Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Year in Jazz by Joe Klopus

In the future, they’ll know that 2010 was a good year for jazz in Kansas City.
We’ve left plenty of recorded evidence behind.

more at

Lawrence year in review

I’ve only been writing in this role since June, but it’s been an impressive 7 months. “Curtains” debuted at Theatre Lawrence in June with an ironclad cast hauling so much chemistry that it couldn’t help but succeed. Other notables at Theatre Lawrence were the lovable orphans of “Annie” and Kayla Motley’s over-the-top, hilarious Miss Hannigan.

more at the Lawrence Journal-World

Walter Coppage interview by Robert Trussell

Walter Coppage is many things but he is, above all, the man with The Voice.

more at

Updates on three local films

Kansas City is a long way from the glamour of Hollywood — but that doesn’t stop local filmmakers who devote their time, creativity and money to producing cinematic art on a budget.

more at

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bryan LaFave performing "Marry You"

Ignore the awkward bangs. "Marry You" by Bruno Mars

2010 Year in Theatre by Russ Simmons

While the Kansas City Repertory Theatre has been receiving deserved accolades in national publications of late, many other local companies also warrant credit for making 2010 a zestful theatrical year.

more at Sun Publications

The land under the Kauffman Center

In the 1980s and early ’90s, the site of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts was a vacant hillside envisioned as a major financial center.

more at KCUR

Performers set for First Night in Columbia

Hula-hoopers, fire-spinners, a juggler and more are set to give audiences a view into the world of alternative fitness at Columbia's First Night celebration Friday.

more at The Missourian

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Music Theatre for Young People "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" promo

The talented performers of MTYP's "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" are only in Day One of rehearsals, and it's already starting to look like a show! Get your tickets now while you still can! Call UMKC's Ticket office at 816-235-2222 today! More details about the show at!

"Every Picture Tells a Story" short film by Caroline Baehner and Teresa Magel

Every year the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City has a Festival called "Every Picture Tells a Story". Filmmakers find an artist and do a short film about something they have done. This year I shot and edited this for Caroline Baehner on Teresa Magel's painting called "Violet Wish".

[Thanks, Tony]

NEA education grants for Kansas organizations

The National Endowment for the Arts announced that two Kansas organizations have received $10,000 each through the Challenge America Fast-Track grant program. These grants offer support for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations.

Chamber Music At The Barn, Maize, will receive funding to support concerts and master classes by chamber music ensemble Pro Arte Quartet. In addition to concert performances, the quartet will provide youth concerts and master classes focused on classical and contemporary string chamber music for children from inner-city and rural communities.

Hesston College, Hesston, will receive funding to support a concert performance by male a cappella vocal ensemble Chanticleer. Prior to the performance, Chanticleer Music Director Matthew Oltman will present a master class for the choirs of Hesston College, Bethel College and several local high schools.

more at the National Endowment for the Arts

"Spotlight on Olivia Marsh" by Tara Varney

This article is from the November 2010 issue of KC Stage

Olivia Marsh can’t remember how young she was when she started putting on shows with her sister in the living room, and unfortunately, records of the transformative era are lost. Memories of the period can be pried from Marsh’s steel-trap mind, however. She recalls the seemingly innocuous gift of a “sound” book, with buttons along one side to enhance the story with aural cues, and how it changed her life—and ultimately, those of the theatre-going community’s. “My mother got us one for Christmas that was all Christmas carols, and so my sister and I worked out this plan that we’d put on this little Christmas pageant in my family’s parlor,” she  recollects. “We brought our parents in and made them sit down, and we hid behind the Christmas tree—which was wedged up against the wall, so I don’t know why we thought that was a good idea—and we had to take turns. One of us would stand behind the tree and push the button while the other one went out and sang. I sang a song that had two verses, so Kaitlin had to push the button twice so I could get through the whole song, and then we’d switch.” The sisters’ variety act even had state-of-the-art tech for their early show-stopping performances. “We put the Christmas tree lights on different settings for our little songs.”  She laughs at the memory. “We were really cool.”

At the tender age of nine, however, came the character that forever put her name on the lips of the nation. “That’s the first full-on performance where I had to learn lines,” she says of her pivotal role as the caterpillar in James and the Giant Peach. “It was awesome. I totally wore so much make-up. All the girls who played the bugs, we were like, ‘Oh, it’s a show! We have to put on make-up!’ We had all this crazy, weird blue eye shadow with no mascara, and all this bright lipstick, and I just thought I was so hot in my caterpillar-costume potato sack with little felt arms sticking out of it. It was form-fitting, and very flattering,” she recalls with a smile.
The following year, though, brought tragedy to her fledgling career. Directors are a vindictive lot, and frequently refuse to take former triumphs into account as they cast their current projects. Like so many young actors immersed in the glow of past stage victories, Marsh was an unfortunate casualty in this cruel game, and experienced her sophomore slump when she was cast in a role obviously beneath her considerable capabilities: Babe the Blue Ox. “I was kind of mad, because I was the caterpillar the year before, then I had to be some blue bull,” she says, still stinging from the pettiness of it all.

It could have spelled disaster for this fifth-grader. But Marsh bounced back, with her parents’ support. They had wisely enrolled her in summer theatre camp in their hometown of Topeka, where young Marsh spent every summer. In high school, it was the Bath House Players, where she participated in a full production each year. After graduating, she returned to mold the next generation of theatre minds. “It was a lot of fun to play with the little kids and see them understand plays and a storyline, and see them dancing and laughing and playing pretend and enjoying it, because that’s what we do. I still think it’s fun.”

In high school, her thoughts turned to the weighty issue of what to do with her life. “I thought for a really long time that I was going to be an engineer,” says the stunning and intelligent brunette. Many of her decisions were made with her beloved identical twin, Kaitlin, in mind. “My sister and I, until we were 19, had never been separated for more than a couple of days, so we made similar decisions. We were always involved in the same kinds of things. My sister did theatre with me all through high school. When we were looking at colleges, that was the point when I realized that when I applied, I needed to know what my major was going to be, and I realized, ‘I don’t really want to be an engineer. What I really like doing the most is theatre, so I’m going to go to school for that.’”

Her sister had her heart set on going to Kansas State University in Manhattan. “They seemed really nice, like they had a good department, and that’s where my sister wanted to go, which was the most important thing to me,” Marsh bravely recollects. “So I thought, ‘If I don’t like it, I can always transfer later, if it’s not what I need.’” 

But misfortune struck again. “Kaitlin transferred to another school after our first semester, so that was really scary for me,” Marsh says, blinking back tears at the painful memory. “But I ended up really, really liking the theatre department there. It’s small, but you get a really good education there. I learned a lot, and since it’s small, it’s like a little family, and it was a lot of fun. Then I never wanted to leave.”

“I did a lot of musicals in college,” Marsh states, fearlessly facing the possible repercussions of such a claim. Her freshman year, she boldly took on an ensemble role in the enormously controversial yet imminently hummable Pippin. “Our director was really cool. She made us make up little characters, and we all had to pick a name to put in the program. I picked ‘Heiress,’ for some reason, and my roommate picked ‘Sprinkles.’” Marsh also ventured outside of the relative safety that campus theatre life afforded. “One of our directors was doing Doubt at the community theatre, and I auditioned for him, so I got to do some straight plays too, because I was usually cast in something comedic or musical [in college].” 

Then, in 2008, Marsh made a spectacular leap, and traveled the unforgiving landscape to Kansas City to audition for a production of Reefer Madness. “It scared the crap out of me,” she confesses, as professional auditions were still alien to her at the time. “We had talked about it [in college], we had classes about it, and set up fake scenarios and things like that, but it’s totally different in real life,” she says. “I was petrified of driving on the highway, and driving in Kansas City, because I didn’t know my way around. I was scared out of my mind. So my parents brought me, and I came and did my audition, and then they took me home.”  Of the monumental audition itself, she admits, “I felt very awkward. I had my audition on a day that they didn’t have an accompanist, so they had you bring your own track. I didn’t have any software to cut a track or anything, so I got a karaoke track for my song, without any back-up vocals.” When her “cutting” of the song had ended, “I said, ‘That’s all!’ The track just kept playing, because I didn’t know how to cut it. ‘That’s all I have!’” Ultimately, however, she was cast in the show, and Kansas City has never stopped talking about her poignant performance as “Ensemble.”

“But,” Marsh is quick to add, “That is actually not the worst audition I have ever had.” She tells the harrowing story of her audition for a company in Kansas, which shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. Okay, it was Music Theatre of Wichita. “I was super-nervous for that. I don’t know why,” she says mysteriously, almost as if she knows the ending to this story. “I prepared my pieces, but I was paranoid that I was going to forget some words or something, and there was a dance audition, and dance auditions always make me nervous. I don’t know why. I’ve had training, but it still makes me scared.” Difficulty finding the audition location meant that Marsh showed up just minutes before the dance portion was to begin. The complex combination was taught, and then it was announced that they would be auditioning in groups of three. It was Marsh’s first experience with a stage measured out in numbered positions, and so she was understandably confused by the infuriating instruction to ‘stand on five.’ “I walk out there, and I’m looking, because I knew that there were numbers on the floor, but I had never seen a stage with numbers on the floor before. Ever. And so I’m walking around, and I’m looking, and I’m looking, and I’m starting to panic, and everyone else is in their spot, and they say, ‘Sweetie, what’s wrong?’” Panicked, she cried, “I can’t find five!”  Their reply, says Marsh: “‘It’s right there, between four and six, honey.’ I was like, ‘Oh… God…’” Swallowing her pride, she returned an hour later for the singing portion of the audition. “I go in to sing, and I ask, ‘Where would you like me to stand?’ And they say, ‘You can stand wherever you want.’ I said, ‘Well, would you like me to stand on five? Because I know where it is now.’” At present, she can laugh about it, the years of skill occluding the sting of humiliation. “That was not my finest hour. I didn’t get called back. They were probably like, ‘Let’s not call back the girl who doesn’t know where five is.’” In her own profoundly inspiring way, she has spun this event—what would have caused a lesser person to run back to engineering as a living—into a stirring example of lemons-to-lemonade.

“Now I go into auditions and think, ‘It can’t be as bad as Music Theatre of Wichita.’ Because I thought I was going to die. It was so embarrassing.”
The conversation suddenly takes a darker tone, completely veiled by her casual exterior, and you’d think that emotion would cloud Marsh’s striking features, but it doesn’t. She valiantly sallies forth, and quietly acknowledges an inner truth. “Something I discovered about myself in college, and afterward, is that I’m kind of a late bloomer,” she states with a self-awareness that defies her age. “But I’m okay with that. I feel like there are a lot of people, especially in theatre, that are really good at jumping on opportunities, and really putting themselves out there, and I would really consider myself to be kind of a shy person,” she intimates. “So I have to be comfortable, and then go, because sometimes when I push myself, everything just falls apart, and then I can’t find ‘five.’ I just get so nervous that I get in my own way…. It’s better if I figure out how to do it myself, than if I let someone push me into doing it. So I’m a late bloomer.”

Her teeming throngs of adoring fans would never know it, though, by her immaculate post-college career, which has included a deranged drug fiend in Reefer Madness, a sex-driven dingbat in Lingerie Shop, and an overly-ambitious lisper in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Her current roles, in Egads Theatre’s production of Evil Dead, The Musical, are those of a “Dear Penthouse, you’ll never believe this” sexpot and a clothes-rippingly attractive scientist. “Our cast is really talented, just full of energy and committed to making it a lot of fun,” she says graciously. “Everybody has really great ideas, and really great contributions. The stuff that people come up with, night to night, is so funny. The blood effects are awesome,” she gushes. The production was not without its backstage hitches, though, as Marsh struggled with her vast number of perilous quick-changes in rehearsals. “It’s kind of embarrassing, because for tech, we had to stop three times because I had to yell from backstage, ‘Naked!’ because I couldn’t get my costume changed.”  Strangely, no one working backstage on the show came forward to declare this a setback.

When asked to narrow down her astronomical strengths as an actor, Marsh ponders. “I think I have a good sense of humor, and I think that helps, because humor helps even in dramatic pieces. It provides a lot of variety. I would like to think that I’m a very specific actor, and a very honest actor. Especially since humor is so important to me, I feel like the best humor is honest humor, that comes out of something truthful.”

This ridiculous article notwithstanding.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Auburn Community Theatre 2011 Season

Phyllis Penney and Allan Hazlett will reprise their award-winning roles of Ethel and Norman Thayer in "On Golden Pond," the second production in Auburn Community Theater's next season, which will open with a world premiere.

more at the Topeka Capital-Journal

2010 Year in Jazz by Bill Brownlee

Much as prognosticators claim to see green shoots in the nation’s struggling economy, Kansas City’s jazz scene demonstrated encouraging signs of renewed vigor after an extended period fraught with extraordinary challenges.

more at

2010 Year in Review by Steve Paul

As 2010 turns over, it’s time to take stock of where the magic happened in our cultural lives.

more at

Columbia's "First Night" preview by Aarik Danielsen

It might get cold. Keep moving. You might accidentally wander into a scene you’re unfamiliar with and find faces you’ve never met. Keep moving toward them with eyes and arms wide open. The message of First Night has always been about building momentum for a new year and moving toward the future together with joy and excitement. Because of its director’s focus, the local celebration will center even more on centrifugal motion as 2010 rolls into 2011. “Creative movement has been something on my mind a lot this year,” Jane Accurso said.

more at the Columbia Daily Tribune

Sunday, December 26, 2010

KC Symphony "Sorcerer's Apprentice" promo

2010 Year in Music by Patrick Neas

For Kansas City’s classical music fans, 2010 was a year marked by sadness and anticipation, along with lots of wonderful music.

more at

Sedalia native's life on the high seas

When people find out that Sedalia native Kami Rodgers is a cruise ship singer, they want to hear about the glamour of traveling the world, wearing beautiful clothes and singing for well-to-do vacationers. But actually, it has ups and downs like any job. Rodgers has worked for captains she’s liked, and some she didn’t like. She works seven days a week, but she has been all over the globe.

more at the Columbia Daily Tribune

KU Musicians performing in Eutin, Germany

Seven musicians from Kansas University’s School of Music — including its dean — will perform in Eutin, Germany, in January, and could pave the way for another invitation later in the summer.

more at the Lawrence Journal-World

2010 Year in Theatre by Robert Trussell

All that fundraising, dramatic growth and feverish creative activity led to 2010, which I can say without reservation was one hellacious year for local theater. Don’t get me wrong — it’s still possible to see dreadful shows in Kansas City. And you can see quite a few that should have been better. But the very best are exceptional.

more at

Opera singer Lindsey Ohse interview by Bill Blankenship

After a show-must-go-on moment this past summer with the Santa Fe Opera, Topeka-born and -raised soprano Lindsay Ohse will return this spring to her home state to star with the Wichita Grand Opera.

more at the Topeka Capital-Journal

Saturday, December 25, 2010

One year of the KC Stage Blog

Merry Christmas, Kansas City. It was one year ago today that the KC Stage blog went live, and it's been a fascinating look at media coverage of local performing arts. Your humble blogger is taking the day off, and will offer a special retrospective of the year in blogging later this week. 

In the meantime, I'd love to get some feedback about the blog. Either post a comment here or email and let me know what you think. Good, bad, ways to improve, things I've missed? How often do you visit, or do you just see it occasionally on Facebook? Blogging is a lonely business and it's hard to know if anyone's even paying attention.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The aging audience for classical music

Since the 1980s, much has been written about the graying audience for the performing arts, including classical music.

more at KCUR

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Sing! Blue Springs" fundraiser for Blue Springs School District

Students, staff and community members will soon have the opportunity to showcase their singing abilities in Sing! Blue Springs, a new fundraiser for the Blue Springs Education Foundation and the Blue Springs School District.
more at The Examiner

"Believe" short film by Austin Walsh

For the past 46 years Mike Babick, or "Grandpa Mike" as he likes to be called, has turned his house on Falmouth Street in Prairie Village, Kansas into an animated Christmas display. Each year some 250,000 visitors trek across his lawn to get a close-up view of all of the moving parts inside of each display - his garage is a cave of spinning dolls and rocking horses while a Santa and Rudolph duo pop out of a nearby window. No surface, window or visible area of the house goes undecorated, curious visitors will even peek inside to find Babick relaxing with family and dozens of ornaments hanging from the ceiling. When Babick started, all he had was a modest string of lights, now his house is a tourist attraction. It's a passion; a crazy, and perhaps somewhat creepy passion. To put it in Babick's words, "If you build your dream with care, people will come from everywhere." It would be easy to think this guy is totally nuts, and maybe he is, but he believes in Christmas, even Santa Clause, and this is his way of spreading cheer to every non-believer out there.

[thanks, Prairie Village Post]

2010 Year in Review by Paul Horsely

It was an auspicious year for the performing arts in Kansas City, with few signs that arts groups were “holding back” in anticipation of next year’s first season in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. We obviously weren’t able to attend everything in 2010: It’s been a long time, in fact, since Kansas City’s burgeoning arts scene has permitted any one person to cover the whole scene. But these are a dozen of the moments that stood out in my mind.

more at The Independent

Crown Center "Hallelujah" interview on All Things Considered

Sunday in Kansas City, about 450 people suddenly burst into song at the Crown Center complex. "As mobs go, it possibly was the most massive and musical in Kansas City history," The Kansas City Star writes.

more at NPR

[thanks, Tony]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Crown Center "Hallelujah" interview by Eric Adler

Even George Frideric Handel would have stood for this Christmastime performance, when at least 450 people, and perhaps many more — young, old, most of them strangers, and beckoned solely by word-of-mouth or e-mail to Crown Center — erupted among unsuspecting shoppers into an echoing and unrehearsed “choir flash mob” rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

more at

More on the UMKC Concert Jazz Band trip to Japan

It was billed as the trip of a lifetime. And it lived up to those lofty expectations. Seventeen jazz band students from the University of Missouri-Kansas City soaked in a lot during a seven-day work and pleasure trip this fall to Kurashiki, Japan.

more at
and UMKC Jazz's Posterous has lots of photos

KC Rep getting national media attention

Local theater aficionados often brag about the quality of the dynamic performing arts scene in our area. But it usually takes an outsider to give the claims some credence. Since Eric Rosen took over as the artistic director of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre in 2008, national publications have been taking notice.

more at Sun Publications 

Tony Botello no fan of Crown Center "Hallelujah"

Kansas City’s fake ass Crown Center flash mob was more like choir practice, unworthy of internet glory and solely dependent on small market mainstream media promotion!!!

more at Tony's Kansas City

Tony Botello heaps praises on Mark Lowery

More than anybody else this year, Mark Lowery has improved the Kansas City music scene.

more at Tony's Kansas City

Harriman-Jewell receives NEA grant for Discovery Series

Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, has announced that the Harriman-Jewell Series has been approved for a grant of $7,500 to support the Discovery Concerts, which bring new artists to new audiences at no cost to the public. The Harriman-Jewell Series is one of 1,057 not-for-profit organizations recommended for a grant as part of the federal agency’s first round of fiscal year 2011 grants. In total, the Arts Endowment will distribute $26.68 million to support projects nationwide.

more at Infozine

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thank you from the KC Ballet

Missouri Motion Media Association preparing for Legislative Day

Make attending MOMMA’s Legislative Day on February 1 your number one New Year’s resolution. For details, click on “Events” at the top of the MOMMA home page and then on “Calendar.” We have 18 exhibit tables available and need all aspects of the industry represented. Tables are first come, first served and you need to be an early riser (it’s worth the effort) as tables set up at 8:30 a.m. We’re working on hotel rates in Jeff for those who need to come in the night before. Legislators need to see the depth of this industry. Every exhibit table needs to be filled with a different motion media job represented at each. To see pictures from the 2010 Legislative Day, please click here

more at MOMMA

More Crown Center "Hallelujah" videos

[Thanks, KMBC]

KC musicians making Christmas music

Kansas City boasts its fair share of talented musicians. And when they turn to making music for the holidays, the results can vary from hilarious to thought-provoking. 

listen at KCUR

"Letters from the Front" by Angie Fiedler

This article is from the November 2010 issue of KC Stage

“Christmas in the trenches! What a time. ‘Peace on earth, goodwill toward Men.’ It is hardly to be believed, but nevertheless it is quite true that such was the case this Christmas.” - Maryport Private, January 7, 1915

The story of the Christmas truce during World War I is well-known. From books, film, and songs - including Garth Brooks’ “Belleau Wood” - there’s even a page about it on, confirming that during World War I, German and British soldiers stationed in no-man’s land did indeed choose to have a truce over Christmas.

Park University’s history department, having already established a connection to the National World War I Museum, knew they had an angle to this compelling story - and Dr. Timothy Westcott, the chair of the Department of Social Sciences, also knew last year that it was the 95th anniversary of the meeting, and that 2014 is the centennial of the beginning of World War I.

So, Dr. Westcott came up with the idea of the history majors at Park reading letters from soldiers from this time.

“The production is an actual reading of British and German soldiers’ letters that they wrote home within a few weeks following the Christmas Truce,” Dr. Westcott writes in an e-mail interview. “These letters were written to parents, wives, sisters, girlfriends, or just friends the soldiers desired to share their story.”

Working with not only the Liberty Memorial but also the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the In Flanders Field Interactief Museum in Germany, the organizations provide original letters as well as photographs that accompany the photo.

“As cast members read a particular letter,” Dr. Westcott explains, “there is a corresponding PowerPoint slide in the background that represents an aspect of that letter. The photographs selected for the production have to represent an aspect of the actual corresponding letter. The German solider letters are spoken in German with an English translation slide. If a soldier mentions a particular musical selection in which they sang in 1914, we play a short clip of that song. At the conclusion of the production, the cast members join hands on center stage, while inviting the audience, to sing ‘Silent Night’ which was actually sung on the battlefield by both armies.”

The cast and crew are all history majors. Last year, there were five stage cast members, one of which is a narrator, and Dr. Westcott hopes to include another reader to this year as well as increase the number of letters that they read. Last year’s production was about 90 minutes long with an intermission, and they hope to increase that to about two hours for this year.

The production, which runs Dec. 2, 3, and 4 at 7 pm at the Jenkin and Barbara David Theater on the Park University main campus, is a fundraiser for Park’s national history honor society chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, called Zeta Omicron. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students or children under 18, and you can also support the project by donating to Zeta Omicron.

The majors attend the American Historical Association meeting annually, which according to Dr. Westcott typically hosts between 5,000 - 6,000 professional historians presenting conference papers on their recent historical research. The fundraiser helps cover travel, lodging, and conference fees for the majors to attend the conference.

“The conference is important to the history majors for professional networking with historical experts researching similar topics,” Dr. Westcott writes, “plus as young historians, the majors observe the proper manner in presenting research. In addition, the opportunity to network and interact with faculty from graduate programs that the majors may be interested in attending is extremely important.”

For more information, contact Dr. Westcott at (816) 584-6364 or

Unicorn "Very Joan Crawford Christmas" review by TheatreDiva

'If you want to see the girl next door, then go next door, dammit!'
Rating: 4

A Very Joan Crawford Christmas
by Unicorn Theatre

Warning: the following review contains some adult language. (As if you couldn't tell from the title.)

Ron Megee is the consummate cross-dresser, and as Joan Crawford in the Unicorn's production of "A Very Joan Crawford Christmas", it shows. From the damn fine legs to the wearing well of a plethora of costumes, Megee owns the stage from beginning to end in this very bizarre offering of a Christmas show.

Kudos go out to the props/set dressing - with a set straight out of the late '50s, including plastic on the God-awful couch, a big congrats to the fact that they had old-style Pepsi bottles among the plethora of booze on the alcohol trolley on stage (where in the hell do you get Pepsi bottles from the 60s????). And the special effects (especially the end of Act I) were awesome (poor tree).

The plot is hard to describe without giving too much of the ending away. Joan is the ultimate host, though, and Megee rolled with the punches when things didn't quite go according to plan. (And in this production, when the actors were obviously trying hard not to laugh, it actually worked for the show.)

The first act is the weaker of the two, and Megee's larger than life Crawford just doesn't quite come off in such an intimate setting. It doesn't help that (shh - don't tell anyone) I'm not that familiar with Crawford's movies (I honestly can't tell you if I've ever seen any of them or not). However, there were some highlights in the first act, including the undressing of Jeff Smith (and can I just say - DAMN! It says something when this one actor in five minutes of near-nudity was sexier than the entire "Brawny Britches" offering at the Fringe Festival) and the appearance of Dorian Gray Adams-Megee (the dog) as Princess Lotus Blossom (poor dog!). While it wasn't bad (and had quite a few laughs), for the most part, it played for me like a joke I'm not quite clued into.

However, the second act takes off like a demented dodo in flight. The sound design helps, with music cues straight out of a movie that indicate when things are going well, and - of course - when things go apeshit bat crazy. Here, Jessica Dressler (as Bette Davis - kind of - it's hard to explain without spoiling the plot) shines, toying with Crawford in a way only mirrored (I'm sure) by "What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?" I can't say much more without ruining it, but the ending is priceless and had me giggling for a good few hours after.

Like Crawford's choice of drink of Pepsi and vodka ("I've learned to love it - it's tasty, but it burns!"), "A Very Joan Crawford Christmas" is far more interesting than it sounds. The show has been extended until January 2, and I heartily recommend it for all you demented types. Merry fucking Christmas, indeed.

Angie Fiedler Sutton

read the review at KC Stage

UMKC Concert Jazz Band tours Japan

The Conservatory of Music and Dance's Conservatory Concert Jazz Band has just returned from a trip to Japan. Under the direction of Bobby Watson, the group was invited by the city of Kurashiki, Japan, via the Heart of America Japan-America Society, to perform in Kurashiki. Performances were during Japan's 25th National Cultural Festival in Okayama.

more at UMKC

Monday, December 20, 2010

Plastic Sax's top ten jazz for 2010

A couple years ago a Plastic Sax reader suggested that I reveal my personal musical preferences. I demurred. Keeping my tastes to myself seemed appropriate at the time. As this site has become more prominent, however, whatever veil of anonymity once existed has been shredded. Here are my favorite jazz albums and jazz performances of 2010.

more at Plastic Sax

KC Ballet, Ramona Pansegrau interview by Patrick Neas

Ramona Pansegrau, music director of the Kansas City Ballet, has conducted more than 1,000 “Nutcrackers,” but, like many others, looks forward to the production each year.

more at (at the end of the article)

Village Presbyterian "Tidings of Joy" preview by Patrick Neas

When Mark Ball became music director at Village Presbyterian Church, he began an annual Christmas concert that featured a seamless blend of popular carols with a major classical work. With no applause until the end, the concert had a calm and meditative quality.

more at

Pianist Kairy Kosheova interview by Cindy Hoedel

Pianist Kairy Koshoeva, 36, was born in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. Koshoeva earned a master’s degree from Gnessin’s Academy of Music in Moscow and a doctorate from the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has won numerous piano competitions internationally and now teaches at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg and Kansas City Kansas Community College. To hear samples of Koshoeva’s playing, go to

more at

Impromptu Hallelujah chorus at Crown Center

[Thanks, Tony]

KC Jazz for Christmas

’Twas the week before Christmas. I needed a gift
For a new KC jazz fan who wanted a lift.
“I know about Basie, ’bout Lester and Bird.
“But who’s playing now? Tell me, what's today’s word?
“Point me to CDs that are current and clear.
“What new KC jazz was released this past year?”

more at kcjazzlark

Fishtank "White Nose Christmas" performance

The cast of "White Nose Christmas" totally crashed the Burlesque Downtown Underground Holiday Show "BDU - Unwrapped," and we totally swooped Brindsay Kardilton before TMZ! Remember you saw it here first!

Lyric Opera "Daughter of the Regiment" preview

Don Dagenais of the Lyric Opera Guild previews the upcoming Lyric Opera of Kansas City production of Donizetti's "Daughter of the Regiment" directed by Dottie Danner. Tickets:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Columbia's year in review

Columbia’s year in the arts was a tidal motion of ups and downs rising by such degrees as to keep even the Greek muses Thalia and Melpomene guessing as to what dramatic wave was coming next. There were fires and fundraising tsunamis made worse by a weak economy; there were transitions as well as anniversaries. In between came an ocean of crowd-pleasing film fests, innovative art shows, wonderful stagecraft, daring dance performances, stunning concerts and inspiring discussions about literature.

more at the Columbia Daily Tribune

City Theatre of Independence seeking scripts for Original Works Play Festival

The City Theatre of Independence is taking submissions to its third annual Original Works Play Festival. Here is some information about the 2011 festival:
  • All submissions for this year's festival must be titled "Fine Art". What you write about is completely up to you- art can be a person, an acronym; your concept of the art world in general but all pieces must be titled "Fine Art". Also, you may punctuate the title in any manner you wish.
  • This year we will not be limiting content; no words are off limits. No concepts verboten. We just hope to pick the best eight of all submitted.
  • Your written submission must be performed in under fifteen minutes. This year we will be much more staunch on that subject; even going so far as timing a table read in order to confirm. So as you edit, watch the clock.
  • Please do not submit anything to us that has been staged or performed before. This is a new works festival and we will be doing background checks on all submissions.
  • Each author is allowed to submit up to three (3) scripts for our consideration.
  • All submissions should be sent via e-mail to
  • All scripts must be received by March 1, 2011.
  • Please send all scripts in Word or within the body of the e-mail. Please do not attach your name or contact information to the script itself. Please send your contact information in a second document including: your name, telephone number, and e-mail address.
  • Please understand that this is a chance to showcase your new work but that no monetary compensation will be offered.
Thank you all for your interest. We greatly look forward to reading your submissions.

Playwright Lori Lee Triplett commissioned for "Back to the Bible"

Back to the Bible, an internationally known radio program, commissioned Kansas City playwright Lori Lee Triplett to write the five plays about the Christmas story. The plays will be broadcast next week on 1200 radio stations in US and Canada starting Monday December 20th.  Four local actors auditioned and were cast in the plays: Kendra Holcomb-Densmore as Mary, Michael Patrick Peters as Zachariah, Lori Lee Triplett as Anna, and Rev. Tim Waggoner as Simeon.

December 20-24: Voices of Christmas
Imagine being there for the very first Christmas! Talking to Mary and Joseph, listening to the wise men and shepherds tell their story. Tune in Christmas week for a special combination of drama & Bible teaching that will bring fresh perspective to the lessons, gifts, promises & challenges found in the account of the Savior's birth.

Monday, December 20th Zachariah, Elizabeth and Mary
Tuesday, December 21st  Mary and Joseph
Wednesday, December 22nd  Joseph, Mary and the Shepherds
Thursday, December 23rd  Anna, Simeon, Mary and Joseph
Friday, December 24th  Herod and the Wise Men

more at Back to the Bible

Music Theatre for Young People "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" preview

Music Theatre for Young People is presenting the Tony Award winning musical "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" on Saturday and Sunday, January 1st and 2nd. Show times are 7PM on Saturday, 2PM & 7PM on Sunday. Tickets are available by on the web at­es/cto/ Or by calling (816) 235-6222.
You can also go to the ticket office at 4949 Cherry on the UMKC campus.

Kauffman photographer Eric Bowers interview by Laura Spencer

My primary observation from doing photography inside the building is how the state-of-the-art architecture and construction methods used with the Kauffman Center will leave everyone pleasantly surprised with how it will work as Kansas City’s newest monument-architecture building, and monument-style buildings don’t arise on an extremely frequent basis in any city.

more at KCUR

[Thanks, Tony]

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Joan Crawford visits the Unicorn's "Very Joan Crawford Christmas"

Meet the cast and characters from A Very Joan Crawford Christmas at Unicorn Theatre. More information at

Filmmaker interested in Blue Springs man convicted of murder

Larry Garrison has spent almost 30 years earning a living by booking media appearances for victims of tragedy or people close to the victims. It's such a strange job, The Atlantic wrote a lengthy feature about him earlier this year.

more at The Pitch

Right Between the Ears holiday show preview

A small audience watches intently as seven people gather around microphones inside a closed studio. The clock strikes 7 p.m. and the show begins. It's live radio and staged performances like this one are increasingly rare. But for Darrell Brogdon and the cast of local comedy troupe Right Between the Ears, it's a common occurrence.

more at the Lawrence Journal-World

NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman's speech in KC

Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, participated in a panel discussion on the arts and urban revitalization at Mid-America Arts Alliance, Kansas City, Mo.

In addition to Chairman Landesman, the panel included participants in Kansas City's arts and business communities who have implemented creative strategies to support the arts, particularly in the Crossroads District.

In this introduction, Mary Kennedy-McCabe, M-AAA's executive director, outlines Mid-America's role as an arts presenter and educator in M-AAA's six-state region. Chairman Landesman reviews his vision for the NEA as a facilitator to local entities that are using the arts to revitalize their communities.

more at KCUR

"Environmental Theatre is for the Birds" by Tyler A. Mullen

 This article is from the November 2010 issue of KC Stage

“Recycled, repurposed, reused, re-imagined.” These are words to live by for the production team of the University of Central Missouri’s upcoming environmental staging of Aristophanes’ The Birds, who will be creating the design elements out of recycled materials in an effort to promote the idea of green or sustainable theatre, the producing of theatre that creates a smaller carbon footprint.

The Birds tells the story of two travelers, Pithetaerus and Euelpides, who leave Athens in search of their idea of utopia. They expect to find it amongst birdlife and execute a plan to make their haven in the sky, thereby interfering with both the lives of the humans below and the gods above. Dr. Julie Rae Mollenkamp, the director of the production, selected the show for production because it is hilarious and there are issues of distrust of government, commercialism, and environmental protection that resound today as much as when The Birds premiered in 414 B.C.E.

In an effort to think “green”, nearly all of the design elements will remain unpainted and there will be no program distributed at performances. “We realize that we’re going to leave a carbon footprint, but this production will take a small step toward environmental awareness,” said Mollenkamp. “We will celebrate that small step and issue a call for action to both the UCM Department of Theatre and the community.” Actors and staff members have already been issued the task of committing to one thing that they are going to do to help the environment, which will become part of the projected scenery, reminding the audience of the need to change behavior in order to save our planet.

The first challenge for the company was compiling enough materials to make this concept a reality. A recycled items drive was held over the course of two weeks, bringing in a substantial amount of items, including cardboard boxes, plastic bags, food containers, plastic bottles, board games, and video tapes in bulk. A caravan commuted from Warrensburg to Kansas City to collect surplus steel that was used in the Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s latest production of Saved. Larger items that will be used in the execution of the scenic design, such as steel frames and sheets of insulation, will be borrowed from UCM’s Surplus Center.

Costume designer Ronnie Chamberlain plans to re-imagine the body structure and texturing of birdlife through the use of these materials. For example, Epops, the King of the Birds, will sport a Mohawk crown built entirely out of plastic bottles, the Priest-Bird’s costume will be made out of film strips from old vhs tapes and newspaper, and human beings will have a game-board motif, with game pieces serving as buttons, belts, and accessories. For instance, the Poet will be fashioned out of old Scrabble pieces, the Real Estate Woman out of Monopoly money, and the Lawyer out of Trivial Pursuit cards. Costumes for the gods and goddesses will be constructed out of plastic bags.

Matthew Bennett is the guest scenic designer from Quixotic Fusion, a Kansas City-based “ensemble of musicians, dancers, aerialists, composers, designers, and choreographers collaborating to produce new forms of artistic expression and eliminate the barrier between performer and audience”. Bennett envisions an “urban rooftop” locale for the action onstage. Steel structures, including a satellite dish sculpture, will allow areas for performers to hang from and climb upon. Only stock platforms will be used in creating levels that range from 8’ to 21’, which will allow for another aspect of the production: the flying of the birds.

Bennett, a 2004 UCM graduate, and Angelina Sansone, a member of the Quixotic Fusion company and the Kansas City Ballet, were brought to UCM through the newly instated Meridith Harmon Sauer Guest Artist Series, an endowment that will bring both regional and national theatre artists to teach and work alongside students. Both Bennett and Sansone have extensive experience with aerial performance and will assist with the rigging of apparatuses, trapezes, zip-lines, and harnesses, as well as aerial movement.

In addition to the design principles, Mollenkamp will follow environmental staging practices when staging the production. Audience members will be seated onstage in pods, surrounded by scenic elements and the performers both onstage and overhead. “Everywhere you sit, you’ll see something different,” said Mollenkamp. “The audience will get to be a part of the action, because we want them to take action.”

Tyler A. Mullen is a Theatre Design and Technology student at the University of Central Missouri. He is currently the stage manager for The Birds, which runs Nov. 10-18.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sports and arts working together

It’s often viewed as a choice between arts and sports. But it doesn’t have to be. On a recent visit to Kansas City, here’s what National Endowment for the Arts Chair Rocco Landesman, a Broadway producer who’s owned race horses and minor league baseball teams, had to say about it. Landesman: "There's no reason you can’t love sports and art both – and I do."

listen at KCUR

Musical Theatre Heritage "Spectacular Christmas" review by Kellie Houx

How about a holiday cocktail of merriment, music, mistletoe and a little mayhem thrown in for good measure? That’s exactly what the creative minds at Musical Theater Heritage have offered up this Christmas season. So try a little holiday magic called “A Spectacular Christmas.”

more at KC Studio

Topeka Festival Singers, Laudate Ringers preview by Bill Blankenship

At its annual holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday, the Topeka Festival Singers, directed by Kevin Kellim, will be joined on stage by the Laudate Ringers from Countryside United Methodist Church. It will be the first performance with the chorus by the handbell choir directed by Jane Anderson.

more at the Topeka Capital-Journal

Fishtank "White Nose Christmas" review by Grace Suh

Far livelier and more fun — my runaway winner, in fact, for best holiday show this season — is Fishtank's White Nose Christmas, another three-person show about another vexing Hollywood star, this one contemporary.

more at The Pitch (after the Coterie review)

Coterie "Very Joan Crawford Christmas" review by Grace Suh

With A Very Joan Crawford Christmas at the Unicorn Theatre, the veteran entertainment team of Ron Megee and Jeff Church is serving up a giant glazed ham for the holidays.

more at The Pitch