It Takes a Family
“When he was 2, you know, people would ask ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ … Steven said at age 2 that there were two things he wanted to do with his life — he wanted to be an actor, and he wanted to deliver pizzas for Pizza Hut.”
Boisterous laughter bounces off the bare walls and floors of the rec room cum rehearsal studio after Barbara Eubank shares this charming memory about her son Steven Eubank, one of Kansas City’s most prolific actors/directors/producers. From Oct. 7 to Nov. 4, Eubank’s and his parents’ Egads! Theatre Company will present the latest in its long line of zany, campy musical productions when it reprises Evil Dead: The Musical, a show based on Sam Raimi’s classic horror film series of the 1980s and ’90s (see sidebar story).
Now 27, Steven Eubank, who is openly gay, has indeed been dedicated to his craft since early childhood, as told by both his supportive parents during a recent interview at his Independence home, which serves as headquarters for Egads! (In addition to the rec room/rehearsal studio, the sprawling garage has been pressed into use as a storage space for all manner of sets and props.)
“At age 4, [Steven> said he wanted to be a director and a writer,” Barbara Eubank remembers. “And we thought, ‘Well, that’s odd, but that will go away.’ … [But"> when he was 5, he announced, ‘I want no more toys.’ He said, ‘I only want things for theater.’ And so we listened.”
After that, Eubank’s father, the soft-spoken Jeff Eubank (who actually was a pizza deliveryman at the time of his son’s early assertion), helped by constructing lighting out of coffee cans and dimmer switches and converting the basement of their Blue Springs home into a theater space for Steven and the neighborhood kids.
This is all the more impressive considering Jeff Eubank’s own family background. “I grew up without theater in my life whatsoever until after Steven was born,” he says. “In my family, it was sports — we played baseball and basketball and football and all that kind of stuff, and it was just not a part of my life until Steven was born. … And there was never any question, of course, that I wanted to be supportive of the kinds of things that he wanted to do.”
Steven Eubank tried playing sports with his dad, but it didn’t seem to take.
“I was an awkward kid,” he says. “You know, I had Coke-bottle-lens glasses, things like that … [Dad and I"> tried playing softball and things like that, and I would dodge anything flying at me. You know, I wanted to imagine what the ball could be instead — maybe it’s a crystal gazing ball. … It was like, I really don’t understand this hand-eye coordination thing. I just want to be expressive.”
Later, Eubank attended Kansas City Middle School for the Arts. He quickly became impatient with its curriculum, though, and began taking college classes part time at Longview Community College in Lee’s Summit, where Barbara Eubank now teaches in the education/teaching department. Then, at the tender age of 16, he took his GED and an associate degree and transferred to Missouri State University in Springfield, where he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in 2002.
Throughout this process, Eubank was producing and directing theater and was the only student director at Longview allowed to direct a full-length production (Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam). After Springfield, he decided against his initial plan to go to grad school (“I was completely burnt out on school — I hated education by the time I was done with it,” he says) and returned to the Kansas City area, where he and his parents produced shows at a number of theater spaces — City Theatre of Independence, Penn Valley Little Theater, and Just Off Broadway Theatre among them.
This was the late 1990s, and it was then that Eubank’s well-known fondness for kitschy, highly visual extravaganzas, primarily musicals, came to form: Productions included the satirical (Zombie Prom