Category Archives: Leisure

Toy and Miniature Museum Staff Prepare for Work to Become the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

By Kellie Houx

logoIn about three months, the Toy and Miniature Museum, nestled on the UMKC campus, will close and in about a year, sometime in early 2015, will reopen officially under the name of the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

The official announcement about the name change came in late October 2012 during the start of the museum’s 30th anniversary celebration. Within the turn of the calendar, more than $8.5 million has been raised of the needed $9.2 million for renovations and the timeline has been set.


The museum’s last official day will be Jan. 5, 2014. On Jan. 6, the museum closes for about a year as major renovations begin to the facility including the replacement of the HVAC system. Along with the improvements to an aging structure, the museum staff will also gain new exhibition spaces and more interactive displays.

Board Chairman Vincent Gauthier says the national search, the museum staff and board selected Oakland, California-based West Office Exhibition Design to create a master plan and craft new exhibitions for the museum. Steve Wiersema, principal, was in town for the announcement. “We are going to focus on visitor experiences and making them better. There will be engagement and new information. We are going to help move the museum from a collections museum to that national museum where people know the untold stories.”

The museum board has also hired the firm of Helix Architecture + Design to work with West Office Exhibition Design and McCown Gordon will manage the construction project. Gauthier says the University of Missouri-Kansas City has also been helpful in planning. The museum opened on October 20, 1982.

Museum Director Jamie Berry says the combined efforts of the board and staff with the help of benefactors and community philanthropists should make up the needed $700,000 before the end of the year. After the museum closes, the community can follow the renovation on the museum’s Facebook page or the new blog. Donations can be made right now, she says. “We want to keep the community engaged,” she says. “The steps we are taking put us on the pathway to becoming nationally accredited.” After the museum has closed, the community can follow the renovation on the museum’s Facebook page,, and new blog,

Gauthier hopes that when people are heading to the Plaza, they think of three museums to visit – The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. “There is going to be real opportunity to see lots of improvements to this world-class museum. Personally, over the next decade, I also want to make the grounds more appealing.”

Before the doors close for about a year, there will be several opportunities to take a stroll through the museum.

Into the Night Sea

Saturday, November 16

6-9 p.m. | Free

Between waking and dreaming there lies a magical, haunting world. Into the Night Sea navigates the unsettling world of childhood nightmares through a series of short films combining visual art, photography, and dance with an accompanying soundtrack of re-imagined traditional lullabies. Don’t miss the family-friendly project’s free public screening and live performance at the museum. For more information about the project visit

Family Day: Optical Illusions

Friday, November 29

10 a.m.-4 p.m.

You won’t believe your eyes! Skip the long lines of Black Friday and bring the family to the museum to explore the magical world of Victorian optical illusion toys. Search for these toys throughout the museum to experience the fun and simple technologies that led to modern-day animation and film. Then, create your own spinning optical illusion toy and participate in the earliest form of cinema: a grand magic lantern show. Have fun and be mesmerized during this special family day! Included with the cost of admission.

Coleman Open House

Saturday, December 7

10 a.m.-4 p.m. | Talks at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3 p.m.

Explore the museum’s largest dollhouse from the inside out at this special event! Once a year, museum educators open the doors to the nine-foot tall and seven-foot wide Coleman House for visitors to discover the treasures hidden inside. Find evidence of gas lighting and much more during three special talks. Included with the cost of admission.

Father Christmas

Sunday, December 22

1:30-2:30 p.m.

Hear stories of Christmases past from Father Christmas himself! Before passing along your wish list, assist professional storyteller Jim “Two Crows” Wallen as he tells interactive tales of the role of Santa Claus throughout American history. Included with the cost of admission.

Simple Strings

Saturday, January 4

1-2 p.m. and 2:30-3 p.m.

Relax after the holiday hustle and bustle with a free concert at the museum. Simply Strings will fill the museum galleries with merry 19th century tunes played on a variety of stringed instruments. Included with the cost of admission.

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American Royal Announces Events for 34th Annual World Series of Barbecue® Championship Weekend in Kansas City

Families, Foodies, and Fans of BBQ Invited to Experience World’s Largest Barbecue Contest Featuring More Than 500 BBQ Teams Competing to Win World Championship of BBQ

The American Royal Association, located in the Historic West 250px-American-royalBottoms of Kansas City, is preparing to welcome more than 500 barbecue teams from around the world to the American Royal 34th Annual World Series of Barbecue® contest this Oct. 4-6. The annual event is presented by UMB. More than 20 acres in the heart of historic Kansas City are transformed into the world’s largest celebration of barbecue, featuring family-friendly events, cooking demonstrations from culinary experts, live music, interactive entertainment, and a Kids Korral with mutton busting, a petting zoo of exotic animals, and face painting. The three-day festival celebrates all things barbecue – from its rich history in Kansas City to the latest and greatest developments in grilling, smoking, and preparing championship quality barbecued meats.

The American Royal, which officially became the home of the Barbecue Hall of Fame last year, will host a special celebration ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 5, honoring the 2013 Barbecue Hall of Fame inductees for each of the three award achievement categories: Pitmaster, Business/Industry and Celebrity/Humanitarian. Information about the 2012 inductees and all previous inductees can be found at

The World Series of Barbecue® is a “must attend” event for competitive pitmasters and backyard barbecue enthusiasts alike. The competition is intense – world-renowned pitmasters and top-ranked BBQ teams compete in regional contests throughout the year, and the American Royal is considered the season finale for teams in the competitive barbecue circuit. The Open Contest, presented by Joe’s Kansas City, consistently draws the largest number of contestants, which makes it the toughest contest to win in the world of competitive barbecue. The Invitational Contest, presented by KC Masterpiece, has become the most acclaimed contest each year because only teams earning a Grand Championship in other state and designated contests are allowed to compete.

In 2012, the Royal was able to give $1.4 million in scholarship and educational awards. In addition to its educational mission, the American Royal generates some $60 million of economic impact, $4.4 million in local tax revenues, and supports 450 jobs. The 2013 American Royal is presented by Bayer HealthCare Animal Health Division and includes many other events. For more information, visit  or call (816) 221-9800.

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Pinnacle Award Winners Represent Advocacy and Generosity

The Pinnacle Award winners for this year are five diverse people from five distinct walks of life. What do they have in common? The singular desire is to do good in the community, to fill a void where needed and provide enrichment in many ways. The Pinnacle Award was launched by the Johnson County Library Foundation in 2002 to recognize excellence in the arts, and has since grown to include advocacy and public engagement, business and entrepreneurship, and literacy and education. Each year, the Library Foundation honors community leaders who demonstrate excellence in these four areas. The presenting sponsor is Hen House.

Lynne Brown, who serves on the Johnson County Library Foundation Board, leads the Pinnacle Awards as the committee chairwoman. She says the foundation seeks to recognize the individuals whose work mirrors many of the foundation board objectives. “The types of programs offered at the library are substantial and libraries make communities stronger by bringing so many assets together under one roof. Libraries are connectors to ideas and the broader communities. The honorees represent a similar drive that makes our community a great place. They are unsung heroes who don’t often get the spotlight.” The event is Oct. 17.

DSC_0283Community Advocacy:

For Kim Bowen Harbur, the award for community advocacy is appropriate.  In 1996, Kim and Nate Harbur learned that their infant son, Luke, needed a life-saving liver transplant. When an Olathe family, the Drakes, lost their 8-year-old son Aaron, the decision to donate his organs gave life to Luke.  “No one had talked to us about organ donations. Our son was 8 weeks old when his diagnosis came. Luke received Aaron’s liver. We knew we needed to help educate others and two years later, we founded Gift of Life to build awareness.” As director of education, Harbur developed the Life Savers high school program for students to learn about organ and tissue donation. Life Savers reached 25,000 last year with the message. She has made more than 550 presentations. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to get Gift of Life’s name out into the public even more with this presentation,” she says.

As for the future, expanding current programs are very real possibilities, Harbur says. Life Mentors are volunteer transplant recipients and their family members who offer encouragement and support to those waiting for a life-saving transplant, new transplant recipients or living donors. “They walk the journey together,” she says. “We get calls from all over the nation and there is interest in Wisconsin and California. Our board is trying to decide where to go.” The Life Savers program has been in 90 high schools in the metropolitan area, but there are 30 more yet to reach, she says. “I just want to save lives.”

For the first time in the award history, the community advocacy award is being shared with Dr. Harold Frye, founder of Music 4 Jeremy’s Cherubs. “I completely echo the worth of this recognition.  However, the goal is to make sure the work and the mission are even more effective.” Similar to Harbur, Frye dealt with his son’s illness, but the promising band conductor succumbed to a brain tumor the same month he graduated from college. As we stood in the hospital, family members commented that Jeremy was probably was already teaching the cherubs how to sing and play instruments. That grieving process was aided by the charity’s creation,” he says. “My heart continues to lead me and we find instruments for schools that have definitive needs.”

The Foundation collects, restores and distributes musical instruments to children in need. To date, more than 750 instruments now have new life. M4JC provided enough instruments to begin music programs at Banneker Charter, Hogan Prep, Cristo Rey High School, Tolbert Academy, and Allen Village Charter, all in the urban core. Many have been donated to individual students in need in Johnson, Wyandotte, and Jackson counties. In addition to these, M4JC sent more than 100 guitars to deployed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and, most importantly, to traumatically injured soldiers at Walter Reed and other medical facilities. M4JC awarded 22 scholarships to college music students and future music educators.


Emily Berhmann, the general manager at the JCCC Performing Arts Series, calls the Pinnacle Award “a gratifying honor.” However, it is her passion for the performing arts that keeps her moving forward each day. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Music with an emphasis in Voice from the UMKC’s Conservatory of Music, Behrmann began her work in arts administration. Over the past 20 years, she has held positions with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the Kansas City Symphony, and the Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College.

After 14 years in the Foundation Office at Johnson County Community College, where she was involved in the capital campaign to raise $20 million for the construction of JCCC’s Regnier Center and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, she returned to her first love – the performing arts. As General Manager of the Performing Arts Series, she is responsible for booking artists, marketing events, and raising money. “It’s a gift – no two days are alike. Personally, I want to use the performing arts to make an impact on the entire community, by presenting quality artists, championing arts education and collaborating with the many talented organizations and individuals in the Greater Kansas City arts community. We have gained new audiences and the people are making return visits. I would like to see this energy continue.” She also wants to see even more K-12 educational outreach. “Kids introduced to the arts often want to continue exploring that art world.”


Larry Louk, founding principal of Selective Site Consultants, a leading provider of services to the telecommunications, development, and construction industries, has guided the firm since its inception in 1997. Upon starting SSC, he and his three partners had a vision: build on their joint experience in the wireless communication industry, provide great client- focused service, aggressively seek opportunities for expansion and diversification, and re-invest in the people who helped make it happen. Within three years SSC grew to more than 110 employees with a second office in St. Louis, Mo. Today, the firm employs more than 110 people in six key markets throughout the Central United States.  “We were asked to form our own company,” he says. “I guess we fell into it. The growth is steady and I expect we double in size during the next few years.”

As a grateful heart patient who experienced his first heart problems at 37 years old, in 2009, Louk and his wife JoLinda Vega founded Golfology Fore Cardiology, a premier golf event to raise money for the cardiac rehabilitation program at the University of Kansas Hospital Center for Advanced Heart Care. After just four years, this tournament has contributed more than $180,000 to the hospital. Ironically he learned about the Pinnacle honor while golfing. “It’s a great recognition.” Additionally, in order to expand the reach of his fundraising efforts, in 2012, he joined forces with long-time friend, Shirley Allenbrand, to form The Larry and Shirley Fund.


Shane Evans 1Children’s author and illustrator Shane Evans receives accolades for his work in education and literacy. Evans is a multi-talented artist and visionary who combines his world travels with his art to influence others’ creativity. His illustrations can be found in such books as Shaq and the Beanstalk, Bintou’s Braids and Down the Winding Road.  He has been honored by First Lady Laura Bush at the 2002 National Book Festival. He also received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for The Way a Door Closes. His travels to Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and throughout the United States are often attached to education. He shares his gifts with all ages, cultures, ethnic groups and backgrounds, often with his book, Olu’s Dream or the book he illustrated with his best friend, actor Taye Diggs, Chocolate Me!

“When I receive an award, it always means that someone connects with something I do,” Evans says. “It’s also that stamp of approval, that reflection of the things that I have been doing is right. I am honored, but I am also inspired to keep growing. With an acknowledgement like this, it challenges me to be even better and more responsive to the next step in journey.” He is working on illustrations for 28 Days with author Charles Smith and The Red Pencil with Andrea Davis Pinkney.

For information about the Pinnacle Awards, including sponsorship and ticket information got to:

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Building The Arts: Finding that Summer Space, Architecturally Speaking


The neighborhood trees have spread their sheltering canopy above. As you look down at your cool drink, laughter from the occupants of your neighbors’ porches floats off the leafy fronds, and onto the street. It’s summer in Kansas City, and after a long winter, the city breathes a collective humid sigh, and relaxes into a sultry seasonal posture.

Where is your favorite summer leisure space, and what makes it so? The architects and planners of Kansas City, both creators and observers of the ethereal qualities of the spatially sublime, have their favorites.

“For me, the quintessential Kansas City summer space is the City Market,” says Michael Frisch, AICP, associate professor at the UMKC Department of Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. “It reflects our region, and our agriculture, farm and food, barbecue. It’s the place to be on a Saturday
or Sunday, celebrating the bounty of
the region.”

If there is a recipe for successful summer space, the intersections of good food, good weather and our basic human need to interact with each other are certainly among the ingredients, seen at the outdoor cafes or patios of the Crossroads, 39th Street and the Country Club Plaza. Arguably, the region’s sporting parks hosting baseball, soccer, or auto racing fulfill a similar social summer desire.

Our favorites range from the most private – like a backyard oasis – to the street-embracing front porch of an iconic Kansas City bungalow, to the expanses of our landmark parks. Public gems like Swope Park and Kessler Park, gifts of the City Beautiful planning movement, still offer leisure opportunities today.

But it is the “leafy green suburb,” Frisch says, that makes up a large part of Kansas City’s summer soul. Most notably apparent in the settlement pattern of the Nichols-era neighborhoods surrounding the Plaza, the best summer areas are well connected for biking, walking and exploring the city, while offering a connection with nature. Vicki Noteis, AIA, of Collins Noteis & Associates, cited similar observations.

“We are lucky to have the urban tree forest still intact here, with a lot of older, fully grown trees,” Noteis says of the city’s meandering greenways and fully-foliaged neighborhoods.

The relative ease with which one can explore these areas either by bike or foot allows a quick route to summer leisure. And if you need to get further than your foot power can take you, the system of parkways and boulevards offers a myriad of options for car travel with a view.

“Even if you didn’t have a particular destination in mind,” Noteis says, “the city itself is a great summer place.”

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Regional Investment Officer Carissa Froome at Arvest Asset Management in the Greater Kansas City market says many families should start with the end in mind.

“The objective is that each individual is able to pass along their estate in the most tax efficient way possible to their heirs, the organizations they have an affinity for, or both. With planned giving, I usually lead people through some questioning,” she says. “We talk about where they donate right now. It might be a religious, an educational or an arts organization. I want people to think about the broader categories, and then they can narrow down the decision. I want clients to see and experience thoughtful guidance through this process.”

Gifts might include cash, appreciated securities, real or tangible property, and will bequests that are designations as a percentage of the estate. Froome says Arvest Asset Management employees help people plan for retirement and beyond. “We work alongside the families’ other trusted advisors, such as certified public accountants or attorneys. We also advise the families to consult with their legal and tax advisors to ensure that the gifts are in line with estate and financial needs.” Froome understands the appeal of specific organizations. “We want the clients’ specific wishes followed,” she says.

For younger workers, Froome recommends saving early and often as soon as they get a job and become eligible for a retirement plan, such as a 401(k). They should contribute at least the amount that is matched by their employer; otherwise they are essentially leaving available money on the table. “And when you change jobs, my suggestion would be to roll a 401(k) into an IRA. Also, when a person has a major life event, such as getting married or having a child, my advice would be to get an expert involved. A financial advisor or planner can help with concepts of saving for short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. These are savings for daily living, a car, a house and retirement. There should also be savings for the unexpected, like a disability.”

Along the way, giving may become part of life. Froome says if people are willing to get multiple quotes and ask questions for things such as roof repairs, they should look at taking the same sort of approach with wealth transfer and giving. “Don’t be afraid to talk and to ask tough questions. Make sure to include your spouse to ensure the continued legacy of giving. Two spouses often have very different opinions about wealth management. As advisors, we often spur the difficult conversations. These ideas are often passed to children through a value system … your social, moral and financial values.” Froome also suggests that parents and children have open and candid discussions with just immediate family (without their children’s spouses present). Children and parents may express their wishes more freely without impediments.

“One of the best things I can advise is be careful about setting a specific dollar amount that goes to charity,” Froome says. “It can be detrimental to your heirs. Even with an estate plan and potentially unknown estate taxes, after all is said and done, the distribution to the heirs may be diminished by setting a specific dollar amount.”

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J.P. Morgan Retirement Plan Services Leads By Example


Nationally and internationally, J.P. Morgan aims for specific core values. A significant value is social responsibility where the organization strives to be “a catalyst for meaningful, positive and sustainable change in our highest-need neighborhoods and communities across the globe. …”

Around the world, the firm is known for philanthropy. To mirror this, the regional offices often move toward similar goals. At J.P. Morgan Retirement Plan Services, we focus on three key areas – community development, education and arts and culture.

At the Kansas City offices, while the day-to-day business of retirement planning is the main focus, the company also aspires to make sure employees have opportunities to develop, learn and grow, too. Associate General Counsel and Managing Director Karen F. Prange says employees participate in networking and resource groups within the company, based on common interests. Several committees include a Latin American employee organization, women’s internal network, and Partners in the Community.

Partners in the Community, the philanthropic and volunteer committee, unites under the banner to explore opportunities where they might lend physical or financial support. The committee has aided local Ronald McDonald Houses, Operation Breakthrough and Harvesters Food Network. Chief Operating Officer James M. Gearin says the employees, the human capital, suggest local organizations and seek out ways to volunteer. This year, the Wayside Waifs group also was added.

“We look to our other committees to raise ideas too; then our corporate giving committee members get specific requests, Prange says. We like the Partners in the Community group to weigh in so we can see what employee engagement may be needed as well as financial allocations.”

According to Gearin, the discussion last year turned toward aiding some arts organizations. “When we make decisions, we look at what will make a significant impact. Through all the groups, we look at what fits best with our employee and corporate philanthropic goals.”

Human Resources Vice President Tracy Gallery says she enjoys being part of the committee because so many people are willing to help. “Co-workers can be passionate about certain groups. Those guiding lights reach out and help women and children or the arts … which can become so fulfilling as we focus our energy and talents into the community.”

Prange says the corporate giving committee may look at stewardship from several angles. “First we want to know that donations are used locally. Second, we like to help our employees connect and meet needs of organizations that are committed to the Kansas City area.”

Operation Breakthrough, a nationally accredited, not-for-profit group that began in 1971 as a response to requests from parents in the central city for quality child care for children of the working poor, is another organization aided by J.P. Morgan. Prange says the childcare facility is dear to her where she personally volunteers. Many of the children are invited to the corporate office throughout the year to spend time with the employees and celebrate together. For Gearin, who is a transplant from Boston, worked with the Greater Boston Food Group. Harvesters registers strongly.

Prange says employees also sit on the Business Council at The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art because they follow the company’s core value to support the arts. “It’s doubly valuable to us when we can help support the community and promote employee satisfaction through their involvement in activities and events offered at the Museum.”

While this division supports retirement planning, Gallery says whether it’s a client or an employee, there is often a discussion about what mark a person makes. “Being in this business makes me focus through that lens. I personally ask about how I will leave my mark.” Prange agrees. “Employees and clients see the influences we have and want to make a mark on their community,” she says.

Gearin expects J.P.Morgan’s contributions to the local community to grow as other areas of the bank like Chase Mortgage and Commercial Banking services, as well as J.P. Morgan Private Bank expand their presence in the metropolitan area.

“The results come from our employees. After all, it’s the employees who help us build our business. Opportunities
to connect through work can be valuable to a person’s
well-being, just as those that are made through church, school or another local organization,” Prange says. “We have never had to cancel a volunteering opportunity because we couldn’t get the numbers of employees necessary. As a matter of fact,we have to put a cap on some events or we just get too many volunteers.”

For more information about J.P. Morgan’s charitable giving in Kansas City, the Partners in the Community group can be reached at

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“Tech Topics” Technology Classes Aimed at Boomers

EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER … This post is a benefit to others who might have an older parent in need of some technological help so here you go.

What about the people who didn’t grow up with a computer in front of them?

Shepherd's CenterShepherd’s Center Central has invited Metropolitan Community College, Kansas City Public Library, Google Fiber, and a number of computer-savvy individuals from around the area to present a series called “Tech Topics”, aimed specifically at adults aged 50+.

The classes, 50 minutes in length, will be held at 10 a.m. Fridays from June 28 to August 31st, at Central United Methodist Church, 5144 Oak Street.

Shepherd’s Center Central’s Adventures in Learning program is launching this 10-week series after the success of a few computer-themed classes last winter. There is a real hunger for technical knowledge, particularly among older baby boomers whose jobs don’t (or didn’t) involve computers.  They can get on the internet or email, but then what?

A few of the topics: “Computer Viruses-Fight Back,” “From Camera to Computer,” “Linked In,” and “Searching the Internet Safely.”

In addition, information will be provided about free computer resources around the Kansas City area offered by Metropolitan Community College, Kansas City Public Library, and others.

The cost for all ten programs is only $15. Attendees can choose whichever courses interest them.

Pre-registration is not required. For more information contact Shepherd’s Center Central, 816-444-1121.

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KC Parks Invites Public Input at Community Forums

All Community Centers to Host Forums May 7-9

The Community Services Division of Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Recreation invites residents to participate in free Public Forums next week at KC Parks community centers. The purpose of these open meetings is to obtain information to assist with improving service and program delivery of the Community Services Division which oversees community centers, athletics and aquatics programming.


Tuesday, May 7
6 p.m.: Gregg Klice Community Center, 1600 John “Buck” O’Neil Way
6 p.m.: Tony Aguirre Community Center, 2050 W. Pennway
7 p.m.: Garrison Community Center, 1124 East 5th St.

Wednesday, May 8
6:30 p.m.: Westport-Roanoke Community Center, 3601 Roanoke Road
7 p.m.: Southeast Community Center, 4201 E 63rd St.
7 p.m.: Marlborough Community Center, 4201 E 63rd St. (held at Southeast CC)
7 p.m.: Hillcrest Community Center, 10401 Hillcrest Road

Thursday, May 9
7 p.m.: KC North Community Center, 3930 N Antioch Road
7 p.m.: Brush Creek Community Center, 3801 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd.
7 p.m. Line Creek Community Center, 5940 NW Waukomis Dr.

Each forum is anticipated to last 1.5 hours and will be conducted by Pros Consulting, a management consulting and planning firm specializing in government and not-for-profit agencies. For more information, call 816-513-7500 or visit KC Parks website at

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My Name is Asher Lev Extended Due to Popular Demand

My Name is Asher Lev By Aaron Posner

Adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok

Directed by Cynthia Levin

Faith. Art. Identity

Doogin Brown (L) in the title role alongside Mark Robbins as Robbins portrays an artist who mentors young Asher Lev. Photo credit: Cynthia Levin.

Doogin Brown (L) in the title role alongside Mark Robbins as Robbins portrays an artist who mentors young Asher Lev. Photo credit: Cynthia Levin.

The powerful and emotional play My Name is Asher Lev, onstage at Unicorn Theatre, has been extended an extra week and will now play through May 19, rather than ending May 12 as originally scheduled. “With such positive response from the audience, and overwhelming ticket sales, we can’t help but extend the run of the show”, said Cynthia Levin, Unicorn Theatre Producing Artistic Director. Every weekend of the show so far has been sold out.

Due to the extension, Unicorn Theatre will hold an additional “Talk Back” performance on May 14, when the audience is invited to stay after the show for a Q-and-A session with the director and cast. Previous “Talk Back” sessions have been the largest in Unicorn Theatre history, with more than 100 patrons staying to participate.

The story follows the journey of a young painter torn between his religious upbringing and his insatiable need to fulfill his artistic passion. The struggle pits Asher against the will of his family, community and tradition and has moved audiences to tears and standing ovations.

This play is an excellent opportunity for families to see a show together. It is suitable for children ages 12 and up. (One scene includes partial nudity as a woman poses for Asher to paint.) The play touches on themes of faith, art and identity and may spark quite a discussion on the way home!

This new play by Aaron Posner is adapted from the famous novel by Chaim Potok (author of The Chosen). This production is directed by Cynthia Levin, Unicorn Theatre’s producing artistic director. The cast features Doogin Brown, Mark Robbins and Manon Halliburton.

“My Name is Asher Lev” now runs through May 19 at Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. Tickets are now on sale. Call 816-531-PLAY (7529), ext. 10, go online at or buy in person at the box office. Discounts are available for seniors (60+), students and patrons under age 35.

The Director, Cast and Creative Team:

Producing Artistic Director Cynthia Levin is directing this production. She is in her 34th season with Unicorn Theatre where she has served as a director, actor, designer or producer for over 260 productions. Previously this season she has directed Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and The Soul Collector.

Doogin Brown (Asher Lev) has previously appeared at the Unicorn in Next Fall, Speech and Debate and Orson’s Shadow.  Doogin has been fortunate enough to work at most theaters in Kansas City including Kansas City Repertory Theatre, American Heartland Theatre, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Coterie Theatre, Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, New Theatre Restaurant and Musical Theatre Heritage.

Mark Robbins (THE MEN) is a founding member of the Kansas City Actors Theatre. At Unicorn Theatre he has appeared in Next Fall and Time Stands Still. He also played the title role in Titus Andronicus at the Living Room Theatre. Mark also directs, including this season’s KC Actors Theatre/Unicorn Theatre co-production of Good People and last season’s co-production of God of Carnage, both here at the Unicorn. He has directed The Mousetrap and The Real Inspector Hound for KC Actors Theatre.

Manon Halliburton (THE WOMEN) is appearing at Unicorn Theatre for the third time. She was in the just-wrapped Good People and previously in Farragut North. Manon has worked all over the country in regional theaters as well as film and television.  She’s also a fine artist and professional photographer and keeps busy with teaching acting when she’s not on the stage or behind a lens.  Other recent credits include The Kentucky Cycle at the MET, Number the Stars at the Coterie and August: Osage County in last season’s KC Rep production with an all local cast.

The look and feel of the show are designed by: Gary Mosby (scenic design), Alex Perry (lighting design), Arwen Thomas (costume design), Caitlin Hall (prop design), Greg Mackender (music composer) and Michael Heuer (sound design). Tanya Brown is Stage Manager.

About the Playwright & Author:

Aaron Posner has adapted for the stage two beloved works of fiction by Chaim Potok. Potok worked with Posner as a co-writer for the script of The Chosen. After Potok died, Posner collaborated with Potok’s widow as he adapted My Name is Asher Lev. Posner is also a theater administrator and director in the Washington D.C. area, with an emphasis on Shakespeare.

Chaim Potok began his career as a novelist in 1967 with the publication of The Chosen, the first book from a major publisher to portray Orthodox Judaism  in the United States. Throughout his writing career Potok continued to examine the conflict between secular and religious interests. During the 1950s, he became a conservative Rabbi and later he also taught at several universities. Potok died in 2002.

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Quality Hill Playhouse Singers and Musicians Shine in You’ve Got a Friend: Music That Raised the Baby Boomers

J. Kent Barnhart sits at his piano with singer Jessalyn Kincaid while singers Tim Scott and Molly Hammer share a moment. Photo by Larry Levenson.

J. Kent Barnhart sits at his piano with singer Jessalyn Kincaid while singers Tim Scott and Molly Hammer share a moment. Photo by Larry Levenson.

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.

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New Special Exhibition Explores Origins of World War I

Road to War: World Power and Imperialism, 1904-1914. Opens May 3, 2013, at the National World War I Museum

Examine the pivotal events that led to the outbreak of history’s first global conflict in the National World War I Museum’s new exhibition, Road to War: World Power and Imperialism, 1904-1914.

RoadtoWar_webOpening Friday, May 3, 2013, in Exhibit Hall, the Museum’s inaugural Centennial special exhibition explores the 10 years leading to the outbreak of World War I, a decade that witnessed a series of conflicts between the major European powers over territory in Europe and overseas possessions. Visitors will learn about many other contributing factors including European colonialism, American imperialism, the rise of nationalism, cultural awareness and the social divides which led to unrest and revolt against the imperial monarchies.

“As we prepare to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I, we are proud to share the fascinating stories that led to this important time in history,” said Dr. Mary Davidson Cohen, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the National World War I Museum. “From Manchuria on the Asian Pacific Coast to North Africa and the Balkans, Road to War embarks on an extraordinary journey you won’t want to miss.”

Remarkable objects, documents and photographs of 1904-1914 colorfully illustrate many of the events, countries and people of the period. Drawing upon the Museum’s extensive collection as well as those of other museums and sources, the exhibition includes many items never before seen at the Museum.

From a nearly-complete Japanese infantry uniform, backpack and original documents of a soldier who served in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 to a Belgian art medal in honor of King Leopold II which celebrated the annexation of Congo by Belgium in 1909, the exhibition offers a thought-provoking experience for visitors of all ages.

Other highlights include:

  • A distinctive uniform, worn by a male servant of an upper-class household, as an example of the division between the classes in the Imperial Powers of Europe and the wealth held by a few. It consists of a vest and breeches made of red velvet with embroidered edging of the coat of arms of Graf (Count) von Faber-Castell, Nuremburg, Bavaria.
  • Numerous quotes from individuals of the time and historians of the period that give personal connections to the objects and events.
  • A Russian periodical cartoon that features Serbia and Bulgaria butting heads over territory while the Russian bear and Austro-Hungarian wolf look on with great interest. Additionally, a scrapbook with an article dated January 9, 1911, shows the potential confrontation between Greece and the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in the Balkans.​

Road to War, open through April 20, 2014, is included with admission and free for Museum members.

For more information on the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, visit

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