Steve Walker

Arts Reporter

Since 1998, Steve Walker has contributed stories and interviews about theater, visual arts, and music as an arts reporter at KCUR. He's also one Up to Date's regular trio of critics who discuss the latest in art, independent and documentary films playing on area screens. 

In addition, Walker has taught creative writing and film criticism classes at the Kansas City Art Institute and currently teaches at the University of Kansas. His writing has appeared nationally in The Sondheim Review, The Advocate and Theater Week, and locally in The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Business Journal, Ingram's, The Pitch and Review.

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Arts & Culture
11:57 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Four Penetrating Documentaries Highlighted At 2014 Kansas City FilmFest

Writer and cultural critic Gore Vidal in "Gore Vidal: United States of Amnesia," spotlighted at 2014 Kansas City FilmFest.
Credit Courtesy gorevidaldocumentary.com

Film festival curators work diligently to give audiences an eclectic menu with as much breadth and depth as possible. The 2014 edition of the Kansas City FilmFest offers dozens of experimental, animated, and even “Afrofuturist” short films, as well as narrative comedies and dramas hoping to generate buzz. But from the offerings previewed by this writer, the strength of this year’s festival rests on its documentaries.

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Arts & Culture
7:51 am
Wed March 19, 2014

'War Horse' Salutes World War I's Equine Brigade

Joey the War Horse, in the play by the same name, surrounded by villagers.
Credit @broadway.com

The National World War I Museum, housed at the base of the Liberty Memorial, is this year marking the 100th anniversary of the start of that war. By pure coincidence, the national tour of the Tony Award-winning play War Horse arrives at the Music Hall next month, creating a rare convergence of history and theatricality in Kansas City.

Confounding the skeptics

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Film
9:00 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Film Review: 'Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me' Is Broadway History In Black Tights

'Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me' is a salute to longevity, resilience, and sass.
Credit Sundance Selects

It's not often that a New York City institution actually leaves the city. But such was the case last year when 89-year-old Broadway legend Elaine Stritch returned to her Michigan hometown after some 60-plus years making any show, movie or television series she appeared in better than it would have been without her.

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Theater
5:00 am
Thu March 13, 2014

UMKC Theater Design Students Draw Inspiration From Visiting Artists

Beehives and tiaras comprise a design student's "image board" for the 2014 charette.
Steve Walker KCUR

For the past 16 years, University of Missouri-Kansas City graduate students in theater design have participated in an intensive professional training exercise called a charette. Visiting artists from the profession visit the university to both encourage and critique the students, who are given five days to design the set, costumes or lighting for a production that will never really open.

Drawing inspiration

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Film
9:00 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Film Review: Three Wildly Different Restaurants Profiled In 'Spinning Plates'

Breitbach's Country Dining owner Cindy Breitbach
Credit Chaos Theory / Ambush Entertainment

Every restaurant prides itself on its distinct vibe. But Joseph Levy’s surprisingly moving documentary Spinning Plates discovers a mutual truth: whether you’re running a taqueria with a drive-through or an expensive restaurant gunning for a Michelin star, there are similar motives and emotions behind and on the table.

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Dance
12:54 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

'Dracula' Choreographer On The Beauty And Danger Of The Count

Logan Pachciarz, as Bram Stoker's Count Dracula, glides through his Transylvanian castle.
Julie Denesha KCUR

It's been nearly 120 years since the publication of Bram Stoker's gothic novel Dracula. But his tale of the Count, who stalks living creatures and survives on their blood, continues to this day to be interpreted and popularized in theater, television, film, and dance. This season, the Kansas City Ballet is staging choreographer Michael Pink's Dracula, based on Stoker's classic work.

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Film
8:00 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Film Review: French Classic Of Family Betrayal Told 'In Secret'

Oscar Issac and Elizabeth Olsen carry on a torrid affair in "In Secret," based on Émile Zola's "Therese Raquin."
Credit Phil Bray / Roadside Attractions

Jessica Lange has been absent from the movie screens of late, focusing on chewing up the scenery on the small screen for three seasons of the FX series American Horror Story.

In the new film version of Émile Zola’s "Thérèse Raquin" called In Secret, Lange is the scheming matriarch in a single parent home in 19th century Paris who ill-advisedly locks her son and niece together in a passionless marriage. And as fans of the show know, Lange makes a very good schemer.

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Dance
5:00 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Kansas City Ballet's 'Dracula' Visits The Dark Side

Choreographer Michael Pink (center) observes Geoffrey Kropp (as Arthur) and Laura Hunt (as Lucy) as they glide by working on a scene from 'Dracula' at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity.
Julie Denesha KCUR

Many ballets often depend on the concept of tension, whether in the muscles of the dancers or the story itself. That may be even more evident in the Kansas City Ballet's production of Dracula, opening this Friday.

In bringing the iconic character to the stage, the company is venturing to its dark side with a production that is the first in the Ballet's history to come with parental discretion advised. 

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Film
9:00 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Film Review: 'A Separation' Director Unearths Complexities Of 'The Past'

In 'The Past,' Bérénice Béjo plays a woman who's asked her husband to return to Paris to finalize their divorce. She plans to marry her boyfriend, Samir (Tahar Rahim).
Credit Sony Pictures Classics

At the 84th Academy Awards in February 2012, the worlds of director Asghar Farhadi and actress Bérénice Bejo were serendipitously in synch. He won the Oscar for best foreign language film for Iran's A Separation, and she was nominated for The Artist, which went on to win Best Picture. Now their careers thrillingly converge in his extraordinary follow-up film The Past.

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Performance
8:29 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Meet The Mean Girls From Salem, Massachusetts, Circa 1692

Alisha Espinosa (as Tituba), Emily Phillips (Mercy Lewis), Nicole Greenberg (as Abigail Williams), Emily Shackelford (as Ann Putnam), Jessica Jensen (as Mary Warren) & Hannah Thompson (as Betty Parris) in 'Afflicted.'
Credit J. Robert Schraeder / Courtesy the Coterie Theatre

For more than three centuries, Salem, Mass., has been linked to the infamous witch trials. In 1692, at least 20 men and women died after being convicted of witchcraft; it was then considered a crime punishable by death. Hundreds more faced accusations.

A new production at the Coterie Theatre, Afflicted: Daughters of Salem, provides the story behind the girls — the accusers, who started it all.

Afflicted is written by Laurie Brooks, a longtime Coterie collaborator. She says the play is "not easy. It’s subtle, it’s complex. It's about relationships."

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Film
8:42 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Film Review: A Family's Heirlooms Are Spite And Malice in 'August: Osage County'

Meryl Streep (bottom) plays Violet Weston, the matriarch of a screwed up family, comforted - sort of - by her daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts).
Credit Weinstein Company

If done well, movies about dysfunctional families are able to elegantly dance that fine line between humor and pain. Terms of Endearment succeeded at finding that balance, as does the film adaptation of Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County, where an unplanned death reopens life-long yet still festering wounds. The Weston clan of Osage County, Okla., must have a family tree that looks like a weeping willow. It is headed up by Beverly (Sam Shepard), a college lecturer and occasional poet, and his poly-addicted wife, Violet (Meryl Streep), who personifies how pills came to be known as mother’s little helpers. Of their three grown daughters, only Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) has stuck close to home; Barbara (Julia Roberts) and Karen (Juliette Lewis) long ago picked up stakes for relationships by turn strained or serially monogamous.

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Film
6:00 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Film Review: Even In Spiritual Decline, Rome Remains 'The Great Beauty'

Toni Servillo plays a writer pondering what he has accomplished and what he may still achieve in 'The Great Beauty.'
Credit Courtesy of Janus Films

Throughout Paolo Sorrentino’s exuberant and strange film The Great Beauty,  a 65-year-old writer whose only hit novel was published 40 years prior struggles with his own reputation and mortality, as well as that of his beloved Rome, Italy. According to Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) and his jaded circle of friends, Rome is over and done – finito. As one of his friends says, the only decent people left in Rome are the tourists.

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Film
6:00 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Film Review: 'The Punk Singer' Who Influenced Rock Stars More Famous Than Her

'The Punk Singer' provides a glimpse at the life of artist and musician Kathleen Hanna.
Credit Allison Michael Orenstein

On the basis of Sini Anderson's enlightening and electric documentary The Punk Singer, many will come to consider its subject, Kathleen Hanna, one of the most influential musicians they've never heard of. But they can't walk away forgetting her.

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Film
7:00 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Film Review: Alex Gibney Documentary Unravels 'The Armstrong Lie'

The documentary Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney started to make in 2009 about Lance Armstrong ended up being something else entirely. Called The Armstrong Lie, the film contains footage that was shot as recently as May 2013, including the minutes following Armstrong’s confessional but smug and non-contrite interview with Oprah Winfrey.

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Performance
5:00 am
Wed December 11, 2013

The Living Room's 'Writer's Den' Giving Voice To Emerging Local Playwrights

Credit courtesy of The Living Room

It's the dream of playwrights everywhere to see their words make the leap from the page to the stage. The Crossroads venue known as The Living Room is currently helping young writers build that bridge with a project called The Writer's Den.

Widening the spotlight

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Performance
5:00 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Unicorn Theatre's 'Clybourne Park' Looks Into A House Divided

(from left to right): Brian Paulette, Jessalyn Kincaid, Janae Mitchell, and Mykel Hill as two couples exploring race relations in 'Clybourne Park.'
Credit Cynthia Levin / Unicorn Theatre

This week, the Unicorn Theatre opens the play Clybourne Park, which has the distinction of winning the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. Its two acts take place in the same house 50 years apart, and examine with equal humor and drama all the varying shades within the phrase, "There goes the neighborhood."

A house divided

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Film
5:19 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Film Review: In 'Philomena,' The Cruelties Of Youth Are Forgiven

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan become unlikely allies excavating her past in 'Philomena.'
Credit The Weinstein Company

In Stephen Frears' heartfelt and moving Philomena, the most effective shots are among the simplest a filmmaker can employ: tight close-ups. In this case, the camera’s focus is on the furrowed, and inspiringly lived-in face of the great Judi Dench. Playing a woman who longs to discover the whereabouts of the son taken from her when she was a teenager, Dench gives the title character a strength and resolve that has gotten her through the fifty years since she last saw her son.

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Film
6:00 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Film Review: 'Dallas Buyers Club' Becomes A Haven For People With AIDS In The 1980s

Rayon (Jared Leto) and Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) become unlikely allies in 'Dallas Buyers Club.'
Credit Focus Features

In 1985, just a handful of years into the AIDS epidemic, if someone appeared gaunt, splotchy, and paper-thin, it was suspected that they had contracted HIV. Though gay men made up a large percentage of those infected, the virus was transmitted via body fluids like blood and semen - with no regards to sexual orientation. Still, any man who contracted HIV during that Age of Ignorance was branded a contagious homosexual. As was Ron Woodroof, the profligately heterosexual rodeo cowboy robustly played by Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club.

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Performance
7:51 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Hanukkah Celebrated By Paul Mesner Puppets At Jewish Community Center

'Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins" cast rehearse at Paul Mesner Puppets in Midtown.
Photo by Steve Walker KCUR News

On Kansas City stages during the holiday season, there's an abundance of shows with Christmas themes. Audiences can go from Kansas City Ballet's The Nutcracker to Kansas City Repertory Theatre's A Christmas Carol, with several other destinations in between.

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Film
6:00 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Film Review: A Love Affair Ebbs And Flows In Controversial 'Blue Is The Warmest Color'

Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) falls for Emma (Léa Seydoux) in 'Blue is the Warmest Color.'
Credit Sundance Selects

Blue is the Warmest Color, the winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is a frank and honest examination of a relationship from a heated first glance to its dying embers. Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, the film rides waves of passion, bliss and anger in such truthful ways that anyone who’s been madly in love will identify with the couple, even if the parties happen to be two women. And to boot, the movie is wonderfully alive.

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Performance
5:00 am
Thu November 14, 2013

KU Theater Department Reinvents Stage Design With Computer Technology

Mark Reaney's computerized rendering of the set of the University Theatre's production of 'Adding Machine: A Musical'.
Mark Reaney Department of Theatre, University of Kansas

When the University Theatre at the University of Kansas in Lawrence first staged the play The Adding Machine in 1995, it garnered national attention. American Theatre magazine was impressed by the way the production utilized cutting edge computer animation in its set design. This week, the department opens a musical version of the play with its scenic designer intact while the technology used is now much more advanced.

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Film
6:45 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Film Review: '12 Years A Slave' A Portrait Of Dignity Under Extreme Duress

Lupita Nyong'o, Michael Fassbender, and Chiwetel Ejiofor are all excellent in Steve McQueen's '12 Years a Slave.'
Credit Courtesy / Fox Searchlight Pictures

In director Steve McQueen’s thematically brutal yet beautifully composed film 12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor gives an astonishing performance as Solomon Northup, a black musician whose trusting nature leads to the ultimate betrayal when he goes from a free man to a slave. That both director and actor are British and black isn’t an anomaly but rather an obtuse argument that perhaps American filmmakers are too close to the story of slavery in this country to do it justice.

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Performance
5:00 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Kansas City Funeral Home Becomes Unconventional Theatre Venue

The site is funereal but not the play: (left to right) Katie Gilchrist, Jeanne Averill, and David Fritts in Kansas City Actors Theatre's 'Three Viewings' at Muehlebach's Funeral Home.
Credit Brian Paulette / Kansas City Actors Theatre

Most theater productions comfortably nest in traditional, familiar venues, with a proscenium arch, a set taking up three walls, and the audience making up the fourth. Occasionally, though, the material calls for a stretch of the boundaries.

Such is the case with Kansas City Actors Theatre's Three Viewings, a play set in a funeral home whose three-week run will perform at Muehlebach's Funeral Home.

Dearly departed

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Film
5:49 am
Fri October 18, 2013

Film Review: Marital Malaise Leads To Sexual Moonlighting In 'Concussion'

Robin Weigert (right) as Abby, a bored suburban wife and mother who becomes a sexual escort for other women in 'Concussion.'
Credit Courtesy Radius-The Weinstein Company

With two kids, a mini-van and a lull in their love life, Abby and Kate are not much different from their suburban neighbors. The fact that they’re a married lesbian couple is beside the point – it is less important than their domestic apathy - yet still central to Stacie Passon’s assured, candid and clever film Concussion.

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Film
6:09 am
Fri October 4, 2013

Film Review: 'Parkland' Offers Fresh Perspective To JFK Assassination

Paul Giamatti behind the camera for what would become the Zapruder film in 'Parkland.'
Credit Courtesy Walleye Productions Inc.

It was a balmy 55 degrees in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 when the world imploded. In Peter Landesman’s electric docudrama Parkland, President Kennedy’s assassination and the 48 hours just after are handled with care and candor, and it puts viewers into parts of the story that have been historically recorded yet previously out-of-sight.

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Performance
8:43 am
Thu October 3, 2013

Egads! Theatre Company Brings Fresh Blood To The Musical 'Carrie'

Chelsea Anglemyer and Tara Varney in a mother-daughter battle to the death in the musical 'Carrie.'
Credit Amy Whitmore / Egads! Theatre Company

While area theaters often stage shows with Christmas or Hanukkah themes around the year-end holidays, it seems October has taken a lesson from December. Currently at Crown Center, Coterie Theatre is offering a version of Dracula, while at Off Center Theatre, the Egads! Theatre Company is staging a bloody show with a notorious reputation - the musical version of Stephen King's horror novel, Carrie.

High school confidential

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Film
5:35 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Film Review: Empty Nesters Fall Hard In Like In 'Enough Said'

James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus attempt to be a couple on the verge of their kids leaving for college in 'Enough Said.'
Credit Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

In Nicole Holofcener’s smart and engaging comedy Enough Said, two single parents on the verge of becoming empty nesters meet and fall hard in like. Wonderfully played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini, they’re captured in the foundling stage of a potential companionship and their efforts to make it work are infinitely pleasurable to watch.

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Film
5:30 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Film Review: 'Thanks For Sharing' Barrels Through Addiction, Recovery, and Relapse

Mark Ruffalo (center) and Tim Robbins (right) share the woes of sex addiction in 'Thanks for Sharing.'

For a movie about addiction to work, it needs to get its hands dirty. Even if it ends with the sunniest sobriety imaginable, it has to earn it; it has to show a protagonist hitting rock bottom. Thanks for Sharing is such a movie.

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Performance
5:00 am
Thu September 19, 2013

'Red Badge Variations' Updates Classic Novel To Present Day Afghanistan

(Left to right): Jacob Aaron Cullum (as Henry Fleming), Matt Leonard (as Wilson), Matthew Joseph (as JC), Jake Walker (as Doc), and Francisco Javier Villegas (as Tat) in Red Badge Variations.
Credit J. Robert Schraeder / courtesy of Coterie Theatre.

Between this month and next summer, The Coterie Theatre will unveil three world premieres, including a new play inspired by the classic novel The Red Badge of Courage. Playwright Melissa Cooper calls the play Red Badge Variations, and rather than revisit the book's Civil War setting, she was given the go-ahead to update it in order to tell the story of five soldiers serving in present day Afghanistan.

Soldiers' stories

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Film
9:00 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Film Review: 'Hannah Arendt' Discovers In Nazi Trial The Banality Of Evil

Barbara Sukowa is a complicated and problematic writer in 'Hannah Arendt.'
Credit Courtesy of Heimatfilm

Political writer Hannah Arendt was born in 1906 into a family of German Jews, perhaps narrow justification for why the editors of The New Yorker deemed her the perfect candidate to cover the 1961 trial of Hitler henchman Adolf Eichmann. 

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