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plays

Brian Collins

Kansas City's annual summer ritual, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, is upon us. This year's production is the comedy “Much Ado About Nothing.” 

This also means it's time for another annual ritual at KCUR: tracking down Geraldo U. Sousa, a professor of English at the University of Kansas, who has written several books on Shakespeare.

Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

As a kid growing up on his family’s farm in Louisburg, Kansas, David Wayne Reed just wanted to perform.

He wore his mom’s heels, a cinched-up shirt as a dress, and a wig to entertain visiting seed salesmen. He also choreographed dances for the hay crew.

“As kind of a slightly effeminate little kid, (farming) was hard, it was masculine, and I didn’t know that I really fit in. I kind of felt like a little bit of a square peg,” Reed told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Central Standard.

David Wayne Reed

May 18, 2018
Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

He's an actor, writer, storyteller ... and now, filmmaker. While growing up on his family's farm in Louisburg, Kansas, David Wayne Reed used to dress in drag and perform shows for the hay crew and visiting seed salesmen. He became a founding member of KC's Late Night Theatre. And in his new film, he returns to his farm roots.

Karen Almond / KC Rep/Facebook

In his new play, Nathan Louis Jackson draws on his own life to tackle the issue of gun violence.

Brother Toad” tells the story of two men who are related but going down different paths.

“Each path ends with the decision of ‘how do I protect myself and the ones I love?’” Jackson told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Segment 1: A new play about gun violence in Kansas.

Nathan Louis Jackson's new play, "Brother Toad," is set in Wyandotte County and Johnson County. It's about two men who are going down different paths when it comes to protecting their families. Hear more about the play and about Jackson's changing views on guns.

Unicorn Theatre / Facebook

The Unicorn Theatre's staging of a play with an all-Asian-American cast is “a landmark event,” according to one member of that cast.

Speaking with Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard on Wednesday, Andi Meyer described "Vietgone" as a “sex comedy” about how playwright Qui Nguyen’s parents met at an Arkansas refugee camp.

Meyer said the Unicorn’s artistic director, Cynthia Levin, had been thinking about featuring an all-Asian-American cast for several years.

Segment 1: A school secretary is helping immigrants make plans in case of deportation.

For undocumented parents with kids who are U.S. citizens, the risk of having your family separated by deportation is real. Meet the elementary school employee who has stepped into the lives of kids whose parents could be deported.

 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Criminal charges in Schlitterbahn death come amid push for tighter regulations on Kansas amusement parks.

Last week, three Schlitterbahn employees were indicted on criminal charges related to a boy's death in 2016 at the Kansas City, Kansas, water park. Today, we discussed the merits of cases, and found out how state law is evolving in response to the incident.

Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3

A new theater troupe in Kansas City is staging monthly play readings in an unlikely venue: a bar.

That’s part of the Kansas City Public Theatre’s mission. The group hopes to make theater more accessible by offering free shows in non-traditional venues.

Segment 1: A new group wants to make theater accessible to everyone.

What if you could see a play for free in a non-traditional venue? Well, now you can. The Kansas City Public Theatre kicks off its first season this fall, but it's already staging some monthly readings at a local bar. We talk with its executive artistic director and a playwright, whose work will be performed on Monday.

Heidi Van

Kansas City has a wide range of theater venues, from tiny spaces that seat only a couple dozen people to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. And now, two newcomers are opening another one.

On our First Friday arts show: a local artist has been keeping a dream journal for over 40 years. In his new exhibit, he's brought recurring objects from his dreams to life through sculpture. Then, we talk to the star of a one-woman show about fashion icon Diana Vreeland, and a band conductor on how his group keeps the Kansas City sound alive ... and how they're taking a step to address the gender imbalance in jazz.

Guests:

J. Robert Schraeder / Courtesy of The Coterie Theatre

Playwright Laurie Brooks has tackled challenging subjects for young adults — from the Salem witch trials to bullying. Her latest play, The Secret of Courage, explores a teenager facing a health crisis ... with a little help from a magical world.

Courtesy of Unicorn Theatre

Playwright Karen Hartman knew her work "Project Dawn" dealt with intense material. Its story, about women with multiple prostitution convictions who are going through a treatment program in hopes of having their charges erased, is based on a real place in Philadelphia called Project Dawn Court.

Courtesy Tina Packer

Although he wrote one of the greatest romances of all time, William Shakespeare isn’t generally known as a sexy playwright. But a Shakespeare expert plans to explore that side of him in Kansas City this week.

“I’m going to talk on sex. I think it promises to be fun,” says Tina Packer, who speaks of his work in a way that leaves little doubt she’d crown him “most sensual writer to have ever lived” if given the chance.

Since the 1970s, Packer has directed all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays (excluding a few she is certain he did not write).

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Victor Raider-Wexler, a venerable actor with a voice as deep as magma, has never performed as a woman before. 

“It’s a brand new thing," he says of his role in Spinning Tree Theatre's newest production. "But last Christmas I was Marley, and I’d never been a ghost before either.”

Mike Tsai / Kansas City Actors Theatre

It was a year ago when the Kansas City Actors Theatre decided to produce Sam Shepard's play “A Lie of the Mind” this season. When Shepard died in July, company members were shocked at first, but then their feelings evolved.

Meet the creative forces behind some of the exciting art stuff going on in September. We talk to the director of a play where ten manly explorers are played by women. Then, the dance troupe that choreographs shows off the sides of buildings. Finally, a KC musician who activates local dance floors and local politics.

Guests:

Some of the exciting stuff on KC's arts calendar this month: an artist residency at the Nelson-Atkins; a three-person, 90-minute version of Macbeth; and a chat with soul singer Julia Haile.

Haile will be performing Gen Listen KC's Stockyards Sounds on Tuesday, August 8.

Guests:

A talk with the creator and director of two new shows that are premiering at the Kansas City Fringe Festival this weekend. One show was inspired by a box of old letters; the other by folk music.

Plus: there used to be a poor farm at 119th and Ridgeview Road; it was another time period's model for helping the homeless. The story of Johnson County's poor farm and the attitude towards poverty that it represents.

Guests:

The Mighty Mo Combo

Today, Up To Date previews the Kansas City Fringe Festival with a look at two of this year's acts.

First, we find out what a group of Kansas City musicians are doing to bring the music of Ella Fitzgerald back to life. Then, we meet the playwright, actress, and University of Kansas professor who turned her cancer diagnosis into a one-woman comedic play.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

As families prepare to pile into cars for summer vacations, one new play takes a trip back in time to explore the experience of black travelers in Jim Crow-era America.

Joan Marcus

In America, the split between conservatives and liberals can be dramatic. Today, we find out how the concept of American exceptionalism can divide and separate us from ourselves and our Western counterparts. Then,  Actors' Equity president Kate Shindle makes the economic argument to keep funding of the National Endowment for the Arts in the federal budget. She also talks about her role and the issues explored in the groundbreaking musical Fun Home.

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.

Better Block Foundation

The push for safe spaces and trigger warnings is leading many educators to more carefully curate their syllabi. The issue inspired creativity in a Kansas City playwright and the two local actors performing in his new project.

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.

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.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

That '70s Show made way for rising stars like Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, but they were supported by a corps of veteran actors. Today, we speak with Debra Jo Rupp, who spent 17 years acting on stage before portraying the quirky mom on the long-running sitcom. After that, we try to help would-be gamblers avoid a super blow-out with a preview of the Super Bowl and an explainer on how point-spread betting could work for or against you.

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.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

It may look like just another hefty tome, but Shakespeare's First Folio is a big deal. Up To Date hit the road for a live, first-hand look at one of the most valuable, and rare, literary documents in the English language.

Guests:

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