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Backstage And Beyond

WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS: LGBTQ performing-arts collective is ready to tackle big issues

Some of the most extraordinary inventions are born almost inadvertently, on the way to creating something entirely different. Even the Slinky was the byproduct of industrial springs manufactured to protect sensitive maritime instruments in rough seas. OUTside VoicesKC, Kansas City’s newest LGBTQ-friendly choir, was forged in a cauldron of change that has now produced one […]

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Enjoy the best of Kansas City’s thriving arts landscape JUNE__________ June 2-4: Kansas City Symphony; Michael Stern conducts Mahler and Montgomery; Superstar Soprano Julia Bullock performs Jessie Montgomery’s newly commissioned Five Freedom Songs and joins the ensemble in Mahler’s Fourth Symphony; Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Contact: 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org. June 3-4: Te Deum and […]

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If you grow up in a home with a celebrated pianist for a mother and a world-renowned cellist for a father, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll at least consider a career in music. For Jun Iwasaki, there was never any pressure to pursue piano or cello, or any instrument for that matter. But the […]

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There are many roads to a theater career. Andi Meyer prepared for her profession by way of several traditional routes: She studied theater as a teen in North Dakota and earned a bachelor of arts degree at UMKC Theatre. She was also a part of the award-winning radio show, Right Between the Ears, and in […]

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A BIT OF EVERYTHING: Symphony’s associate conductor causing a stir

Gonzalo Farias may well be the busiest musician in Kansas City. The Chilean-born conductor, who this fall assumed the post of David T. Beals III Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, conducts dozens of concerts on the Family, Pops, Holiday, and Film + Live Orchestra Series, and he leads educational concerts that reach some […]

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Naomi Tanioka’s career path from her native Sapporo, Japan, to Kansas City Ballet might seem like a long and winding road, but in the context of today’s dance world it makes perfect sense. Her training at Chida Toshiko Ballet Studio was marked by a strong emphasis in classical ballet, which is the best start to […]

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DIVA DOGS: Local pets continue to energize Kansas City stages

Kansas City’s canines have a message for audiences of theater, opera, and dance: We are ready for our closeups. Some might ask, Why put a dog on the stage in the first place? But perhaps the real question is, Why do we do it so seldom? Think about it: Dogs love people, they love adulation, […]

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TEN CENTURIES AND COUNTING: Students defy declarations of classical music’s demise

If classical orchestral music is dead, no one bothered to tell the nearly 400 Kansas City-area students who gather every Sunday at The Loretto to rehearse works by Strauss, Elgar, Respighi, Saint-Saëns, and Mahler. Not only do these youngsters show up willingly, they have already weathered a rigorous audition process to get here. Welcome to […]

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TRAILBLAZING: Kansas City opens arms to woman conductor as her renown grows

Like many top orchestra and opera conductors, Carolyn Watson began her career on “the other side of the baton.” Having excelled as a young violinist in her native Australia, she studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and spent several years as an orchestral violinist, in her homeland and later in Europe. Returning to Australia, […]

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TRAILBLAZER: Amaya Rodriguez

Life contains moments in which we are forced to steady our balance, draw a breath, and take a flying leap. Or as we say in ballet, a grand jeté. By her mid-twenties, Amaya Rodriguez had established a solid career as principal dancer of the National Ballet of Cuba, where she was the company’s top ballerina […]

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THE ROUND PEG: The alchemy of collaboration continues to attract artists seeking the unexpected

There are reasons why artists find cross-disciplinary collaborations so invigorating. It’s a bit like a great chef preparing a meal with no recipe: When performing artists combine music, dance, visuals, or theater toward a common goal, they must rely on instinct and experience to guide them. The outcome is often unknown even to them until […]

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ALL WORK AND NO PLAY: Lyric Opera finally brings the Torrances to town

This is an updated version of an article that appeared in The Independent in early 2020, shortly before the Lyric Opera had to postpone its production of The Shining: which it will now present this March. —P.H.  . The most terrifying thing on earth is the human heart. Thus the scariest parts of any horror story […]

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PLAYING WELL WITH OTHERS: New program for young chamber musicians stresses collaboration and fun

Young classical musicians often dream of stardom. But the reality is that even if they make it to the big time, they will probably be playing with other musicians for much of their careers. Performers on strings, winds, or brass might be playing in an orchestra, and professionals on keyboard instruments will most likely be […]

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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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