theater | KCUR

theater

Terry Teachout

Terry Teachout, who writes for the "Wall Street Journal," sees at least 100 plays a year—about half of them are in New York City, and the other half are all over the United States.

He's the only drama critic working for a national publication who regularly travels for work. Over the past couple of decades, this has afforded him a unique bird's eye view of the American arts scene: He sees that exceptional art is created even where only locals normally find it.

If you can smell what the Rock is cooking, you might be interested in the wine "Niles Plonk" is fermenting.

Kraig Keesaman, who owns Windy Wine Company in Osborn, Missouri, wrestles with the newly formed Journey Pro KC as a nasty wine snob named Niles Plonk (Plonké when he puts on airs).

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City boasts a vibrant arts scene, with easy access to essentially any kind of entertainment. But the people who make a career out of providing this cultural enrichment have to be as good at managing their business as they are at their artistic work. That means thinking about taxes all year long. 

"Some artists don't want to learn about bookkeeping and taxes and accounting because it doesn't feel very sexy. It doesn't feel very artistic," says actor and performer Erin McGrane. 

Kip Niven

What started as a high school reading group in the 1960s has become a way for Kansas City audiences to enjoy some of America’s greatest plays, read aloud by Kansas City finest actors, for free.

When Kip Niven was a student at Shawnee Mission East High School, friends would gather in Frank Dwyer’s living room, Frank’s mother would put out snacks, and they’d read through plays like “You Can’t Take It With You” just for the heck of it.

J. Robert Schraeder

Say a woman wants to serve in the United States Army. No problem, right? Women are eligible. But, dial it back 160 years to the Civil War, and consider that women couldn’t just pop into a recruiting station and sign up.

"We know that about 250 (women) were documented as fighting in the U.S. Army, but those are only the ones who were discovered. Historians think it's over 2,000 women," says Boston playwright Wendy Lement.

Bill Pryor

Turns out Truman Capote didn’t like Christmas much. The "In Cold Blood" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" author wasn’t alone.

"We have these lives we want to have," said Prospero's bookstore owner Will Leathem, "and quite often Christmas puts an exclamation point on the reminder that maybe there's a little disjunct between what we want ourselves to be and where we are."

Segment 1: The forgotten Kansas Citian behind Mickey Mouse.

The story of how Mickey Mouse got his start is part of Kansas City mythology. But Walt Disney isn't the only Kansas Citian responsible for the famous mouse. We'll hear the story of another man whose role in making Mickey is just as crucial.

Dante

Variety shows aren’t all gongs and spangles.

Besides simply being entertaining, such shows are ways for artists to help build their fan bases by “cross-pollinating audiences,” says Stephanie Roberts, a theater professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

She first saw this work when she lived in Seattle and was part of a company called Annex Theatre, which hosted a variety show called “Spin the Bottle.”

Segment 1: Kansas City poet wins International Latino Book Award

A local poet has won two major awards this year, for her work in both English and Spanish. On this episode, we speak with Xánath Caraza about poetry as a way to break silence, the best way to produce a lot of art, and the women that have had significant influence on her life. 

Paul Andrews

Forty years is a long time to spend in one place, doing one thing. Especially when the goal is to ruffle feathers.

But that's what the Unicorn Theatre's producing artistic director Cynthia Levin has done, turning an anti-establishment theater into an established venue.

Portrait Session With Artistic Director Cynthia Levin

Nov 16, 2018

For the past 39 years, Cynthia Levin has made the Unicorn Theatre's stage her home, family, and legacy. We spoke with her about growing up in an activist family, using theater to examine social issues, and giving a voice to the voiceless in her role as the Producing Artistic Director of the Unicorn. This hour-long interview marks the latest installment of our Portrait Sessions. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

It’s almost Halloween. For some professors at the University of Kansas, that meant getting into character on Wednesday and taking over the catacombs-like Abe and Jake’s Landing in downtown Lawrence for a new event they called Haunting Humanities.

Along with candy, they handed out some unusual lessons in theater, art and music for a few hundred people.

Robert Paisley

Plenty of people don’t think twice before binging on episodes of a favorite TV show or series of movies. Would that crowd consider watching live theater the same way?

“You know how when you binge-watch ‘Lord of the Rings?’” asks Karen Paisley, artistic director of the Metropolitan Ensemble Theater. “This is sort of like binge-watch theater.”

Paisley has taken on a production of Horton Foote’s massive “The Orphans’ Home Cycle,” only the second time it’s been produced anywhere. To watch the entire cycle, a theater-goer will commit to watching three three-hour performances.

Seg. 1: DNA Tests And Identity. Seg. 2: Archetypes Of Witches

Oct 22, 2018

Segment 1: Does your DNA make you who you are?

The Renaissance Festival

Oct 9, 2018

The Renaissance Festival is something of a divisive subject in Kansas City. Some people don't quite "get it" while others are obsessed. We hear what the 'huzzahs!' are all about from the perspective of local performers. Plus, a look at the latest episode from My Fellow Kansans.

Guests:

A judge sits at her desk hearing a trial.
A24

We make hundreds of choices a day — what shirt to wear, or when to eat dinner — but sometimes those choices are a little more difficult. This week's recommendations from Up To Date's indie, foreign and documentary Film Critics feature decisions about love and murder, starting over after a spouse's death, and life versus religion. 

Cynthia Haines

"The Children Act," R

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.

Coy Dugger / KCUR 89.3

Eric Rosen is saying goodbye to Kansas City. But not without a few sniffles first.

Rosen, who is moving to New York, began his role as artistic director of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre in May 2008. Rosen was 37 and, at the time, the youngest director to lead the organization.

“I found a community here. People I love, people I’ll miss dearly,” Rosen told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard. “I’m not going to cry.”

Segment 1: Artistic director of the KC Rep is leaving soon. How has local theatre changed?

After 10 years with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Eric Rosen is saying farewell to Kansas City. We chat with the artistic director about how the local theatre scene has changed during his tenure.

Segment 2, beginning at 22:50: What do audiences expect from local theatrical productions?

Grecian-style columns wrapped in colorful banners. A sign that reads "Open Spaces" hangs below.
Kathleen Pointer / KCUR 89.3

For a while now, much of Kansas City's arts community has been abuzz about Open Spaces, the 62-day arts festival that's giving a platform to local, national and international artists. The plan, hatched nearly five years years ago by an arts commission Mayor Sly James put together, is becoming a reality this weekend.

Two people standing in front of Broadway theater posters.
Theater League

Nearly 40 years ago, he abandoned a career in law for one in show business. And it worked out.

Mark Edelman is the long-time force behind the Theater League, an organization that brings in national tours of Broadway productions. Now, he's retiring.

He said the low cost of living and the local community helped him take the leap into the world of musical theater and, ultimately, have a successful life while working in a field that offers no guarantees.

"You can get it done in Kansas City," he told Steve Kraske during a conversation on KCUR's Up To Date.

A one story house with a boarded up window on the left, the window on the right blocked on the interior with boxes and junk, and debris on the roof.
SamaraSteele / Creative Commons

Segment 1: Legal organization teams with community development financial institution to transform abandoned residences into affordable housing.

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.

Segment 1: Is the phrase "white people" becoming taboo?

On this episode, we explore the concept of whiteness as an identity and why some people are uncomfortable with the term.

  • Micah Kubic, author, Freedom, Inc. and Black Political Empowerment
  • Lona Davenport, program coordinator, Division of Diversity and Inclusion at UMKC

Segment 2, beginning at 33:50: How Shakespeare can help prisoners improve their social skills.

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.

Rural Movie Theaters

Jul 31, 2018

Movie theaters are more than a place to watch the latest blockbuster. They're a place of first dates. A place to get out of the rain. A place where communities can share an experience. But what happens to a small town if they lose that theater? On this episode, we explore what's causing rural movie theaters to close and learn about the efforts to keep them alive. 

Segment 1: Swope Park is over twice the size of Central Park. Are we using it as well as we could?

Swope Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the country. It's a massive 1,805 acres in size and Kansas City, Missouri Parks and recreation refers to it as the "crown jewel" of the parks system. We explore the role of Swope Park in our community and learn how a history of segregation continues to influence it to this day.

Seg. 1: Hir. Seg. 2: Story Of Ed Dwight

Jun 5, 2018

Segment 1: Comedic play at The Unicorn invites serious conversations on gender identity.

The comedy Hir revolves around the story of a transitioning teen and their dysfunctional family. Find out how one performer connects with their role on a personal level.

  • Ahafia Jurkiewicz-Miles, actor

The production of 'Hir' runs at The Unicorn Theater through June 24. For ticketing and information, visit UnicornTheatre.org.

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.

Pages