Meet the Past Continues This Spring
Shows Recorded and Run on KCPT
By Kellie Houx
In December 2007, actor, historian and professor Bill Worley took on the persona of Tom Pendergast, the political boss who helped Harry S. Truman move up the political ladder. Kansas City Public Library Director (CEO) Crosby Kemper III served in a sort of Charlie Rose interviewer role, chatting with Worley in character.
The Meet the Past concept was also the pilot program for KCPT. More than three years later, the series has garnered two regional Emmy nominations. The collaborative nature with KCPT and Kemper continues as they seek out more and more historical figures to interview.
Willa Cather will be May 24 and Satchel Paige is June 28. Both events will be at 6:30 p.m. at Central Library. Actress Jan Chapman will portray Cather, whose hometown, Red Cloud, Neb., is about 275 miles from Kansas City. “She is more of a regional figure, like Mark Twain,” Kemper says.
The Meet the Past series continues to break new grounds as well. Actor Robert Gibby Brand portrayed foreign correspondent Edgar Snow. This specific event was tied to the Lyric Opera’s production of Nixon in China. “We held the event at the Kauffman Center and had the largest audience yet, 1,200 people. It was strong quality collaboration.”
Local actress Jan Chapman, who is familiar with the Meet the Past series as she once portrayed brothel owner Annie Chambers, will portray author Cather. “We are also doing Kansas City African-American pitcher Satchel Paige, played by actor James Williams, to get folks in the mood for the All-Star baseball game.” Future shows, probably in the fall, include Brand returning as artist George Caleb Bingham and Ray Starzmann as newspaper magnet William Rockhill Nelson.
Other proposed historical figures are George Washington Carver and Gen. John J. Pershing. The Missouri Humanities Council wants Thomas Jefferson. Kemper says the talk is scheduled for Sept. 20. Jefferson’s ties to the region include the Louisiana Purchase and the subsequent journey of Lewis and Clark. “We have made the conscious decision to broaden our horizons. We need to look at the heritage we all share. There is often substantial research for the actor and for me. However, if we do well, the actor or actress inhabits the character and the conversation captures the audience.”
Kemper appreciates his relationship with KCPT and director Pam James. “We want to do more with KCPT. We have the joy of reaching a regional audience through KCPT. It’s not necessarily the audience that comes to the library. It is a unique collaboration. It takes a lot of hard work to put these shows together. There will be more planned as the audiences appreciate the education and entertainment.”
See previous Meet the Past episodes at http://cove.kcpt.org/program/meet-past/. Image of Satchel Paige courtesy of local Kansas City artist Keith Shepherd.