theatre

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Sound and lighting designers at Kansas City's Unicorn Theatre are pulling out all the stops for the world premiere of the play The Ghosts of Lote Bravo. Thanks to a six-figure grant, the Unicorn has been able to upgrade to the latest technology the theater world has to offer.

courtesy Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

Spencer Fane LLP's commitment to arts funding dates back to 2006, and the early days of the campaign for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. 

"We made a $75,000 challenge grant at the beginning of their fundraising efforts. That obviously was a large donation for us," says Nate Orr, a partner at the firm's headquarters in Kansas City. He heads up the charitable giving program. 

Courtesy Logan Black

Logan Black is an Iraq War veteran and an actor. Last year he moved Kansas City Fringe Festival audiences with Bond: A Soldier and His Dog, a one-act play he wrote about his relationship with a specialized search dog named Diego.

With another run for the show this month, however, Black has faced a tough reality, with implications for the play’s future: Diego hasn't been well.

Black was Diego's handler. Together, they cleared roads of roadside bombs and searched homes and discovered other stockpiles of ordnance.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Updated, 2:15 p.m. Friday:

At least five journalists have taken voluntary buyouts from the Kansas City Star.

Those departing include editorial page editor Steve Paul, columnist Barb Shelly, theater critic and arts reporter Robert Trussell and assistant sports editor Mark Zeligman.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Starlight Theatre offers nearly a dozen performing arts education programs, but staffers are often working around the schedules of the Broadway musicals or concerts. 

Officials with the theater hope a new addition will alleviate some of the logistical issues. On Thursday, the 66-year-old theater unveiled a new education pavilion and a dedicated space for education programming

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Many actors say they finally get into character when they put on their costumes. An effective costume design can transport audiences to ancient Greece or to the nifty 1950s of the musical Grease. The wardrobe created for the Unicorn Theatre's production of The Whale brings to the stage the life of a 600-pound shut-in. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

What does it mean to be an American teenager? That's been a question posed everywhere from The Catcher in the Rye to Huckleberry Finn. It's also the subject of the Spinning Tree Theatre's production of the musical 13, a show about adolescents — with a cast made up of nineteen of them.

At a recent rehearsal for the company's production of 13, sets are under construction and the musical director is tinkering with the score.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

It's a rare person who can make a full-time living as a playwright in Kansas City. Nathan Louis Jackson is such a person. His gig as playwright-in-residence at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre was recently renewed.

Kansas City Repertory Theatre

In the 1930s and 1940s, many Jews in Europe lived in fear — or in hiding — from the Nazis. 

A cramped attic in Amsterdam served as a makeshift home for two years for Anne Frank, her family, and four others. 

This secret annex was discovered, and Anne’s father, Otto Frank, was the only one to survive the concentration camps – but their stories live on through Anne’s diary, first published in 1947. 

Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl, was turned into a play and a film in the 1950s. Now, decades later, there’s an update for a new era. 

The Enlightenment was a time marked by logical thought and a questioning of traditional authority. Among the great male minds of this period were some notable women. One in particular equaled, and often outshone, many men during the Age of Reason.

Guests:

Creative Commons

A food-borne virus traced to an Overland Park dinner theater has sickened even more people than originally thought, health authorities say.

More than 600 people have now reported symptoms of norovirus after attending the New Theatre Restaurant in mid-January.

Since the first reports of the illness, state and local health authorities have been working with the popular venue on cleanup and safe food practices.

Hannah Copeland / KCUR 89.3

Thirty-five local playwrights will capture the mood of Kansas City's present and future at the city's first One-Minute Play Festival this weekend on City Stage at Union Station.

Founded in New York by producing artistic director Dominic D'Andrea, one-minute play festivals have spread all over the country, "with the goal of promoting the spirit of radical inclusion by representing local cultures of playwrights of different age, gender, race, cultures, and points of career," according to the festival's website.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

A new one-act play re-examines an enormous explosion that rocked Kansas City and killed six firefighters. The jury convicted five men of setting the 1988 fire, but investigative reporting has cast doubt on key facts in the case.

The process of producing the play, called Justice in the Embers, meant writing a script with a dogged journalist and visiting a convicted felon. 

Creative Commons / Public Domain Images

More than 100 people who attended the New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park on Sunday, Jan. 17, reported becoming ill, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

In a news release Wednesday, the agency says it’s investigating an outbreak of norovirus infection. Symptoms of the extremely contagious virus include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.

KDHE says it’s conducting a confidential online survey of people who attended the matinee and evening performances staged that day at the popular dinner theater.

Many Kansas Citians still remember the morning of Nov. 29, 1988. That was the day a blast miles distant woke tens of thousands in the metro in a tragedy that claimed the lives of six Kansas City firefighters. Now, a stage production explores some of the mysteries that remain about the events leading up to the explosion.

Guest:

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Starlight Theatre has been an integral part of Kansas City summers since 1950. But a new initiative is under way to stage shows when the theater is usually empty — during the winter. This year's January slate offers four Off-Broadway type productions. 

The impetus for the winter shows comes from Richard Baker, who took the job of president and CEO of Starlight in March 2014 after nearly three decades running the Fox Theatre in St. Louis.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

After playing Bob Cratchit in Kansas City Repertory Theatre's A Christmas Carol for the past six years, it seems actor Walter Coppage was up for a change.

In this year's production, Coppage was asked to take on two new roles — as the ghost of the miserly Jacob Marley and as the generous businessman Mr. Fezziwig. And, like others he's taken on throughout his career, these characters offer some unorthodox challenges. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

A large crowd of supporters and donors gathered Friday morning in the freshly renovated lobby space of the Spencer Theatre on the UMKC campus.

After a seven-month, $5.6 million reconstruction, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's primary venue now has a new stage floor, new seats, updated lighting and acoustic design as well as an expanded lobby. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

For a solid 10 years, actor Don Richard performed on nearly every Kansas City stage. A production of the musical Jane Eyre that began in Wichita, Kansas, eventually landed in New York City on Broadway, where he often appears today. He's currently back in town for Musical Theater Heritage's production of Urinetown: The Musical. 

As part of the monthly series Actors Off Script, Richard, who's now based in Chicago, talks about his journey from modest parts in local theaters to the Broadway stage.

He stood alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for civil rights, yet the name Bayard Rustin remains largely unknown. We hear the story of this important figure in history. 

Guests:

In 2007 in Cleveland, Johanna Orozco was raped and shot in the jaw by her ex-boyfriend. Coverage of the shooting inspired new legislation in Ohio targeting teen-on-teen violence and a play based on Johanna's experience. Steve Kraske speaks with the journalist who covered the event and the playwright of "Johanna: Moving Forward."

Guests:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Anyone staging Charles Busch's play Die, Mommie, Die! is advised to cast a male actor as its lead female character. Playing the fading movie star Angela Arden at Musical Theater Heritage in Crown Center is Late Night Theatre veteran De De DeVille, whose given name is David Krom.

As part of our monthly series Actors Off-Script, Krom talks about a 20-plus year career that began on a dare. 

You grew up as David Krom. What was your journey like to becoming De De DeVille? When did that happen?

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As a young child, Helen Keller lost her vision, hearing, and ability to speak. Her teacher, Annie Sullivan, gave her the tools to communicate with the world. Theirs was a friendship that lasted for five decades – and the play about that relationship, The Miracle Worker, opens this week at the Coterie Theatre. 

As part of our monthly series Actors Off-Script, Vanessa Severo (Annie) and Josephine Pellow (Helen) talked about some of the challenges of bringing this story to the stage. 

His character, Jerry, was the butt of numerous jokes on NBC's Parks and Recreation which ran for seven years. Actor Jim O'Heir fills in Steve Kraske on what went on at last weekend's Emmy Awards, what it was like working on Parks & Rec and the reason he's in town.

Jim O'Heir appears in 'You Can't Take It With You' at the New Theatre Restaurant September 24 through November 29. For more information go to newtheatre.com

Julie Denesha / KCUR

T’khara Jones and her younger sister KhaTera Jones wanted to take dance lessons.

Their older sister won gymnastics and dance trophies, and they had an aunt whose dancing mesmerized them.

"I just thought, 'Wow that looks so much fun, it just looks beautiful," says T'khara. "I always wanted to do it."

Same went for KhaTera, a year behind her in school.

"One of my friends took dance classes and I thought it was really cool. When I first started wanting to take dance classes, it was maybe fourth or fifth grade."

courtesy of A to Z Theatrical Supply and Service

After five decades in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City, A to Z Theatrical Supply and Service has moved to a long-vacant building in east Brookside. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In Sarah Ruhl's play The Oldest Boy, a suburban couple's life is turned on its ear when they learn their 3-year-old son may be the reincarnation of a high Buddhist lama. Playing the boy's mother in the Unicorn Theatre production is Katie Kalahurka. 

For our series called Actors Off-Script, Kalahurka spoke with me about motherhood and the innovative way her character's son's story comes to life.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

With its new production of West Side Story, Spinning Tree Theatre takes an intimate approach to a large classic musical.

It’s thought to be the first in Kansas City with an all-local, all-professional cast. And while maintaining the original choreography, two veteran cast members are putting their own stamp on it. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

During the day, Robert Hingula works as an attorney for one of Kansas City’s most prominent law firms.

But for the next few weeks, he’ll be spending his evenings as Shrek, starring in productions at the Jewish Community Center and at Shawnee Mission's Theatre in the Park.

J. Robert Schraeder / courtesy of The Coterie Theatre

The extraordinary freedom of expression that we have in this country is routinely utilized by artists who choose to perform on stage, along with audiences that seek to be engaged by their efforts.

Keep that in mind this Fourth of July weekend, while enjoying the talents of actors and musicians who are free to go wherever their creative spirit leads.

That kind of liberty? Only in America.

1. ‘Pippin’

Pages