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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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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Film
7:00 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Finding Human Connections And Artistic Pleasure During 'Museum Hours'

Bobby Sommer plays an introspective museum guard in Vienna open to new friends in Jem Cohen's 'Museum Hours.'
Credit Little Magnet Films

People visit the great art museums of the world hoping to find meaning by getting lost in the work. In Jem Cohen's lovely Austrian film Museum Hours, two solitary souls fall into a deep yet temporary friendship under the watchful yet passive gaze of subjects long dead but forever frozen in paint.

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Performance
5:00 am
Fri September 6, 2013

'Venus In Fur' Dissects Power Games Of Dominance And Submission

Vanessa Severo and Rusty Sneary play Vanda and Thomas, an actress and a playwright, in 'Venus in Fur.'
Credit Cynthia Levin / Unicorn Theatre

In its 40th year, the Unicorn Theatre continues its mission of bringing new American plays to Kansas City audiences. Among the themes explored this season are racial identity, family dysfunction, and, with its kickoff production, Venus in Fur, the ever-shifting power dynamic between men and women.

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Performance
5:19 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Legacy Of Paul Robeson Restored In KC Rep's 'Tallest Tree In The Forest'

Daniel Beaty as Paul Robeson in 'The Tallest Tree in the Forest.'
Credit Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

The Kansas City Repertory Theatre launches its new season this week with a history lesson wrapped inside a musical. Called The Tallest Tree in the Forest, it examines both the contributions and controversies of Paul Robeson, who at the height of his acting and musical career was perhaps the most famous African-American man in the world.

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Film
6:09 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Film Review: A Pampered Life Built on Lies Collapses In 'Blue Jasmine'

Cate Blanchett at a career high as the title character in 'Blue Jasmine.'
Credit Sony Pictures Classics

Cate Blanchett has always delivered the goods, and her virtuosic, shattering performance as the title character in Woody Allen's terrific new film Blue Jasmine continues that streak.

She plays a woman in pursuit of stability after a scandal involving suicide and fraud shakes her to her core, ultimately stripping her of every creature comfort she’s relied upon and posed behind.

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Film
11:00 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Film Review: 'Prince Avalanche' Examines The Charred Landscapes Of Modest Men

Lance (Emile Hirsch) and Alvin (Paul Rudd) orchestrate a fine bromance in 'Prince Avalanche.'
Credit Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Thanks to the breezy performances of Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, and the rhythmic way they play off of each other, David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche is an unexpected delight. Set amongst the charred remnants of lush Texas forests ravaged by wildfires, it’s a clever bromance that addresses the angst of the contemporary male with its tongue firmly in cheek.

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Film
9:00 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Film Review: Troubling Accusations From The Mouths Of Babes Prompt 'The Hunt'

A battered schoolteacher (Mads Mikkelsen) in the midst of fighting off unsettling accusations in 'The Hunt.'
Credit Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

In the quietly explosive new movie The Hunt, Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg chillingly documents the swiftness with which a man’s life can crumble. At the center of the upheaval is Mads Mikkelsen, who gives an extraordinary performance as Lucas, a divorced kindergarten teacher brought to his knees by a confused little girl’s rigorously prompted claim that he has done something horrible to her.

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Film
7:00 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Film Review: The Brutality Behind The Scenes Of Aquatic Parks Informs 'Blackfish'

A troubled killer whale named Tilikum (exhibiting the flaccid dorsal fin common to whales in captivity) is at the center of the shocking documentary 'Blackfish.'
Credit Gabriela Cowperthwaite / Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The executives at SeaWorld must be spitting nails and circling up a wagon of lawyers upon the release of the excoriating documentary Blackfish

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s penetrating and sad look inside the training and treatment of killer whales at SeaWorld and other marine parks delivers such sharp blows to the industry that it would be cruel and unusual should anyone who sees the film actually ever visit one again.

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Up to Date
11:42 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Up To Date's Indie, Foreign & Doc Critics' 'Three To See,' August 9-11

Fruitvale Station is on Cynthia Haines' list this weekend.

Looking for a great film to see the weekend of August 9-11?  Up to Date's indie, documentary and foreign film critics share their three favorites showing on area screens. Cynthia Haines: 

  • 20 Feet From Stardom
  • Fruitvale Station
  • Mud

 Steve Walker: 

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Film
9:00 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Film Review: 'Still Mine' Explores A Marriage Struggling With Bureaucracy And Dementia

In 'Still Mine,' James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold play a strong couple whose bond is challenged.
Credit Courtesy Samuel Goldwyn Films

In the heartfelt and pithy Canadian film Still Mine, James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold portray a couple in their eighties who are struggling with issues both physical and bureaucratic.

While he is building a smaller house for them on their vast New Brunswick acreage and being besieged with local governmental red tape, she is slowly slipping into mental incapacity. It’s as if his obsession with finishing the house is a planned strategy to hold his grief at bay.

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Performance
7:32 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Kansas City Actors Theatre Hosts 'Picnic' To Celebrate William Inge's 100th Birthday

Actors (from left) Phillip Shinn, Kathleen Warfel, Kathy Kane, Jennifer Mays, Melinda McCrary, Mackenzie Goodwin and Chris Roady in the KCAT production of 'Picnic.'
Credit Brian Paulette / Kansas City Actors Theatre

Playwright William Inge, the Independence, Kan. native who went on to win a Pulitzer and an Oscar, would have turned 100 this year. To honor that birthday, Kansas City Actors Theatre is staging Picnic, set in the 1950s in small town Kansas. The rehearsal process has revealed that it's a play much deeper and darker than the company originally believed.  

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Up to Date
10:51 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Up To Date's Indie, Foreign & Doc Critics' 'Three To See,' August 2-4

Fruitvale Station is playing in Kansas City this week.

Looking for a great film to see the weekend of August 2-4? Up to Date's indie, documentary and foreign film critics share their three favorites showing on area screens. Cynthia Haines: 

  • 20 Feet From Stardom
  • Kon-Tiki
  • Mud

Steve Walker: 

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Up to Date
6:00 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

What's Showing In Independent, Foreign & Documentary Film, August 2

The Way Way Back is on our critics' list this week.

When some surfers get in too deep with drug smugglers, the waves threaten to pull them under, and a shooting by transit police causes controversy in a ripped-from-the-headlines tale.

On Friday's Up to Date, our indie, foreign and documentary film critics take a look at the films open on the silver screen in Kansas City this week.

Films critics Cynthia Haines, Steve Walker, and Bob Butler reviewed:

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Performance
5:00 am
Fri July 26, 2013

Shakespeare Camp Encourages Girls To Find Their Own Voices

For 18 of its 21 seasons, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival has been running summer camps for kids in conjunction with the play or plays in Southmoreland Park.

This summer, camps were held at nine different locations, where a three-week session called Shakespeare Unbound is reserved exclusively for girls ages eight to 15.

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Up to Date
9:54 am
Fri July 19, 2013

Up To Date's Indie, Foreign & Doc Critics' 'Three To See,' July 19-21, 2013

The Israeli drama Fill The Void looks at life in a Haredi community.

Looking for a great film to see the weekend of July 19-21? Up to Date's indie, documentary and foreign film critics share their three favorites showing on area screens. 

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Film
5:42 am
Fri July 19, 2013

Film Review: Tense Negotiations Across The Open Sea In 'A Hijacking'

Mikkel, a cargo ship cook, withstands 127 days of captivity in the Danish film 'A Hijacking.'
Credit Magnolia Pictures

On its surface, the Danish film A Hijacking (in Dutch, Kapringen) is a tense hostage drama about a cargo ship overtaken by Somali pirates and the ensuing negations for the crew's release.

But director Tobias Lindholm has much more on his mind. Besides making a nail-biter where the potential for death hovers in very close quarters, he's also commenting on socioeconomic class and the wide ethical gap between the cooks and engineers on board the ship and the suits back at the corporate office who really reap the most benefits.

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Performance
5:00 am
Thu July 18, 2013

'Complete History Of Kansas' Shrunk To Sixty Minutes At Lawrence Arts Center

150th anniversary of Quantrill's Raid inspires 'The Complete History of Kansas in Sixty Minutes' at Lawrence Arts Center
Amy Albright Lawrence Arts Center

For more than 35 years, the Lawrence Arts Center has run Summer Youth Theatre, an intensive theater arts program for kids in grades three through 12. This summer, the troupe has already tackled Macbeth and Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. Opening this weekend is a newly commissioned play that, as its title implies, claims to present The Complete History of Kansas in Sixty Minutes.

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Film
7:08 am
Sat July 13, 2013

Film Review: Tel Aviv Teenager's Arranged Marriage Intends To 'Fill The Void'

Newly widowed Jewish father (Yiftach Klein) is thought to need a new bride in 'Fill the Void.'
Credit Sony Pictures Classics

The appeal of foreign films is that they take audiences to all corners of the world and intimate places within those faraway spaces. And the Israeli film Fill the Void is, more than many such films, an invitation into a culture seldom displayed on big movie screens.

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