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[VIDEO] In This Scene...A Storm Is Brewing In Baseball

Julie Denesha

The play Kansas City Swing is set in Kansas City in 1947 when the nation was on the cusp of great change. Tony award-winning director Ricardo Khan co-wrote the script for Kansas City Swing with award-winning author Trey Ellis, interweaving the drama of jazz with the thrill of the legends of baseball.

Actors Rob Karma Robinson as pitcher Satchel Paige, and Antonio Glass, as John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil, performed a scene recently at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

Will The Weather Hold?

"I feel I was able to capture a moment in time when we were  proud," said Kansas City Swing director and co-writer Ricardo Khan. "When America was trying to come together, and to use baseball as that field for folks to come and see what was going to happen when they got there.

"In the play there is also a storm coming, so they don't know if they are going to be able to play the game they've come to play. The All-Stars of Satchel Paige's Negro Leagues and the All-Stars of Major Leagues, Bob Feller, are coming together to barnstorm to do this game and the question is will the weather hold. That is the metaphor for the play. The storm is coming and are we ready for it."


Actor Rob Karma Robinson plays pitcher Satchel Paige in Kansas City Swing.

"He (Paige) had such a bravado about him," Robinson said. "He would, literally, tell his outfielders to sit down and he would strikeout the side. In his early years, he was unhittable. Nobody could touch his fastball. This was back before radar guns, but they estimated that he must have been throwing like 103. I mean, that's Nolan Ryan speed."

Changing Relationships

"It's set in 1947 which is a part of American history that always fascinated me, because it was about baseball, but it was also about integration," Khan said. "It was a moment in time when a lot of things were changing, the neighborhoods, baseball.

"And I don't think anybody knew where we were going we just knew we were going. It is what happens when the door is opened. People are changing their relationships that they have with each other."

UMKC Theatre presents Kansas City Swing, April 19 - 28, 2013, Helen F. Spencer Theatre, Olson PAC, 4949 Cherry, Kansas City, Mo. on the UMKC campus.

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.