Actors and playwrights Celebrate the American Heartland Theatre

The American Heartland Theatre is closing at the end of this season.

Scott Cordes, Actor and director
A couple of memories that stand out … Paul Hough and Lilli Zarda gave me my first professional directing job with the scandalous Joe Orton play What the Butler Saw (during the 1993-1994 season). This show is a farce, but very sexual and shocking for a Midwestern family theater … My second directing job at AHT was a Sherlock Holmes show that had a live bird that carried a prop message to Mark Robbins onstage every night. And in the four-person debut of Sean Grennan’s Beer for Breakfast (2011-2012 season) we had a three-man synchronized spit-take … not something you get to do anywhere (and an audience favorite moment of the show). And I got the chance to perform in Moonlight and Magnolias onstage with my wife, Jennifer Mays, who also had many creative opportunities onstage at AHT.

Lauren Braton, Actress
My favorite shows included It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play. I played Mary, wife of George played by Tim Scott. I not only had a wonderful time recreating that classic story … but I was onstage working with some of my favorite people. Paul Hough directed. He just did such a wonderful job with the piece. And the brilliant music director Anthony Edwards was onstage with us. I will never forget that show; it’s a dear memory. I also loved The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee playing Olive Ostrovsky. Steven Eubank directed and anything with Edwards’ musical direction is wonderful. We had a blast with that show. It was a production filled with audience participation. And finally, my last show Life Could Be A Dream. We felt like rock stars. The audiences claimed every night it was one of the Heartland’s best.

Deb Bluford, Actress
Well, my most memorable moments weren’t my favorite, but they certainly tell the story of a professional actor and a very compassionate theater company.  Opening night of Sugar Babies, I was playing Prima Donna with a cast of 10 or 12 others. I came home from a final dress rehearsal and my husband told me my father had a stroke and was not expected to live. I contacted Lilli and Paul, they were so supportive … next day, Dad passed and they bought my ticket to return to Oklahoma to attend the funeral. … Next memory……opening night of Radio Gals…..also the first day of school year for my kids at Shawnee Mission South….2004. I got a call from the secretary that my kids had been in a car accident on school grounds and I needed to come to the school. My son and daughter have long since recovered. AHT is a sacred place and will always have a piece of my heart.

Sean Grennan, Playwright and actor
I acted in the role of Adam for the fall 2003 production of The Diaries of Adam and Eve. During the first two months of 2005, I was back in Kansas City and on the Heartland stage in Affluenza! … then The Love List during the fall of 2010. Leah Okimoto and I have premiered three musicals at the American Heartland Theatre: Married Alive, 2006; and A Dog’s Life and Another Night Before Christmas, both in 2007. I owe them a TON as do many in KC actors and audiences alike. The gift that keeps on giving is the friends I’ve made, the good times I’ve had and getting to know this first class city. During the 25th season, I saw my shows Beer For Breakfast, which I also appeared in, and As Long As We Both Shall Live hit the stage. Then there was Making God Laugh. I appreciate the Heartland and that sort of homegrown work they have promoted all these years.•

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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