Performance

Courtesy David Wayne Reed

Theatergoers anticipating Help Yourself, the new show by Kansas City playwright and actor David Wayne Reed, got some insights into Reed’s inspiration on Wednesday’s Central Standard.

"Problems are the gasoline that runs the self-help car." So says David Wayne Reed, who wrote the play Help Yourself. On the heels of a discussion of this darkly humorous new play, a librarian and a psychologist discuss the self-help genre, its history and the human condition that fuels it. Is change possible? And when might acceptance be just as important?

Guests:

Local Listen: Vinson Cole

Jan 9, 2015

Vinson Cole may not be a household name, but the operatic tenor is revered in Kansas City's artistic circles.

This week's edition of Local Listen features a splendid track from Cole's 1993 album "In Love With Love."

Cole's contributions will be recognized in a concert benefiting the Lyric Opera of Kansas City on Sunday, January 11 at 4 pm at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th Street, Kansas City, Mo.

courtesy of the family

Three notable arts figures died in Kansas City in recent weeks: Ann K. Brown, Brenda Nelson, and Tommy Ruskin.

Drummer Tommy Ruskin, 72, died the morning of Jan. 1, after a long illness.

A native of Kansas City, Ruskin’s career spanned nearly half a century. He began performing as a teenager with singers such as Marilyn Maye, and went on to play with other jazz greats like Al Cohn, Scott Hamilton, Gene Harris, Zoot Sims, and Bill Watrous.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The Nutcracker, with choreography by Todd Bolender, has played a role in the holiday season for Kansas City audiences since 1981. But, on Christmas Eve, the curtain falls for the last time on this version of the production.

The Sugar Plum Fairy lightly takes center stage in a gold tutu at the final dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  

Cynthia Levin / Unicorn Theatre

Hollywood super agent Sue Mengers was never a household name. But, in the 1970s, she was considered the most powerful woman in show business. The play, I'll Eat You Last, opening this weekend at the Unicorn Theatre, shows that Mengers could be as vulnerable as she was cut-throat. 

Sidonie Garrett, the show's director, answered some questions about the show as part of our monthly series, Director's Cuts

Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Gary Neal Johnson has been performing in the Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol since 1982. And he’s played Ebeneezer Scrooge for more than a decade. Hear what Johnson has learned from his deep immersion in this story of moral and spiritual redemption.

Guest:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In the depths of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, small herds of children passed racks of snowflake and flower costumes Wednesday night as they made their way to dressing rooms just before Kansas City Ballet’s final dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker.

Courtesy of Lindsey Roesti

University of Kansas theater professor Peter Zazzali wanted to challenge his students. So, heading into Thanksgiving, they're putting on a play called “The Big Meal.”

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As the Kansas City Symphony warmed up in the pit, some 300 metro-area students filed into Muriel Kauffman Theatre for The Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s Thursday night dress rehearsal. The production of "The Italian Girl in Algiers" updates Gioachino Rossini’s zany farce by turning the heroine Isabella (Irene Roberts) into an adventurous aviatrix. She's determined to rescue her one true love Lindoro (Taylor Stayton) who has been taken captive by the Turkish Bey Mustafa (Patrick Carfizzi).
 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Now that it's in its fourth season, Spinning Tree Theatre is proud to be Kansas City's youngest Equity theater company. Though it doesn't always do musicals, it has built a reputation with them, including its current production, Violet, with a title character unlike any musical theater heroine audiences have ever seen.

Here’s the cast on the night of a recent rehearsal:

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Richard Gibson, 33, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps just after high school and was stationed in Iraq. When his service ended in 2003, and he returned to Kansas City, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

With a love for singing and performance, Gibson turned to opera. For the past eight years, he's been a member of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City chorus. He's also taking on a new role, as conductor of a Veteran's Chorus

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Alvin Ailey was a choreographer who was born in Texas in 1931. He spent his pioneering dance career in New York City, touring internationally and transforming ideas about dance and race on the world stage throughout his life. He died in 1989, and yet, Kansas City dancers live and breathe Alvin Ailey in the 21st century. 

In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey (KCFAA), Central Standard explores the dance philosophy of Alvin Ailey and his relationship with Kansas City. 

courtesy: Joyce DiDonato

Update Monday, 4:45 pm: 

Kansas City’s homegrown opera diva Joyce DiDonato won’t be singing the National Anthem during the World Series, at least during the first four games.

A vigorous social media campaign, including an online petition signed by more than 3,000, lobbied Major League Baseball to #letjoycesing.  

Julie Denesha / KCUR

One character in the Kansas City Ballet's new production of Alice (in wonderland) is not a dancer -- but requires seven dancers to move: the Jabberwocky, a silver-scaled beast with a sprawling 25-foot wingspan.

Early in the rehearsal process, the ballet's artistic director, Devon Carney, brought in Paul Mesner, founder of Paul Mesner Puppets, to stage the puppet work and teach the dancers a few tricks of the trade.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of writer William S. Burroughs, an icon of the Beat movement.

Burroughs lived in Lawrence, Kan., from 1981 until his death in 1997.

As a way of honoring him, the Lawrence Arts Center is focusing some of its programming on Burroughs' work and influence, including a production of the 1950s musical The Nervous Set.

Here, Megan Birdsall sings one of the songs from the production called "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most":

Cynthia Levin

Hands on a Hardbody, the show now playing at the Unicorn Theater, isn’t particularly sexy. There’s a little bit of romance, but the “hard body” isn’t a person -- it’s a pickup truck on the lot of a fictional Nissan dealership in Longview, Texas. There, ten contestants try to keep one hand on the truck for as long as they can. The last person with a hand on the truck gets to drive it home.

Andi Enns / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Our Town, the Thornton Wilder play about small town life in Grover's Corners, has been a staple of high school theater for so long, one would think its commercial prospects would be slim. 

But director David Cromer's 2009 production Off-Broadway was a smash hit, chalking up the longest run in its 76-year history. Cromer directs the current production at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. 

David Cromer answered these questions as part of our monthly series, Director's Cuts

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The dew was still on the grass in a parking area next to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival grounds in Bonner Springs, Kan., early Saturday morning.

Performers started to gather, on this opening day, putting finishing touches on elaborate Tudor-era costumes and practicing 16th century speech and accents. They huddled in groups, catching up on the latest news, before checking in at the gate. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As they waited for other musicians and singers to arrive, composer Hunter Long and mezzo-soprano Anna Hoard lounged among music stands and percussion instruments in a sixth-floor room in the Town Pavilion building in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Hoard sings the role of Charlotte in Long’s new chamber opera titled Lost in Translation, one of five new operas that will have their world premiere on Friday.

In The Studio With Actress Morgan Fairchild

Aug 15, 2014
Beth Lipoff / KCUR

From Falcon Crest to Friends, Morgan Fairchild is a familiar face on the silver screen and in your living room. But what’s the secret to being a successful working actor?

On Friday's Up to Date, we talk about her life in front of the cameras as she joins us in the studio. We also take a look at how she spends her time away from Hollywood, being an activist and performing live on stage at places like the New Theatre Restaurant.

Guest:

  • Morgan Fairchild, actress

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Under the watchful eye of Kansas City native David Parsons, 10 young dance students worked on perfecting dance steps from two very different Parsons works -- Nascimento and Whirlaway -- this week at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity. Parsons teamed up with Kansas City Ballet to bring his intense workshop to Kansas City after touring the facility with his father last year.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

When the musical South Pacific debuted in 1949, it was considered radical for its treatment of issues of race and interracial romance. Opening this weekend is a production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic by Musical Theater Heritage, who've carved out a niche in Kansas City for the unique manner in which they stage their shows.

Here’s the cast on the night of a recent rehearsal:

Courtesy of Vi Tran

When Vi Tran was a young boy growing up in Garden City, Kan., his mother made the most of what the refugee family had. She would take rice and roll it into a ball, adding a little bit of soy sauce. 

“Honey, look,” she’d say. “It’s an egg, it’s a treat.”

Tracy Terstriep Herber

“Going to Kansas City” is a series that shares the personal stories of how people came to Kansas City — and why they stayed.

Tracy Terstriep Herber had a career on Broadway in New York City as a Radio City “Rockette” and performed in Will Rogers Follies and A Christmas Carol. She was also the understudy to the Tony Award winning lead “Ulla” in the Broadway hit The Producers. 

But once she had her first kid, and realized she wanted a second, she wasn't feeling the right balance of career and family life.

Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Kyle Hatley arrived in Kansas City to serve as Assistant Artistic Director for the Kansas City Repertory Theatre in April 2008. He drove into town in the midst of a tornado, and he hasn't stopped moving since.

After eight years of tireless immersion in both the Kansas City Repertory Theatre and the grassroots theater scene, Hatley has decided it's time to return to Chicago. There, he will join his fiance, actress Emily Peterson. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

A circus and theater director, Philip William McKinley's name has been linked to high-profile Broadway productions over the last decade, such as the Tony award-winning The Boy From Oz and Julie Taymor's controversial Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. (He stepped in to direct in 2011 after producers fired Taymor due to delays and artistic differences).

Julie Denesha / KCUR

It can be daunting to wade through the schedule for the KC Fringe Festival.

Founded in 2004, Fringe presents about 130 events this year, including theater, dance, comedy, film, poetry, as well as visual art exhibitions.

There are artists from around the world — St. Louis, Minneapolis, New York, Oakland, the U.K. — and the Kansas City area.

Here are a few homegrown highlights:

Poor Lear

Warning: This content may be unsuitable for children. It contains brief sexual references.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

The KC Fringe Festival, an annual event featuring actors, dancers, poets, storytellers, filmmakers, and visual artists, turns 10 this year. The festival offers about 50 theater performances, from R-rated to puppet shows for kids. And, KC Fringe often provides an opportunity for performers to try out new material.

It seems appropriate that Jesse Ray Metcalf, the writer of a new production called (Virgin.), would say: "This is my first time doing Fringe."

Cara McClain / KCUR

For its 10th season, the KC Fringe Festival will take over spaces in Kansas City, Mo., for theater, music, comedy, spoken word, burlesque and more.

KC Fringe is an 11-day festival that provides a platform for often lesser-known performing and visual artists. 

This year's Fringe will have 19 different venues. Most are scattered around the Crossroads Arts District, but some spread out into Westport and the Country Club Plaza.

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