Performance

Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera

Olathe, Kansas, native Scott Conner has performed on North American and European stages. Last month marked Conner's debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Through May 13, Conner plays the police commissioner in a new production of Richard Strauss’s opera, Der Rosenkavalier. One highlight: He shares the stage with opera diva Renée Fleming, who stars in a signature role as the aristocrat, the Marschallin.

Courtesy Cristina Bernal

Poking fun at current political and social events can be cathartic, especially when it incites laughter, which is what Spanish actress Cristina Bernal does.

Bernal makes her United States debut in Kansas City on May 7, in celebration of Kansas City's 50-year sister-cities relationship with Seville, Spain.

LitFestKC

Today, Jon Scieszka and Javaka Steptoe, heavy-hitters on the kid's lit scene, talk about promoting literacy and how the environment for fostering it has changed since they were little. They also reveal the creative processes behind some of their best-known works.

Claire Tadokoro / KCUR 89.3

Moving back to Kansas City from New York City in the mid to late 1980s was an eye-opening experience for David Hughes.

"I started meeting artists, curators, dancers and musicians. I saw a lot of amazing individuals doing interesting work," says Hughes, who realized that "artists need support." 

American Century Investments, his employer at the time, contributed $10,000. And, in 1997, four cash awards were distributed to artists as the newly created Charlotte Street Foundation

courtesy Todd Rosenberg Photography

If you're not standing after a live performance of classical music, theater, or musical theater in Kansas City, you might be sitting alone. 

Standing ovations are standard practice these days, and that was the topic of discussion on Thursday's Central Standard.

So when it comes to a standing ovation, why do we stand up? And when does a production deserve it?

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Playwright Alice Carroll of Overland Park recently dropped off donations at a thrift store. A man in her age bracket got her attention. He said he was collecting old toys to fix and give away.

“Then he looked at me and he said, ‘Tell me: How are you enjoying your old age?’ I looked at him and I laughed. ‘Well,' he said, 'I’m old too,’” Carroll says, laughing again at the memory.

In her one-act play, "Age Inappropriate: A Short Play About Senior Misbehavior," Carroll's heroine has a similar interaction.

Amy Britain

Culture wars were raging. The National Endowment for the Arts was under threat. A conservative senator from a southern state was earning his reputation as a "prominent unabashed white racist." Protesters were hitting the streets.

"It was a really interesting time," Mark Manning says of the early 1990s. "Similar to now."

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Peter I. Tchaikovsky wrote three classic ballets, but until now, the Kansas City Ballet has only performed two of them: Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Besides completing its repertoire of Tchaikovsky ballets, the company's premiere of The Sleeping Beauty is a case study in how setting a ballet to the great composer’s music requires changing it.

Cynthia Levin / Unicorn Theatre

Audiences expect challenging productions from the Unicorn Theatre, whose mission is to produce "thought-provoking plays" that "illuminate social issues." Still, Danai Gurira's Eclipsed might require playgoers to work harder than they're used to.

Courtesy Jewish Community Center

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a classic because its themes keep pace with the passing decades. Whether it’s the novel published in 1953 or Bradbury’s stage adaptation from 1979, each version is concerned with the control of information and media as a means of keeping the populace in its place.

United States Mission Geneva / Wikimedia Commons--CC

The Band's legendary final performance was over 40 years ago, but their fame lives on. The hit group's lead guitarist, Robbie Robertson, shares stories from the time he wrote "The Weight" in one night to jamming with Bob Dylan.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Heidi Van is founder and producing artistic director of the Fishtank. But her new play, Death, By Shakespeare opened over the weekend not at her usual black box theater at 1715 Wyandotte, but at Greenwood Social Hall, a new arts venue on Kansas City’s Westside. 

Van has reorganized her business into "a nomadic theater company" producing works outside of the studio where she has been based for the past seven years.

Tracy Majkol

David Hanson’s plays have been called experimental theater and high-concept art. He prefers “immersive theater,” citing his current production, Audience, as an example.

T. Charles Erickson

Three years of work for Kansas City actors, set designers, stage managers and students at four universities culminates this week and next when New York's The Acting Company presents William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Marcus Gardley’s X: Or, Betty Shabazz vs. The Nation in repertory.

Courtesy Friends of Arrow Rock

On a bitterly cold afternoon early this winter, Patrick Overton was standing outside the historic Federated Church of Arrow Rock, Missouri, greeting people for the town’s annual folk sing-along. As visitors made their way through the afternoon cold to the warm glow of the church, Overton welcomed old friends, introduced himself to new ones, and joked that it was safe for all to enter because he would not be singing.

Courtesy Kansas City Chinese American Association

Forest Rong of Overland Park has succeeded in convincing China to allow one of its most elite performance companies to launch a tour of the United States in Kansas City.

Rong grew up in Zhenghou, China, but he’s called Overland Park home for 16 years.

“This is the only place I’ve stayed and this is the only job I’ve had,” Rong says during a conversation in the conference room at Black & Veatch, where he has worked as an engineer for his entire adult life.

The Missouri State University Chorale is anxiously anticipating January 20—the day millions of eyes will turn to the nation’s capitol for the inauguration of the 45th U.S. president.  The 50-member choir will be part of the ceremony and has commissioned a new piece for the event.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has the story.

Courtesy Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Play-reading isn't the type of thing most audiences expect to be raucous, but that's what's likely to happen at the Kansas City Rep's Playwright Slam on Monday night, says Marissa Wolf, one of the organizers.

"We invite anyone from community and the public to come and bring a one-to-three-page script. We give them a theme, and then we'll just randomly choose a script," Wolf says. "Then we choose actors from the audience, so whoever wants to jump up and be an actor, we give them a role and they go for it."

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

When the Kansas City Actors Theatre opens Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady next week, the production will star three actors that might, in one of the profession's euphemisms, be described as "well-known" actors.

But KCAT isn't bothering with euphemisms.

The show "provides three great acting roles, especially two for middle-aged and older women,” director Darren Sextro said in the show's news release, adding that this particular group of artists "deserves more opportunities than they’re offered."

Steve Mundinger / jazzday.com

We air highlights of conversations with performing artists from the Kansas City area who wowed audiences here and across the country. Actress Cinnamon Schultz explains how she tackled the complex role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Operatic tenor Ben Bliss recalls meeting Placido Domingo for the first time and Nedra Dixon brought Billie Holiday to life on stage. Finally, the great Bobby Watson, explains what happened when he took a wrong turn while in the White House for International Jazz Day.

Local actor Damron Russell Armstrong recently started a theater company, the Black Repertory Theater of Kansas City. The company made its debut back in August. But that's not the only thing he's been up to – Armstrong is also directing the play "An Octoroon," which opens Nov. 30 at The Unicorn.

Plus, we check in with Missouri's Chess Champion as he gears up to defend his title.

Guests:

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

The grand spectacle of opera is an expensive art form. These days more and more opera companies are banding together to ease the financial burden. For the first time in its history, Lyric Opera of Kansas City is taking the lead in a new co-production.

Courtesy Ry Kincaid

When he debuted his one-man show at Kansas City’s Fringe Festival in the summer of 2015, Ry Kincaid was already thinking ahead to the 2016 election. No one, however, could have foreseen the need for entertaining relief would be so acute.

Unlike everything else in this season’s torturous exercise in democracy, Kincaid’s Presidential Briefs is good-hearted humor. In writing 44 original songs – one for each United States president – all performed in under an hour, Kincaid was partly trying to be helpful.

courtesy Kansas City Symphony and Community of Christ.

Updated: 2:15 p.m.

A tradition comes to an end after this holiday season, with the Independence Messiah Choir's final performance of Handel's oratorio Messiah with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus.

Beginning in September, the Independence Messiah Choir meets each Tuesday at the Community of Christ Auditorium in Independence, Missouri, for Messiah rehearsals. This week, members of the choir were told this year would be their final performance with the Symphony. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Each year in the fall, nearly 1,700 people enjoy Ailey II modern dance performances presented by the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. But besides being the official second home of the famed New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the local organization has another year-round mission: to create social change by encouraging diversity.

In a time of diminishing budgets, guest host Brian Ellison learns how fine-arts program Harmony Project is helping underserved kids in Kansas City do better in school. Then, actor Bryan Cranston says a large part of his successful career has to do with hard work and good luck. This week's Local Listen features the classic rock band Kansas, touring in support of its first album since 2000.

Dario Acosta

Tenor Ben Bliss is considered a rising star in the world of opera. And, like opera diva Joyce DiDonato, he grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas. Bliss credits "the support of arts and education and public education" for leading to his musical career. It's something, he says, he "got a really good dose of growing up."

Bliss's father is a freelance cartoonist and his mother sings with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City chorus.

J. Robert Schraeder / Courtesy of the Coterie Theatre

The Coterie Theatre, in its nearly 40-year history, has often challenged audiences with difficult subjects, such as bullying or the Salem witch trials. The theater continues the tradition with its current production, The Nine Who Dared: Courage in Little Rock.

What is it like to go viral? We check in with a few Kansas Citians whose projects lead them to reach "trending" status in the Interweb. 

Plus, East and West 18th Streets in downtown Kansas City can feel worlds apart ... even though they're not. How local groups are working to bridge that gap.

Guests:

Kevin King

Can a play – even a short, ten-minute one-act – change the world we live in?

That question is part of the mission of Alphabet Soup: Stories From Queer Voices, a collection of new short plays assembled by playwright and producer Kevin King.

Each of the plays, by six different local authors, confronts different themes within the LGBTQ community, although King feels the production, playing for this weekend only, has a more universal appeal.

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