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KC Fringe Dares Artists To Take A Chance

KC Fringe has been called a festival of daring – providing an opportunity for artists to take risks and to challenge themselves. In recent years, local actors have tried their hand at directing and directors have taken up acting. Two artists are crafting something new out of the past.

Inspired by Chaucer

Maybe it’s been since high school, or that British Literature class you took in college, since you heard the General Prologue from Geoffrey Chaucer’s "The Canterbury Tales," a 14th century collection of stories told by traveling pilgrims.

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour, Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,

Writer and musician Ry Kincaid quickly points out: "No, my production is not in Middle English. But the blueprint is the same." 

Kincaid is aware his audience will range from expert to novice when it comes to "The Canterbury Tales."

As a student at Rockhurst University, his final creative writing project turned Chaucer's stories into a series of original rock songs. About a year ago, he started re-visiting his original music and lyrics - and expanded them - to create a new rock musical he's premiering at the KC Fringe called "Pilgrimage."

"I thought the Knight was very chivalric, but representative of the people, so it’s like a Springsteen-esque anthem. And that opens the show," Kincaid says. "And the Miller is kind of a funky and raunchy tale that represents not only the Miller, but also the tale that he tells."

Taking audiences on a "Pilgrimage"

At an evening rehearsal, a loud fan blows into the un-air conditioned basement of TheArts Asylum, a cavernous space in an old church at 9th and Harrison.

The show’s large cast of actors and musicians sits in chairs or stands; some play instruments as Amy Kelly, with a microphone in hand, works the room like a lounge singer with the song called "Folk Tale."

Bob Paisley, co-founder of Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre and founder of Central Standard Theatre, directs the production. Paisley says it's the dialogue, the interaction of the characters between the songs, that stitches the show together.

"Pilgrimage" is full of potential, says Paisley, a perfect production to launch at the Fringe.

"That’s what we’re all here for. To explore the boundaries of the art as best we can."

Action takes place "in a single moment"

In the Crossroads Arts District, in the small black box theatre of the Fishtank, actor Katie Kalahurka cues up the music for the song “Look Me Over Closely." Her new one-woman show, "Lessons from Marlene," was inspired by a bad breakup. A wedding provides the framework. "The whole action of the play takes place in one single moment as the bride is at the altar," says Kalahurka.

Kalahurka sings, dances and plays more than a dozen characters, including film actor and singer Marlene Dietrich. The star returns to earth as an angel to teach a series of "lessons" and serve as the emcee of the cabaret.

"This Marlene is wild," Kalahurka says. "She's part-angel, part-devil, she's all over the map. She is much more a caricature of Marlene Dietrich than true to Marlene Dietrich."

"Mostly, I’m Marlene Dietrich. And Marlene adds different pieces. So Marlene might get a scarf and she turns into an Irish girl named Laura. She might get a pair of glasses, she turns into a trekkie named Rosie."

Fringe: A safe place to take a risk

Actor Vanessa Severo (who also stars in “THANK YOU NOTES: Headed to Heaven With ‘Flat Jimmy Fallon’ ”) directs the production. Kalahurka says she's helped shape it.

"When I wrote this thing, it’s totally wacky and comedic, but she (Severo) has helped me find even more nuggets of script that I didn’t even know existed," says Kalahurka. "We click very well."

Kalahurka has appeared on many local stages, and this marks her fifth time in the KC Fringe. But it's her first in her own production.

"I just knew," she says. "Fringe is a safe place to produce new work. And it’s a safe place to sort of even start a new work that could be a springboard for something different in the future."

KC Fringe Festival, July 19 - 29, 2012. Check the KC Fringe website for more information.

  • "Pilgrimage," Saturday, July 21 - Saturday, July 28, Lyric's Opera Center, 712 E. 18th (18th and Charlotte), Kansas City, Mo.
  • "Lessons from Marlene," Saturday, July 21 - Friday, July 27 (with an extended run after KC Fringe, August 3 - 4), The Fishtank, 1715 Wyandotte, Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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