Ghost Light: A Haunted Night of Songs and Stories from KC’s Cultural Crossroads returns after sold-out performances in its debut last season. This hybrid concert and ghost-story event weaves together local storytellers and musicians to share tales from KC’s cultural crossroads, under the stars on the south lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
New this year in the lineup is Latinx rock’n’rollers Enrique Chi and Juan-Carlos Chaurand of Making Movies as featured performers each night! Performances sold out quickly last year for this limited engagement.
This year's authors include: Tessa Gratton (Assoc. Dir., Madcap Retreats, author of Blood Journal series and Gods of New Asgard series), Huascar Medina (Poet Laureate of Kansas, author of Un Mango Grows in Kansas, How to Hang the Moon), Natalie Parker (editor and author of Seafire trilogy), and Vi Tran (playwright/composer/performer, The Butcher’s Son, The Wind in the Willows).
We caught up with Tessa Gratton and Natalie Parker, authors of "The Cemetery Gate." Tessa identifies as pan/nonbinary, her pronouns are she/her. Natalie is queer and her pronouns are she/her.
Are you natives of Kansas City?
Tessa and Natalie: Both of us are from Navy families, and we've lived all over the world. But Tessa primarily grew up in Kansas City, living on the KS side and going to high school on the MO side, where she learned to be a huge theater nerd. Natalie's family is from Mississippi, but she moved to KS with Tessa after they both were in graduate school and has been a resident since 2005.
We live in Lawrence these days, because Tessa graduated from KU and has always loved living on the edge of the prairie. The unending, gothic nature of the landscape helped inspire our story for Ghost Light.
How did you become involved with Ghost Light and what is your contribution, each, as writers?
Last year Tessa was invited to write a story for Ghost Light, because she's published young adult horror novels in the past, but her schedule conflicted. This year Kansas City Repertory Theatre Artistic Director Stuart Carden asked if we'd both like to write. We've talked about co-writing in the past, and this was a perfect opportunity to dig into something we both love (ghost stories) and be able to highlight parts of our own identity as queer people in KS.
We brainstormed our favorite kinds of scary stories, and how we might change them to make them about queerness in some way. We wanted the story to be creepy and beautiful, maybe with a little bit of heartache but not tragedy. There's enough tragedy for queer children already. Natalie loved the idea of writing something about ghosts, and Tessa has been obsessed with creepy cemeteries for most of her life. Eventually we looked up local ghosts of Lawrnece and came across the history of Stull Cemetery, Tessa remembered hearing about it all the way back when she was a student at KU. Those stories brought together both of our inspirations, so that's how we came up with "The Cemetery Gate".
Briefly, your backgrounds in theatre writing?
We're both professional, full time authors. Tessa writes about magic and monsters for children and adults, and Natalie focuses on adventures for teens and middle grade audiences. Both were active in theater during their school days, but performances now are focused on professional speeches, teaching about writing, and being active participants at writing conferences.
How did you meet each other?
We met in high school when we were both living in Japan on a US naval base. We've been together for a long time, and our relationship spans continents!
Performances until October 17. Ticket Information https://kcrep.org/.
Seating for this show is general admission, outside on a grass lawn. Tickets are $30 per person. This show is BYOC - bring your own chair (or blanket). Seating will begin 1 hour before the performance.