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.

The scars of World War II still hadn't completely healed when London's Theatre Workshop began to develop its musical "Oh What a Lovely War" in the late 1950s. Perhaps that's why the troupe instead chose to explore World War I and, though the show was a hit that transferred to Broadway, it's not produced that often in the United States.

There was a time that the Coterie Theatre - like a theater troupe of yore - packed up sets, actors and crew members to stage plays and musicals in rural communities throughout the Midwest. After a 15-year hiatus, the Coterie's on the road again.

Kansas City, Mo. – The Coterie Theatre is embarking on a tour of area schools with a show that puts a modern, kid-friendly spin on Greek mythology.

photo: Don Ipock, courtesy of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre

It was still government policy to discharge openly gay and lesbian service members from the U.S. military when Kansas City Repertory Theatre scheduled a play about the subject. Called "Another American: Asking and Telling," Marc Wolf's one-man show is compiled from interviews he conducted over a 3-year period.

Photo by Aren?t We Clever and courtesy of Unicorn Theatre

Watch any old movie from the 1930s or '40s and you're likely to hear Kansas City worked into the script. One reason may be that it was a stop for planes and trains traveling between the coasts. But another reason could be traced to the fact that many movie stars of the period were from Kansas City, including Ginger Rogers, Wallace Beery and Jean Harlow. The most famous native, though, was Joan Crawford, who is the subject of a new play with a twisted holiday theme.

photo: courtesy of Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Many Kansas City theater fans visit New York every year to catch shows before they tour or are produced by local companies. Those heading there this month have the opportunity to see the revival of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," starring two of the theater's most revered performers, Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters, as mother and daughter. And four times a week, playing the youngest member of that clan, is Lee's Summit native Katherine McNamara.

photo: Steve Walker/KCUR

In a world where multitasking and over-stimulation are seen as strengths, it's ironic but not surprising that 5 million American children suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Lisa Loomer's play "Distracted" at the Unicorn Theatre follows a couple's search to get help for their troubled 8-year-old son.

photo: Matthew Collins

It's been twenty years since the Unicorn Theatre staged the play "Beirut," a dark love story set in a future America where people are quarantined for a sexually transmitted disease. Though it sounds like science-fiction, the drama's plague was meant to imply AIDS.

Kansas City, MO – In 1990, AIDS was relatively new to Kansas City, and accompanied by rampant fear and misinformation. The downtown theater space The Living Room is reviving the play, aware that AIDS is much better understood but, for many, no less provocative.

The life of an actor can sometimes resemble a pattern of unpredictable weather. Ask Kansas City actors to reflect over the past several years, and they'll relate stories of both drought and prosperity.

Kansas City, MO – There have been several reasons for that, yet most agree things are getting better, thanks to productions like one next week, when a new company premieres the latest venture for bringing actors to projects they'd never get to do otherwise. KCUR's Steve Walker reports.

Directorial debut by Australia's David Michod sinks its teeth in deep.


Written and directed by first-timer David Michod, an Australian crime family is at the center of this epic drama. But these are no Corleones. With a frightening, bleach-blonde matriarch (Jacki Weaver) at its head and a monosyllabic teenager at its tail, this snake has venom and bite but no future; it's a creature that needs to be put out of its misery - and the clan work toward that with their own narcissism and ineptitude.

The production "Saved" opens the season at the Missouri Rep. We hear the challenges and benefits of working through the play's religiosity.

Set in and around an evangelical Christian high school, the 2004 film "Saved" wasn't a huge box office hit. Since its opening, however, it has amassed a dedicated cult following.

When art and war have collided over the past century, the results have ranged from Picasso's "Guernica" to Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now."

Kansas City, MO – A new play premieres this weekend from a Kansas City writer who served in Vietnam and, though the war he references is a more current one, the piece grapples with such historic themes as family, honor and duty. KCUR's Steve Walker reports.

The roots of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, can be traced to 1947, when eight theater companies showed up uninvited to another theater festival, hoping to capitalize on the crowds. Over sixty years later, the Fringe has become the biggest arts festival in the world, with groups from all over the planet.

When directors are casting a musical that's been staged before, they're often dependent on what it originally looked like.

Kansas City, MO – The concept of non-traditional casting switches up that formula, putting actors of different genders, race or age into roles that weren't written that way.

Musical Theater Heritage opens a production of "1776" this weekend, boldly asserting that shows don't have to be held hostage to history.

"1776" runs through August 29th at the Off Center Theater in Crown Center.

There are many theatre roles - say, Romeo and Juliet - that should probably be retired from an actor's repertoire by the time they're 30. But what happens when actors return to roles they played much earlier in their careers?

Kansas City, MO – KCUR's Steve Walker visited with two Kansas City actors who are re-teaming this month in a Sam Shepard play they first appeared in 26 years ago.


Update March 2012: The Coterie brought the show to New York for a run at the New Victory Theater. Reviews: Kansas City Star, New York Post, and  New York Times.

photo: courtesy of Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

If your travel budget is tight this season, Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre invites you to vicariously experience the glory and grandeur of Florence, Italy in its new show, "The Light in the Piazza."

Kansas City, MO – "The Light in the Piazza" won a 2005 Tony Award for its composer Adam Guettel. The grandson of the Rodgers half of musical legends Rodgers and Hammerstein, Guettel demonstrates that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. KCUR's Steve Walker reports.

photo: Cynthia Levin, courtesy of Unicorn Theatre

Though the Unicorn Theater has always been quick to pounce on the most buzzed about plays in New York, it has actually launched many new plays. In fact, a quarter of the shows over the years have had their world premieres in Kansas City. The latest is called "Green Whales," and while it tackles tough subjects in comedic ways, it is giving everyone involved a voice in bringing this new play to fruition.

During the month of December, the Kansas City Symphony can be found all over the city, and in various configurations - like the TubaChristmas concert and the Chamber Players' Tchaikovsky concert earlier this month.

When Eric Rosen, the artistic director of Kansas City Repertory Theatre, asked noted playwright and director Moises Kaufman to pick a musical he'd like to direct here, at the top of the list was Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods."

Kansas City, MO – Moises Kaufman sat down with KCUR's Steve Walker to talk about how a director puts his own stamp on a musical, and his own venture into the woods.

Don Ipock / Courtesy of Kansas City Repertory Theatre

From a glance at the cast of characters who populate the Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods" - among them, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack in the Beanstalk - one could assume that the show is a romp for audiences of all ages. But a deeper look reveals that its inspirations include Bruno Bettleheim and Carl Jung, both of whom defined classic fables and fairy tales with a much darker palette.

Though the season of pesky insects - and insect repellent - is upon us, the Coterie Theatre finds no irony in premiering a new work that cross-pollinates the worlds of pop rock, musical theater, and bugs.

Kansas City, MO – As the latest offering from the Coterie's Lab for New Family Musicals, the show "U: Bug: Me" opens this weekend hoping to, well...draw flies.

One would think that the current economic climate would make it difficult at best to kick off a new theatrical venture. But a Kansas City playwright and actor are doing just that.

Kansas City, MO – One would think that the current economic climate would make it difficult at best to kick off a new theatrical venture. But a Kansas City playwright and actor are doing just that, thanks to a guardian angel and a story that would be a crime to keep to themselves.

Photo: Shane Rowse

Kansas City area natives who went on to fame, fortune and academy awards during Hollywood's golden age include Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, and Ginger Rogers.

Photo: Steve Wilson (courtesy of Kansas City Ballet)

Richard Nixon was president when the Kansas City Ballet premiered its production of The Nutcracker, set to the music of Tchaikovsky. For thirty-six years running, audiences have been so swept up in the music and the movement that other crucial elements of the piece tend to get overlooked, and what would The Nutcracker be without its extravagant costumes?

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

Kansas City artists who've been recognized by the Charlotte Street Foundation over the last 10 years will tell you that it helps their reputations and their bank accounts.

Kansas City, MO – This year, the organization expanded its definition of "artist" to include an actor and playwright, a dancer/choreographer, and a musician. KCUR's Steve Walker gathered the honorees together and found them to be equally flattered, humbled, and appreciative.

photo: Charles Stonewall

EXTENDED RUN: August 1 - 3, American Heartland Theatre. At performance spaces throughout the city, over 50 events make up this year's KC Fringe Festival, a celebration of the off-beat, nontraditional, and avant-garde.

When people think of stories about mortal men who create life from inanimate objects, Frankenstein and Pinocchio come immediately to mind. Less well-known is the 1870 ballet, Coppelia, about a creator of dolls who come to life.

photo courtesy of the Unicorn Theatre

This weekend, the voice of a writer with deep Kansas roots, James Still, will be heard in two very different Kansas City theater venues.

Kansas City, MO – Olathe South High School, Secret History of the Future, April 26 - 28, 7:30 pm.

Unicorn Theatre presents Iron Kisses, April 27 - May 20 (previews April 25 and 26).

Lyric Opera Camp

Aug 1, 2006
Photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

For the past 14 years, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City has hosted elementary to high school-aged kids for its two-week opera camp.

Kansas City, MO – For the past 14 years, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City has hosted elementary to high school-aged kids for its two-week opera camp. As KCUR's Steve Walker reports, this year's campers are working on an opera with significance to one of the camp's special guests.

Pinocchio will be presented on Friday, August 4, 2006 at 2:30 pm at the Lyric Theatre.

Photo by Greg Gorman

  Filmmaker John Waters grew up in Baltimore in the 1950s and began making silent 8mm and 16mm films in the mid 1960s, screened in rented church halls and attended by underground audiences who heard of the films by word-of-mouth and leaflets. His first success: the 1972 film Pink Flamingos starring Divine.

Hairspray opened Tuesday, March 29 at the Music Hall and runs through April 10, 2005.

Kansas City – Though Americans were being told to get back to normal after 9-11, there weren't many clues how to do that. Nearly a year later, in a Kansas City comedy club, KCUR's Steve Walker finds that it may be OK to laugh again.