An Interview
with Amy Tonyes: Education Associate with Kansas City Repertory Theatre and A Marvelous Party cast member and co-creator: Mark Anders


Mark Anders is a "quadruple threat" - actor, dancer, singer and pianist - who appeared in Kansas City Rep's production of A Marvelous Party. Mark, who is one of the co-creators of the show, spoke to Amy Tonyes between rehearsals for Kansas City Rep's production. Here's what he had to say.

What started your interest in the theatre?
My aunt took me to see Fiddler on the Roof when I was seven years old. It was in Seattle at the Opera House. The show was amazing and I thought, "That's what I want to do."

Is Seattle where you received your training?
Yes, I went all the way through public school in Seattle and then attended the University of Puget Sound, in Tacoma, Washington, which is south of Seattle. I did a lot in elementary school. I wrote and put on my own play in sixth grade and then I got really involved in junior high and high school. Then I went to the University of Puget Sound and became an English major. I stayed away from theatre for about a year. And then I fell back into it.

Do you have any advice for young people starting out?
Well, the standard joke, which has some truth in it, is, "get out of the business, there's too many people in here already," Because if you can weather somebody telling you to get out of the business then you really want to be in it. Don't do it unless you really want it. It's a rough life. It's always what is the next thing? What I'm looking really seriously at now, with this show and other shows, is trying to create work for myself by writing it myself, by developing it myself because that's the only way to keep longevity.

How did this show develop?
Carl Danielson (another one of the show's creators) and I had been doing a show called; Two Pianos, Four Hands (which the Rep produced in 2003 and 2007) and we were looking around for something else to do. We did a production of Oh, Coward! And we wanted to make changes to it. And then BJ Jones of the Northlake Theatre wanted to do our production and he said, "Why don't you just create a whole new review?" So he called Graham Payn, NoŽl Coward's life partner, who was still living then in Basil, Switzerland. Got him at home and said, "We'd like to do this." And he gave permission and he said, "I'll clear it with the estate and it'll be fine." And he dies just a few months after that. But, we have the rights, which was really quite a coup..

What changes did you want to make in your production?
It wasn't that we didn't like earlier productions but they all assume you know Noel Coward. But the vast American public doesn't know these songs anymore. It's just fallen away. There's residue, like "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" is a famous example. Everybody knows that phrase but nobody really knows what song it came from. Mostly we know it from the front of that Joe Crocker album. What we try to do is whole songs. We try to present them in the way that Coward would have performed them.

Do you have a favorite quote by NoŽl Coward?
Oh, it's so hard to pick. There are some really, really funny things that he said. This is our choreographer's favorite so I'll tell you this one. "Two things in that play should have been cut. The first act and that child's throat."

How do you feel about the arts in education?
I think it's really important. In fact, this is something I do in Seattle. We have a summer camp program, which is not geared around training your actors. It's just getting them on the stage to feel what it feels like to say lines, to talk to the audience. It gives them a huge amount of confidence. I think that's really essential. It's important to be able to know how to communicate with a large group of people.

What do you want the audience to take from A Marvelous Party?
I want the audience to leave with an appreciation of how amazing one human can be. He was a polymath. He did everything. He directed, he wrote, he acted. He wrote screenplays, he wrote poems, he wrote music, he wrote lyrics. Everything you could possibly do in the theatre including sweep up afterwards. It's kind of astonishing.

What have you learned about yourself in developing this production?
I learned that a lot of the times, my taste leads me in a good direction. [Laughs]. I guess that's the best way to say it. Sometimes with your instincts you go, "Oh ok, that was right." So that is fun.