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.


3:24 pm
Wed November 9, 2011

Golden Anniversary for Kansas City Young Audiences

When Kansas City Young Audiences was founded in 1961, its mission was to provide children in local schools the chance to see and hear classical music performances they might otherwise never experience. The definition of arts education has expanded through the years.

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3:03 pm
Wed November 9, 2011

WEB EXTRA: Interview with Idina Menzel

Tony Award winning performer Idina Menzel has had a career on stage, in films and television, and in music. This weekend, she joins the Kansas City Symphony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kansas City Young Audiences.

Kansas City, Mo. – Performer Idina Menzel appeared in the original casts of "Rent" and "Wicked" (she won a Tony for Best Actress as Elphaba). Currently, she has a recurring role on the musical television program, "Glee."

Arts Education at a Young Age

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8:57 am
Fri November 4, 2011

"Bump" Brings Faux Celebrity Back to The Fishtank

When President Obama announced two weeks ago that the United States would be withdrawing troops from Iraq by the end of the year, the other top news trending that week was that Lindsay Lohan would be posing for Playboy. The fact that the latter story garnered as much attention as the former didn't escape a trio of local theater artists who are returning to The Fishtank with a new play featuring the fictional troubled celebrity whose Kansas City debut last winter left her desperate for more attention.

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1:50 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Married Couple in Life and on Stage in "God of Carnage"

Brian Paulette (as Michael Novak) and Cinnamon Schultz (as Veronica Novak) in Unicorn Theatre and Kansas City Actors Theatre?s co-production, "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton.
Photo: Cynthia Levin and courtesy of Unicorn Theatre

It's rare that a two-career couple finds itself at the same work site at the exact same time. But such is the case for the next several weeks for actors Cinnamon Schultz and Brian Paulette - married in life and on stage in the Kansas City premiere of "God of Carnage."

Kansas City, Mo. –
KCUR's Steve Walker reports on what happens when a happily married couple plays one whose union isn't so blissful.

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2:42 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

"August: Osage County" Explores Family Dynamics with Flair

The age-old advice most frequently given to writers is to write what you know - and the one thing writers all have in common is that they all came from a family. Many classic plays have explored various family dynamics but few have dissected the relationship between mothers and daughters with quite as much flair and precision as "August: Osage County."

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10:55 am
Wed September 7, 2011

Two Plays Explore Themes of 9/11

Chris Roady (as Ben) and Crystal Gould (as Abby) in "The Mercy Seat."
photo: courtesy of MD Photography, LLC

Along with journalists and historians, playwrights can serve an important role in helping people make sense of national tragedies. And the results can weave narratives other sources might miss.

Kansas City, Mo. – This week, two Kansas City theater companies are staging plays coinciding with the 10 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, yet they utilize that historic day in very different ways.

Sound: (ringing phone: "Brring...")

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9:45 am
Thu August 18, 2011

KCAT Tackles Four Works by Harold Pinter

Kansas City Actors Theatre, or KCAT, has built a reputation for designing its seasons around a specific theme or playwright. In past years, the company studied marriage by mounting four different plays about it, and spotlighted Missouri-native Lanford Wilson by staging his three "Talley" plays.

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3:42 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

'Xanadu' Rolls into Starlight

Though movies made from Broadway musicals have seen a resurgence since the success of "Chicago," the current trend is to go in the opposite direction. There are presently 7 musicals on Broadway based on popular movies, with several more on the way. Playing Starlight Theatre this week is the musical "Xanadu," whose success in New York made it an exception to all the rules - and that's because its source is considered one of the worst movies ever made.

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2:09 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Two Transgendered Performers Find Haven in the Fringe

With a dizzying array of theater, dance, and visual arts - and sometimes in a combination of all of those - the Kansas City Fringe Festival kicks off its seventh year this weekend.

Kansas City, Mo. – With a dizzying array of theater, dance, and visual arts - and sometimes in a combination of all of those - the Kansas City Fringe Festival kicks off its seventh year this weekend.

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12:18 pm
Wed June 29, 2011

Charlotte Street Foundation Generative Performing Artists

After 10 years of bestowing cash awards on visual artists, the Charlotte Street Foundation began in 2008 to recognize performing artists who'd put their stamp on Kansas City's arts community.

Kansas City, Mo. – This year's field of 29 nominees was narrowed to two winners: Jim Mobberley, a veteran composer and UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance professor, and theater director and playwright Kyle Hatley. KCUR's Steve Walker discovered how both men reconfigure traditional ideas of music and theater.

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10:38 am
Thu June 23, 2011

Summer, Season of Experimentation for Coterie

For the Coterie Theatre, summer is the season to experiment with musical formulas and actors' chemistry in what they call the Lab for New Family Musicals. In essence, musical composers entrust the Coterie with condensing their familiar two-act shows into shorter one-act versions more suitable to theaters for young audiences - like its version of "The Wiz."

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11:22 am
Wed June 8, 2011

Creating the Role of Macbeth: John Rensenhouse

Actor John Rensenhouse rehearsing in his home.
photo: Steve Walker/KCUR

When the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival announced in April that its summer production of Macbeth was in jeopardy, area fans came through, donating $100,000 in a week to ensure that Macbeth would indeed reign. That was a relief to actor John Rensenhouse, who had been working on playing the title role for several months.

Kansas City, Mo. – KCUR's Steve Walker sat down with the actor to chat about what it takes to become the man who would be king.

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9:44 am
Tue June 7, 2011

WEB EXTRA: Actor John Rensenhouse

Actor John Rensenhouse
photo: courtesy of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

Actor John Rensenhouse plays Macbeth in this summer's Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. It's a play described as a "story of vaulting ambition." But Rensenhouse tells KCUR's Steve Walker, it wasn't his ambition - at first - to play the role.

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11:48 am
Tue May 17, 2011

"Spring Awakening" Resonates with Today's Youth

It's been 120 years since the debut of German playwright Frank Wedekind's play "Spring Awakening" about the perils of adolescence, but it continues to have staying power.

Lawrence, Kan. – The rock musical adaptation won 8 Tony Awards in 2007, followed by a new translation of the original play by novelist Jonathan Franzen. The City Youth Theatre company in Lawrence is tackling that version this weekend and finds that it's inspiring a novel way to think about sex education.

Scenes from a rehearsal of "Spring Awakening"

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10:01 am
Wed April 20, 2011

Unicorn Theatre Explores Violence in the Congo

Ruined explores how the violence in a war-torn area of Africa forces people into making difficult choices.

Kansas City, Mo. – Plays at the Unicorn Theatre often use vibrant characters and colorful language to give audiences a way into complex issues. Those involved with the production of Ruined insist that plays about intense subjects can be both enlightening and entertaining.

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9:07 am
Thu March 24, 2011

The Rep's Production of "Cabaret" Transforms Audience Experience

Of all the musicals written by Kansas City native John Kander and his late partner, Fred Ebb, perhaps none were more innovative than "Cabaret." Though it contained many hummable songs in the Broadway tradition, it was set in Berlin in 1931 on the cusp of the rise of the Nazi party, making the Broadway musical a safe place for risky material.

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3:35 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

"The Salt Beat" Mines Experience as Journalist in KCK

Cast of "The Salt Beat"

Two writers and a director whose resumes on both coasts include the New York Times, the Tonight Show and Seinfeld are about to unveil a new play making its world premiere this week in Kansas City, Kansas.

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12:11 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

"RMB City Opera" Explores Play, Romance, and Identity through Second Life

Curator Leesa Fanning interviews China Tracy in RMB City.
photo: courtesy of Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

With the opening of the Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the new spaces within its gleaming white walls seemed to cry out for art as fresh and cutting edge as the structure itself.

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9:08 am
Wed February 16, 2011

"Oh What a Lovely War" Marks First Theatrical Production in National WWI Museum

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.

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10:52 am
Sun January 30, 2011

Coterie Theatre Hits the Road

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.

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1:43 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Play Gives Voice to Stories about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy

Mark Wolf in "Another American: Asking and Telling"
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.

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11:54 am
Thu December 16, 2010

"A Very Joan Crawford Christmas" at the Unicorn

Ron Megee is Joan Crawford in "A Very Joan Crawford Christmas" by Jeff Church & Ron Megee. Through January 2, 2011.
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.

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10:37 am
Thu December 2, 2010

Lee's Summit Teen Reflects on Broadway Debut

Elaine Stritch and Katherine McNamara in "A Little Night Music" on Broadway.
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.

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8:36 am
Fri November 19, 2010

Cast of "Distracted" Experiences Learning Disability for Production

Director Cynthia Levin, and cast members Rusty Sneary and Zackary Hoar at Horizon Academy.
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.

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1:46 pm
Thu November 4, 2010

Actor Revisits "Beirut" As Director Twenty Years Later

Becca Scott as Blue and Matt Weiss as Torch in The Living Room's "Beirut."
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.

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2:35 pm
Thu October 7, 2010

New Series Features Kansas City-Based Actors

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.

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3:26 pm
Fri September 24, 2010

Walker's Review: Animal Kingdom

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.

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12:48 pm
Thu September 16, 2010

First Kansas City Rep Performance Could Ruffle Some Feathers

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.

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10:24 am
Thu September 2, 2010

"Duty" Explores Conflicted Feelings About War

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.

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12:35 pm
Thu August 26, 2010

On The Fringe: From Kansas City To Edinburgh And Back Again

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.

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