Performance

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

When musician Amado Espinoza and theater artist Karen Lisondra moved to Kansas City from Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2014, Espinoza noticed that many people here were disconnected from their own roots, from each other and from the earth. He'd come from a place where indigenous culture is present in everyday life.

As they looked to develop a creative network and collaborate with other artists, Espinoza and Lisondra also started thinking of a project that would bring different people with indigenous backgrounds together.

Local actor Damron Russell Armstrong recently started a theater company. The Black Repertory Theater of Kansas City made it's 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.

Louish Pixel / Flickr - CC

Turkey? Check. Stuffing? Done. Cranberry sauce? Got it. Preparing for a big Thanksgiving feast comes with a long to-do list, but this year, you probably need to add one more big item: a plan for talking about the recent election. How to approach race, religion and politics at your family dinner table this holiday.

Plus, a local opera singer will perform the work of Venetian composer Barbara Strozzi in an upcoming concert. We hear a sample, and a bit of Strozzi's life story.

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:

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.

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.

Prairie Village has the distinction among Kansas cities of being the hometown of not one — but two! — operatic prodigies. Hear the latest tenor voice that's delighting audiences from California to Carnegie Hall. Then, we examine a different way to frame victims of sexual violence and the concept of rape itself. Finally, the latest Statehouse Blend Kansas, recorded live in Wichita.

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.

Jordan Green / Flickr - CC

It can be intriguing when performers may not show everything they have, yet still impress. 

Well, that will have to wait! Because no lights will be hidden under any bushels this weekend, with a diversity of shows divulging a harvest of talents and captivations – from oh-so-sultry singing to over-the-top stage gore.

Do you see? Oh, you will.

​1. MattyB

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.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Shakespeare’s romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream revolves around the mishaps of two mortal couples, as well as the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania. An oft-quoted line provides a summary of the plot: "The course of true love never did run smooth."

The Kansas City Ballet's production, choreographed by Bruce Wells, tells the story of magic and mistaken identities — through movement and music. 

Here are five things to know about the production: 

1. There's a 30-year connection

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:

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

For five years, the sounds of violins strumming, ballet slippers prancing, and opera singers hitting high notes have filled the performance halls of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. In a live broadcast from the iconic structure's massive foyer, Up to Date visits some of the people who make it all possible.

Guests:

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

More than 20 years ago, in 1994, philanthropist Muriel McBrien Kauffman started talking about a vision for a performing arts center in Kansas City. After years of planning, selecting architect Moshe Safdie, fundraising, and finally building —the $326 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opened to the public in September 2011. 

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.

Paramount Pictures

As the dog days of summer start to fizzle out and the rain comes down, hold out on building that ark. This week, Up to Date’s indie, foreign and documentary film critics have a few good movies to keep you warm, cozy and indoors.

Robert Butler

Hell or High Water, R

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."

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kids in the Lyric’s Summer Opera Camp are getting some particularly timely lessons this year, and they don’t all have to do with vocal performance.

The opera they’re learning is She Never Lost a Passenger, which recounts the tale of Harriet Tubman, the slave who escaped to freedom and returned to guide some 70 slaves to freedom using the Underground Railroad network of safe houses.

Dancing In The Street

Aug 2, 2016

Dance can be a way to express yourself, but it can also be a way to meet people and find community. Kansas Citians have tangoed, sashayed, two-stepped, and boogied all over the streets and dance floors of this city for decades. But what's new in the scene? What are the cultures of dancing in our city? And, are there still places to dance? 

Guests:

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.

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

Supporters of the proposed downtown University of Missouri-Kansas City campus for the arts have enlisted Warren Erdman, a savvy veteran of Missouri politics, to lead the lobbying effort for $48 million in matching state funds.

“Warren has been fantastically supportive since early on,” says Dean Peter Witte of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

“His understanding of the University of Missouri System and his reputation in the State Legislature are great assets.”

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

The members of Kansas City's Dance Gurukul troupe are hoping “Cosmic Forces” helps revive an ancient tradition while honoring the Hindu god Shiva.

This weekend, they'll be performing in the classical Southern Indian tradition of Kuchipudi, a style of dance that started as a temple art form thousands of years ago.

“The stage is a sacred space for us and the essence of the dance is deeply spiritual,” says Samarpita Bajpai. “It’s a way of connecting with God. That’s what you should feel when you are dancing.”

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