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Backstage And Beyond

BEST OF SPRING 2023

Kansas City’s performing arts organizations have taken to heart the national push toward diversity and inclusion, and their commitment is reflected in this spring’s performances. Rarely have we seen such a variety of art and artists, genres and life-experiences, as in these programs.                     Playwrights Mashuq […]

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THE MORE THINGS CHANGE: New play uses tender family story to address Kansas City’s racial history

Michelle Tyrene Johnson uses theater to tackle big issues. In more than a dozen full-length and longer one-act plays, and in numerous shorter works, she has often found that art can exert a greater impact than a simple recounting of facts. The Green Book Wine Club Train Trip, for instance, given a winning production by […]

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YEAR OF LIVING MARVELOUSLY: Local arts groups emerge full-throttle from hibernation

Music, theater, and dance came roaring back to life in Kansas City during 2022. Hungry for an arts “fix” after being stuck at home for nearly two years, audiences ventured out: first in a cautious trickle, and by the end of the year, in a flood. The larger producing organizations rose to new challenges, motivated […]

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THE SHOE FITS: Kansas City will see two of the many Cinderella stories being offered today

Sometimes even the most beloved of fairy tales contain messages that appear “unmodern” on the surface, although upon closer scrutiny we often find reasons why they still resonate. The many Cinderella stories of the last several centuries seem to characterize a hapless woman who has to be “rescued” by a handsome prince: Yet even the […]

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GET SMART: Actors Theatre leaps into a scary, exhilarating future

Smaller arts groups are often nimbler in negotiation large-scale cultural shifts than their larger counterparts. As early as 2016, Kansas City Actors Theatre changed its slogan from “Classically Trained Actors, Classic Plays” to “Great Actors, Smart Plays.” A subtle shift, perhaps, but a step toward responding to community needs: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kansas City’s […]

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VOICES OF CLARITY: Choral Foundation’s Spanish-language choir gains momentum

Innovation often happens when the right people are at the right place at the right time: and have come prepared. When Leilani Velasco Vaughn applied to join the William Baker Festival Singers, she mentioned in her application that she was fluent in Spanish, had studied vocal music, and had led choirs. During her audition with […]

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SEND THE VERY BEST: Lyric reprises puppet version of holiday classic

NOTE: This is an adaptation of an article first published in The Independent in November 2020, shortly before the December world premiere of the Lyric’s Amahl. That year, COVID-19 prevented live performances of the production, which was instead filmed and made available for home viewing. In 2021 it was finally presented to live audiences. This […]

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IN TRANSITION: In Kansas City and throughout America, women playwrights are telling new stories in new ways

Lynn Nottage’s play Clyde’s takes place in a “liminal space,” as the playwright has written, a truck-stop sandwich shop that is trying to “carve out space in a rapidly evolving landscape.” This place of transition is a bit like Lynn’s work itself: Her impressive output stands as a refreshing, transformative locus within the shifting terrain of […]

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THE SNOWY PATH LESS TRAVELED: Local arts groups present an increasing array of holiday offerings

We hold holiday traditions close because they remind us of family and nostalgia, of childhood and gift-giving and sparkling lights. Kansas City is famous for its long-held performance traditions, but in recent years arts groups have begun to branch out, with offerings that are a bit off the beaten path. Don’t worry: No one wants […]

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