Performance

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’

Image Courtesy of Starlight Theatre / Copyright Bob Compton Photography

At the end of May, more than 2,000 kids and their friends and parents headed to Starlight Theatre for the Blue Star Awards, Kansas City’s high school version of the Tony Awards. They got decked out in dramatic formal wear, walked down a red carpet and had their pictures taken, then performed bits of their shows and made acceptance speeches.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In a small dressing room Saturday afternoon, nine young dancers from AileyCamp The Group crowded around a bank of mirrors checking makeup and donning leotards. The dance troupe was one of three performing in Festival on the Vine’s youth matinee performance at the Gem Theater in Kansas City.

The three-day festival of dance over the weekend featured Kansas City-based Owen/Cox Dance Group, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance from Colorado and CRISOL danza Fusión from Mexico. And Saturday was the moment for young dancers to take the stage. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival has graced Southmoreland Park for 23 seasons — and actor John Rensenhouse has been there for 10 of them. This year, he takes on the role of King Lear, with his volatile moods and ungrateful daughters. 

"He still wants to be king but he doesn’t want to do the work, so he is going to divide his kingdom up into three parts and give a part to each of his daughters," Rensenhouse says. 

LIbrary of Congress/Google Images -- CC

During World War II, the Hollywood Canteen in Los Angeles was a famous nightclub where civilian hostesses danced with Allied soldiers of all races. It was an oasis during a time of segregation — or was it? KU professor Sherrie Tucker interviewed people who frequented the club and heard about their different — and sometimes contradictory — experiences on the dance floor.

Guest:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The downtown performance space known as The Living Room arrived on the scene in 2010 with a debut season that included two plays by John Kolvenbach. Five years later, Scott Cordes and Katie Gilchrist are back in the directors’ chairs with both plays being performed in repertory.

What if Bill Clinton had 90 minutes to give a no-holds-barred TED talk? That's the scene in "Bill Clinton Hercules," a one-man show starring Kansas City actor Bob Paisley. Hear about the  off-hand comment that inspired the play and how Paisley evokes the 42nd president. 

Want to see "Bill Clinton Hercules"? The show opens at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre on Wednesday, May 6 for a 4-day run. For tickets and information, click here.

courtesy: Lyric Opera of Kansas City

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City announced this week, just days after the season finale of Tosca, that artistic director Ward Holmquist is out of a job — one he's held since 1998. 

"Lyric Opera of Kansas City is reorganizing along the lines of standard industry structure for the purpose of improved effectiveness and efficiency in our operation and has eliminated the position of Artistic Director. Lyric Opera of Kansas City today announces the departure of Artistic Director Ward Holmquist. We thank him for his years of service," Board chair Kenneth Hager said in a statement issued Thursday.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In 1961, in the heat of the civil rights movement, black and white college students rode buses through the South to challenge segregated public transportation. These "Freedom Riders" are the subject of a new play being staged by the University of Missouri-Kansas City's theater department. It's a collaboration between students, several playwrights, a director, and a choir. They hope to inspire a conversation about how the lessons of the past can have meaning in the present. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Spencer Theatre, the main stage for Kansas City Repertory Theatre, opened in 1979 on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus. The interior was updated with new seats in 2002, but over the past three decades, other changes have been limited. Starting May 18, however, a $5.5 million renovation gets underway. 

"It is my pleasure to welcome all of you today to the lobby of the Spencer Theatre, which six months from now will look significantly different than it does today," Scott Boswell, chair of the Rep's board of directors, said to a crowd of supporters and UMKC faculty and staff on Monday morning. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Theater insiders will call someone who acts, writes, and directs a triple threat. Kyle Hatley, Kansas City Repertory Theatre's resident director, is such a person. Following his acclaimed performance in An Iliad earlier this year, he's now at the helm of Sticky Traps, the theater's third play by Kansas City's own Nathan Louis Jackson.

In this month's installment of Director's Cuts, Hatley talks about his history with Jackson, a playwright-in-residence at the Rep, and what it means to rehearse a show with the playwright in the room.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As curator of The Fishtank, an evolving performance space in the Crossroads Arts District, Heidi Van has helped ignite a growing interest in experimental theater. She's produced shows in the building's front windows with the audience in the street, performed a play in a lingerie shop around the corner, and tweaked the art of clowning.

In this month's installment of Director's Cuts, Heidi Van talks about how her avant-garde sensibility might influence her first directing job at The Coterie: a production of Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The two-act ballet Giselle premiered in 1841. Today, this story of a peasant girl who falls in love with a nobleman in disguise is considered a classic. There’s a love triangle, a mad scene, and ghosts who dance men to death.

Giselle as a 'personal experience'

At the Bolender Center on a recent afternoon, Kansas City Ballet rehearsals were underway for Giselle. It's the first act when Giselle, a young peasant girl, falls in love with Albrecht, a nobleman disguised as a peasant. Here’s the problem – the village gamekeeper, Hilarion, is also in love with Giselle.

Esther Honig / KCUR

On a Monday night at the Lee A. Tolbert gymnasium in Kansas City, 80 dancers ages 6-25 gather for one of two weekly practices of The Marching Cobras. 

In gym shorts and sneakers, the dancers break a sweat running through their routines. They move to the beats of a group of young drummers banging out a rhythm loud enough to make your ears pound.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Musicologist John Lomax set out to do field recordings in the early 1930s of African-American songs in the southern United States. With the help of his son, Alan, he recorded ballads, reels, work songs, and the blues – some were recorded in prisons. That’s where John Lomax met the guitar player Huddie Ledbetter, better known as "Lead Belly."

A version of this story – with two women as the lead characters – is the focus of the play Black Pearl Sings! written by prolific Kansas City playwright Frank Higgins.

Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Angels in America is Tony Kushner’s two-part epic now playing at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Set in New York in the 1980s, it’s a commentary on AIDS, religion, politics, and love in the Reagan era.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Graduate students in the Masters of Fine Arts program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City recently spent a week expanding their creative horizons with artist-in-residence Tony Fuemmeler, a mask maker and puppeteer based in Portland, Ore.

Their task: Create a mask using natural materials and thrift-store finds.

Days before the deadline for a clarinet and saxophone competition to win $1,000 and a trip to Paris, Gunnar Gidner could barely stand. A spinal injury had left him unable to walk, much less practice his tenor saxophone, for two and a half months.

Gidner had recovered enough to return to school at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance in December. His jazz combo was rehearsing on his first day back, and Gidner’s professor, Dan Thomas, heard the recording and thought it was good. Really good.

Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

"This is the story of two great fighters: Achilles and Hector," says the Poet, a storyteller played by Kyle Hatley in the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's production of An Iliad. "What drove them to fight? The gods." 

An Iliad, adapted for the stage by Lisa Peterson and Kansas City native Denis O'Hare, is based on "The Iliad," a nearly 3,ooo-year-old epic poem attributed to Homer. The story takes place in the final year of the 10-year war between the Greeks and the Trojans.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Theatre for Young America honors President's Day with the play Starring Abe Lincoln, written and directed by the company's co-founder Gene Mackey. The show is a biographical portrait of the 16th president told by the man himself, who happened to be attending another play the night in question.

Director Gene Mackey talked about the production as part of our monthly series, Director's Cuts.

On Wednesday, NPR released a "Field Recording" of internationally renowned opera star and Kansas City native Joyce DiDonato at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

The riots that took place at the bar in 1969 are widely credited with launching the modern gay rights movement in the U.S. 

Here is DiDonato's video, and below is a link to the full NPR story explaining why she made it.

Helix Architecture + Design

Kansas City Repertory Theatre will announce Tuesday that it’s close to its $5 million fundraising goal for renovations. To date, $4,793, 700 has been raised. 

The Hall Family Foundation contributed a $3 million lead gift. The Rep received other major gifts from individual donors and foundations, such as the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation, Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, and the William T. Kemper Foundation for the Arts. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

  The Greek myth about the short-lived marriage of Orpheus and Eurydice is traditionally relayed from his point of view. Playwright Sarah Ruhl's version turns that around in her play Eurydice, opening next week at The Living Room.

Directing the show is Natalie Liccardello, who talked about the production as part of our monthly series, Director's Cuts

Courtesy David Wayne Reed

Theatergoers anticipating Help Yourself, the new show by Kansas City playwright and actor David Wayne Reed, got some insights into Reed’s inspiration on Wednesday’s Central Standard.

Local Listen: Vinson Cole

Jan 9, 2015

Vinson Cole may not be a household name, but the operatic tenor is revered in Kansas City's artistic circles.

This week's edition of Local Listen features a splendid track from Cole's 1993 album "In Love With Love."

Cole's contributions will be recognized in a concert benefiting the Lyric Opera of Kansas City on Sunday, January 11 at 4 pm at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th Street, Kansas City, Mo.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The Nutcracker, with choreography by Todd Bolender, has played a role in the holiday season for Kansas City audiences since 1981. But, on Christmas Eve, the curtain falls for the last time on this version of the production.

The Sugar Plum Fairy lightly takes center stage in a gold tutu at the final dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  

Cynthia Levin / Unicorn Theatre

Hollywood super agent Sue Mengers was never a household name. But, in the 1970s, she was considered the most powerful woman in show business. The play, I'll Eat You Last, opening this weekend at the Unicorn Theatre, shows that Mengers could be as vulnerable as she was cut-throat. 

Sidonie Garrett, the show's director, answered some questions about the show as part of our monthly series, Director's Cuts

Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Gary Neal Johnson has been performing in the Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol since 1982. And he’s played Ebeneezer Scrooge for more than a decade. Hear what Johnson has learned from his deep immersion in this story of moral and spiritual redemption.

Guest:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In the depths of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, small herds of children passed racks of snowflake and flower costumes Wednesday night as they made their way to dressing rooms just before Kansas City Ballet’s final dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker.

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