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Backstage And Beyond

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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I’VE FALLEN BUT I CAN GET UP: Lyric Opera offers fresh view of Verdi’s most complex woman

The character of Violetta Valéry that Giuseppe Verdi and librettist Francesco Piave created for the operatic stage began provoking controversy from the moment of La traviata’s premiere in 1853. For moralists, including the Venetian censors of the day, this “fallen woman” (a literal translation of the title) presented an inappropriately positive image of a 19th-century courtesan: […]

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IT HAPPENED IN SÃO PAULO: Kansas City to witness collaboration of pioneering American conductor with brilliant Brazilian orchestra

Forming a musical bond is a bit like making a good friend. You often can’t explain exactly why you hit it off: You just do. And when this rare harmony descends upon a conductor and an orchestra, angels rejoice. “It’s a matter of timing and chemistry… sort of like the stars aligning,” said Marin Alsop […]

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IF THESE TREES COULD TALK: Symphony’s paean to nature includes valiant new compositional voice

Imagine a world in which classical music is forbidden fruit, and learning to play Beethoven or Chopin or Mozart is a subversive act. That’s the environment in which Composer-Pianist Iman Habibi was raised: post-Revolutionary Tehran, where instrumental music was frowned upon, or even banned. And although his parents encouraged Iman’s skills on the family’s 40-key […]

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FACETS OF AMERICA: The Rep’s new associate artistic director aims to bring theater to all Kansas Citians

Nelson T. Eusebio III’s distinguished career in theater began almost by accident. He was 15 and followed some girls into a room where auditions were about to take place, even though he had never acted before and had not prepared a thing. “I asked them what they were doing there, and they said we’re auditioning […]

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THE HEAT IS ON: Symphony completes first season of guest conductors

Few events in the life of an orchestra are as exciting or as unnerving as the transition to a new music director. The search is on for a conductor to step up to the podium that Michael Stern will vacate at the end of 2023-2024, and the season that the Kansas City Symphony wrapped up […]

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A brief look at some of the more promising offerings in music, dance, and theater   SEPTEMBER 6-25 Kansas City Repertory Theatre; Twelfth Night; The Rep’s new associate artistic director, Nelson T. Eusebio III, makes his local directorial debut with Shakespeare’s gender-bending “rom-com”: Viola, disguised as a young man, falls in love with the Duke Orsino, […]

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NAVO MEANS NEW / NAVO MEANS MUSIC: Performing-arts ‘collective’ vies for attention

Kansas City takes pride in the longevity of its major performing-arts groups, and this is as it should be. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in the celebration of a 30th anniversary here, a half-century jubilee there, that we forget that some of our most important organizations are still in the start-up phase. And […]

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KISS THE BRIDE, THEN EXIT LEFT: Top 10 stage weddings (that actually have happy endings)

In art, as in life, love usually triumphs. As a send-off for all of this summer’s Kansas City newlyweds, we found 10 famous onstage weddings (from the world of opera, theater, and ballet) that end in bliss. Enjoy!    Rossini: The Barber of Seville   The lovely Rosina is not just the “ward” of cantankerous old […]

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BECOMING ONE: Dance artists craft unprecedented ‘collaborative choreography’ for Moving Arts

One of the fixtures of the dance world today is the “mixed-repertory” program: A company presents works by various choreographers and prays the amalgam makes some kind of sense. But what if we were to create a single work crafted by multiple choreographers, who merge their creative energies into an organic whole? Such collaborations are […]

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Flight Paths And Footwear: Chance meeting on airport jetway sparks lifelong romance

Sometimes a single sartorial decision can bring about life-altering consequences. Brian Keith Gamble could not possibly have known, when he donned his 2015 Crestwood Red Mid Basketball Shoes for the flight home to South Carolina on Christmas morning 2015, that he’d be meeting a dazzling ballet dancer later that day.  And Kansas City Ballet Company […]

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METTLE FOR MEDALS: Winners of international competitions bring prestige to area music schools

Music competitions: High-stakes horse races, followed by lucrative prizes and worldwide fame, right? Well, not exactly. The competition of today has in fact become a sort of “second education” for artists striving to expand their technique, musicality, and repertoire. Because ultimately, competition results can be ephemeral: If a win does not result in a major […]

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MUSIC TO OUR EARS: Youth orchestra inspires hope, spurs students to broad-based achievement

When Darryl Chamberlain established the A-Flat Music Studio Inc. in 2016, he had several goals in mind. First, he believed that young people ages 10 and up should learn how to read music, through a fundamentals class, while learning to play an instrument. Because “when you play by ear it is based on your imagination […]

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IN PLAIN ENGLISH: Festival marks 30th anniversary with Shakespeare’s most vibrantly accessible play

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival started pretty much the way many Kansas City performing arts organizations have begun: Nobody really knew if it was going to get off the ground at all. Thirty years later, it is flying high. Not only is it one of the nation’s most celebrated professional outdoor theaters, it is venerated […]

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BREAKING THE FUR CEILING: ‘Animal work’ trains actors to become their whole selves

We often say that an actor on stage or screen has “leonine grace,” or eats like a ravenous wolf, or moves with reptilian stealth. What you might not realize is that “animal work” is actually a part of nearly every actor’s professional training: studying the movements, positions, and sounds of different creatures to expand one’s […]

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