Performing Arts

Shakespeare stars in a varied summer theater season

The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival will again take the stage in Southmoreland Park. This year’s production, the comedy “Twelfth Night,” runs June 14 to July 3.
The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival will again take the stage in Southmoreland Park. This year’s production, the comedy “Twelfth Night,” runs June 14 to July 3. File

The summer season welcomes Tony Award-winning musicals with show-stopping, melody-rich numbers about murder, mental illness and moving on.

The straight ahead plays examine the hidden complexities in sedate suburbia and an array of crises of identity.

But towering over them all, 400 years after his death, is the master of drama, William Shakespeare. Arguably, the theater event of summer is the arrival of Shakespeare’s First Folio, accompanied by a full retinue of performances and events.

This 900-page volume was the first compilation of Shakespeare’s plays, printed in 1623 (after his death), and only 233 copies of an estimated 750 have survived. Without it, we’d probably have no Shakespearean comedies, histories and tragedies as we know them today.

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is sending its exhibit “First Folio: The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare” on a national tour, with one stop in every state. The exhibit will be on display June 6 to 28 at the Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.

“Show Me Shakespeare 2016,” presented by the Kansas City Public Library, is a wealth of performances, workshops and lectures throughout the coming months, partnering with arts organizations around the region. A few selections include:

▪ Meet the Past: A Conversation With William Shakespeare. Actor Mark Robbins portrays the Bard in a conversation with the library’s executive director, Crosby Kemper III. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, at the Central Library.

▪ “Twelfth Night” Speaker Series. The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival presents a four-part series about its summer production (see below). 1:30 p.m. Mondays, June 6, 13, 20, 27, Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.

▪ Family Day. Activities and entertainment that bring the Bard and the Elizabethan age to life. 2 p.m. June 12, Central Library.

▪ Pop Sonnets. New York musician Erik Didriksen performs his interpretations of pop/rock songs recast as Elizabethan sonnets. 6:30 p.m. June 16, Central Library.

For more events and information visit

If that’s not enough of the Bard (and there is never enough of the Bard), Heart of America Shakespeare Festival presents his uproarious comedy of tangled infatuations involving a cross-dressing heroine in “Twelfth Night, or What You Will.” The free performances are June 14 to July 3 at Southmoreland Park, off Oak Street, just west of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. For more information and additional programming visit


Starlight Theatre at Swope Park brings in “Matilda the Musical” through Saturday, “The Bridges of Madison County” (June 14-19), “Bullets Over Broadway” (June 28-July 3), “Beauty and the Beast” (July 13-19), “If/Then” (July 26-31) and “The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” (Aug. 9-14). Shows are at 8 p.m. For more information visit

Theatre in the Park, in Shawnee Mission Park, hosts “Cabaret” (June 3-11), “The Drowsy Chaperone” (June 17-25), “A Chorus Line” (July 1-9), “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (July 15-23) and “Mary Poppins” (July 29-Aug. 6, a co-production with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, The theater is accessed via 7710 Renner Road, Shawnee.

If you have kids in tow, the Coterie theater at Crown Center Shops will premiere the live theater version of “Madagascar,” based on DreamWorks’ hit animated movie, June 14-Aug. 7.

Theatre for Young America presents “Jack and the Beanstalk” June 7-24 at City Stage in Union Station. .

Paul Mesner Puppets hosts “Sing Along the Road Again” in its performance studio at 1006 Linwood Blvd., June 21-30.

The Unicorn Theatre traditionally ends its season with a nontraditional musical. This year it’s “Heathers: The Musical,” based on the 1988 cult classic movie of teenage cliques and murders, June 1-26 on the Levin Stage at 3828 Main St.

Just up the road, Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre closes its season with the heavy-hitter “Parade,” June 16-26 at 3614 Main St.

Musical Theater Heritage at Crown Center has two shows this summer, in its signature concertized presentation. “Big River,” Roger Miller’s adaptation of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” was well-received in 2008 and runs June 2-26. The Tony-winning “Next to Normal,” about a suburban mother with degenerating bipolar disorder, runs Aug. 4-28.

New Theatre Restaurant selected Kander and Ebb’s “Chicago” for its big summer musical, running July 7-Sept. 18 at 9229 Foster, Overland Park.

Quality Hill Playhouse wraps up its season with a revue of American popular song in the 1960s and 1970s, “The Dawning of Aquarius,” July 8-Aug. 7 at 303 W. 10th St.

While not a song-and-dance show, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” comes to Spinning Tree Theatre Aug. 11-28, to start the 2016-17 season. Nedra Dixon stars as chanteuse Billie Holiday. Location TBA.

Music Theatre Kansas City, a showcase for young actors, is offering its first professional production, the musical “The Last Five Years,” about a couple falling in and out of love. May 26-June 4, Union Station City Stage.


Kansas City Actors Theatre launches its season with the Broadway classic “I’m Not Rappaport,” Aug. 10-29 at the City Stage at Union Station. Veteran KC actors Granville O’Neal and Victor Raider-Wexler star.

The Fishtank Performance Studio’s critically acclaimed one-woman show “Marilyn/God,” performed by Heidi Van, extends its run through June 1 at 1715 Wyandotte.

The Barn Players present the play adaptation of “The Graduate” May 27-June 12 at 6219 Martway in Mission. The theater advises viewer discretion, citing brief nudity. .

The Living Room at 1818 McGee presents “Bank Job,” a new comedy/drama by John Kolvenbach, June 10-July 3.

KC MeltingPot Theatre presents “A Soft Escape” at the Just Off Broadway Theatre in Penn Valley Park Aug. 26-Sept 10.

Everything in between

The 12th annual Kansas City Fringe Fest takes place at multiple venues July 21-31 with performances of theater, music and dance and displays of visual art. The schedule is not yet announced, but more information can be found at

Central Standard Theatre presents the Kansas City International Theatre Festival “The Invasion,” July 13-23, which expands to two venues this year, the Metropolitan Ensemble Stage on Main Street and the Theatre at Penn Valley Community College. Among the offerings are dance, comedy and two Shakespeare-based shows that give an imagined behind-the-scenes take: “Hamlet (The Notes)” and “Your Bard: An Audience With William Shakespeare.”

This festival overlaps with Fringe Fest, and this year Central Standard Theatre also presents a series of single-actor shows and collaborative projects with its British counterparts (July 21-31).