers into bigger and brighter shows. "While it may be positive for Kansas City to have more Equity opportunities available than Denver or comparable cities," he says, "there is a distinct absence of theaters that serve as stepping-stones, where nonprofessional actors can make the transition from community to professional theater."
The Family Flea is about an eccentric family that operates a flea market on its front porch. "After I saw a woman on her front porch talking on the phone and it was 35 degrees out, that image stayed with me," Garrison says. "I put it away for three years then let Anna read it. Her reaction -- 'I think we ought to develop it' -- led to the staged reading at the Denver Civic Theatre." That production came off well enough to make it more fully realized in Kansas City.
The play has eight actors playing 10 characters; included in the plot is a member of the Russian mafia and a necklace made of alexandrite, a weird gem that changes colors depending on where it's worn. "The family doesn't have anything of value except this stone," Garrison says, promising that the story turns on so many secrets. Though the actors won't make money, the company might when the show completes its run: That's when all the items on stage will be sold to the highest bidder. Theater as an eBay auction? If the producers of Cats can sell pieces of that production's set, as they did September 16, why can't a struggling company that lives hand to mouth?