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Category Archives: performARTS
TIME: 8:00 PM
LOCATION: 12TH & CENTRAL KCMO 64105
In celebration of the Folly Theater’s rich entertainment history, join us for Folly Benefit 2012: “LIGHT THE LIGHTS!” on Saturday, November 3, 2012 at the historic Folly Theater. The evening will include a performance by entertainer and vocalist, Sam Harris; known as the original Star Search winner and a peerless keeper of the Great American Songbook tradition, Harris will electrify the crowd with a performance showcasing his inimitable style of Broadway and Pop Classics, including everything from Richard Rodgers to John Lennon.
The evening will also include recognition of Folly Theater civic leaders Joan Kent Dillon and William Deramus III, who rallied the community in the ’70′s to save, renovate and re-open the Folly Theater on November 10, 1981. Following the concert, the festivities will culminate outside, with a champagne toast and unveiling of Kansas City’s newest icon, the Folly’s new marquee sign!
Call 816-474-4444 to order your $35 tickets.
Paul Mesner will begin his 25th season as artistic director of Paul Mesner Puppets this September and nothing beats the chance to revisit some old friends and put a few newer friends on to the stage. And if the 10 shows planned over the next year aren’t enough, just remember that Mesner travels all over the city, performing at libraries and school events, plus all over the nation. That doesn’t even touch the frequent flyer miles he adds up as he jets around the country as a sought-after performer. He adds thousands of miles annually.
“Of course, I was really going to be a dancer,” he says. “I attended Creighton University where a dance teacher told me that I would have to choose between dance and puppetry. I picked puppets. However, dance still influences my work today. It is much more about movement than many realize. It is the ability to exploit movement for comedic results. There are patterns and rhythms set forth.
Inspiration comes in many ways for Mesner, even in ways that surprise him. “About four or five years ago, I was burning out. However, I received a grant through the Lighton International Artists’ Exchange Program in 2008. Usually these grants are given to visual artists. It was a joy to study with two current masters of Pulcinella at Le Institute International de la Marionnette. They rescued this wonderful and hilarious art form. It is a form that dates back 500 years at least and is the brother of commedia.” Mesner says the trip reawakened his energy as well as allowed him opportunities to perform and study even more abroad.
As Mesner approaches the start of the 25th season, he knows there are several ingredients that make up the organization and each show. “It’s a lot about writing, writing and writing. Then it is about listening carefully. We have to respond to what the audience likes and what they don’t. As a playwright, I make the adjustments. It’s a skill that I have developed over time. I think these many years have also allowed me to learn quicker. Perhaps that may give me an edge as I have learned to really listen to the audience.”
Puppetry may be one of the oldest art forms and an art form found all over the world. In the hands of a seasoned puppeteer, puppetry and its art should look effortless, Mesner says. “The underlying messages in the show are in plain view as an audience gets to watch how the characters act and how they treat each other. These messages may be the act of being civil, learning to listen and responding in an appropriate communication. The comedic element comes in mishearing. Our language allows for playfulness. When a young child grasps word play, there is joy.”
Mesner continues to see himself as much a storyteller who just happens to bring many books to life in that three-dimensional way. “With our focus on books that kids are currently reading and hopefully we chose correctly, we give our young audiences a chance to explore as we elaborate and embroider the story and bring it to life. Sometimes a book is perfect in its book form, but there are books that allow for this focus.”
He has received three citations from UNIMA-USA for Excellence in Puppetry for Sleeping Beauty, Wiley & the Hairy Man and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by A. Wolf. All three shows will be part of the 25th season. According to the official website, UNIMA-USA, founded in 1966, is the North American Center of Union Internationale de la Marionnette, the oldest international theater organization in the world, founded in 1929. The organization’s mission is to promote international understanding and friendship through the art of puppetry. Jim Henson served as UNIMA-USA’s first chairman.
“I built the puppets for Sleeping Beauty 22 years ago. It is a hard show to do and I have probably performed it at least 1,000 times and that might be a conservative guess,” he says. “It is a show that I still love to do. The show is one that I have toured with and filled puppetry spaces in Atlanta and Seattle.”
Like others in town, Mesner strives to create those moments of magic and merriment with his art. “As much as I treasure the kids in the audience, I enjoy watching adults laugh whether it’s a teacher, grandmother, or mother. For me, I want to reach everyone in the audience and that audience member may be 2 or 92.”
The 25th season also features lots of dogs. First up is Bark, George and then Officer Buckle and Gloria. There is The Comical Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard & Her Dog, Martha Speaks and Go, Dog. Go! A faithful hound is one of the characters in Sleeping Beauty. “I am a dog lover and I think dog behavior is so comical. There’s also an incredible faithfulness with dogs,” he says.
Mesner founded Paul Mesner Puppets in 1987. He maintains his role as artistic director. “I still perform. I love it and performing is still such a good use of my time,” he says. “When I started, it was just me. Then I hired some staff. They have helped me freshen up shows. There are lines grandparents get and lines for grandchildren. I hear all the time that a parent brought his or her children and now they are bringing grandchildren. It is all about longevity and tenacity.”
Success comes with honesty to and with the audience. “While we use puppets, their voices and words must ring true true. Kids will not put up with nonsense. They are a brutally honest.”
As far as the season, Mesner expects a good turn-out as he presents some favorites from years past mixed with a couple new shows.
And the future may be just as bright. There is a possible larger space for Paul Mesner Puppets in the near future. “If not, we are happy with where we are. No matter what, I am proud of my vision and I look forward to stepping aside some and letting others explore what they do best. We have other stories that we want to tell.”
“Sure I have made many mistakes,” Mesner says. “When people call locally and nationally for advice, I tell that they will make their own gaffes. However, they may be able to learn from mine. It’s important to be honest and give generously. I have been fortunate that Kansas City has embraced me. I credit the Kansas City community for being the open and friendly environment that allows artists to make their art and make a living too.”
As part of our performARTS series in conjunction with KC Studio Magazine, Randy Mason provides viewers with a look at the wonderful world of The Paul Mesner Puppets, celebrating its 25th year of entertaining audiences, young and old alike.
THE LOCAL SHOW continues to introduce viewers to the KC Chamber of Commerce’s “Big 5” initiatives and tracks how these ideas are progressing through special interviews and video coverage of stories from the front lines of this important effort.
We celebrate the launch of The Roasterie’s newest addition to its coffee bean headquarters on the city’s southwest side – the installation of a full-sized vintage DC-3 airplane mounted on top of their building.
Learn more about Blue Valley’s Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program, where students explore their interests in a profession-based learning approach and teachers facilitate the learning process through problem-based projects comprised of authentic and relevant, hands-on work assignments in partnership with local businesses.
Celebrate the spookiness of the Halloween season with a closer look at Full Moon Productions, the company behind some of Kansas City’s scariest haunted house attractions. l
The Coterie will launch its 34th season of live theater on September 8 with the pop rock musical Spring Awakening, the winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. The show will feature a cast of powerful, young musical theater performers from the Kansas City area and can be seen in a series of evening shows and Saturday matinees. Spring Awakening is based on the 1891 play of the same name by German playwright Frank Wedekind and explores what has changed—and what hasn’t—on the path to understanding sex.
A story of first love and lasting regrets, Spring Awakening is set both “then” and “now”—with book and lyrics by Steven Sater, overlayed with an affecting rock score by 90’s music icon Duncan Sheik and raging choreography. The show follows a magnetic young cast as they try to gather the knowledge necessary to keep up with the rapidly changing world around them—navigating abuse, crushes, suicide, sex and some very maturing circumstances.
“Spring Awakening is an exciting project for The Coterie in many ways,” said director Jeff Church (who also serves as Producing Artistic Director of The Coterie). “It’s a perfect fit to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Coterie’s Dramatic Health Education Project (DHEP) by performing this show. The uniting theme is arming teenagers with the information they need to face the pressures of the modern world.”
DHEP focuses on STD and HIV/AIDS prevention to area schools free of charge. The project, now 20 years old, is a joint effort by The Coterie, the KU School of Nursing and the UMKC Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy. Highly lauded for its effectiveness and balanced message, DHEP serves an estimated 8,000 students across the metro area annually. Teams of actors and young medical professionals present true stories of HIV positive teens in the Kansas City area and discuss the myths and realities of transmission and prevention. DHEP’s community presence will be featured in an eight-minute documentary shown before each performance of Spring Awakening created by KU graduate filmmaker Rebecca Basaure.
“The Dramatic Health Education Project is one of the things I’m most proud of during my time at The Coterie,” said Executive Director Joette Pelster. “We strive not only to entertain, but also to inform and inspire young audiences with so many of our main stage performances. I’m glad that we finally have an opportunity to highlight this life-saving program.”
The cast for The Coterie’s unique arena staging of Spring Awakening includes many of Kansas City’s most promising young professional actors, including: Kristen May Altoro, Will Amato, Shea Coffman, Caroline Drage, Tyler Eisenreich, Steven Eubank, Shelby Floyd, Adam Henry, Justin Kirk, Daria LeGrand, Linnaia McKenzie, Emily Shackelford, Hughston Walkinshaw, Noah Whitmore and Shelley Wyche. Spring Awakening is a part of the Coterie At Night series and is funded in part by the Missouri Arts Council (MAC) and the ArtsKC Fund.
The show runs September 6-30 at The Coterie, located on level one of Kansas City’s Crown Center Shops. To purchase tickets, visit www.coterietheatre.org. Due mature content, including sexual topics and situations, Spring Awakening will be open only to audiences age 13 or older.
One Show Heads to the Kauffman Center
for the Performing Arts
Five more shows remain for the Starlight Theatre 2012 Broadway season. In the Heights, the 2008 Tony Award-winning best musical, began the first week in June. The Starlight’s summer shows include The Addams Family the first week in July. This musical was on Broadway in 2010 and the U.S. tour started last year with some revamping and revisions with Douglas Sills, who played the lead in The Scarlet Pimpernel, as Gomez and actress Sara Gettelfinger as Morticia. Memphis, which runs July 10-15, is another Tony Award winner from the 2010 award season. These first three shows mark contemporary musicals that are fairly new within the realm of musical theater. “We sure try to make everyone happy with our season,” says Denton Yockey, president and executive producer at Starlight.
Step back 10 years and Elton John’s Aida won the Tony Award. Aida continues to capture the interest in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Yockey says. This marks his fourth summer with the organization. “We are producing Aida and staging it at the Kauffman Center,” he says. “There is no secret that there is much attention with the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and they are in their honeymoon phase right now.”
Initially Yockey and the staff were going to open the summer season at Kauffman Center of the Performing Arts. However, the board and the timing of the tour altered the schedule. This is the first time for Yockey to produce Aida.
“It is a popular title among the survey responders,” he says. “The response to take it to Kauffman has been met with positive accord as well. However, we have already taken the two children’s shows to the Kauffman Center during the late winter and early spring. That worked great. For many folks, this may be their first chance to get into the building.” There will be 12 performances of the show. Yockey says this musical will not be part of the Pick 3 choices. “We are planning on this show being quite popular.” Gymnast Cathy Rigby returns in Peter Pan.
La Cage Aux Folles won three Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival in 2010. Yockey says the musical has been around for 29 years. The story is about a nightclub owner whose partner plays the lovely “leading lady” at the club. The two men are successful and have raised a son together. When the owner’s son brings his fiancée’s conservative parents home to meet the flashy pair, the bonds of this non-traditional family are put to the test.
“While the musical includes a mild parental advisory,” Yockey says, “the musical features nothing that today’s prime time sitcoms or dramas have explored. It is that situational comedy where the in-laws are different,” he says. George Hamilton stars in this traveling musical. Yockey is excited to meet him. “However, subscribers don’t seem to have any problem with the show or its subject matter. About two-thirds are picking all six. Whatever the choices, audiences will find something for everyone, he says.
There is something to be said when the parts of the equation add up to a positive. The actors, directors, designers and stage managers that make up the core artistic group for Kansas City Actors Theatre understand the demands and the rewards of live theater. Collectively, the years of experience prove that they are not green, but seasoned and knowledgeable. That expertise adds up quickly into years of understanding how a theater works, not just in front of the stage, but also the moving parts behind the curtain.
Jim Mitchell, with his background in stage production and design, is a founding member. Actor John Rensenhouse and actress Melinda McCrary joined the group not long after the formation. The three talk about the challenges of a theater company. “We get to choose our own projects,” Rensenhouse says. “So often we are at the mercy of directors and administrators. With KCAT, we get to do what we want. We want to offer great theater and that still guides us. We saw a niche that we could fill. However, there is a great deal of responsibility for this all-volunteer group of core artistic staff and leadership. It is like being your own boss.”
McCrary explains that no one serves as the artistic director, but rather the collective makes decisions. “While we have a president and a board, it is mostly the need to have that structure,” Rensenhouse says. “Mainly we start with the question of what we are passionate about and we move from there.”
The first show in 2005 was the dark comedy Cripple of Inishmaan. Mitchell says the first play set the tone for the theater company. The next year, it was a sort of marathon as the group performed the Talley plays, the trio of plays about a family in Lebanon, Mo. McCrary says those three plays were so strong and furthered the mission and direction of KCAT. “The other great aim is to create a budget and we are committed to paying a professional wage.” Rensenhouse chimes in and agrees that they strive to honor all the theater professionals in town when they hire the actors and others.
In the past few years, they have continued to raise the ante, so to speak. Their fifth season was the illustrious David Mamet-written Glengarry Glen Ross and Boston Marriage. By Season 6, the group added to the mix with True West, Marion Bridge, The Seafarer and Oh What A Lovely War. The most recent season returned to the rotating repertory with The Harold Pinter Project: The Birthday Party and then The Collection, The Lover and Night. God of Carnage was co-produced with Unicorn Theatre in »»
partnership with UMKC Theatre. The last show was Billy Bishop Goes to War, staged at the World War I Museum.
The eighth season starting this August is being billed as a Summer of Mystery. First up, The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, runs Aug. 8 to Aug. 26 at Union Station’s H&R Block City Stage. Turning the mystery genre on its head, the September show is The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard. The dates are Aug. 31 to Sept. 14 at Union Station too.
Mitchell says he expects a sort of Gothic mansion for the setting of both “mysteries.” Stoppard, he says, takes the mystery to a different place artistically and intellectually from Christie. “We had a different season on the docket, but that happens. Actor and director Mark Robbins, one of the founders, will direct the first two shows and that will create that continuity to the approach for both shows. I know that I am excited.
“Agatha Christie gives us that broader audience appeal. Tom Stoppard provides that answer to our mission that we need to perform the works of often neglected playwrights,” McCrary says. “I have seen Mousetrap performed a couple of times and look forward to KCAT’s interpretation. It’s almost startling to see the parody with The Real Inspector Hound. I fell in love with both shows again.”
Inspecting Carol by Daniel J. Sullivan continues the collaboration with Unicorn Theatre. The comedy, written in 1991, runs late November through Dec. 23. “It’s that humor that is just the right mix for all of us,” Rensenhouse says. In the late winter, Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire is the second collaboration with Unicorn Theatre. This new play was a Tony Award nominee for best play in 2011. The play runs Feb. 27 to March 24. Rensenhouse praises the collaborations.
The group passed its eighth official anniversary in January. They formed initially to respond to a larger theater company that imported talent rather than tapping the local talent pool. “We may have some ‘pie in the sky’ attitudes, but we have support and we know it is a privilege to produce the plays we want.” McCrary says the loyal theater base in town likes theater. “Look at the number of new theaters popping up seemingly monthly. How do audiences get to all these shows? We know that we are constantly learning about keeping the loyal folks happy and get new folks in the seats.”
Rensenhouse calls KCAT’s vision and its complete history part of a philosophy of trust. “People expect to see good acting and well-written plays.” McCrary agrees that the most direct and perhaps the simplest approach works as they present worthwhile plays from quality playwrights. “As an eight-year-old organization, we are definitely thinking about those next deliberate steps. Will they take place next year or in 10 years?” Rensenhouse says he wouldn’t mind seeing KCAT in its own space. However, opinions vary. “We are fortunate not to have a theater home that requires all the maintenance, but we have an odd freedom that allows us to plan. It would be great to expand our season to even more shows, but summer is good for us right now,” McCrary says. Rensenhouse says the group has had requests to tour and hopes that could be part of the future.
Mitchell says he likes that KCAT acts as a more self-sufficient entity. “We have managed to survive. We have struggled and the business can be rough. We demand that we stay true to our artistic vision and the artistic product. We are proud of the history of the shows and look forward to the future. We are meticulous on choosing a director, but we also seek to cast a wider net. My dream is to see bigger shows and new faces in the plays. We made a commitment to the theater community.” l
EXHIBIT SWAY: IN THE CURRENT
An original dance performance by Exhibit Sway, in collaboration with artist Elijah Gowin
Friday, June 1st – Performances on the hour 6-9pm
Saturday, June 2nd – Rehearsals 12-2pm, Performances on the hour 2-4pm
La Esquina, 1000 W. 25th St. KCMO
Charlotte Street Foundation is pleased to present Exhibit Sway: In the Current, a live gallery performance collaboration of Exhibit Sway, a contemporary dance project, and Elijah Gowin, a visual artist and Charlotte Street Visual Artist Award Fellow.
Combining a display of photographic work by Gowin with live dance by Exhibit Sway, In the Current explores the human psyche and aspects of truth, life, and individualism. Exhibit Sway dancers of the Kansas City Ballet are creating new works inspired by and relating to Gowin’s photographs during a three week workshop leading up to the performance. During the performances/ exhibition, visitors are invited to walk through the gallery, absorbing different perspectives of movement as they relate to Gowin’s images.
Gowin’s photographs are from his recent “Playing Nature” series. Combining scans of small backyard creatures with plastic debris, these dark and unsettling images juxtapose the organic and inorganic, and speak to the disjunctive relationship we often have with the natural world. Taking their cue from the still life’s rumination on mortality and death, blackness and infinity appear in many ways. Whether as rich black backgrounds in which these dislocated shards swim, or as visions of snow flake fields extending forever like expanding galaxies, Gowin’s images highlight the finite nature of humanity amid the daunting scale of the universe.
Curated by choreographer/dance Stayce Camparo, In the Current will feature contemporary dance created and performed by Kansas City Ballet dancers Stayce Camparo, Rachel Coates, Gabriel Davidsson, Logan Pachciarz, and Catherine Russell.
ABOUT EXHIBIT SWAY
The mission of Exhibit Sway is to create gallery-based performances of original choreography that are inspired and shaped by collaboration with local artists and that re-imagine traditional roles of dancer and spectator.
Exhibit Sway experiments with creative perspective by creating gallery performances that embody choreographic exploration through conceptualized and improvised movement, evolving on a show-by-show basis. Collaborations with various local artists shape and transform concepts and arouse deeper insight by offering a portal through which traditional roles of dancers and spectators are re-visioned. Exhibit Sway promotes creation among all artists and engagement among all art lovers by promoting the intrinsic value of art to the human psyche.
Look up the concept, “grassroots,” and the non-profit organization, Charlotte Street Foundation, may best represent the notion that the individual artist or artist group must find support that starts more as a groundswell rather than from the larger and more traditional structures.
The organization’s co-directors, Kate Hackman and David Hughes, both admit that Charlotte Street Foundation is not easily definable. It is a multi-faceted entity that has many tendrils branching out and impacting many art forms in Kansas City. First, there is the presentation, promotion and development of new and existing artists. These individual artists may be overlooked within a larger macrocosm, but Charlotte Street makes sure that the microcosm of a budding art community is not lost. By supporting these burgeoning artists and art groups, Charlotte Street Foundation also fosters economic and neighborhood development.
Hughes says he learned about the need to give back to his community from his parents. The interest in art came through art history classes in college. He graduated from Stanford with a bachelor’s degree and moved on to Yale for his master’s in public and private management. “When I moved back from New York in the mid to late 1980s, I met individual artists, dancers, musicians, curators, and gallerists working at the grassroots level,” Hughes says. Gallerist Dorry Gates introduced Hughes to local art and many artists, including artist John Puscheck, a 1971 KCAI graduate. Puscheck’s house on Charlotte St. was a gathering spot for all kinds of artists. There, Hughes gained a glimpse into the vitality and potential of the artists’ community.
Over the years, Hughes has served on boards for numerous visual art, theater and dance organizations, including the Kansas City Art Institute. “Generally when I served on boards, my interest was in individual artists – who didn’t receive much attention. I felt that the artists as well as the city would benefit from increased awareness and support for individual artists.” He was inspired to create Charlotte Street Foundation, named in honor of his friend Puscheck, to garner support and recognition for Kansas City artists. Founded in 1997, Charlotte Street began as a small gesture, and was actually one of the first programs in the country to give unrestricted cash grants to artists.
Hackman also understands non-profits. Many in her family work for non-profits, and her mother both made art while she was growing up and ran the Albany League of Arts, making grants to arts organizations in Upstate New York. Hackman’s love of the arts was also fueled when she taught art classes for neighborhood kids in her backyard. She then jumped into an art history program at Williams College, where opportunities in museum work study opened the doors to work in the field. She served as the assistant director of Exit Art, a non-profit, multi-disciplinary contemporary art space in New York City. “This was an exciting and dynamic experience that confirmed my interest in working with living artists and supporting creative experimentation.”
Her father, Larry Hackman, served as the director of the Truman Library from 1995 until his recent retirement. Hackman moved to Kansas City to be closer to family. “I realized that Kansas City was a place steeped in the ever-churning process of invention. I stayed and dug in.” She was founding editor of Review magazine and curated exhibitions at such locations as Greenlease Gallery at Rockhurst University, H&R Block Artspace at KCAI, and Urban Culture Project’s la Esquina, Paragraph, and Project Space galleries. She has taught at Kansas City Art Institute and frequently lectures about artists and the arts community in Kansas City.
The two understand the vitality of the city. They bring in artists and constantly serve as ambassadors and hosts, but their jobs are so much more. Hackman says individual artist impact then adds to the larger arts community and eventually the city as a whole. “It is empowerment,” she says. “We are smart, I think, about developing processes and structures, but we are also at the leading edge, being challenged and taking risks, right along with the artists.”
In this support, Charlotte Street Foundation may also be defined as a “nurturer” and a “catalyst.” “It is a sort of ground-up movement rather than the top-down mentality,” Hughes says. Hackman says many of the artists are young and emerging. “Through the foundation, they have many opportunities that are open to them. They find their place in the artistic ecosystem.”
Over 15 years, more than 75 visual artists have received cash awards that have been used for financial support and they have also benefited from increased exposure. This year’s 2012 Visual Artist Awards Fellows are Marcus Cain, Anne Austin Pearce and Luke Rocha. Their work will be featured in the 2012 Charlotte Street Visual Artist Awards Exhibition opening in October 2012 at the H&R Block Artspace at Kansas City Art Institute.
There are also the Rocket Grant Project Awards for the Kansas City Region. These grants are another collaborative effort with the Foundation, the KU Spencer Museum of Art, with funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. These grants are supporting the creation and presentation of art in non-traditional spaces. And there is Charlotte Street’s Studio Residency Program, providing free studios on vacant floors of downtown office buildings to visual and performing artists. The biannual open studios event is May 18 and 19.
Along with the visual arts awards, the Foundation also gives out Generative Performing Artist Awards. These recognize artists in the fields of dance, theater, music, performance art and interdisciplinary hybrids. Like the visual artists, they receive monetary support and exposure. “We believe in advocacy. Small organizations and individual artists lack attention, awareness and support,” Hughes says. Hackman says when artists are supported, they are empowered. “They are themselves activists, ambassadors, and advocates for the city. They seek out ways to better their worlds around them. They bring creative thinking to many contexts,” she says. “However, they need advocacy for the importance of their contributions.”