Steve Walker

Freelance 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 of 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.

www.themusicofstrangers.film

For some people, music is a language that can be communicated without words. Up To Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics add a new pick this weekend, that explains the beauty and power of music that speaks for itself.

Cynthia Haines

The Music of Strangers, PG-13

www.nerdist.com

Although we don't have a Weekend To-Do List this week, Up To Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics have a few new recommendations that might leave you bewildered.

Cynthia Haines

NUTS!, not rated

  • Dr. John Romulus Brinkley was an eccentric/flimflam man who made a fortune "curing" impotence with goat gonads. Need we say more?

Tickled, R

http://www.nutsthefilm.com/

You may not be able to go out and blow stuff up with the same vim and vigor, but that doesn't mean you have to let the wet forecast put a damper on your Independence Day weekend. Up To Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics have a few recommendations to keep you entertained — and dry! — while the rain passes through.

Cynthia Haynes

NUTS!, Not rated

docnyc.net

Up To Date's indie, foreign & documentary film critics' latest picks cover a lot of ground. From a 1990s dance troupe that finds confidence and acceptance while on tour, to the 1790s and a devious widow who ruffles feathers in her relentless search for a rich husband, these movies are a great excuse to sit in the dark and be transported through time.

Cynthia Haynes

Strike a Pose, unrated

Berlin Film Festival

What does it take for Thomas Wolfe to achieve greatness? Up to Date’s indie, foreign and documentary film critic Steve Walker selected a biopic that helps break the mystery of his phenomenal writing. Dive in to one of these flicks while they're still on area screens.

Genius, PG-13

Mongrel Media

It's not just temperatures that are rising this weekend. From a controversial examination of the connections (or lack thereof) between vaccines and autism, to the absurdist drama of adults finding a mate before they literally turn into animals, Up To Date's indie, foreign, and documentary film critic Steve Walker's suggestions will get a rise out of viewers, too.

Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe, Unrated

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.

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. 

Courtesy Amanda Kibler / The Coterie

Advances in equal rights for LGBT people – along with the struggles that remain – filtered through the imagination of theatrically inclined teenagers should make for intriguing performances this weekend when the Coterie Theatre presents "Gears and Queers," the result of the third annual Project Pride.

Project Pride begins with group discussions and improvisation exercises, then culminates a few weeks later with a staged production of vignettes created and shaped by the teenaged cast.

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.

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.

Lydia Miller / The Living Room

At just 23 years old, Emma Carter is making a name for herself in Kansas City as a playwright.

By the close of this year, Carter will have had her work staged at several venues around town, including a production of her play Junk, opening this weekend at the Living Room downtown.

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. 

Lynn Wilson / Washburn University

As a teenager in Topeka, Kansas, Gary Jackson found solace from loss and loneliness in comic books, with a best friend named Stuart, and in putting his own pen to paper.

He captured those memories in a 2010 poetry collection called Missing You, Metropolis that won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a first-book award for "exceptional manuscripts by black poets."

Courtesy Fox Networks

In May 1978, three masked men strode into the Virginia Tavern east of downtown Kansas City and shot up the joint. Michael Spero was killed and his brothers Carl and Joseph injured. In his book The Mafia and the Machine: The Story of the Kansas City Mob, Frank Hayde called it "the most aggressive gangland hit" since the 1933 Union Station Massacre.

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.

Mike Edmund / Courtesy Andrew Jenks Entertainment

Ryan Ferguson was nineteen years old on March 10, 2004, when he found himself in the back of a police car headed to the station in Columbia, Missouri.

On the basis of flimsy eyewitness reports and faulty if not fabricated evidence, he would be convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder two years earlier of Columbia Daily Tribune staffer Kent Heitholt.

Courtesy Oskar Landi / Urban Romances, A Sundance Selects Release

Though the late choreographer George Balanchine may have been a genius, he had a skewed vision of what his ballerinas should look like. He dictated they be flat-chested and that they follow diets so strict they stopped menstruating. Today that's called body fascism in some circles. And it might have produced as much hurt as art.

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?

Courtesy Aimee Larabee

The Hippocratic Oath that's guided doctors for centuries asks them to "remember that there is art to medicine as well as science." The late cardiac surgeon Jeffrey Piehler and Prairie Village filmmaker Aimee Larrabee shared that sentiment, and the result is her documentary Patient: A Surgeon's Journey, making its one-night local premiere October 1 at the Tivoli Cinema in Westport.

 

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. 

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.

Doane Gregory

Given the titanic success of Kansas City native Gillian Flynn's third novel Gone Girl and the subsequent David Fincher film, it isn't surprising that Flynn's back catalog would look tasty to the entertainment industry. But can lightning strike twice?

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.

Within the predictable summer onslaught of overstimulated superheroes in crushing surround sound, it’s refreshing to find a charming and funny antidote in "I’ll See You in My Dreams." Directed and co-written by Brett Haley, the movie stars Blythe Danner as Carol, a widowed resident of a retirement village who finds companionship with one man around her age and another some forty years younger. Both of them succeed at whittling away the tough barriers she thought she has needed around her.

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. 

Courtesy of James Randi

In the 1970s and '80s, a magician known as the Amazing Randi was a favorite talk show guest for the wryly entertaining way he debunked his fellow illusionists, evangelical faith healers, and psychics alike.

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.

Film 4 Productions

When editorial writers hoped to spur the country's westward expansion with the phrase “Go west, young man,” they might not have envisioned a sixteen-year-old from Scotland whose beloved has a bounty on her head. But that’s the deceptively simple narrative of Slow West, director and writer John Maclean’s creative, at times dazzling new western.

Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Jay, a teenager who left his native Scotland for the Colorado territories circa 1870, a place and time of volatility and random violence. Equipped with money, a gun, and two suitcases stuffed with clothes and cooking utensils, he’s on horseback and intent on reuniting with Rose (Caren Pistorius), his girlfriend from back home. Stopped and held at gunpoint by a grizzled outlaw, Jay is saved by a fellow renegade named Silas (the charismatic Michael Fassbender), who conveniently shoots the robber through the head.

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / IFC Films

Based on its trailer and the reputation of its rowdy star, one might expect the new Jack Black comedy The D Train to be thick with predictable shenanigans involving the pot-bellied man-child at its center. But the writing and directing team of Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul give Black unexpected layers of complex emotion to make a profound statement about contemporary male sexuality.

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