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An Interview with playwright Tom Dudzick

It is a unique and exciting opportunity for any aspiring writer to have a conversation with a professional writer about the craft. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Dudzick, the playwright of City Theatre of Independence’s upcoming production Miracle on South Division Street.

LIZZIE: Can you describe your creative process?

TOM: First, I think of a subject I’d love to write about. Then, I come up with a way that characters on a stage could physicalize that subject. Then I check in with my “How to Write a Play” books and follow all their rules. …That’s basically it. The rest is just gruntwork.

LIZZIE: How long does it usually take you to write a play?

TOM: It varies, of course. Three months to a year or more for a rehearsable first draft. I always tell myself that with my next play I’m going to write down what day I started and finished so the next time someone asks me, I’ll know. But then I forget to do that.

LIZZIE: What do you do to help keep you focused and motivated when working on a writing project?

TOM: I’m very lucky. The fun of writing a play is motivation enough. I don’t need anything external. The vision of that end result, which is my characters on a stage telling my story – that’s what drives me.

LIZZIE: What is it like getting to see your writing come to life on stage?

TOM: When it goes well, it is thoroughly satisfying. It’s the big payoff of my childhood desire – to make people laugh. What could feel better?

LIZZIE: What do you hope to gain from each new project?

TOM: Productions, productions, productions. Because those are what affords me the freedom to keep doing what I love. I know as an artist I’m supposed to be suffering, but very little suffering goes on when I’m writing. I’m weird that way.

LIZZIE: What was the inspiration behind Miracle on South Division Street?

TOM: The inspiration was my fascination with the story. The story that a barber believed he was visited by the Blessed Mother, was so moved by this “miracle” that he had a shrine built! And that it happened in my neighborhood, right across the street! I used to go to the man for haircuts. He only charged 25 cents. (There’s your miracle right there!) The inspiration was the burning desire to somehow get this improbable story onto a stage.

LIZZIE: If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring playwrights, what would it be?

TOM: Keep submitting your play, to any venue. Get it read, get it seen. See it in front of an audience and learn from it. Why did this section not work? Why did that section work so well? Get involved in your theatre community. And educate yourself. Keep reading those “How to Write a Play” books.

LIZZIE: In your opinion, what is the most important skill a playwright could have?

TOM: A willingness, nay, a desire to rewrite. As is often said, “Plays aren’t written, they’re rewritten.”

Thank you, Tom, for allowing me to pick your brain.

City Theatre of Independence’s production of Tom Dudzick’s play Miracle on South Division Street runs January 6th through January 15th, 2023 at the Roger T. Sermon Center.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at:


City Theatre of Independence presents:
DEATHTRAP by Ira Levin

It’s autumn, which means the media is full of the spooky and suspenseful. City Theatre of Independence is excited to present audiences with the hit thriller, Deathtrap by Ira Levin.

Deathtrap is about a successful playwright, Sidney Bruhl, struggling to pen his next great play. He is contacted by aspiring writer, Clifford Anderson, who may have just written the next smash hit. Professional jealousy, betrayal, and murder plots will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Things are not as they seem, and trust no one.

Deathtrap is the record holder as the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway. It was successfully adapted for the screen for the 1982 film which featured Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve as Sidney Bruhl and Clifford Anderson.

City Theatre of Independence’s production of Deathtrap, directed by Taylor Neill, runs November 4th-13th at the Roger T. Sermon Center and features the talents of:

  • Kyle Tichenor as Sidney Bruhl
  • Taylor Neill as Myra Bruhl
  • Sam Stapp as Clifford Anderson
  • Wendy Morris as Helga ten Dorp
  • Josh Jackson as Porter Milgrim


Tickets can be purchased in advance at:

‘Tis the Season to be Spooky!

Autumn is upon us and with the changing of the leaves comes all the fall activities. Apple picking, ghost tours, taking the kids to the pumpkin patch…there’s just so much fun to be had this time of year. City Theatre of Independence is proud to be participating in not one, but TWO Halloween community events: Enchanted Forest and a Haunted House attraction in partnership with the Cable Dahmer Arena.

Enchanted Forest is a non-scary, family friendly Halloween event for children of all ages held at the George Owens Nature Park. Enchanted Forest is sponsored by The Powerhouse Theatre Foundation and Independence Parks and Recreation. This event will be held October 21-22  and October 28-29. Gates open at 7:00pm and everyone arriving by 9:00pm will be admitted. Tickets are $3 per person at the gate. Thursday, October 20th, is Special Friends Night. This is a night dedicated to children with special needs. This year, Enchanted Forest is celebrating its 30th anniversary. For more information on Enchanted Forest please call (816) 325-7115 or (816) 325-7370.

City Theatre of Independence is proud to announce a new community partnership with the Cable Dahmer Arena in presenting a Haunted House attraction. This free community event will be held at the Cable Dahmer Arena (19100 E Valley View Pkwy, Independence, MO. 64055) on October 20th from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. The theme is “Victorian Gothic” and will feature familiar characters from classic gothic horror novels with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Red Death” as the underlying story. We still have several roles in this haunted attraction available. If you are interested in performing as one of our  characters please submit this form:

Anyone interested in helping with technical support can email Lizzie DeShaw at .

We hope you’ll join us at one (or both) of our community Halloween events this year.

Stay spooky, my friends!

Hannah Williams

Understudies: The Unsung Heroes of the Theatre

Urinetown director, Coralyn Martin, has created an ensemble cast of understudy actors who will perform as a principal role in one performance each during the run of the production. I have asked understudy actress, Hannah Williiams, to speak on her experience with this unique production.

What role(s) are you an understudy for?

HANNAH: I am the understudy for Penelope Pennywise, which has been a role that I have wanted to perform since I was in the ensemble of this show in high school over 13 years ago. I am so thrilled to get to go on as this character.

What challenges have you faced in learning two roles for this production?

HANNAH: This is the first time that I have been an understudy, so it has been a challenge from the beginning, but an enjoyable one. I would say the biggest challenge has been making sure I know where I need to be and when. Learning lines is always kind of routine, you drill them until you can’t help but know them. But when you have to remember two sets of blocking, it can get tricky. Particularly when you don’t really get to run your understudy blocking as much during rehearsals.

Can you share a funny story and/or particularly fond memory you’ve made in this experience?

HANNAH: There are many small moments over the whole process of the show that I will hold very close to my heart. This is the first musical I have been able to do in close to 8 years, and it has been the most fun I’ve had in those 8 years. I believe I have made some lifelong friends. The people in this cast, and our incredible director and vocal director, have been such a joy to work with and are just so TALENTED. I think the memory that sticks out most to me would be callbacks, which most of the cast were invited to. I personally didn’t know anyone there at the time. During the callbacks everyone was incredibly welcoming and encouraging to each other. We would cheer for and laugh at each other, there was sharing of cough drops, and commiserating about how challenging certain parts were. There was no animosity or sense of competition, we were just all there to have fun. All of us just wanted to put on a great show, something that I believe we have definitely accomplished.

When can audiences see you as Penelope Pennywise?

HANNAH: I go on as Penelope Pennywise on Saturday September 17th. The show is going to be fantastic any night you come. Cora Hoaglin as Penelope Pennywise is hilarious, and special shout out to the talented Aaron Hoffman for coming into the show directly from Lil’ Abner to be my understudy for Senator Fipp so I can go on as Penelope Pennywise.

Urinetown opens this Friday, September 9th, at the Roger T. Sermon Center. Tickets can be purchased in advance at:

Come back on different nights to see these talented understudies portray their principal roles.

Malthusianism and Epic Theatre Urinetown as a Prime Example

What is Urinetown?
Urinetown is here!
It’s the “town” wherever
People learn to live in fear

– Lyrics from What is Urinetown

What is Urinetown? Just a silly, nonsensical musical, or is it something much more complex than that? 

Urinetown explores the economic philosophy of a Malthusian society. Malthusian theory, in simple terms, is an economic theory that explains human population grows at a significantly more rapid rate than the production of necessary resources and that the increase of population will decline the quality of human life. We see a perfect example of a Malthusian society in the setting of Urinetown. The story is set in a dystopian future where a water shortage has caused a worldwide crisis. To combat the minute availability of this critical resource, people must pay a fee to use public facilities. This has caused a rift in the socioeconomic structure of society. The rich can obviously afford to use the bathroom whenever the need arises, whereas the poor have to save every last penny in order to tend to their basic human needs. 

Urinetown is also an example of Brechtian “epic theatre.” The Brechtian technique features narrators who often “break the fourth wall” during the story as a way to force the audience to become conscious of the fact that they are watching a play. Brechtian epic theatre is used to cause audiences to think and reflect. The characters of Officer Lockstock and Little Sally are the narrators of Urinetown and have moments where they “break the fourth wall” to engage with the audience.

Urinetown also parodies several well-known musicals. The show features a pair of star-crossed lovers that are clearly a spoof of Tony and Maria from West Side Story. Moments of the rebellion parody Les Miserables and the plot is a clear parody of The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, the “father” of Brechtian epic theatre. 

Urinetown is a thought-provoking, audience engaging experience under the guise of a silly, satirical musical. 

Urinetown runs September 9th-18th at the Roger T. Sermon Center. Tickets can be purchased in advance through this link-

A Magical, Musical Night at the Tonys City Theatre of Independence Angel Donor Gala

City Theatre of Independence is hosting our traditional end of the year celebration on Saturday, July 23rd, 2022. In years past this event has brought together our membership, supporters and members of the community to celebrate the closing of a season and the beginning of the next. This year’s celebration has been elevated to a gala with an additional purpose.

The Angel Donor Campaign

Like so many others, City Theatre has suffered these past two years with shrinking audiences due to the pandemic. Therefore, we cannot continue to rely on ticket sales alone to offset our budget for the 2022-23 season. Our finance committee has carefully assessed our requirements and we need to raise $10,000 for the operating budget. We have managed to subsist through the patronage of those of you who attend our shows, but now we must take the next steps to ensure our future in the community.

The Details

The gala will be held at the Roger T. Sermon Center, Saturday, July 23, 6:00 to 10:00 pm. and will feature drinks, a catered dinner, musical entertainment and a silent auction. Dress code is black tie optional.

Due to the generosity of Salvatore’s Italian Restaurant,  a percentage of your $25 ticket purchase or $250 table purchase will go directly to the Angel Fund. Salvatore’s is contributing a significant discount on dinner, drinks, desert and the accouterments for a fabulous night! Huzzah! We are so grateful for Salvatore’s donation.

The Silent Auction

Our Gala Fundraising committee is off to a great start collecting silent auction items, but we need more! Do you work or own a business that can contribute a service, a gift certificate, coupons, travel, golf, works of art, spa days, etc?  Click here for inspiration on what to donate from ideas culminated by Qgive, a leader in providing fundraising support for non-profits.

We would love to add your name and/or company donation to the Angel Donor Campaign. We will be happy to pick up your silent auction item. Contact us at (816) 370-6654 or email to contribute funds or donate silent auction items.

The Gala, A Magical, Musical Night at the Tonys

CTI member, Julie McDaniel, has put together a Broadway show tune stage show with theme of  A Magical, Musical Night at the Tonys. Greg Lane will host as Emcee and the show will feature the talents of Melissa Davis, Robert Ritter, Erik Dancy, Laura Barge, Georgia Barge, Michelle Matherly, and Wendy Bross.

Take a sneak peak of the musical line-up by clicking here.

We will also be introducing our 2022-2023 season’s directors as well as presenting short scene selections from each show.

The Wrap Up

Through the years City Theatre has become more than just a playhouse, we have become a gathering place for people of various backgrounds and experiences to join in friendship and the mutual goal of making our community a better place. We need your help in continuing to bring you quality entertainment and special events at an affordable price.

Gala Tickets can be purchased through this link:

Please donate whatever you can as every dime counts. Thank you for your continued patronage that will support CTI as we look forward to a “new normal” in 2022-23. Contact us at (816) 370-6654 or email

City Theatre of Independence Opening 2022-2023 Season with Urinetown – The Musical

City Theatre of Independence is opening the 2022-2023 season with the musical comedy, Urinetown. Urinetown is a satirical comedy about politicism, capitalism, populism and corporate mismanagement. The musical premiered in 2001 with music by Mark Hollman and book by Greg Kotis.

The story takes place in a dystopian society that is suffering from a water shortage. Due to this shortage, private amenities are outlawed and every citizen must pay a fee to use public toilets. The public toilets are owned by the corrupt megacorporation “Urine Good Company” or “UGC.” Hero of the story, Bobby Strong, recognizes the injustices perpetuated by this cooperation and leads the “pee-for-free” rebellion.

Auditions for Urinetown are June 27th, 28th, and 29th at the Roger T. Sermon Center with callbacks by invitation on July 2nd.
Additional audition information can be found here-


Male Roles

  • Officer Lockstock – The principal narrator, a policeman in charge of finding guilty pee-ers
  • Bobby Strong – The dashing young “every man” who works for Miss Pennywise as the Assistant Custodian at the poorest urinal in town. Also the male romantic lead who falls in love with Hope Cladwell and starts the revolution
  • Dr. Billeaux – A scientist for Urine Good Company
  • Senator Fipp – A corrupt politician in Cladwell’s pocket. He is harboring a surprising secret
  • Mr. McQueen – Cladwell’s assistant. A man who will do anything to save himself
  • Officer Barrel – Lockstock’s partener. He harbors a surprising secret
  • Joseph “old Man” Strong – Bobby Stong’s father. His rebellious actions get him sent to “Urinetown”
  • Tiny Tom – A confused “man-boy”
  • Caldwell B. Cladwell – The villain of the story and the owner of Urine Good Company. A moneygrabber who exploits the poor
  • Hot Blades Harry – A dangerous and unpredictable rebel
  • Robby the Stockfish – A poor rebel
  • Billy Boy Bill – A poor rebel


Female Roles

  • Penelope Pennywise – The tough, jaded warden of the poorest urinal in town. She harbors a surprising secret
  • Little Sally – A precocious street urchin and co-narrator of the story
  • Hope Cladwell – Caldwell B. Cladwell’s daughter who has just been hired at Urine Good Company. The female romantic lead
  • Soupy Sue – An affectionate member of the gang
  • Little Becky Two-shoes – A pregnant woman
  • Josephine “ma” Strong – Bobby Strong’s mother
  • Mrs. Millennium – An office worker who inspires to be Caldwell B. Cladwell’s head secretary

Shakespeare Under the Stars – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

City Theatre of Independence in conjunction with the Independence Square Association presents its first ever live reader’s theatre Shakespeare production.
By Lizzie DeShaw

The course of true love never did run smooth. – A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

This summer, City Theatre of Independence is producing an outdoor reader’s theatre production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This show, however, is probably very different from what you may be used to seeing. Each actor will be portraying multiple characters. There is no set and the costume pieces are minimalistic. The script is an original adaptation by CTI members Lynnae Andersen and Lizzie DeShaw. The original story and its Shakespearean language are still intact, but Lynnae and Lizzie have added modern dialogue throughout and  have given the character “Puck” an important job as narrator. Lynnae Andersen describes the adaptation as “an irreverent, interactive reader’s theatre presentation.”

Interactive? Yes! The audience will be part of the play. Audience members are encouraged to arrive at the show dressed as fairies. The audience, or “fairy court” as they will be called, will be asked to sing and cheer throughout the course of the play. A few audience members will be selected to come up and act alongside the actors.

The play will be performed three different nights throughout the summer: June 17th, July 15th and August 19th. Performances will be held outdoors at the Liberty Lounge on the Independence Square at 7:30pm. Admission is free, but donations will be graciously accepted. Bring a lawn chair and a picnic to enjoy. Photos and videos are encouraged! Feel free to upload any photo or video to social media using the hashtag #CTIShakes.

Meet your playwrights!

Lynnae Andersen – As a junior in high school, Lynnae was mentored by a theatre teacher who saw directorial talents within her. In college, she minored in dramatic productions, which required directing her own show and assistant directing a major campus production. Her college mentor, Jeffrey Miller, created his own script for “The Mystery of the Yellow Room” by Gaston Leroux. After teaching theatre for two years at a private school in Independence, she was inspired by Miller and wrote her own script based on her favorite book, “The Wizard of Oz”, which was produced by the school in 2015. That same year, Lynnae was introduced to City Theatre of Independence where she has been involved as a volunteer, actor, and director in around a dozen shows. She hopes to write and adapt more stories for the stage in the future!

Lizzie DeShaw – Lizzie has been acting on stage since she was ten years old. She credits the 1990’s children’s television series Wishbone as her first introduction to Shakespeare. Since then, she has always loved Shakespeare’s work. As a teenager, Lizzie read Shakespeare’s plays for her own enjoyment and had the privilege of playing Beatrice in her high school’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” In college, she played a spirit in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” under the direction of her acting professor, John Wilson. She believes John’s own enthusiasm for Shakespeare solidified her passion for performing the classic playwright’s work. This is Lizzie’s first time writing a play and she is so thankful to have such an incredible co-playwright by her side. She hopes that this play will be the first of many Shakespeare adaptations she will write.

Join us June 17th, July 15th, and August 19th at the Liberty Lounge at 7:30pm for a silly Shakespearean evening. 

The Liberty Lounge
110 S Liberty St
Independence, MO. 64050

Every Hero Needs a Sidekick

An Interview With Alex West as Sancho Panza
By Lizzie DeShaw

Alex West is playing Sancho Panza in City Theatre of Independence’s production of Man of La Mancha. I have asked him to answer some questions about the show and his character.

LIZZIE: Tell me about yourself. What is your background in theatre?

ALEX: Way back in the 1970’s I got my start with music with the Independence Youth Choir. My first musical was ‘Teen!’ at Bridger Junior High. I studied theatre at H.S. Truman High School with Kat Tucker and voice with Millicent Daughtery at Music/Arts Institute. My first love is opera. I studied vocal performance after high school at the UMKC Conservatory of Music. Unfortunately, I found out quickly that I don’t have the temperament to sing professionally. So I moved to the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater to study theatre. After college, I’ve created theatre companies, written murder mysteries, acted, and performed with Full Frontal Comedy improv troupe.

LIZZIE: Who is Sancho Panza?

ALEX: In many ways, Sancho Panza is the ‘everyman’ of Cervantes’ works about Don Quixote. Sancho is the common in everyday life. A person that almost creates the humanitarian center between all the archetypal characters in these stories.
He is a peasant servant in the house of Alonso Quijana. He could be following Quijana (as Don Quixote) for adventure, or to watch after his master as he goes mad, or maybe just to get away from his wife. Possibly it’s a mixture of all three. But what the audience sees is a man who espouses ‘common’ wisdom, excitement for the fantastic, and skepticism for the surreal. He is a moral center that characters like Antonia, Doctor Carrasco, and the innkeeper’s wife can be judged against.

LIZZIE: It’s my understanding that Sancho Panza is a dream role for you. What has it been like getting to fulfill that dream?

ALEX: It has been an absolute treat. It is so rewarding to get to perform a character that really stretches the actor’s abilities and skills. Sancho Panza is the clown of the show. He has some of the most compassionate lines and some of the most difficult music. Sancho gets to sing those elements that just ‘don’t fit’ with other characters. He sings everything from the recitative with ‘The Missive’ to the patter song with ‘a Little Gossip’.
And Sancho is so broadly written that it can be performed by almost anyone that falls in that tenor range, from Mandy Patinkin to James Coco (my favorite!).

LIZZIE: Tell me about your experience with rehearsing Man of La Mancha.

ALEX: It’s a physically demanding show. If it’s not a dance scene, it’s a fight scene. If it’s not a fight scene, it’s a reflective moment between just a few characters. There’s a song, usually being earnestly belted, every few minutes. You have to go from quiet introspection to singing high A’s and B’s within seconds of each other.
I’ve met few directors like David Rogers that really understand how difficult that is and can adequately prepare the cast for those rigors.
On top of that, we truly lucked out in the casting department. This cast is phenomenal. There are so many strong voices and dynamic actors.

LIZZIE: In your opinion, what about Man of La Mancha has made it such a beloved show? What do you hope the audience will take away from the story?

ALEX: The books that Man of La Mancha are based on are some of the most popular and best sold works in history. Some estimates suggest that Miguel de Cervantes’ The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is, besides the Bible, the best selling book of all time. It was the first major work written in what we know as ‘modern’ Spanish (also the first major work written in ‘modern’ Spanish to be plagiarized). Most of the 400 first edition printings of the book were sent to the ‘New World’ in 1605. Some even found their way to the Inca Empire. Needless to say, it was hugely popular from the first printing. And it is a satire, poking fun at the nostalgia of the chivalric age in the face of worldwide exploration and conquest, and the barbary that entailed. To say that the political climate between 1965 (when Dale Wasserman, Mitch Leigh, and Joe Darion wrote the musical) and 1972 (when Peter O’Toole, Sophia Lauren, and James Coco starred in the movie) was similar to the idea of Spanish chivalry in the late 16th and early 17th century would not be a huge stretch. We were in the midst of the Vietnam war, civil strife was rampant, and people were looking anywhere for distraction.
And, honestly, it’s not dissimilar to the times we live in now.

LIZZIE: Thank you so much for chatting with me, Alex. Break a leg on your upcoming performances!

Man of La Mancha runs June 3-5 and June 10-12 at the Roger T. Sermon Center Powerhouse Theatre. Tickets can be purchased in advance by following this link

The Impossible Dream

This is my quest to follow that star… no matter how hopeless…no matter how far… – Lyrics from “The Impossible Dream”

“The Impossible Dream” is the most popular and recognizable song from Man of La Mancha. The song is at first sung by the character of Don Quixote in response to Aldonza’s question about what Quixote means by “following the quest.” The song is reprised three times. In the song, Don Quixote explains why he did all he did and what the purpose of his quest was:

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable for
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest, to follow that star
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
To fight for the right, without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell for a Heavenly cause
And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

The story of Don Quixote has held up over time because I think we can all relate in some way to his quest. Aren’t we all dreaming of achieving our goals? It sounds cliche to say “nothing is impossible if you just believe,” but isn’t it true? We are all capable of great things. No matter our circumstances in life, we each have something to contribute to make the world a better place.

What is your unreachable star? Who is your unbeatable foe? Are you willing to go to places beyond your comfort and slay the obstacles in your way? Allow the epic story of Don Quixote be your inspiration. Even if you are “covered with scars,” you can still strive with your last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable star. You are capable of achieving the impossible dream.

Our production’s Don Quixote/ Miguel de Cervantes will be played by Richard Gills. Listen to the 1972 film version of the song “The Impossible Dream” here: Man of La Mancha (1972) – The Impossible Dream Scene (6/9) | Movieclips