Performance | KCUR

Performance

Brian Paulette

Those who loved Marilyn Strauss say her career and life were powered by what can only be described as a firey “chutzpah and moxie.”

Strauss, founder of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, died Saturday evening from pancreatic cancer. Her health began declining shortly after her 90th birthday celebration in 2017.

Chris Lee

No one who lives in the United States today is removed from the coal industry.

Composer Julia Wolfe makes that point in the final movement of her 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio “Anthracite Fields,” listing various everyday activities that require energy — baking a cake, drilling a hole, washing clothes — energy powered, at least in part, by the coal industry.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

“You can choose to share your secrets or not share your secrets,” David Hanson tells his audiences.

For several years, Hanson has led those audiences through “immersive theater” experiences in Kansas City, and he will do so again at Open Spaces with a free performance of his play “Bird in the Hand.”

Immersive theater differs from traditional theater in that audience members are active, not passive, observers. Hanson gives the example many people are familiar with: murder mystery dinner theater, where it’s up to audience members to solve a mystery.

Teens in Transition

Ricky Greer, a senior at Central High School, watched the 1961 movie version of “West Side Story” for the first time this summer. While the movie was a lot like reality with the “gangbanging and people dying,” he says, he didn’t buy the entire story.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kansas City audiences might have caught a performance of the aerial troupe Rachel McMeachin co-founded — Voler Thieves of Flight — at events such as the KC Fringe Festival, Dance in the Park or The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's Party Arty.

When she heads home from those performances, or after one of her working trips to Costa Rica or Bali, she arrives on the steps of an onion-domed former church in the Russian Hill neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's first biennial Open Spaces launches this week. 

And, like the metropolitan area itself, Open Spaces is sprawling. It stretches 62 days, from August 25 to October 28, with more than 150 performing and visual artists.

U People Improv

“Subversive minstrelsy.” That’s how Brandey Chandler describes the inspiration for an upcoming performance at the Kansas City Improv Festival.

Chandler is one of nine members of the troupe U People, which was formed in February by a group of Kansas City-based black improvisers.

Jordana Sturaro

Imagine if a comic-con and a burlesque festival had a baby.

That’s how Annie-Mae Allure, the executive producer of this week’s Kansas City Nerdlesque Festival, describes the event, where performances will focus on themes such as science fiction and fantasy in what’s been billed as a “shame-free zone” at the Just Off Broadway Theatre.

Allure expects around 40 cast members, both local and touring, from as far away as Alaska and British Columbia.

Theater League / Warner Brothers Theatricals

People all over the world are obsessed with “The Wizard of Oz." But there is no place in the world where it has as much cultural value as in Kansas, where "Somewhere over the Rainbow" can be considered as much the state song as "Home on the Range."

“It's become synonymous with ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” says Mark Edelman, head of Theater League, which produced this latest version of the iconic story that opened Wednesday at Providence Amphitheater (formerly known as Sandstone) in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

Melanie Rodriguez

The 2018 KC Fringe Festival's final performance lineup included a Greek myth, Cirque du Soleil homage, and a "Rugrats"-inspired story of loss of innocence — all of which were created by local artists.  

The 14th annual, 10-day celebration of visual and performing arts ended on Sunday with repeat performances of the best-selling shows at each of the festival's 14 venues.

Jerry Jay Cranford

A couple of weeks before opening night of the hit Broadway musical "Newsies," two dozen young actors were flipping and twirling on stage at the Jewish Community Center’s White Theater. They ranged in age from 14 to 22.

Libby Hanssen / KCUR 89.3

When you see a stranger on public transit, what's your usual reaction? Do you make eye contact, even small talk, or studiously ignore them and play Pokémon Go on your phone?

Traveling with Megan Karson's The Stranger on the Train, reactions are a little different. When The Stranger trundles onto the #801 at the Kansas City Streetcar stop at Union Station, passengers stare, then laugh, at the surprising addition to their ride.

Segment 1: Kansas City's New Arts Festival.

For nine weeks, starting in August, KC's parks, galleries and stages will be transformed into a massive city-wide arts festival. Hear more about Open Spaces.

Segment 1: A talk with Kevin Willmott about his new film.

"BlacKkKlansman" just won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. It's based on the true story of a black cop who infiltrated the KKK in the 1970s. We catch up with the KU professor who collaborated on the film with Spike Lee.

Segment 2, beginning at 17:09: Looking back at the filming of "Kansas City."

Segment 1: The changing relationship between working artists and the Crossroads.

The Crossroads is a lively place, filled with condos, wine shops, doggie daycares and yoga studios. But back in 2000, it was much more quiet, inhabited by artists who brought their quirky vibe to the area. Now, the building that houses YJ's Snack Bar has been sold — and the longstanding café is moving. Is it the end of an era? What's next for the Crossroads and the artists?

Cynthia Levin / Unicorn Theatre

A particular role in the Unicorn Theatre's newest production is perfect for Kansas City actor Ahafia Jurkiewicz-Miles.

“I've always wanted to play someone like me on stage,” Jurkiewicz-Miles told host Gina Kaufmann on Tuesday's episode of KCUR's Central Standard. “The fact that I get to do that now makes it so exciting to go into work every day.”

Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

As a kid growing up on his family’s farm in Louisburg, Kansas, David Wayne Reed just wanted to perform.

He wore his mom’s heels, a cinched-up shirt as a dress, and a wig to entertain visiting seed salesmen. He also choreographed dances for the hay crew.

“As kind of a slightly effeminate little kid, (farming) was hard, it was masculine, and I didn’t know that I really fit in. I kind of felt like a little bit of a square peg,” Reed told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Vi Tran’s journey has taken him from Vietnam to refugee camps in southeast Asia to Garden City, Kansas, and finally to a burger joint in Kansas City, Missouri, where he began telling his story and created a space for others' stories in all types of formats.

Past a row of pinball machines, at the back of the Westport Flea Market Bar & Grill, is a large room with concrete floors, black tablecloths draped over round tables, the smell of burgers and a bare-bones stage.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Lola Loquacious slides up through the audience, sashaying a multi-colored pastel tulle skirt as she stops at a few lucky spectators to seductively pull lollipops from her bejeweled cotton-candy pink corset.

Cameo’s 1986 hit (or synth-pop monstrosity) “Candy” blares as Loquacious hits the stage. Her tulle skirt is the first to go in a swirl of ethereal fluff. She’s carrying an oversized rainbow lollipop, which she licks with deliberate, confident glances at the audience.

Open Spaces, a two-month citywide celebration of visual and performing arts, is slated to launch in August.

Artistic director Dan Cameron announced the names of the 42 local, national and international exhibiting artists Friday. Some artists were invited, but others were selected out of a pool of more than 400 applicants. 

Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3

A new theater troupe in Kansas City is staging monthly play readings in an unlikely venue: a bar.

That’s part of the Kansas City Public Theatre’s mission. The group hopes to make theater more accessible by offering free shows in non-traditional venues.

Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Carmen, Mimi, Norma, Tosca, Violetta, Cio-Cio-San, Medea, Liù, Aida, Lulu: Being an opera heroine is harrowing work.

For hundreds of years, opera's women have suffered: on stage from dishonor, ruination, madness and death; off stage from harassment, abuse, degradation, threats, and coercion.

Segment 1: A local dance troupe performs an original piece based on people's experience with cancer.

The Owen/Cox Dance Group has collaborated with Gilda's Club Kansas City and will perform a piece about how people's lives are impacted by cancer. We talk to the choreographer, and we hear from patients, survivors and caregivers.

Elizabeth Stehling / Kansas City Ballet

In an art form as brutal as it is beautiful, breaking through the tried-and-true blockbusters of classic ballet and strict company structure is difficult. New work and new talent is a risk. Creating new work not only requires learning new steps, but also changing perspectives, generating curiosity and challenging expectations.

J. Robert Schraeder / Courtesy of The Coterie Theatre

Playwright Laurie Brooks has tackled challenging subjects for young adults — from the Salem witch trials to bullying. Her latest play, The Secret of Courage, explores a teenager facing a health crisis ... with a little help from a magical world.

Courtesy of Unicorn Theatre

Playwright Karen Hartman knew her work "Project Dawn" dealt with intense material. Its story, about women with multiple prostitution convictions who are going through a treatment program in hopes of having their charges erased, is based on a real place in Philadelphia called Project Dawn Court.

Courtesy William Baker

“It could be said that Kansas City is blessed with as many fountains like Rome, many boulevards like Paris and many composers like Vienna,” says William Baker, the founder and director of his namesake William Baker Festival Singers.

Audiences get a chance to hear just a few of the pieces by those notable area composers, some living and some long gone, when Baker’s ensemble presents a Festival of Kansas City Composers this weekend.

Courtesy Andrew Schwartz / Veritography

A Thanksgiving feast in a Scottish castle was the cherry on top when Kansas City’s Fountain City Brass Band toured the United Kingdom last month as America’s highest-ranked brass band.

Fountain City is one of Kansas City’s strongest musical ambassadors, with a second-place finish at the prestigious Brass in Concert competition at Gateshead, England (placing ahead of top-ranked Cory) and a third at the Scottish Open in Perth. On their own turf, our homegrown ensemble held its own against bands with traditions dating deep into the 1800s.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

For 25 years, Kansas City’s newEar contemporary chamber music ensemble has been performing brand new music — some of it by composers who live here — in what has become a long and productive conversation between area musicians and composers. 

City and arts leaders on Monday announced a new two-month city-wide arts festival called Open Spaces 2018: A Kansas City Arts Experience

"It’s 60 days of city-wide visual and performing arts debuts on a scale previously unseen in the city," Mayor Sly James said at a press conference at the KCAI Crossroads Gallery in the Crossroads Arts District.

James said he expects the event will foster the city's reputation as an arts destination. 

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