Cynthia Levin / Unicorn Theatre

The Unicorn Theatre's production of Water by the Spoonful marks the local premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. But the play may be more noteworthy for its meaty, multi-layered characters of Puerto Rican heritage, and the fact that the actors playing them represent ethnic diversity that's rare to see on a Kansas City stage.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

It's a Thursday morning in the rehearsal space at the Lyric Opera Center in the Crossroads Arts District. About 20 students from the Kansas City Art Institute stand on either side of a long table covered with sketches, floor and building plans and colorful set drawings. They reach into pockets to snap photos with cell phones, or focus in with larger cameras.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

For the past 25 years, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s apprentice program has offered graduate-level voice students at the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri-Kansas City a chance to develop their operatic skills on a professional stage.

Auditions for the two-year program are competitive; there are only about a handful of positions. The apprentices then have the opportunity to appear in either two or three productions at the Lyric each year.

Matteo Bittanti / Flickr / Creative Commons

Nathan Darrow, an actor from Overland Park, Kan., has rocketed to stardom in his role as Edward Meechum on the Netflix show House of Cards. Darrow got his big break when he completed a world tour with a Sam Mendes production of Richard III, also starring Kevin Spacey. (A one-time screening of a documentary about that world tour will take place at the Tivoli April 29 at 7:30 p.m.

courtesy of Nick Blaemire

It seems every new musical is based on a familiar movie, such as the current Broadway productions of Rocky, Bullets Over Broadway, and Aladdin. There are notable exceptions, though - original stories crafted from pure imagination.

Opening its world premiere production at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre is a show taking up that challenge called A Little More Alive.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

After nearly three decades with the Kansas City Ballet, Ballet Master James Jordan has accepted the same post with The Sarasota Ballet as of the 2014-2015 season.

Devon Carney, the Ballet's artistic director, said in a news release that Jordan's national reputation as a stager of Anthony Tudor ballets led to the Florida connection.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

A blowing March wind on Thursday roared outside the windows of a rehearsal and performance space in the Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity. Ilya Kozadayev, a former soloist with Houston Ballet, watched intently from the audience as a group of six dancers from the Kansas City Ballet moved without music. For long stretches of time, only the sound of occasional claps and feet upon the floor could be heard as they went through the motions of a final tech rehearsal.

Get that spring into your step with Brian McTavish's Weekend To-Do List for March 21-23, 2014.

Lyric Opera of Kansas City: “La Boheme” (Classic opera by Giacomo Puccini), 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo. Tickets: $90 to $160

The National World War I Museum, housed at the base of the Liberty Memorial, is this year marking the 100th anniversary of the start of that war. By pure coincidence, the national tour of the Tony Award-winning play War Horse arrives at the Music Hall next month, creating a rare convergence of history and theatricality in Kansas City.

Confounding the skeptics

Julie Denesha / KCUR

When American soprano Katie Van Kooten came down with a cold just before the final dress rehearsal of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's "La Bohème," it became clear that she was not going to be able to "sing out" in her role as Mimì.

But the show - or at least the rehearsal - went on.

Steve Walker / KCUR

For the past 16 years, University of Missouri-Kansas City graduate students in theater design have participated in an intensive professional training exercise called a charette. Visiting artists from the profession visit the university to both encourage and critique the students, who are given five days to design the set, costumes or lighting for a production that will never really open.

Drawing inspiration

waltarrrrr / Flickr-CC

Want to get rid of the post-Mardi Gras blahs? Check out Brian McTavish's Weekend To-Do List for March 7-9, 2014.

Golden! Girls Gone Wild!!! (Late Night Theatre returns with cross-dressing satire of TV’s “The Golden Girls”), opens at 8 p.m. Friday with performances through March 31 at Missie B’s, 805 W. 39th, Kansas City, Mo. Tickets: $18 (816-235-6222)

Julie Denesha / KCUR

It's been nearly 120 years since the publication of Bram Stoker's gothic novel Dracula. But his tale of the Count, who stalks living creatures and survives on their blood, continues to this day to be interpreted and popularized in theater, television, film, and dance. This season, the Kansas City Ballet is staging choreographer Michael Pink's Dracula, based on Stoker's classic work.

Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

A prisoner on death row, for a decade, prepares to die. But, then something goes wrong on the morning that's supposed to be his last - the lethal injection is not lethal. That's the premise of the production, When I Come to Die, at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Many ballets often depend on the concept of tension, whether in the muscles of the dancers or the story itself. That may be even more evident in the Kansas City Ballet's production of Dracula, opening this Friday.

In bringing the iconic character to the stage, the company is venturing to its dark side with a production that is the first in the Ballet's history to come with parental discretion advised. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Set in 1918, in the British trenches of Saint-Quentin, Aisne, R.C. Sherriff's Journey’s End tells the story of commanding officers Captain Stanhope and Lieutenant Osborne, as they discuss the impending battle in the officers' dugout.

The production, directed by Mark Robbins, is a collaboration between Kansas City Actors Theatre, UMKC Theatre, and the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.

After nearly 30 years with Fox Associates, in St. Louis, Mo., Richard (Rich) Baker will take on a new role as president and CEO of Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Mo. in March.

Fox Associates owns and operates the 4,500-seat Fox Theatre, as well as MetroTix, an online ticket broker, and Fox Theatricals, which runs Briar Street Theatre in Chicago, Ill.

J. Robert Schraeder / Courtesy the Coterie Theatre

For more than three centuries, Salem, Mass., has been linked to the infamous witch trials. In 1692, at least 20 men and women died after being convicted of witchcraft; it was then considered a crime punishable by death. Hundreds more faced accusations.

A new production at the Coterie Theatre, Afflicted: Daughters of Salem, provides the story behind the girls — the accusers, who started it all.

Afflicted is written by Laurie Brooks, a longtime Coterie collaborator. She says the play is "not easy. It’s subtle, it’s complex. It's about relationships."

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The one-woman play, Grounded, by George Brant, explores the destructive power of modern warfare through the eyes of a female combat pilot. After an unexpected pregnancy, she's reassigned to a windowless trailer in the Nevada desert as the desk pilot of a military drone.

The Unicorn Theatre's production marks the third in a series of "rolling world premieres" presented by members of the National New Play Network, dedicated to the development of new work.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

It was 30 years ago this year that Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey was created as a second home for the New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a modern dance company founded in 1958.

To mark this milestone, the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation on Friday issued a challenge grant. At $375,000, it’s the largest grant in the history of the Friends of Alvin Ailey.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

This year, the Owen/Cox Dance Group is bringing its annual jazzy adaptation of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King to the Polsky Theatre at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan.

Returning to perform in the production is a powerful dancer with an explosive name: Winston Dynamite Brown. A frequent guest artist with the group, Brown says he relishes his role as the Nutcracker.

Growing into an explosive name

Julie Denesha / KCUR

This year, the Kansas City Ballet launched a second company called KCB II. It’s a selective program – there are only five dancers in the ensemble – and they're charged with taking dance out into the community.

Creating a role for dance in the community

Photographer Steve Wilson for the Kansas City Ballet / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Each year in December, like many other companies, the Kansas City Ballet puts on a production of The Nutcracker.

But this year the Kansas City Ballet has a new leader at the artistic helm, Devon Carney.

Carney joins us to speak about this holiday classic and how he keeps it fresh for himself and the audience.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

The Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s annual production of A Christmas Carol has a large cast, including about three dozen children and young adults. Rehearsals start in early November, and the hours can be long and demanding. There are song lyrics, and sometimes lots of lines to learn. It’s a challenging job for the young actors - and for the staff charged with keeping track of them.

Cynthia Levin / Unicorn Theatre

This week, the Unicorn Theatre opens the play Clybourne Park, which has the distinction of winning the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. Its two acts take place in the same house 50 years apart, and examine with equal humor and drama all the varying shades within the phrase, "There goes the neighborhood."

A house divided

This season, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre has added a second show to their holiday schedule. The Santaland Diaries is a dark comedy written by David Sedaris and adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello. The one-man show is a prickly retelling of Sedaris’ stint as a Macy’s elf during the Christmas season.

Marc Baptiste / Courtesy of Atlantic Records

At 28, rising pop star Janelle Monae has collaborated with musical royalty, like Erykah Badu and Prince. Last summer, she was featured in Fun’s runaway hit We Are Young, and recently played Saturday Night Live, with songs from her new album Electric Lady, which debuted as number 5 on Billboard’s 200

But the Kansas City, Kan., native had her first local headliner at the Uptown Theatre on November 15. It was a boisterous, sold-out party attended by dozens of her family members and former teachers.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The Magic Flute, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, first premiered in Vienna in 1791. A comic tale of love buffeted by the forces of good and evil, the opera is a singspiel, including both spoken dialogue and song.

For the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's production, artist and ceramicist Jun Kaneko, based in Omaha, Neb., designed the fanciful set design and costumes.

Cory Weaver

Artist Jun Kaneko grew up in Japan, but he's been based in Omaha, Neb. since the mid-1980's.  He's known for his monumental ceramic sculptures, including his signature "dangos," or rounded forms - and he’s also created scenic and costume design for opera.

Mozart’s The Magic Flute marks Kaneko's third opera. The set is almost entirely digital animated projection, with colorful, whimsical costumes. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City opens the production this weekend at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In this scene, singer Eboni Fondren performs 'I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling' in Spinning Tree Theatre's production of Ain't Misbehavin' at Just Off Broadway Theatre.

"Ain't Misbehavin is a celebration of the music Fats Waller wrote, performed, and made famous during the 1930s Harlem Renaissance," says co-director Andy Parkhurst.