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Backstage And Beyond

EARTH TONES: New generations of American Indian composers are steeped in classical and Native cultures

When Raven Chacon won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2022, the announcement surprised many American music-lovers, few of whom realized how strong the tradition of concert music by Native Americans had grown during the past two generations.  This year Raven was also awarded the MacArthur Award, given (as the MacArthur Foundation wrote) for “creating […]

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WYANDOTTE WAYS: Public Theatre co-founder brings family roots to bear in his work

Nathan Bowman doesn’t always advertise his Native American heritage when presenting himself to the public, but he is nonetheless proud of the deep roots that his family has always known are there. The co-founder and producing artistic director of Kansas City Public Theatre was raised knowing that, at the very least, he was descended on […]

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FRESH START: Spinning Tree launches third season of newly framed company

There was a time, during the restless months of 2020, when many performing arts groups wondered whether they would survive. In the decade since its founding in 2010, Spinning Tree Theatre had by then already earned a reputation as one of the region’s most adventurous companies. Each year it produced three or four “intimate productions, […]

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TEACHING EMPATHY: Lyric Opera asks: Why add one-hit wonders when you can innovate? 

More than 400 new operas have been produced on the world’s mainstages during the 21st century so far. That’s great, right? The bad news is that a surprisingly large share of those will never be revived, not even once. (For context, since opera’s beginnings around 1600, tens of thousands of operas have reached the stage, […]

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TRAILBLAZERS: A scrapbook of Kansas City performing artists whose impact is being felt throughout the region and beyond

 Vanessa Severo  The actor, writer, choreographer, and director is the daughter of Brazilian immigrants. She has appeared on all the major stages in Kansas City and on quite a few others around the country. In 2019, she presented the world premiere of her one-woman show, Frida: A Self Portrait at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, and […]

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VOCES DIVERSAS: Arts groups lay groundwork for stronger Hispanic voices 

Latin Americans have played a major role in the growth of greater Kansas City for at least two centuries, probably beginning with the founding of Independence, Missouri, in 1821. Yet even as the Hispanic population today has grown to some 10 percent of the region’s 2.1 million inhabitants, Kansas City’s Latinos still find themselves struggling […]

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TRAILBLAZING: Local ensemble explores how Latino music was formed from a confluence of voices

Nearly all of Beau Bledsoe’s musical adventures have grown out of a lifelong love of the classical guitar, also known as the “Spanish” guitar. So it made sense that Ensemble Ibérica, the group that the Arkansas native established in 2013, should be dedicated to performing “music from Spain and Portugal and other areas of the […]

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NOW’S THE TIME: UMKC Conservatory is ready to spring forward

After more than two decades and four deans, it was beginning to look as if the UMKC Conservatory’s dream of a new facility would remain just that: a dream. Until now, that is. “This fall, Dean Courtney Crappell will reveal exciting plans for several phases of renovations and expansion of the Conservatory to meet future […]

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NO SECOND GUESSING: Classical pioneer brings solo Bach to Kansas City

One woman, standing alone onstage. No pianist, no music-stand: Just Hilary Hahn and her violin, creating miracles. That is what Harriman-Jewell Series audiences are likely to experience this October 13th, when one of the most gifted violinists of our time performs works from J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. It’s difficult to think of […]

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Best Of Fall 2023

Oh the weather outside is frightful(ly hot). But it won’t be for long, so take a close look at this fall’s diverse and provocative mix of music, dance, and theater: with representation from six of the world’s seven continents! (We’re still working on Antarctica…)  SEPTEMBER  6-24: Unicorn Theatre; Native Gardens; The Mexican-born Karen Zacarías, one […]

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BUILDING FORWARD: Ballet School continues ongoing success story with new studios

Kansas City Ballet always seems to be building something. For decades, it engaged in refitting existing buildings to meet its day-to-day needs: from the Westport Allen Center to the National Cash Register building to a former warehouse at 16th and Broadway. In August 2011, it established an elegant home in the Todd Bolender Center for […]

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CONQUERING CONCORD: Broadway musical confirms wide appeal of Alcott classic 

The impact of a book can often be gauged by the number and variety of adaptations it spawns. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was published more than 150 years ago, but it continues to feel like an archetypal portrait of at least one kind of American family. The Civil War-era tale of the struggling March […]

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“‘TILL LOVE HAS ALL HIS RITES”: For theater couple, marriage just felt like the right thing to do

When Chelsea Rolfes accidentally came across a big blue envelope from Brilliant Earth in JT Nagle’s backpack, she panicked. She didn’t open it, thank heavens, because she knew that it almost certainly contained a receipt for the engagement ring that she had always dreamed of wearing. It also meant that JT, her partner of seven […]

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FINDING BALANCE: Ballet’s new executive is here to serve

An executive director plays a less glamorous role in most arts organizations than that of the artistic director, but creative and imaginative thinking is essential to both jobs. Kansas City Ballet’s choice of David Gray as its new executive director was shrewd: The former publicist, arts consultant, and non-profit guru has written screenplays, a novel […]

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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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