Interview: Kevin Hanna on The Artist’s Lab Staging of ‘The Cowboy and The Showgirl Cycle’

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CHICAGO – Chicago is a hotbed for new stage talent, and the growth of that creativity is generated in new theater works. The Artist’s Lab at Stage 773 is one such developmental program, and director Kevin Hanna is currently in residence to create a new three part musical production called “The Cowboy and the The Showgirl Cycle.” The first part will have its premiere at Stage 773 on February 11th, 2016 (details below).

“The Cowboy and the The Showgirl Cycle” is based on a familiar sight in any movie or TV program that is set at a Hollywood movie studio. In the background, there will always be some extras walking around, and inevitably it will be represented by the “cowboy” and the “showgirl.” The two characters in this cycle will be in three eras of movie making – the 1930s, the 1970s and 2010. The concept creator and director Kevin Hanna has gathered the writing, acting and production talent within The Artist’s Lab to make the musical show cycle come alive, with composer Geo Zarr providing the music.

The Cowboy and the Showgirl
‘The Cowboy and the Showgirl Cycle’ an Artist’s Lab Premiere at Stage 773
Photo credit: was able to talk to Kevin Hanna on the eve of the first part debut at Stage 773 in Chicago, with the next two parts to follow in the next 18 weeks. The musical will also be available via, for those unable to attend the live event. What is the Artist’s Lab and how did it pick up The Cowboy and the Showgirl Cycle as part of their initiative to develop theater talent and new shows?

Kevin Hanna: The Artist’s Lab is a program sponsored by Stage 773 of Chicago, that finds stage directors and offers them an opportunity to work with writers and actors – who also auditioned for the program and its various projects. They all come together and create new work for the stage without having to think about it that much. It about the group creative dynamic, and setting up a time limit on the process, which helps to get artists ‘out of their head’ and into a focus that actually creates new theater. How were you paired with the production, writing and acting staff that became part of the show? How did you interact with this process?

Hanna: All of the actors and writers auditioned, and I got to choose the people I wanted to work with – when I accepted the opportunity I instantly knew the concept I wanted to work on, so when I approached the writers I gave them that concept and set some parameters down for them. Within those parameters, they completed a 45 page script in seven days. Now the character types of the Cowboy and the Showgirl are based on the two characters you’re most likely to see in the background during a scene set at a movie studio. Why did these archetypes come to front and center, rather than for example, The Indian and The Spacemen?

Hanna: Those extras in the background is one of those stereotypical tools within any scene that is set at a movie studio. Everyone knows about it once you describe it, and I love that despite no story or legend behind it, it’s just well known. I figured why not give The Cowboy and The Showgirl a voice. As far as why I picked The Cowboy and The Showgirl, I don’t know, maybe better costumes? [laughs] It just seemed like a natural. Describe the first play in the three-part cycle, and what about this first show will inform the next two cycles to come?

Hanna: With this cycle, the first one takes place in the 1930s at a down-and-out movie studio of the era, the second one – which the writers will begin next week – is set in the 1970s movie world of that grittier time, and finally the third will be set in 2010.

The one constant through the three will be that cowboy and that showgirl in whatever alliteration the writers decide to put them in. All three are romantic musical comedies, but one of the stipulations that I gave the writers was the cowboy and the showgirl cannot end up together. It’s always funnier to me if they don’t end up together.

Kevin Hanna
Director Kevin Hanna Sinks His Teeth into ‘The Cowboy and the Showgirl Cycle’
Photo credit: You’re setting the shows in specific and distinct eras of the 20th Century. Are the time settings incidental to the story and being used just to distinguish the cycle parts, or are you using the time eras as a look back into American social, musical and cultural history?

Hanna: I think it’s ‘C’ – all of the above. Because there is a definite points of view between the studio system in the 1930s, the grittier independent system of the 1970s and the more modern feel of 2010. There is so much to be mined from those decades as far as filmmaking style, that it will inform the social and cultural behaviors. Art does reflect life, and I think it’s impossible to separate them. These are musicals, what can you tell us regarding the songs and that style?

Hanna: The music by Geo Zarr is amazing. This is the third time we’ve worked together, and I think everyone will enjoy these song stylings. If you like the films ‘Ed Wood’ or ‘Moulin Rouge,’ I think you’re really going to enjoy the show. Once this cycle is complete, what will be the next step for them within the Artist Lab or the artists who creative it?

Hanna: The Artist’s Lab, in and of itself, is the destination. I hope to further refine ‘The Cowboy and The Showgirl Cycle’ into a cohesive piece, which is my endgame. I have faith in the writers that they will put out good product, and that people will want to see it. I want to evolve it and eventually create a full length show.

The Artist’s Lab of Stage 773 Presents “The Cowboy and the Showgirl Cycle,” Part One, at 8:15pm on Thursday, February 11th, 2016. Stage 773 is at 1225 West Belmont in Chicago. For more information, including purchasing tickets, click here. Written by Kevin Hanna, Christopher Kidder-Mostrom, Amanda Lowry, Bailey Sullivan, Carly Garber, Tim Greger and Mary Kate Miller. Music by Geo Zarr. Directed by Kevin Hanna. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2016 Patrick McDonald,

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