After scoring a nice success with its first presentation of the 2011-12 season — a locally cast production of August: Osage County — Kansas City Repertory Theatre now brings award-winning English performer David Cale’s new work, the provocatively titled one-man show, The History of Kisses, to the downtown Copaken Stage.

Cale, who first appeared on the KC Rep stage in 2009 in Palomino, debuted his new work this past summer at Washington, D.C.’s Studio Theatre. It centers on a gay writer, played by Cale, who has shut himself in an oceanfront hotel in order to finish a collection of stories and is soon drawn into the romantic high jinks taking place around him.

In a recent phone interview from his home in New York City, Cale talked about the genesis of his new work.

“I had this kind of vague idea that I wanted to do a show in which all the pieces took place near the sea,” he says. “It was written in the first six months of this year, which is, for me, very fast. … [With Palomino> I was getting much more playful, in terms of the form of it, and that carried through in The History of Kisses.

“There isn’t any gay content in the stories,” Cale says of the situations he portrays in the current show, “but the writer is gay, and he is present through the whole thing. And then, something happens to him … and that’s a gay story.”

Cale, who performs his own songs in The History of Kisses, has written lyrics for the likes of Elvis Costello and Deborah Harry. In the current show, though, he says: “It’s a different style of song than I’ve ever worked on before.”

He is referring to the sea shanty melodies — shipboard work songs popularly sung on 19th-century merchant vessels — that populate the show.

“I really started listening to a lot of music and a lot of recordings and then really fell in love with them [sea shanties">. In part because a lot of them were written by … regular people, they weren’t written by necessarily musicians. … And they seemed really accessible for me.”

Cale, who was born in an industrial suburb north of London, moved to New York at age 20 and started writing lyrics, which evolved into longer monologues. At that point, in the late ’80s, he “caught a wave,” soon becoming swept up in a monologist craze that included Spalding Gray and Eric Bogosian.

About working at KC Rep, Cale says, “I had an incredibly wonderful experience with Palomino.”

He said he trusts Eric Rosen, the theater’s artistic director, and Kyle Hatley, associate artistic director. And although Cale is directing his current production, as he did with Palomino, he says, “I didn’t want it to look like a vanity production.

“The thing about it was, the big safety net for me, was when things had gone really wrong … Eric and Kyle were in the office, and if there was a problem, or if I was like, stuck, or lost, or I really needed help, I could just run up and ask them to come in the room.”

“So I feel that, similarly, for this, that they’re really at hand.”

The History of Kisses plays through Nov. 27 at KC Rep’s downtown Copaken Stage. Visit or phone 816-235-2700 for tickets and more information."

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