Jewish Community Center’s White Theatre Read More
KC Studio's JUMBO list of camps! Read More
The Music of Mexico
Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán Read More
Kansas City Ballet
Celebrating 56 Years With Big Dreams Read More
Musical Theater Heritage Read More
Lyric Opera: The Mikado
Forbidden Love, Deception and a Little Fun. Read More
- Alejandro Ogata
- Alex Morales
- Arts Consortium
- Arts Council
- Bill Shapiro
- Contributing Writer
- Dana Self
- Heidi Nast
- Janelle Gann-Austin
- Jason Gregg
- Jon Knight & Brian Ball
- Joseph Hagen
- Kathleen Leighton
- Kellie Houx
- Marissa Schaffner
- Marty McCarty
- Megan Felling
- Nan Chisholm
- Porter Arneill
- Robert W. Butler
- Shane Evans
- Susan Richards Johnson
- Vivien jennings
- Young at ART
Author Archives: Kellie Houx
On May 13, EARTh (Equity Actors’ Readers’ Theatre) presents Brian Friel’s masterful adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s classic UNCLE VANYA, at 7:30 p.m., in the auditorium of The Music & Arts Building on the campus of St. Teresa’s Academy, 5601 Wyandotte (between 55th & 57th, between Wornall and Brookside Boulevard). As always, admission is free—though donations are graciously accepted.
The spectacular cast includes some of Kansas City’s finest professional actors (in alphabetical order): Allan Boardman, Gary Neal Johnson, Tom Lancaster, Nancy Marcy, Carla Noack, Mark Robbins, Sylvia Stoner, Kathleen Warfel, and Cheryl Weaver—all, once again, under the direction of the incomparable Doug Weaver, ably assisted by Jim Mitchell as Production Stage Manager.
Quality Hill Playhouse Singers and Musicians Shine in You’ve Got a Friend: Music That Raised the Baby Boomers
A standing ovation is the form of applause where members of a seated audience stand up while applauding after an extraordinary performance of acclaim. The collaborative voices and musicians at Quality Hill Playhouse for the current show, You’ve Got a Friend: Music That Raised the Baby Boomers, deserved every round of applause and the standing ovations.
First and foremost, I have to add a sort of transparency and full disclosure to this review. I have had the joy and the privilege to interview founder/pianist/emcee J. Kent Barnhart several times. I have also interviewed singers Tim Scott and Jessalyn Kincaid and drummer/singer and all-around-terrific guy Ken Remmert. Then of course, I have made no pretense of being a huge fan of Molly Hammer and seeing and hearing Brian Wilson again was a treat. So with that said, I may be a smidge biased with the musical sparkle that is You’ve Got a Friend: Music That Raised the Baby Boomers.
I took my mom to the show. She and my father were married in the mid-1960s and my dad attended college right after their wedding. They are folk artist fans and I grew up with my dad singing songs from groups like the Kingston Trio. So I figured the music of James Taylor and Carole King would be good. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed the music too.
Before I get to Taylor and King in the hands of the singers and musicians, let me step back and talk about Puff the Magic Dragon, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and At Seventeen. First, I am glad that Barnhart reminded the audience that Puff the Magic Dragon is not a drug song, but a song about growing up. The group also sings the little heard final verse. It is super sweet. Conversely, the seduction of the song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face was apparent through Hammer’s rich voice. Kincaid took Janis Ian’s At Seventeen and gave the song that haunting quality that many of us could remember as we were on the cusp of adulthood.
Now to James Taylor … Scott, who I have seen in musicals, has a big voice that can fill a room. However, I want to describe him as “chameleon-voiced.” Let me define this … think about how a chameleon changes colors to blend with its background. Scott has that sort of uncanny ability to capture the sound of certain artists. While he is not mimicking them, there are tones and qualities that hit the audience. He’s also super talented and plays ukulele and guitar. His renditions of Fire and Rain and Something in the Way She Moves are fabulous.
After a brief intermission, the group jumped into Carole King. While Scott had his moments with King’s songs, the second half (minus Scott’s awesome and raucous take on Don McLean’s American Pie) really belonged to Hammer and Kincaid. The two women harmonize well together and support each other well through some of King’s hits, Beautiful, I Feel the Earth Move and It’s Too Late. When Kincaid started A Natural Woman, the song merges with Hammer and Do Right Woman, Do Right Man. Couple the two songs with Remmert, Barnhart and Wilson playing and the intimate theater of Quality Hill Playhouse could barely contain this performance.
The show ends with Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In from Hair, where everyone sings and plays. I always appreciate Barnhart’s wit and wisdom as he offers his own anecdotes as well as knowledge of the singers and songs, but I still get tickled, watching him play piano. Sometimes he gets to rocking and pounding the piano, I expect it to take off from the stage. He is passionate, to say the least! And those he unites to tell the stories share in that passion.
You’ve Got a Friend: Music That Raised the Baby Boomers runs through May 19.
The Whole Person (TWP) will highlight 17 local artists with disabilities at the third annual “Expressions” reception on Friday, May 3, at the Jones Gallery (1717 Walnut St., KCMO).
Expressions is a First Fridays art show, free and open to the public, featuring wine and cheese, live entertainment, and an opportunity to meet artists with a diverse range of talents and abilities. Artists include Jorge Castillo, Tiffany Hart, Sean Houlihan, Rauchelle McNeal, Waunder Oshinbanjo, Linda Pluschke, Andrew Rosenbarger, Chad Sellhorst, Gene Smith, Nancy Thane, Monica Viren, Brandon Aspenlieder, Joe Franklin, Andrescia Hooten, Sean S., Lesley Johnston and Allan Burgess. Artists will share their stories at Expressions, for example:
- Lesley Johnston: Lesley’s stroke in 2003 left her with limited mobility, but her passion of designing and making jewelry only improved. She enjoys the artistic process of buying beads and making beautiful pieces of jewelry. “Jewelry makes me feel special and I hope that my pieces do the same for others. My greatest pleasure is seeing someone wear my art with pride.”
- Allan Burgess: Allan has lived in Topeka and Oklahoma for most of his life and is an enrolled member of the Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma. A self-taught, lifelong artist, Allan pulls from his Native American heritage to create art that promotes self-healing. “My art has also been a recovery tool as I have coped with mental illness. Vivid colors are used to depict emotions and I hope the viewer gains enjoyment from the art.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2011 American Community Survey), 10 percent of the population in the Kansas City metropolitan area has a disability. However, the number of people with disabilities represented in the art community as artists and gallery visitors is well below 10 percent. Expressions seeks to break down the physical and attitudinal barriers of Kansas City’s rich and vibrant arts community for individuals with disabilities.
“Our goal is to help individuals with disabilities discover their own artistic abilities, expose the public to professional level artwork of people with disabilities and educate the community about the therapeutic power of art in the lives of individuals with disabilities,” says David Robinson, CEO of TWP. “We encourage everyone to join us for this opportunity to celebrate the strengths, talents, and abilities of people with disabilities.”
Accessibility options provided for the reception include Braille and large print formats of the event program, volunteer guides for descriptive audio tours, sign language interpreters, and an accessible restroom. Expressions is sponsored by UMB.
About The Whole Person
The Whole Person is a Center for Independent Living founded in 1978 as a private, non-residential, non-profit organization providing a full range of community-based services for people with disabilities. For more than 30 years, TWP has been a leader in representing people with both mental and physical disabilities and providing independent living services to residents of Kansas and Missouri. TWP assists people with disabilities to live independently and encourages change within the community to expand opportunities for independent living.
The Musical Classic Whirls Its Way into the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre
By Kellie Houx, Editor | Photos by Brad Austin
The musical style known as ragtime swept the nation, rolling over performers, composers and audiences with an infectious syncopated beat that took over piano halls and Main Street parlor’s during the early 1900s. With roving composers and musicians such as Scott Joplin, ragtime became a calling card as well. In many ways, ragtime created the beat upon which social change moved to … And the music is clearly part of the musical, Ragtime, based on author E.L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel. The Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre will present the musical May 29 to June 16.
The musical, with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and music by Stephen Flaherty includes marches, cakewalks, gospel and ragtime. The story depicts three groups: the affluent whites, Eastern European immigrants and African Americans.
For Robert Gibby Brand, Tateh, the familiar name for father in Yiddish, is a character designed for empathy. With his daughter, Little Girl (unnamed), the audience sees a gentle character determined to give his daughter all he can. “I have a daughter myself to I can connect easily to Tateh,” Brand says. “Just imagine, all that he has is his daughter so he is tied to her. I strongly identify with him so it could be a challenge to rein in my emotions playing him.” Tateh’s journey brings him across Mother’s path and on to Hollywood.
Karen Paisley, founder of the MET, plays another pivotal role as Mother. She sees the lack of names as a way to clearly identify her role. “It’s pretty intentional and in a way, archetypical, when you are presented with Mother, Father, Mother’s Younger Brother, Grandfather, and the Little Boy, I think of a certain societal circle or that gated community.”
Charles Fugate takes on the elegance and role of Father, the patriarch of the white upper-class family in New Rochelle, N.Y. While the audience never learns his character’s first name, Fugate puts Father into a different perspective than others might. “We all have a mom and dad or someone
who bears that sort of moniker,” he says. “By calling the characters Mother and Father, there is immediacy to the
roles and personally, I see the audience building a more intimate relationship.”
Both Paisley and Fugate believe their characters respond fairly well to social justice with Mother leading this charge. “When Mother is presented with finding Sarah’s baby and then taking both in, it’s a little like a birth for Mother; she is like Athena, fully armored and ready for battle. She’s pragmatic and caring. She’s kind and romantic. She reaches out and holds on to Sarah and her baby. Really her actions throw a lot into motion, but her power is something really special. She essentially becomes a working mother and foreshadows the women who worked in munitions during World War II. I think she’d make a good friend.”
Fugate says Father represents that affluent male his time. “He has those qualities of leader of the family that was very traditional during the late 19th century and early 20th century. He thinks his wife will comply, but when she doesn’t, he has to confront this changing world.”
Fugate sees Father as a good man who is torn by what is happening in the world around him, but also strong in his support of his wife. As for the end of this rich tapestry of the American life of the early 1900s, the audience will leave humming tunes such as Sarah’s duet with Coalhouse, Wheels of a Dream or Mother and Tateh’s duet, Nothing Like the City. “Every established generation thinks the generation behind them is going to hell in a hand basket, but rather than seeing people in categories, groups or races, Ragtime gives us all a chance to see people for who they are. It’s a touching musical that takes aim at real hearts and minds,” Fugate says.
Justin McCoy plays Coalhouse Walker Jr. It’s a role that he may have been destined to play. McCoy not only sings, but he has played piano since he was 4 and the role seemingly works better when the actor can genuinely play a little ragtime too. “I understand Coalhouse,” he says. “I understand him as a musician. I can appreciate him as a man who is seeking love.” He is also a professional organist and sings opera with the Lyric Opera chorus.
McCoy says Coalhouse, during the setting of the early 1900s, represents a rare African-American who has education, freedoms and resources. He even owned his own car. Brand says Coalhouse may even represent how the world unravels. “I think she sees Father and kind and noble and really everyone in her world should be noble, but then she finds out people are human,” Paisley says. “The other change that becomes apparent to Mother and Father is how spouses change over time.”
There is also a movie based on Doctorow’s novel, which McCoy watched. He is immersed in the script and enjoys the historical figures that interact with the fictional characters.Coalhouse has a heated discussion with Civil Rights leader Booker T. Washington who advocated a “go slow” approach to avoid a harsh white backlash.
“I get Coalhouse’s passion, but his extreme anger is difficult for me,” McCoy says. “With Booker, the audience gets another taste of the social movements going on at the time. The tragedy is that doing what is right with a violent bent will most likely end poorly. So often, we stand beside and behind social media when we should be encouraged to speak out. Of course, I am sure hoping a few people fall in love with ragtime music.”
McCoy’s onstage love, Teal Holliday, plays Sarah, a strong spirit who stumbles, but seeks out what is right. “I’ve been obsessed with this show for years. I knew I wanted to be Sarah, but personally the skills I am learning is to have that more reserved inner strength, but not necessarily being timid. Like Coalhouse, Sarah wants to be loved and to love. So I do think most of us will relate to them. I want an audience to feel moved as they watch what the characters are going through.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt that her idol, Audra McDonald, won a Tony for the role. “I am working so hard to be Sarah.” Ironically, McCoy wasn’t sure he would audition until vocal director Ben Gulley called him.
Jordan Haas, 11, is a young actor in town. His role as the Little Boy puts him front and center. The musical is basically told through his eyes. “My character is that role that sort of knows the future and tells the audience. My mom and I have been researching what boys my age did in 1906. It’s pretty cool.”
The other child in the show is Megan Walstrom, 12. She plays the young daughter of Tateh, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia. Her voice teacher has been working with her on the Russian accent. “We are flying to Atlanta to see a production so I can be better acquainted with the musical. No matter what, I am excited to take on the challenge of this show.”
Some of the historic figures laced through the musical include escape artist and magician Harry Houdini, industrialist J.P. Morgan, automobile designer Henry Ford, Civil Rights activist Booker T. Washington and anarchist Emma Goldman.
Ragtime was both exciting and threatening to America’s youth and staid polite society, respectively. The excitement came from syncopation–the displacing of the beat from its regular and assumed course of meter. Syncopation caused an individual to feel a propulsion, swing, and if played correctly, a musical looseness generally unknown to the public at large. Jeremy Watson, musical director, will be referencing many musical styles. “The challenge is to make sure we have the right instruments in the pit such as banjo and harmonica. It’s also a daring and demanding score. It’s a large ensemble of 32 that covers a lot of material and story. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but if we do it right, it’s like witnessing magic. I saw in on Broadway and had to have the musical right away.”
For Paisley, who enjoys ending the MET season with a musical, calls Ragtime “a story that you will show the multiple layers of community and just how often those layers overlap. No man or woman really can be an island.”
By Kellie Houx | Editor
Photos courtesy Jewish Community Center’s White Theatre
Community theater has a strong foothold at 115th and Nall in Johnson County. Tucked away behind the bluffs near the Sprint Center campus, the Jewish Community Center’s White Theatre and all the artistic opportunities that take the stage are sometimes overlooked. For Cultural Arts Director Krista Lang Blackwood, the need to be seen is part of her plans.
For eight seasons, the White Theatre has produced plays, musicals and at least one big summer musical annually. If the plays and musicals call for larger casts, it is rarely an issue to find actors and actresses. Finding an audience that will come to Johnson County from all over the metropolitan community is a little tougher.
“Our shows usually have some Jewish content or reflect a Jewish value. We have been able to increase direct Jewish content with our new visiting artists series, bringing in groups like The Maccabeats and Joshua Nelson’s Kosher gospel. In our community theater, establishing a Jewish connection is not too difficult because Jewish values are human values. Take a concept like tikkun olam, a Jewish value translated ‘repairing the world.’ It’s not just a Jewish value. It’s universal. You can always find Jewish values in theater productions that have nothing to do with Jewish culture. If I can make Jewish connections to Avenue Q, I can make Jewish connections to almost anything” Blackwood says.
In early April, the theater presented The Diary of Anne Frank. “I met with the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, which is also housed at the Jewish Community Campus, and their scholars expressed some trepidation. Turns out the play is stripped of many of the Jewish references one finds in the diary because of Otto Frank, Anne’s father. Mr. Frank has been quoted that he didn’t want it to be a ‘Jewish play.’ For Frank, the play’s mission was to generalize Anne’s experience so that it becomes an existential one, not a specifically historical one. For Holocaust scholars and educators, this is a problem. But it’s also a teaching moment for our audiences,” Blackwood says.
The final show of the 2012-2013 season is Hairspray. This year, Johnson County Theatre in the Park and the Jewish Community Center will co-produce the show. “It’s a new collaboration, an experiment. We share much of the same on-stage talent but we are also hoping to expand the community-at-large reach by putting »»
the musical up here and at the park.” The show runs July 13-28 at the Jewish Community Center and then at Theatre in the Park Aug. 2-4 and 8-10.
Hairspray examines the early 1960s and the concepts of social justice, integration and body images. “Audiences can be entertained. Other patrons like to dig deeper and we’ve begun to structure ways for them to do that, particularly with talk-backs after the shows. These interactive meetings usually grow through the run of a show. As an example, in February, we presented the musical Next to Normal. After each show, we hosted talk-backs with social workers, therapists, individuals living with mental illness and their families. Each subsequent performance drew more folks in to the theater and as the show ran, more and more stayed for the talk-backs. That’s theater operating at another, deeper level.” In programming a season, Blackwood says, “the trick is about creating balance and variety.”
The 2013-2014 season starts with Les Miserables 7:30 p.m., Nov. 9, 14, 16, 21, 23, 24 and 2 p.m., Nov. 10 and 17. The musical will again be directed by Mark Swezey the long-time director at the White Theatre. “We snapped the show up as soon as we could,” Blackwood says. “This is a huge show that we have been building towards for the past couple of years …” Other shows and guest artists include Paul Mesner Puppets presents Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, based on a book by Eric Kimmel in late November. Songwriter and public radio host Ben Sidran offers a discussion on his book, There Was A Fire: Jews, Music and the American Dream, Dec. 15. Tim Bair, the artistic director at Johnson County Theatre in the Park, will direct Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs in mid-January 2014. Director Barb Nichols and musical director Martha Risser take on Stephen Sondheim’s Company in February. Shane Bertram Baker presents his show The Big Bupkis! A Complete Gentile’s Guide to Yiddish Vaudeville March 9 and 10. Director Darren Sextro will work with community actors in To Kill a Mockingbird in April. Jewish rocker Rick Recht arrives April 27. Monty Python’s Spamlot, under the direction of Swezey, ends the season in July.
And if Blackwood could look into the future, she would want more people around the metropolitan area to find the White Theatre. “Our main goal is to create community through arts. I often get asked about what special rules people need to follow if they are seeing a show at the Jewish Community Center. ‘Do I need to wear a yarmulke or keep kosher?’ The answer? Our theater is no different than any other theater in town, in that aspect. Come as you are and enjoy the show. AND, as a bonus, parking is really easy.” Blackwood adds with a smile.
The 2014-2015 season will be the 10th Anniversary Season. It will be a combination of harkening back to then looking forward, Blackwood says. “Community theater is about building community through the arts. Think of all the families whose children are a part of our shows who become regular theatergoers because of it. It’s not just about entertaining, but we are creating a community of people who appreciate the arts.”•
By Kellie Houx, Editor | Photos Courtesy the Participaing Organizations
Arts summer camps are suitable for those children, tweens, teens and even a few adults who want to enhance their skills in artistry such as pottery, dancing, ceramics, painting, drawing, sculpture and more diversified skills and talents. Other possibilities include camps focused on theater, photography and computer animation. For the most part, teachers are working artists who understand the drive to create. The following camps are fine arts focused, fun and active where young artists and stars can grow and mature in their favorite fine art or try out one.
Lawrence Arts Center
Director of Programs and Partnerships Margaret Weisbrod Morris says the Lawrence Arts Center offers programs for children from pre-kindergarten all the way through high school. There is also an arts based preschool. Morris says the center has also added art to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math movement and now calls the movement STEAM.
The STEAM camps look at such subjects as space, the planet, Myth Busters, the World of Oz and superheroes. “The idea is that within this content, there are artistic principles. As an example, the Oz camp looks at principles of energy, force and motion, along with weather and climate studies. Artistic principles include creative movement, character development and cartography. Students actually get to map their own yellow brick road or recreate the story with flying monkeys and Munchkins. During BOXico City, campers will learn about urban planning and green design.”
In the summer of 2011, center staff created Arts Institutes aimed at middle school and high school students. These art classes for older children make explicit the connection between art and scientific innovation, classical understanding of the human form, the invention of perspective, early printing methods, fundamental animation techniques, theories of movement, and art foundations.
“The elementary programs focus on innovation and creativity. As the campers get older, the skills become more about self-direction and initiative, communication and developing critical skills. We are also offering a two-week intensive for high schoolers to help prepare portfolios. No matter the age, a participant will find a chance to be immersed in the arts. It’s a learning environment that is not as restricted as a school setting. I strongly believe the next Steve Jobs will come from a program like this,” Morris says.
The Bard of Avon awaits even the youngest camper during this year’s Camp Shakespeare, organized by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. Camp Shakespeare programs offer summer arts adventure for young people ages 5 – 18. Education Director Ashlea Christopher calls the camp Shakespeare Exploration, aimed at older campers, 14-18, a more in-depth acting workshop. This conservatory-styled camp includes work highlighting vocal, physical, and acting techniques used in performing Shakespeare. Campers will focus on acting exercises, text work, rehearsal and performance of monologues and scenes.
Camp Shakespeare improves reading skills and concentration. Campers rehearse their own work for a performance of scenes, sword fights, and a shortened version of the Festival’s 2013 play, As You Like It, on the Festival stage in Southmoreland Park. “We even have older students who are returning as camp interns. They even bring back the swords they made. Combat training, no matter the age, is always exciting.” This year’s play will be set in the Summer of Love so Christopher expects some crafts to be built around the theme such as love beads. “Costume creating is also popular. I can see ponchos too,” she says.
“There has been proof that those who participate in the arts will excel. Arts camps can inspire creativity. Look at Shakespeare and see how many new words we learn. These vocabulary words find their way onto standardized tests. Plus they learn that what Shakespeare wrote more than 400 years ago is still relevant – love, heartache, friendship and more.”
Oxford School House City of Leawood Fine Arts
How about finding a program that encourages reading? At the Oxford School House in Leawood, the weekly reading club meets on Wednesdays where they read a story of historical fiction and do a related activity such as a craft or game. Cultural Arts Coordinator April Bishop says she may be leaning toward Tom Sawyer too. “The kids are at the schoolhouse most of the morning,” she says. “They can come one week or all and no reservations are necessary.”
They also offer monthly American Girl doll events. The kids can bring their dolls. Each session is about a specific doll and the kids learn about her life and times. They hear a story generally about the girl’s education and then they make a related craft. American Girl Doll Series will also continue with Samantha, Kirsten and Molly.
Miller Marley school of Dance and Voice
Shirley Marley has owned and operated Miller Marley School of Dance and Voice for 50 years. In that time, her faculty and she have produced actors and dancers who have gone on to Broadway and Hollywood. Miller Marley’s Summer Intensive is coming up in late August for two weeks, Aug. 19-22 and 26-29. Where else but at Miller Marley could a dancer study with a Broadway star, an alumnus teacher and nationally recognized dancers and choreographers from across the country?
Miller Marley School Director Brian McGinness says the school doesn’t really slow in its classes. “We train year round. We have performing companies that start at 9 a.m. and dance until noon. Some kids then get lunch and return to dance until 8 p.m. Our students appreciate the chance to devote themselves to dance during the summer. It’s a positive environment.”
Kansas City Young Audiences
“We are trying to present some new offerings for teenagers,” says Arts Education Director Kara Armstrong. “There’s Teen Hip Hop Studio Express; it’s a class aimed at 13 to 18 year olds. Then there’s Teen Radio Theatre Camp, Advanced Stage Skills including Combat/Directing and Let’s Put on a Show: It’s a Mystery. In music, we offer Teen Garage Band.”
Another plus for this year involves an extended day option. Armstrong says camp will continue in the afternoon with structured projects centered on a theme such as fairy tales, animal stories or magical lands. “More structured arts time appeals to parents. Maybe their child is not a morning person or on a swim team that practices early. This allows for engagement.” Other popular camps include the Arts Sampler where campers experience visual and performing arts.
Armstrong hopes parents and kids consider an arts camp. “A child may blossom in the arts or perhaps this might be a safe place to try a particular art form. They get to engage with peers who want to be here. The pursuit of the arts can aid in learning collaboration, physical wellness, improve reading … the whole picture of the arts can benefit young people. They can learn skills such as critical thinking and communication. They are life skills that transfer. Just think about your child gaining the ability to promote an idea or lead a team project because they got the chance to do so at summer camp.”
Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp
The Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp may be a little different from the typical summer fine arts camps. This camp is open to students from high school through professional players. Mark Wood says even a few accelerated middle schoolers have been invited. “Basically we have players from 14 to their 80s who join us,” he says. “This will be our fourth year in Olathe at MidAmerica Nazarene University. It really is an amazing place to play.”
Wood has traveled the world with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and now offers up Electrify Your Strings! (EYS) is a music education program that gives students, teachers, and local communities a high voltage dose of rock into a school’s music education program. He comes in as well as other guest teachers such as classical violinist Rachel Barton-Pine teaches classes in thrashing, which is learning some of the most challenging and fun riffs to favorite metal tunes. Wood calls her “a queen of the Viper and one of the top five violinists touring today.” His wife Laura Kaye, who handles all the vocal teaching, will come in as well as their son and drummer Elijah.
“We want to create an environment that not only has participants gaining from a mentor, but also from the interaction with each other,” he says. “That is confidence building. I also want to see participants looking at technology in computer labs and working on compositions. I had a vision that someday I wanted a camp built on integrating technology with the historic landscape created by a 400-year-old history of classical music. Of course, it’s fun to rock out to the Beatles and Zepplin.” Participants also build an electric violin.
At the end of the camp, the Woods watch their family of musicians grow by about 150 students. “Sure we get campers from all over and we became a melting pot. The other joy is in celebrating the joy that is magic. You can’t predict when we are creating beautiful music, art or dance, when and how inspiration will occur. We get to put all these pieces and integrate them into our soul, spirit and intellect.” At the end of each day, the participants and instructors have concerts which the public can attend for a small price.
SUMMER ART CAMPS DIRECTORY
Here is a collection of just some of the many Summer Art Camps available in the Kansas City area. There are camps that run half days, two days, four days, or two weeks. There are classes and events that make the summer enjoyable. These camps specialize in art, crafts, music, dance, theater and writing and can be found all over the metropolitan area. Just visit the Web sites to learn about the camps, registration forms and fees.
Act One – Academy of Christian Theatre
Blue Springs Summer Day Camp
Blue Valley Recreation
(Camp Center Stage)
Camp Wood YMCA
Christian Youth Theatre
Creative Arts Academy
Culture House Arts Academy
David Smart Summer Jam
Earnest Shepherd Memorial Youth Camp
Gallery Off Broadway
Heart of America Shakespeare
Heartland Music Academy
Ibsen Dance Theatre
Jackson County Parks & Rec
Jewish Community Center
Johnson County Community College
Johnson County Parks & Recreation
Kansas City Art Institute
Kansas City Ballet
Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey
Kansas City Parks & Recreation
Kansas City Jazz Camp
Kansas City String Quartet Program
Kansas City Writers Group
Kansas City Young Audiences
Lawrence Arts Center
Leawood Parks & Recreation
Lee’s Summit Parks & Recreation
Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp
Martin City Melodrama
Mattie Rhodes Art Center
Metropolitan Community College
Miller-Marley School of Dance & Voice
Music House School of Music
Music Theatre for Young People
Notre Dame de Sion School
Paint Glaze and Fire
Pembroke Hill School
Pulse Performing Arts Center
Red Star Studios
Rockhurst High School
St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School
St. Thomas Aquinas High School
Shawnee Mission Summer Programs
Theatre for Young America
Theatre of the Imagination
Toy & Miniature Museum
Trilogy Cultural Arts
Stop-Motion Animation Part of Playful Art Exhibit at Toy and Miniature Museum
The Curious Items and Strange Artifacts of Just Colcord, the first museum exhibition of the RAW artist, runs through June 9, and includes some of the hippest like stop-motion animation shorts featuring Colcord’s own creations.
Colcord explores the streets of Kansas City for discarded treasure to transform into characters with elaborate stories— a robot or a wizard with a miniature lair. Each creation evolves from the trash of others, repurposed and reborn into a new life cycle. For Colcord, art is an experimental process, an expression of nostalgia for his own childhood. “Each of them practically builds themselves. I put together the screws and the materials with love and a little hope. The animation comes from my own curiosity to see if the creations can be played with.”
Yes, he said play, but don’t get Colcord wrong, he also likens his works to a sort of alchemy when a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aimed to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold. “I suppose in a way, I am going in reverse. I find the remains of things and through my works, I bring them into a new light. Then I get to be both the creator and the player.”
Trash or Treasure? begins with found and repurposed materials as unassuming as bottle caps and screws melded with literature and pop culture inspiration and Colcord’s own imagination. He will pick up materials on walks around his neighborhood. “Actually I came here and bought a membership and started taking workshops.” From there, figures are born with definitive personalities, unique life experiences, companions, enemies, friends, and even birthdays. Colcord’s figures, along with his handmade sets, star in several stop motion films included in the exhibit.
“With toys, you want to play and get a feeling for what the toys are. Why do we call certain toys action figures? They should be in action,” he says. “The trick is to see them in motion. It’s almost like a commercial. I wanted a choppy feel to the shorts. I am just learning how to play and so the shorts are simple. I also wanted to show my own learning process. I really believe that when people start something new, I want to see their failed attempts. So these shorts are me showing my work. I started playing in my house; it’s not a controlled studio. I’m playing to learn.”
If the shorts look a little like footage from a store security camera, Colcord would be pleased. “What’s funny is that the brain will fill in the missing images, just like when we blink. I find this sort of work appealing.”
His first character, Gonzo, went on a Caribbean cruise. After that, he created Oznog and Zongo. “Art is my focus, but I do enjoy playing. This has been a good melding of both. I also want to inspire others, especially younger kids. If a kid comes to the museum and sees one of my shorts, isn’t that a gift if he looks at his parents and says he wants to try that. The dreams that we have are infectious.”
“His art is a reminder that toys are not just for kids and play is not just for childhood. Art is play. It is something evolving and organic that you engage with,” says museum educator Laura Taylor. Featured in Colcord’s universe of figures on exhibit are a heist team of eight headed by Mr. Fixit, a dark character outfitted with rope and suction cup to scale the museum’s cases after hours.
Colcord is a self-trained artist who began creating toys out of found materials in 2011. He usually spends a year exploring a particular vein of art—his past endeavors have included a cast of puppets, handmade jugging balls, and carved wooden wands.
Colcord plans on continuing with his stop-motion works. He has been trying to create new shorts with sculptures. “I have a theory that I need to try something for a year to see if I like it and that I can move from the concept to an actual product. Like here, I was fortunate to move from a concept to an art and film exhibition in less than 365 days. That’s pretty cool.”
By Kellie Houx, Editor | Photos Courtesy Judith G. Levy
Multidisciplinary artist Judith G. Levy’s film on envy may resonate with a few artists and others who struggle with their own envious feelings.
In contrast and almost with a sort of wink and nod from Levy, the process to make the short film represented the epitome of benevolence and a spirit of collaboration. “It was interesting to consider this topic as I gained lots of support. All over, this is such a supportive, cooperative and collaborative community,” she says.
NV in KC: a Story about Artists and Envy in Kansas City started with Levy receiving an Andy Warhol Foundation Rocket Grant award. The program, made possible by Charlotte Street Foundation and the KU Spencer Museum of Art, with funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, “fuels the energy of the Kansas City regional visual arts community by encouraging and supporting work that is innovative and
inventive and engages an audience outside of established arts venues, museums, theaters, art galleries or arts districts. The grants enable artists to take new risks with their work …”
Levy developed the full script and had many of the more than 30 performers and crew already in mind. Some were artists, musicians, actors and neighbors she already knew. Then she tapped some arts leaders in town to provide some of the expert voices for the story and to create documentary-like interviews that capture the complexity of a challenging emotion, Levy says. “I play an artist, Lee J. Ross, who is working on a conceptual art project about envy, and in spite of its limitations, my character sees her project as a worthy one. Throughout the course of the film, Lee J., inadvertently upsets her friends, when she was hoping to enlighten them.” “The topic of envy is a challenging one,” says Levy, “and that is why I wanted to create something that is entertaining, has humor and also addresses an emotion we rarely talk about.”
The fictional artist that Levy has created shares her home, her studio, her friends, her therapy sessions, throughout the film, as she tries to understand why her project isn’t achieving what she’d hoped it would accomplish. The arts leaders that perform in this film are Dr. Julián Zugazagoitia, CEO and president of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Sherry Leedy, director at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art; Raechell Smith, H&R Block Artspace director/curator; Spencer Museum director Saralyn Reece Hardy; and Rachael Cozad, former director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and current director of Rachael Cozad Fine Art.
Levy filmed from February 2012 and into the fall, working around people’s schedules and her other obligations. The film is required to have a public showing to fulfill part of the Rocket Grant requirements. To that end, Levy is offering cast and crew screenings that are open to the public on May 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tivoli in Westport and on May 9 at 7 p.m. at the Lawrence Arts Center. The events are free, but reservations are required for the May 2 screening. To receive free reservations, visit www.nvinkc.com.
“I felt like I had to define the words envy and jealousy, and I do this in the film. It’s really interesting to explore those two,” she says. “I don’t want to give too much away, but there is some drama in the mix of this invented narrative.” Along with Levy, who stars in the film, some of the local actors who have key roles are De De DeVille, Carol Holstead, Erin McGrane, Shannon Michalski, Garry Noland, and Jaimie Warren. “I consider this a community filmmaking project.”
Levy says that she was inspired to make this film, because, “I wanted to write a story that would be entertaining while it explores a difficult, universal emotion. The challenge is to learn to use envy and make it productive. Sure envy can make us feel badly about ourselves, because it often causes feelings of resentment and shame, but it also can be a tool to identify goals.”
Levy says she is “grateful to the Andy Warhol Foundation for funding Rocket Grants and to The Charlotte Street Foundation and The Spencer Museum of Art for administering this program.” She also believes that she “would not have pushed herself to make a film that is almost an hour long, without the support and funding.”
Exploring emotion among a wide range of people is nothing new to Levy. Last year, she had a sort of short film integrated into a piece of art. A kitchen table is set with a place for person to sit in and 18 different people greet the participant, exploring culture and the association to food. The piece is titled You Never Dine Alone.
“No matter what I am working on, I want to explore challenging issues,” she says. “I want to look outward toward things like how our cities grow or racism. Then I want to turn inward and look at how we got to be who we are as a culture and as a nation. Then the work has to be accessible and engaging. Getting the Rocket Grant helped so much so I could address the issue of envy.”
NV in KC could be entered into film festivals, she says. In 2012, her short video, On the Seventh Day, was screened at seven national and international film festivals, including the New York City International Film Festival. She has a studio in the Crossroads and is currently working on an installation, Memory Cloud, for a fall group exhibition at the University of Rochester in New York. She is also continuing her ongoing Panoramic Postcard series. “These postcards are an amalgamation of other postcards, but with a commentary that the viewer has to see. I am hoping for an array of 12 cards when I am done,” she says. “And I have a kernel of an idea for another short film.”
By Kellie Houx, Editor | Photos Courtesy the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Aaron Lindberg
Lyric Opera of Kansas City Sees Growing Interest in Opera
Göran Gentele, a Swedish actor, director, and opera manager who briefly served as director of the Metropolitan Opera of New York, said “Opera is an 18th and 19th century art that must find a 20th century audience.” The Lyric Opera of Kansas City has taken that adage to heart and is learning how to find that 21st century audience. The faces of that audience may surprise a few people – it’s young children, tweens and teens who find a love for this art form through spring break or summer camps.
The Education Department of Lyric Opera of Kansas City, under the guidance of education director Paula Winans, offers innovative programs designed to further music and arts education in schools and in the community. Paula Winans says this year’s summer camp marks the 21st opera camp. “The original goal twenty-one years ago was to study a main stage opera in-depth. Initially when I visited schools, I would have 45 minutes and there was so much more that I could communicate but time didn’t allow,” Winans remembers. “As a former public school music teacher, I would have my upper elementary kids study Madama Butterfly or La bohème. I still get e-mails from my former students 30 years later who share how much they love opera now because they had the chance to learn the story and the beautiful music. That makes me incredibly happy to know opera is still part of their lives.”
During mid-March, Winans gathered 30 kids ranging in age from elementary to high school to explore the creativity of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The week-long camp draws returning students including Casey Van Eaton. The 16-year-old homeschooled student was encouraged by soprano and educator Sylvia Stoner to seek out Winans and the Lyric Opera. Van Eaton has been part of summer camps and spring break camps for years. She has even experienced the Lyric Opera’s Opera for Teens program and performed in One False Move, aimed at adolescent girls, which looks at bullying.
Soprano Van Eaton, a pianist too, is also a Ginger Frost High School Honors Artist. This program gives young singers free voice lessons, master classes and cash awards for college. Lyric Opera provides vocal and dramatic instruction for high school students chosen to audition by their vocal music teachers.
“I am more confident in music,” Van Eaton says. “Music is what I’m most interested in. Just this past fall, I attended my first full opera, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. It was an amazing experience. I live to sing and my mother would tell you that since I could really articulate it, I have said I want to be an opera singer.”
The campers also get to work with Lyric Opera stage director Linda Ade Brand who instructs in exploring the basics of creating realistic characterizations and story theater techniques. They even have visiting artists such as local professors, professional opera singers and designers and the Lyric Opera’s artistic director, Ward Holmquist.
Shontail Leveringston-Lewis says her daughters Sa’Mya and Amari and she have quickly become fixtures with the opera camps. Lewis says Amari, her older daughter, a fifth-grader, has a voice that she calls a gift. “I knew I needed to find a place where she would be nurtured. In such a short time, we became like a family.” Amari has also been a member of the opera chorus for Carmen and Turandot.
That opera family has been critical for Lewis. “I had a health scare while Amari was in Carmen. I’m not much of a show mom so it was a tremendous blessing when people worried and helped. So it was just a gift to all of us. Now, I watch and know there is great training on being a singer and a good person. We are part of every camp and now Sa’Mya is into her second camp. We encourage music in our house from gospel and pop to opera.” Winans says life-long connections are just as important as developing the voice. “We talk about being a good artist and caring for the body,” she says.
This year’s summer camp will focus on the opera La bohème. “Hopefully, the campers will want to see the main stage production. We give them a lot of behind-the-scenes information. When we have shows that require a children’s chorus, our campers are the first to audition.” The summer family opera will be Little Red Riding Hood, the piece that will be performed in area schools. “We get it up and running during camp,” Winans says. “The campers get to learn how to develop an opera in many ways. It is an action-packed two weeks and we are expecting 70 to 80 campers.”
“I sing just about anywhere I can,” Amari says. “The teachers are nice at camp and it’s fun. If I put my mind to it, I can do anything, including sing opera.”
For information about the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s educational programming, visit www.kcopera.org/education_outreach/youth_programs.aspx#_a
For years, JJ’s Restaurant united diners under its stylish tiled roof until the explosion and fire Feb. 19.
Authorities say the blast occurred after a contractor hit an underground natural gas line outside the restaurant. Fumes collected inside the building and were ignited, possibly by the pilot light of a stove or water heater. The only fatality was Megan Cramer.
JJ’s was rated by the Zagat’s as one of the top restaurants in the Midwest. The menu included KC’s best steaks, fresh seafood and innovative pasta dishes. The brick restaurant with the tile roof at the corner of 48th Street and Belleview Avenue was founded by Jimmy Frantze in partnership with his brother, lawyer David Frantze.
Obviously the focus has changed. “Each day is another step forward, but it is not easy,” Jimmy Frantze says. “There really isn’t a plan for the building yet as the police and investigators still have the site closed as part of the ongoing investigation. Every time I stop by, I think about what a cruise missile hit might look like.”
Frantze is still aiming for the street party on Aug. 25 where he wants customers and friends to celebrate. “This will be our fifth Street Party and we would have been 28 ½ years in August. The anniversary date is Feb. 1, but that’s always a little chilly for a street party, but we still want a celebration.”
Café Trio Proprietor Christopher Youngers, who also is the current president of The Kansas City Originals, says Jimmy Frantze helped found The KC Originals and JJ’s has been one of Kansas City’s finest local eateries and an icon of what it means to be a KC Original. “As an allied group of restaurants we help each other out every day, but when tragedy struck at JJ’s, Jimmy and his staff needed more than just our help. It was the least we could do and we stand ready to do with whatever else is needed,” he says.
Frantze says The Kansas City Originals represents fellow independent restaurant owners so the trials and joys are similar for all. “If I was to rebuild, I would want to reopen a JJ’s pretty much as it was. It was like Camelot … a life and presence of its own that our employees and customers shaped.”
Youngers hopes to see Frantze rebuild. “It is my own personal hope that Jimmy and his staff rebuild as soon as possible and that the process of rebuilding may help to bring healing. Not to mention that Kansas City just wouldn’t be the same without JJ’s.”
Sometimes I run across organizations with programs that strike a personal nerve just a little bit closer. The Whole Person is one such organization. I grew up around special needs people. I have two cousins who have been loving and entertaining. One works in a vocational site and the other spends his days, retrofitting and perfecting model cars.
Now, I am also the grandchild and child of grandparents and a father with visual impairments. So when I discovered The Whole Person, it thrilled me that the creativity of their clients brings about an arts education for so many. The group also collaborates with the VSA Missouri, which aims to provide an inclusive community where artists, students and audience members with disabilities have the same opportunities as those who don’t have disabilities.
In early May, for the past two years and again this year on the First Friday in May, a selected group of artists have had a traditional art showing in the Crossroads called Expressions at the Jones Gallery. The art may seem typical art gallery works with paintings, photography, textiles and jewelry, but the artists who have created the pieces are anything but typical. Last year, artist Lesley Johnston shared her beading. She is confined to a wheelchair after a stroke, but she directs an assistant on how her work should be strung to create wearable pieces of art.
Angel Goben suffers from physical disabilities including surgical dwarfism, scoliosis, and arthritis, as well as dyslexia and kidney disease. Angel has been drawing since she was two years old. Angel enjoys using art to help others and has volunteered at MOCSA, Mattie Rhodes Center, and Comprehensive Mental Health Services. She says she once was so sick she couldn’t talk, but she could draw her feelings. Roz Roush calls art a freeing experience even though painting can be hard on her as she lives with spinal stenosis. Jorge Castillo is deaf, but finds art as a constant interest and an interest others have too. He paints and finds a chance to focus on his art instead of his problems. Other artists deal with ADD, depression or bipolar illness.
Development Manager Elizabeth Wheeler at The Whole Person says the artists come from some of their own programs. The Whole Person strives to help people create an independent life. “We found in our conversations that art has a way to give people of all abilities a way to that they can express themselves. Art can express the disability or a way to process the differences. It’s therapy. Our arts programming tends to be more of an opportunity that allows for integration.”
TWP has also partnered with Theater for Young America to present a play called Bully Bot and the Gang of Geeks, written by TYA director Gene Mackey. The play, which just finished its second run, has an anti-bullying message, specifically bullying and kids with disabilities. Theater director TWP staff members Letiah Fraser, disability rights advocate, Youth Services and Sean Houlihan, assistive technology advocate, along with the actors, engage the audience to ask questions and share experiences about bullying in their schools.
“Bullying gets a lot of attention, but it’s often not brought up about the disabilities community. We invite kids to watch the play and we also offer a question and answer session. One had a disability that could be seen and one that was hard to detect. We want to continue Bully Bot and take the play around the community. Bullying is a serious issue for people of all ages,” Wheeler says.