theater

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

"Growing up, I thought I lived in like a black city," says Nathan Louis Jackson, who spent his childhood and early adulthood in the Quindaro neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas. "I didn't understand the makeup of this city. And not just that, it wasn't just a racial makeup, it was also economic. All that, I didn't get. I was in a little bubble."

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:

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Actor and Late Night Theatre director Ron Megee says he isn't out to change the world.

His troupe, where men often play women and vice versa, performs campy spoofs on popular television shows and movies. And camp, he says, "is a frame of mind."

"We're putting something up on stage and twisting it to the point of humor," Megee says.

Paul Andrews

A chat with the local actor and director about being an out teen in Blue Springs, how he helped create the campy and irreverent Late Night Theatre group and how, until recently, he couldn't perform onstage without throwing up.

Guest:

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.

Nina Subin

Ayad Akhtar won the Pulitzer Prize back in 2013 for his play Disgraced, about a successful corporate lawyer who has hidden his Pakistani Muslim heritage.

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.

Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy are the mother-and-son team starring in  Have You Met Miss Jones, a musical that chronicles the life of the talented actress and soprano. They share what it's like to balance show business with everyday life and how a family that works together stays together. 

'Have You Met Miss Jones' premieres at New Theatre Restaurant September 22 and runs through November 27. Find more information at newtheatre.com.

It's this season's most compelling made-for-TV drama: The 2016 election. From costumes to stage sets to the use of music and more, we explore the role of political theater. How do candidates present themselves on stage and screen for drama ... or comedy?

Guests:

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City theater audiences know Damron Russel Armstrong’s work – he’s been an actor and director in town for years. But Armstrong’s new role is his most challenging yet: He’s starting a new theater company.

Brian Paulette

Tennessee Williams' masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948, has been called the greatest play ever written by an American, and the character Blanche DuBois is at the center of nearly everything that happens in it. It's a daunting role that Kansas City actress Cinnamon Schultz has spent months preparing for. No pressure, right?

The end of Billie Holiday's musical career is infamous because of her drug and alcohol abuse, not to mention her tumultuous relationships with men. That's the Billie Holiday that actress Nedra Dixon is taking on in her latest role. Dixon says that, despite the drama, Lady Day "left a legacy of song and style unlike any other."

Janet Saidi / KCUR 89.3

It all started with Death of a Salesman.

When up-and-coming Kansas City playwrights Sarah Aptilon, Victor Wishna and Inbar Kahnsat sat down and thought about how they might collaborate on a project for the Kansas City Fringe Festival, they understood it would be a challenge to combine three separate plays into a production that made sense.

But they each were inspired by the themes of disillusionment in Arthur Miller’s classic.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

With about a week to go before the kickoff of the 12th Annual Kansas City Fringe Festival, local actors and performers are rehearsing intensely for the 11­-day festival that includes theater, dance, cabaret, and spoken word.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

For this year's production of Twelfth Night, or What You Will, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival has set the play in the Roaring Twenties.

Its three female characters represent distinctly different approaches to the gender politics of Shakespeare's time, so KCUR asked the actors for their thoughts on the characters of Viola, Olivia, and Maria.

Actor: Bree Elrod
Character: Viola

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:

As Sue Sylvester on Glee, actress Jane Lynch delivered some of the best zingers ever written for television. Lynch has built a portfolio portraying what one media outlet called, "full-throttle, sexed-up, hyper-confident female wack jobs.” We catch up with Lynch as her musical tour gears up to come to Overland Park, Kansas. 

Courtesy: Helix Architecture + Design

Kansas City Young Audiences will soon move to its first permanent home in the organization's 55-year history. On Tuesday, the arts education non-profit announced the purchase of a former Office Max building at 3732 Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri. 

"It's in the heart of Midtown, centrally located in the city," says executive director Martin English. "We believe it will give us an opportunity to reach out and to serve a broader community of students from that location."  

courtesy: Barn Players Community Theatre

Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, tells the story of a young woman, an orphan, who takes a job as a governess. She falls in love with the owner of the estate, the darkly brooding Mr. Rochester, who has a secret past.

The musical adaptation of Jane Eyre premiered on Broadway in 2000, and the Barn Players Community Theatre presents the first Kansas City production. Alisha Richardson and Matt Richardson, who married in 2015, play the two lead roles.  

Cory Weaver / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Eric Rosen's play, Lot's Wife, has gone through several iterations over the last two decades. It's a work that Rosen, the artistic director of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, started in the early 1990s when he was in graduate school. It premieres this weekend in the Rep's first new works festival. 

Structured as a play within a play, it has echoes of a personal tragedy, and 1930s noir as well as a nod to the cautionary Biblical tale of Lot’s wife, who turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back.

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