Performance

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey announced two new top leadership roles on Tuesday. 

Harlan Brownlee joins the organization in the newly created position of chief executive officer.

In July, Brownlee stepped down as president and CEO of ArtsKC, the regional arts council. He's worked in arts education for three decades, including as a dance teacher and choreographer, and calls this a "great fit." 

J. Robert Schraeder Photography / The Coterie

Amid the vast genre known as holiday music, few classics stand out as much as A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack to the iconic Peanuts television special.

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the TV cartoon is the Coterie Theatre's live production. Demand for tickets was so intense the show is now sold out until after Christmas (it runs through Jan. 3).

Julie Denesha / KCUR

A large crowd of supporters and donors gathered Friday morning in the freshly renovated lobby space of the Spencer Theatre on the UMKC campus.

After a seven-month, $5.6 million reconstruction, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's primary venue now has a new stage floor, new seats, updated lighting and acoustic design as well as an expanded lobby. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

For more than three decades, Kansas City audiences have gathered at the holidays to watch the classic ballet, The Nutcracker. This year, though, they'll be getting something much different.

Beth Lipoff / KCUR

You may remember Gary Sandy as the beleaguered program director from the popular TV show, "WKRP in Cincinnati." Sandy has since had a successful stage career, and joins the New Theatre Restaurant for their upcoming production, "Out of Order." 

'Out of Order' will run December  2 through February 14 at the New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park. For tickets, go to newtheatre.com.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

More than 200 people are expected Wednesday at the Gem Theater at 18th and Vine for a daylong community conversation about race.

Though the Fall Symposium: Race, Place & Diversity hosted by the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey might feel like a response to this week’s events at the University of Missouri in Columbia, the organization hosted a similar symposium a year ago and is committed to doing so for the next five years, says the organization’s executive director, Tyrone Aiken.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

For a solid 10 years, actor Don Richard performed on nearly every Kansas City stage. A production of the musical Jane Eyre that began in Wichita, Kansas, eventually landed in New York City on Broadway, where he often appears today. He's currently back in town for Musical Theater Heritage's production of Urinetown: The Musical. 

As part of the monthly series Actors Off Script, Richard, who's now based in Chicago, talks about his journey from modest parts in local theaters to the Broadway stage.

Courtesy Oskar Landi / Urban Romances, A Sundance Selects Release

Though the late choreographer George Balanchine may have been a genius, he had a skewed vision of what his ballerinas should look like. He dictated they be flat-chested and that they follow diets so strict they stopped menstruating. Today that's called body fascism in some circles. And it might have produced as much hurt as art.

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Photographer Mike Strong has spent the past two decades capturing the movement of dancers on Kansas City stages. 

When Strong first became interested in dance, he says he couldn't find much information about metro-area dance events. So in 1997, he started his own website, KCDance.com and has published photographs of performances and rehearsals ever since. 

Courtesy Unicorn Theatre

Audiences at the Unicorn Theatre will see higher-tech productions thanks to a $100,000 grant, the theater has announced.

The grant, from the David Beals Charitable Trust, will support technology upgrades in lighting, sound, projection and electrical systems.

“We’re going to be able to do some things we couldn’t do before,” said Cynthia Levin, the Unicorn’s producing artistic director.

He stood alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for civil rights, yet the name Bayard Rustin remains largely unknown. We hear the story of this important figure in history. 

Guests:

The Telling Project takes the stories of local veterans and veteran family members and turns them into scripts. Those same vets and family members then rehearse those scripts and present them in their community. Two participating area veterans and the founder of The Telling Project talk with Steve Kraske about the Kansas City version.

Guests:

In 2007 in Cleveland, Johanna Orozco was raped and shot in the jaw by her ex-boyfriend. Coverage of the shooting inspired new legislation in Ohio targeting teen-on-teen violence and a play based on Johanna's experience. Steve Kraske speaks with the journalist who covered the event and the playwright of "Johanna: Moving Forward."

Guests:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Anyone staging Charles Busch's play Die, Mommie, Die! is advised to cast a male actor as its lead female character. Playing the fading movie star Angela Arden at Musical Theater Heritage in Crown Center is Late Night Theatre veteran De De DeVille, whose given name is David Krom.

As part of our monthly series Actors Off-Script, Krom talks about a 20-plus year career that began on a dare. 

You grew up as David Krom. What was your journey like to becoming De De DeVille? When did that happen?

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As a young child, Helen Keller lost her vision, hearing, and ability to speak. Her teacher, Annie Sullivan, gave her the tools to communicate with the world. Theirs was a friendship that lasted for five decades – and the play about that relationship, The Miracle Worker, opens this week at the Coterie Theatre. 

As part of our monthly series Actors Off-Script, Vanessa Severo (Annie) and Josephine Pellow (Helen) talked about some of the challenges of bringing this story to the stage. 

His character, Jerry, was the butt of numerous jokes on NBC's Parks and Recreation which ran for seven years. Actor Jim O'Heir fills in Steve Kraske on what went on at last weekend's Emmy Awards, what it was like working on Parks & Rec and the reason he's in town.

Jim O'Heir appears in 'You Can't Take It With You' at the New Theatre Restaurant September 24 through November 29. For more information go to newtheatre.com

Pain. It's not the most uplifting topic, in fact it hurts, but it's universal... and throughout time, philosophers have found value in it. Our meditation on pain starts with a dance.

Guests:

Courtesy photo / Belger Crane Yard Studios

Kansas City artist Peregrine Honig spent time this year in artist residencies — one in China, and, an unofficial one, closer to home at the Hotel Phillips. 

Some of the drawings and prints she created will soon be on display in a replica hotel suite — inside the Belger Crane Yard gallery. Sexuality and vulnerability, power and luxury — and privacy all collide in a new multimedia installation called Suites

Julie Denesha / KCUR

T’khara Jones and her younger sister KhaTera Jones wanted to take dance lessons.

Their older sister won gymnastics and dance trophies, and they had an aunt whose dancing mesmerized them.

"I just thought, 'Wow that looks so much fun, it just looks beautiful," says T'khara. "I always wanted to do it."

Same went for KhaTera, a year behind her in school.

"One of my friends took dance classes and I thought it was really cool. When I first started wanting to take dance classes, it was maybe fourth or fifth grade."

courtesy of A to Z Theatrical Supply and Service

After five decades in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City, A to Z Theatrical Supply and Service has moved to a long-vacant building in east Brookside. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In Sarah Ruhl's play The Oldest Boy, a suburban couple's life is turned on its ear when they learn their 3-year-old son may be the reincarnation of a high Buddhist lama. Playing the boy's mother in the Unicorn Theatre production is Katie Kalahurka. 

For our series called Actors Off-Script, Kalahurka spoke with me about motherhood and the innovative way her character's son's story comes to life.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

With its new production of West Side Story, Spinning Tree Theatre takes an intimate approach to a large classic musical.

It’s thought to be the first in Kansas City with an all-local, all-professional cast. And while maintaining the original choreography, two veteran cast members are putting their own stamp on it. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye counts out the beats as he directs three dancers darting across the floor in a rehearsal room.

Earlier this year when Jolicoeur-Nye created a pas de deux for Kansas City Ballet’s “New Moves” showcase set to the music of composer Max Richter, it caught the eye of Kansas City Dance Festival’s co-artistic director Anthony Krutzkamp. The two decided to collaborate on a larger work for the festival this weekend that they’re calling "Richter Scales."

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Heidi Van says that Kansas City needs to send original, locally created theater out into the world every bit as much as it needs a baseball team. That means experimenting on stage, taking risks, re-tooling scenes and sometimes failing. In front of an audience. Get a window into the world of experimental theater in Kansas City. 

Guests:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

During the day, Robert Hingula works as an attorney for one of Kansas City’s most prominent law firms.

But for the next few weeks, he’ll be spending his evenings as Shrek, starring in productions at the Jewish Community Center and at Shawnee Mission's Theatre in the Park.

J. Robert Schraeder / courtesy of The Coterie Theatre

The extraordinary freedom of expression that we have in this country is routinely utilized by artists who choose to perform on stage, along with audiences that seek to be engaged by their efforts.

Keep that in mind this Fourth of July weekend, while enjoying the talents of actors and musicians who are free to go wherever their creative spirit leads.

That kind of liberty? Only in America.

1. ‘Pippin’

Image Courtesy of Starlight Theatre / Copyright Bob Compton Photography

At the end of May, more than 2,000 kids and their friends and parents headed to Starlight Theatre for the Blue Star Awards, Kansas City’s high school version of the Tony Awards. They got decked out in dramatic formal wear, walked down a red carpet and had their pictures taken, then performed bits of their shows and made acceptance speeches.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In a small dressing room Saturday afternoon, nine young dancers from AileyCamp The Group crowded around a bank of mirrors checking makeup and donning leotards. The dance troupe was one of three performing in Festival on the Vine’s youth matinee performance at the Gem Theater in Kansas City.

The three-day festival of dance over the weekend featured Kansas City-based Owen/Cox Dance Group, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance from Colorado and CRISOL danza Fusión from Mexico. And Saturday was the moment for young dancers to take the stage. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival has graced Southmoreland Park for 23 seasons — and actor John Rensenhouse has been there for 10 of them. This year, he takes on the role of King Lear, with his volatile moods and ungrateful daughters. 

"He still wants to be king but he doesn’t want to do the work, so he is going to divide his kingdom up into three parts and give a part to each of his daughters," Rensenhouse says. 

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