theater

Courtesy Lindsay Adams

When did we stop telling folk tales? The days of white-haired elders sitting by fires under the stars recounting local legends might be over, but storytelling and oral traditions aren't. 

In fact, Kansas City playwright Lindsay Adams has created her own folk tale.

"I just had this image of the woman crying and the river flowing and keeping all the wheat alive. I wrote it down in a notebook," she says. "And then I came back to it, started writing and it just sort of came. It was pretty magical."

Anne Kniggendorf

People around here know Oz.

“Being in Kansas — holy crap — we just get inundated," says Matt Hawkins, the puppet designer for Paul Mesner Puppet Theater’s production of The Wizard of Oz. "Every truck stop is full of Wizard of Oz.”

So why would Mike Horner, the company's artistic director, bother with yet another production of the story?

Brian Collins / Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

So what's it like going from a blockbuster hit like Netflix's House of Cards to returning to your hometown to perform outdoors in a Shakespeare play?

That was Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann's question for actor Nathan Darrow on the day Hamlet opened in Southmoreland Park, presented by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.

Brian Collins

Presumably, everyone knows that "To be, or not to be" is a phrase from Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Same goes for "something is rotten in the state of Denmark." And many people might correctly guess that "Get thee to a nunnery" is from Hamlet as well.

But what about "the lady doth protest too much"?

"To thine own self be true"?

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be"?

Quixotic Cirque Nouveau

For centuries, research about women has been flawed. Today, we learn how gender and cultural bias has affected scientific study.  Author and journalist Angela Saine says new research refutes the long-held view that women are inferior. Also, we explore the creative process behind the Kansas City performance art group Quixotic.

Marleah Campbell / KCUR 89.3

Television has rapidly evolved since its humble, black-and-white beginnings. Today, we discuss how  TV has forever changed the American culture. Then, actress and activist Morgan Fairchild joins us to discuss her advocacy work and insights on current events and politics.

KCPT

After more than 30 years at KCPT, Randy Mason, executive producer of cultural affairs, has been let go. KCUR has learned that three other staffers were also told their jobs were cut.

LindsayG0430 / Wikimedia Commons

Simply put, legends last.

Demonstrating such qualifying staying power this weekend are entertainments whose appeal has persisted for decades, even centuries – from a veteran country-music king holding court to an ancient Egyptian-inspired soap opera updated for modern audiences.

So in 10, 50 or 100 years, what seemingly momentary allures might still be enjoyed by the masses? There I go again, asking questions that I can’t possibly answer. In the meantime, peruse the following totally legendary supply!

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."

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