It’s not all fitness at UMKC’s Swinney Recreation Center. Weekdays, between 6 and 8 a.m., the gym is also a Culture Club, where artists and patrons cap off their workouts with spirited locker-room discussions about exhibits and performances.
The morning regulars include Vincent Scassellati, whose creative efforts as a designer for the Kansas City Costume Company are featured in this issue, and KC Rep’s director of new work Marissa Wolf.
It was Wolf who brought the talented emerging playwright Michelle Johnson to our attention for this month’s “Artist to Watch” column. Avid theater-goer and gym regular Becky Smith is another savvy “scout” of dramatic talent.
There’s nothing like a swim to soothe a musician’s overworked shoulders. From the start of KC Studio’s re-launch, Kansas City Symphony violinist Susan Goldenberg has weighed in with recommendations of writers and not-to-be-missed concerts on her way to and from the Swinney pool.
Goldenberg’s gym-mates are among the biggest fans of her twice-yearly “Goldenberg Duo” performances with her brother, William Goldenberg, distinguished professor of piano at Northern Illinois University. And the two can be counted on for sage analysis of visual arts exhibitions— they always make time for a stop at the Nelson-Atkins during William’s visits.
Named “one of the great treasures of the theatrical community” by KC Stage magazine, UMKC theatre professor Felicia Hardison Londré can often be found paddling in the pool with Lisa Tostevin, Roena Haynie and Ann Coveney, arts enthusiasts who are generous with their kudos. Londré recently reported early morning sightings of Chicago-based actors Emily Peterson and Kyle Hatley at the gym; both are here for the summer to perform in the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival’s production of King Lear.
Another member of the swim group is Matthew Pozel, co-creator with Matthew Long of the video documentary, Kingdom Come: The Making of Casavant Opus 3875, chronicling the creation of the Kauffman Center’s extraordinary pipe organ.
KCPT’s Mike Murphy, well-known for his appearances on the station’s Rare Visions & Roadside Revelations program and the new Arts Upload show, is a regular in the workout room upstairs.
No matter what the cultural offering—an exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins, a performance by the Kansas City Symphony, Pozel’s film—someone has seen it and has an opinion.
“You must see ‘Freedom Rider,’” urged the locker-room chorus, fired up about UMKC Theatre’s production of the play in early May. And rarely does a week go by without a rolled-up, locker-hung New Yorker from Gisela McFarland, enhanced with her annotations and those of her retired neuroscientist husband, Richard McFarland.
For an editor, a morning at the gym is also a meeting with an unofficial advisory board.
The Swinney steam room is where many go to reward themselves for their workout efforts. It brought a moment of pure magic one quiet Saturday afternoon, when an Indian student, hidden within the billowy vapors, filled the small chamber with an ethereal, vocal rendition of her native ragas.
Swinney is not the only gym that attracts artists and culture-buffs. The roster of regulars at Research Medical Center ‘s morning exercise classes include author and editor, Carol Powers, former head of the arts and entertainment section at the Kansas City Star, and Deborah Shouse, who writes about theater and ballet for KC Studio’s consortium pages.
The Pilates classes, led by culture-minded former model Cynthia Coleman, are a favorite of KC Symphony violinist Francesca Manheim and her concert pianist friend, Kairy Koshoeva, whose spring performance with the Kansas City Wind Symphony counted Coleman and many of her exercise classmates in the audience.
One of them was Mary McLiney, a Nelson-Atkins volunteer, who derives plenty of energy from back-to-back classes every morning. They include a “pump up” hour led by instructor Margaret Tatarka, who prefaced one strenuous session of aerobics and weights with a shout-out review of KC Rep’s Hair.
Among Tatarka’s sufferers are Lyric Opera of Kansas City supernumerary Chris Wilt, and designer and creative consultant Kirk Davis, a source of fascinating discoveries we will explore in upcoming issues.
In recent months, KC Studio has benefited enormously from the collective knowledge and support of all of these “Culture Club” members. You can read the results in our pages, but if you want the pre-publication scoop…
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