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Here's What Not To Miss In The Fall Season, According To Kansas City 'Young Friends'

Karen Almond
Dallas Opera
The Lyric Opera of Kansas City's production of 'Everest' is one of this season's recommended picks.

Young Friends of Art, a networking group for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, has been around for more than two decades. Then there are a few upstarts, like Kansas City Symphony's new Maestro KC, which "connects people to the music they love and the musicians who make it possible." 

Across the Kansas City metro, arts organizations' "young friends" groups provide support and social connection for members mostly between the ages of 21 and 40. There's usually a fee to join, but membership includes special ticket offers, as well as access to artists or company members. 

We asked a few of these young friends what they're looking forward to in the fall season and beyond.

Alison Kidd, 29
Chair of Starlight Theatre's Center Stage

Credit Matthew Murphy
'Kinky Boots' premiered on Broadway in 2013. National tours and performances in the U.K. have followed. Pictured here: the 2017-2018 London company.

"I am so excited about Kinky Boots! It's one of Starlight's weekend specials this year, so it only runs September 29 - October 1. You can't miss it," says Kidd.

"Starlight is magical," she adds. "Annie became my favorite childhood musical because I saw it there! Now, I'm a sucker for a great concert, and my husband is a theater buff, so Starlight is the perfect place for both of us." 

Starlight has much to offer for people of all ages, Kidd notes, and the grounds are a bonus: "The fountains are mesmerizing, and the view of the towers against a sunset is absolutely breathtaking!" 

Johanna Perry, 34
Chair of the National World War I Museum and Memorial's The Modernists

Credit courtesy National World War I Museum and Memorial
courtesy National World War I Museum and Memorial
Author Jim Leeke talks about World War I's impact on baseball in September at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, in partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

"I am a huge baseball fan, and I've loved living in Kansas City, which has a significant and extensive baseball history, and where the enthusiasm and love for the sport is vibrant and palpable," says Perry.

"That is why I am really looking forward to anupcoming event at the museum on Thursday, September 21 at 6 p.m. Author Jim Leeke will be discussing his new publication, From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball during the Great War, and will explain how WWI affected America's pastime and changed baseball as we know it."

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the entrance of the United States into World War I. And Perry issues this challenge to someone not yet caught up in the stories from WWI:

"I dare anyone to go and not find something that interests them, directly affects them, or at least gets them to think about our place in history now," says Perry, who joined the organization last year. "A great way to learn about our present is to re-visit our past." 

Natalie Jackson, 33
Council chair of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's Young Friends of Art

Credit Musée National Picasso, Paris
Musée National Picasso, Paris
Pablo Picasso's 'Female Bust, or Bust of Marine (study for Les Demoiselles d’Avigon)', 1907.

"I'm really excited about the Picasso exhibit, Through the Eyes of Picasso (October 20, 2017 - April 18, 2018)," says Jackson. "The exhibition will look at Picasso's interest in African and Oceanic art and how it influenced his works."

Jackson's mother is a professional artist based in Switzerland, so she says she grew up going to museums around Europe.

"Inspiration in art is so interesting to me, and having seem some of the comparisons between Picasso's work and African/Oceanic work that will be featured in the exhibition, I'm excited to see the parallels on full display."

Jackson has been with the Young Friends since 2011.

"When I moved to Kansas City in 2010," she says, "I was in search of a community and a museum — lucky for me I found both in the Nelson-Atkins."

When it comes to art, Jackson says, "there isn't a right answer to what you see or how you feel ... come to find something that speaks to you."   

Amy Kuhnlein, 31
Co-Chair, Lyric Opera of Kansas City's Young Friends of the Lyric Boutique

Credit Karen Almond / Dallas Opera
Dallas Opera
'Everest' dramatizes a disastrous 1996 climbing expedition. It premiered at Dallas Opera in 2005.

"Here's what I'm bragging hard on this season: Everest (November 11-19). This is especially a great show for first-time opera-goers. Everest is a brand-new opera that has only been produced once, previously in Dallas," Kuhnlein says.

"The set is made up of a series of white cubes, stacked and disjointed on top of each other, extending from stage to above the proscenium. There are two high-powered projectors that create the Himalayas (and other scenes) onto the cubes and the singers will actually climb the set during the show. Also, this opera is fast paced, at only 75 minutes with no intermission. We're really excited for this melding of music and visuals."

Kuhnlein, who has been with the organization since 2015, says the art form of opera offers a lot of ways to connect.

"It has music, dance, theater, visuals — it's really everything in one production for performing arts," she says.

Her advice to people who say they're not interested in opera: Find your show. For Kuhnlein, it's Giacomo Puccini'sTurandot. It's an opera, she says, "that hits you just right with the theme, the story, language and music. Once you've found a show that really resonates, you're going to have a bigger draw to see more." 

Steve Peppes, 35
President of the Kansas City Ballet's BARRE KC

Credit Kenny Johnson / Kansas City Ballet
Kansas City Ballet
In May, the Kansas City Ballet will present the world premiere of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,' with choreography by Septime Webre.

"We have such a great line-up this year, including Romeo and Juliet and the always popular (re-imagined) Nutcracker, but the one I am most looking forward to is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (May 11 - 20, 2018). The Ballet is celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, and I couldn't think of a better, or more appropriate, way to celebrate," Peppes says.

"As the Kansas City Ballet describes it: 'From Septime Webre, creator of Alice (in wonderland), comes the world premiere of L. Frank Baum's acclaimed story of family, friendship and courage.'"

Peppes was introduced to the Kansas City Ballet with an invitation to an open rehearsal. He was "amazed at the intensity and athleticism these dancers possessed," he says.

"I grew up training and playing sports, so when I got the chance to watch a rehearsal and then talk to a few of the company dancers about their training regime and daily routines I was in awe," he says. "So for me it truly was my unfamiliarity that got me interested and the athleticism and the artistry that has got me hooked."

For a list of young professional groups, check here. KCUR also has a young friends group called Generation Listen KC.

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.

Laura Spencer is staff writer/editor at the Kansas City Public Library and a former arts reporter at KCUR.
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