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
6:08 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Film Review: A Palestinian Son Spies On His Father In 'The Green Prince'

Mosab Hassan Yousef and Gonen Ben Yitzhak in 'The Green Prince.'
Credit Music Box Films

Is selling one’s soul to a parent’s worst enemy justified if it means avoiding torture, prison, or much worse? Such is the quandary at the crux of Nadav Schirman’s documentary The Green Prince, a tense and dense examination into how Mosab Hassan Yousef, a young Palestinian whose father was a founder of Hamas, ended up an informant for the Israeli security force known as Shin Bet. By the time viewers reach its bittersweet climax, prior documentaries about guarded family secrets will seem like Saturday-morning cartoons.

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Arts & Culture
5:00 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Five On Life: Documentaries In The 14th Kansas International Film Festival

Miguel Cortes in '120 Days'
Credit Brad Allgood

Update, Monday, Oct. 13: The jury award in the Social Justice Documentary category was announced on Oct. 13. It went to 120 Days. Audience awards will be announced at the end of the festival on Thursday, Oct. 16.

Immigration, contamination from everyday chemicals, and Christian colleges' struggle with gay students and alumni are among the topical and controversial issues explored in the films up for the Best Documentary Jury Prize in this year’s Kansas International Film Festival.

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Arts & Culture
8:37 am
Fri October 3, 2014

Director's Cuts: Ric Averill On 'The Nervous Set'

Thomas Picasso (Danny) and Seth Golay (Brad) sing of feeling sick of hearing songs about New York.
Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of writer William S. Burroughs, an icon of the Beat movement.

Burroughs lived in Lawrence, Kan., from 1981 until his death in 1997.

As a way of honoring him, the Lawrence Arts Center is focusing some of its programming on Burroughs' work and influence, including a production of the 1950s musical The Nervous Set.

Here, Megan Birdsall sings one of the songs from the production called "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most":

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Arts & Culture
6:00 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Film Review: Bill Hader And Kristen Wiig Clean Out Closets In 'The Skeleton Twins'

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader in 'The Skeleton Twins.'
Credit Roadside Attractions

Saturday Night Live fans who've felt a void since Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig departed the show can get sated with The Skeleton Twins. Playing Milo and Maggie, siblings who are rehabilitating their relationship after a 10-year freeze, Hader and Wiig wield comedic chops as well as dramatic ones, reminding SNL viewers that the cast wasn't made up slap-happy stand-up comics but fine actors.

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Performance
8:17 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Director's Cuts: David Cromer On 'Our Town'

Director David Cromer (at left), with the Rep's artistic director Eric Rosen, in a public conversation about 'Our Town.'
Credit Andi Enns / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Our Town, the Thornton Wilder play about small town life in Grover's Corners, has been a staple of high school theater for so long, one would think its commercial prospects would be slim. 

But director David Cromer's 2009 production Off-Broadway was a smash hit, chalking up the longest run in its 76-year history. Cromer directs the current production at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. 

David Cromer answered these questions as part of our monthly series, Director's Cuts

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Arts & Culture
2:48 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Film Review: A Hotel Inspector Doesn't Exactly Enjoy Her 'Five Star Life'

Margherita Buy is a hotel inspector seemingly living 'A Five Star Life.'
Credit Courtesy Music Box Films

Everyone who’s ever stayed at a hotel turns into a hotel inspector as soon as the bellman closes the door. Does the bedspread look plush or threadbare? Is the bathroom gleaming or grungy? Will room service arrive promptly and hot or late and cold? In the new Italian film A Five Star Life, Margherita Buy wonders these and other things as a hotel inspector beginning to question the constriction and loneliness of a career that looks awfully glamorous from the outside.

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Arts & Culture
9:30 am
Fri August 22, 2014

Film Review: Anna Kendrick's Flakiness Complicates Her Family's 'Happy Christmas'

Lena Dunham and Anna Kendrick attempt a babysitting job with Jude Swanberg in "Happy Christmas."
Credit Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The new dysfunctional family comedy Happy Christmas may have modest goals, but it makes an impact thanks to several lively and well-crafted performances. Chief among those is Anna Kendrick. The Oscar nominee from Up in the Air is delightfully scattered as Jenny, a young woman fresh off a break-up who retreats to her brother’s home in Chicago in hopes of reconnecting with old friends and sustaining a semi-permanent buzz.

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Arts & Culture
9:30 am
Fri August 15, 2014

Film Review: 'The Dog' Introduces Inspiration For Iconic Al Pacino Role

Al Pacino plays John in " Dog Day Afternoon."
Credit Courtesy: Drafthouse Films

Those whose movie addiction firmly took hold in the 1970s have a deep affinity for such films as Nashville, Taxi Driver, and Dog Day Afternoon, three perfect melds of storytelling and cinematic virtuosity. What many may forget about the latter film - directed by Sidney Lumet and with a volcanic Al Pacino at its core - is that it was based on a real bank robbery concocted by a real person, now the subject of The Dog.

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Arts & Culture
5:31 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Director's Cuts: Sarah Crawford On 'South Pacific'

Musical Theater Heritage's cast of sailors sing 'There Is Nothing Like a Dame' from 'South Pacific.'
Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR

When the musical South Pacific debuted in 1949, it was considered radical for its treatment of issues of race and interracial romance. Opening this weekend is a production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic by Musical Theater Heritage, who've carved out a niche in Kansas City for the unique manner in which they stage their shows.

Here’s the cast on the night of a recent rehearsal:

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Arts & Culture
9:55 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Film Review: An Extraordinary Film Tracks An Ordinary 'Boyhood'

Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" was filmed over more than a decade. Ellar Coltrane, shown here throughout the years, played Mason.
Credit Matt Lankes / courtesy of IFC Films

The fact that Richard Linklater’s extraordinary movie Boyhood was filmed over the course of 12 years could come off as a gimmick. Yet this amazing accomplishment is no trick and, thanks to powerful performances and a seamless narrative, it packs an emotional wallop that is both unexpected and hard to shake.

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Arts & Culture
9:52 am
Fri July 25, 2014

Film Review: The French-English Hybrid 'Chinese Puzzle' Celebrates Complicated Lives

Cécile De France, Romain Duris, Kelly Reilly, and Audrey Tautou in 'Chinese Puzzle.'
Credit courtesy of Cohen Media Group

There's a scene in Cédric Klapisch's warm, exuberant comedy Chinese Puzzle that perfectly captures both the beauty and complications of a life well lived. A discussion between two men (one living, one a hallucination) proposes that a piece of embroidery is an apt metaphor for the human condition: on one side is a lovely picture of a moment captured in time. But turned over, one sees all of the knotty entanglements.

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Arts & Culture
1:25 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Film Review: 'Venus in Fur' Tests The Limits Of Dominance And Submission

Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner in 'Venus in Fur.'
Credit Guy Ferrandis / IFC Films

Despite director Roman Polanski's checkered personal history, his film resume is nearly blot-free.

From Rosemary's Baby to Chinatown to The Pianist, Polanski films examine our capacity to strive and dream in the face of brutal outside influences.

While his adaptation of David Ives' Tony Award-winning play Venus in Fur isn't at the level of those movies, it has a familiar and intoxicatingly dark tone and pulse.

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Arts & Culture
6:00 am
Thu July 17, 2014

From Page To Park: Parting With Sweet Sorrow

Bruce Roach as Leontes.
Brian Collins Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

The cast and crew of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival’s The Winter’s Tale have shared three weeks of rehearsals and 17 and a half performances since they gathered for their first read through at the end of May.

There was one complete rain out and one at intermission — but all in all, healthy crowds, nearly 23,000 people, for one of Shakespeare's lesser known titles. The final installment of the series From Page to Park explores what it means for a company to close a show.

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Up To Date
1:05 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Up To Date's Indie, Foreign & Doc Critics' 'Three To See,' July 3 - 6

Credit Snowpiecer

  Up to Date's independent, foreign and documentary film critics share their favorites showing on area screens:

Steve Walker:

Cynthia Haines:

  • Ida
  • A Hard Days Night
  • Chef
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Up to Date
3:10 am
Sat June 28, 2014

Up To Date's Indie, Foreign & Doc Critics' 'Three To See,' June 27

Credit Canal+ Polska

  Up to Date's independent, foreign and documentary film critics share their favorites showing on area screens:

Cynthia Haines:

  • Chef
  • Belle
  • Ida (English subtitles)

Steve Walker:

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Arts & Culture
12:05 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Film Review: To Woo A Big Factory, Tiny Village Plots 'The Grand Seduction'

Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch work out some father-son issues in Newfoundland in "The Grand Seduction."
Credit 2014 Entertainment One Films

When independent films feature a small town and a huge corporation at their core, they are usually depicted as foes like David and Goliath – the good and the average against the lumbering giant.

Local Hero from 1983 comes to mind, as does Promised Land, the recent movie about fracking in the Midwest. The Grand Seduction, however, reverses that formula, proving that the battle lines aren’t always drawn that cleanly.

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Arts & Culture
10:00 am
Tue June 24, 2014

4 Films To See At The Kansas City LGBT Film Festival This Weekend

A scene from the film, 'To Be Takei.'
Credit Courtesy of Sundance Institute

As the march toward full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in America advances at varying speeds, there remains a sense that the LGBT community can still be marginalized in the movies. That's what makes film festivals like Out Here Now so relevant to the LGBT communities and their staunch allies.

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Arts & Culture
8:00 am
Fri June 13, 2014

From Page To Park: Controlling The Chaos And Finding A Rhythm

Actor Bruce Roach (at left) and choreographer and movement coach Tracy Terstriep take a closer look at a three-dimensional model of the set on the first day of rehearsal.
Julie Denesha KCUR

For more than two decades, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival has turned Southmoreland Park into a place where Hamlet posed questions, Macbeth’s witches toiled and troubled, and Romeo and Juliet professed their love. This year’s production of The Winter’s Tale, one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, will come to life thanks to like-minded artists whose collective goal is to make the play leap effortlessly From Page To Park.

Getting started

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Arts & Culture
6:28 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Film Review: 'Night Moves' A Morality Tale Where Environmental Activism Turns Deadly

Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard star in 'Night Moves,' directed by Kelly Reichardt.
Credit Courtesy / Tipping Point Productions/Cinedigm.

In Kelly Reichardt’s astonishingly good thriller Night Moves, a trio of environmental activists gets trapped in a political and deadly morass of their own making. Played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard, they demonstrate to a fault what happens when passion for a cause is trumped by human frailty.

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Film
6:00 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Film Review: In East Texas, Blood Runs 'Cold In July'

Sam Shepard, Michael C. Hall, and Don Johnson form an unlikely trio seeking vengeance in 'Cold in July.'
Credit courtesy: IFC Films

There's a deliberate seediness to the Texas noir Cold in July that makes it both entertaining and calculating. Directed by Jim Mickle, it stars Michael C. Hall as Richard, an ordinary man around whom extraordinarily violent things happen, all triggered by an act of self-defense that leaves a home intruder dead and his living room splattered with brain matter like a Jackson Pollock.

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Arts & Culture
6:58 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Film Review: Embedded With U.S. Troops Fighting In 'The Hornet's Nest'

ABC News journalist Mike Boettcher embeds himself and his son with U.S. troops in Afghanistan in "The Hornet's Nest."
Credit Courtesy / HighRoad Media

For all the comic book mayhem thrust on summer movie audiences, there’s never a sense that anything’s at stake besides how much money the studios will bank. That’s what makes the new documentary The Hornet’s Nest – a movie about a real war, not one constructed of computer graphics - essential viewing to people crying out for substance.

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Performance
5:30 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Frida Kahlo Comes Alive In The Living Room's 'Frida...A Self Portrait'

The iconic artist Frida Kahlo as played by Vanessa Severo in 'Frida...A Self Portrait' at The Living Room May 8-18.
Credit Brian Paulette / The Living Room

Much like Vincent Van Gogh, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo wasn’t famous in her own lifetime. A new play at The Living Room examines the artist's trials and tribulations, especially a series of tragic events that would have daunted many people but actually motivated her to paint in the first place.

Kahlo had a look as distinctive as her art. In a series of self-portraits, she emits a piercing stare from beneath an arched unibrow and a crown of braids. And her work has found the acclaim that eluded her in life.

Picture perfect

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Film
8:10 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Film Review: 'Finding Vivian Maier' Opens A Lens On Gifted And Mysterious Photographer

'Finding Vivian Maier' introduces the world to the greatest photographer they never knew existed.
Credit Courtesy Maloof Collection Ltd.

By their very nature, photographs are loaded with backstory. There's the image itself, deemed important in a moment that becomes frozen for eternity.

And there's the person who snapped the picture, for reasons that are as personal as they are mysterious.

In the fascinating new documentary Finding Vivian Maier, the title character's exceptional photographs are brought to light after years of being hidden away from any and all scrutiny.

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Film
6:50 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Film Review: New Lars Von Trier Film Chronicles The Making Of A 'Nymphomaniac'

An enraged Uma Thurman confronts a 'Nymphomaniac.'
Credit Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

Nymphomaniac: Volumes I and II may be the most sexually explicit coming-of-age movie ever seen outside an adult book store. But to call it pornography would minimize and tarnish its cinematic worth.

Like most of Lars von Trier’s films, it’s provocative, audacious, weird, challenging, and hypnotizing – sometimes all at once.

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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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