Performing Arts

Kansas City’s Fishtank Performance Studio expands its horizons

Heidi Van and Peregrine Honig share a new space called the White Room at the Fishtank Performance Studio.
Heidi Van and Peregrine Honig share a new space called the White Room at the Fishtank Performance Studio.

Adventurous theatergoers know what to expect at the Fishtank Performance Studio: inventive material and an environment so intimate that actors could easily sit on a viewer’s lap if inspired to do so.

Heidi Van — actor, director and performance artist — has been the Fishtank’s curator for six years. During that time she has established the small nonprofit company at 1715 Wyandotte St. as a place where playwrights can develop and try out work. And it has become an important venue during KC Fringe, the annual summer festival that showcases new theater, music and visual arts.

Van has also produced “window shows” — performances in the theater’s big picture window facing Wyandotte — and performances on the sidewalk in front of the theater. And she has co-produced projects with UMKC Theatre.

Until recently, Van’s office was any place she could set up her laptop. But that changed in September when she moved into the White Room, an office space near the little theater’s green room that she shares with artist Peregrine Honig, whose lingerie boutique is just around the corner from the Fishtank.

“Before I had a theater and a storage room, but now I have a place I can actually work,” Van said.

She described the White Room as more than an office, calling it a space for collaboration, planning and “creative conversations.”

In January the Fishtank took over a 2,000-square- foot rehearsal studio upstairs from the theater. She has dubbed it the Aquarium. Van said she acquired the space after agreeing to a new lease arrangement with artist David Ford, the building’s owner. By essentially being the rental agent for the upstairs studio, Van said, it could become a revenue producer for the Fishtank.

“I have been reaching out to other groups to utilize it for its best potential,” she said. “Right now (composer) Daniel Doss is up there workshopping a new musical.”

Van received a seed grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and has applied for a second $20,000 grant from the foundation through its technical assistance program.

“Material performed at the Fishtank is fresh, its content progressive, its writers and performers committed to the aesthetic of risk-taking and failure,” Van wrote in her grant application. “Producing and presenting raw material keeps the space activated and prepares local audiences for international artwork and ideas.”

The upstairs space is equipped with a bathroom and shower, and Van said one goal is to create an actual bedroom or mini-apartment with an eye to artistic residencies.

Check out the Fishtank’s website at fishtanktheater.blogspot.com.

New show at Just Off Broadway

“Truth Stands,” a new play by Cynthia Hardeman, opened recently at Just Off Broadway. The MeltingPotKC production is a story of estranged siblings who find each other through music and their love of hip-hop at the “intersection of addiction, family, hopes and dreams.”

The show is directed by Jacqueline Gafford and features Petey McGee, Shawna Pena-Downing, “Brother John” Anderson and Sherri Roulette-Mosley. It runs through Feb 21. Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com/event/961953.

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