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Kip Niven, KC theater director and actor who played Phog Allen, dies at 73

Kansas City remembers actor Kip Niven, dead at 73

Kip Niven, a longtime contributor to the Kansas City theater scene as an actor and director, died on Monday, May 6, 2019. He was 73.
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Kip Niven, a longtime contributor to the Kansas City theater scene as an actor and director, died on Monday, May 6, 2019. He was 73.

Kip Niven, a Kansas City actor and director well-known as a booster for the local theater scene, died Monday. He was 73.

A founder of the Equity Actors’ Readers’ Theatre, he played Phog Allen in University of Kansas film professor Kevin Wilmott’s movie “Jayhawkers,” and played other roles in film and television during his long career.

Doug Weaver, a longtime friend and collaborator, said Niven helped anyone who wanted to be involved in the theater community become part of it. Niven was a strong union activist who was passionate about equity.

For him, that meant young and old alike could participate in theater, Weaver said.

It seemed that Niven made it out to see every show, big or small. Actors waited for the night Niven would see their production and they would hear his laugh.

“The most amazing thing about Kip — he knew every actor in Kansas City,” Weaver said.

“He was so full of life and joy.”

Niven was a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and KU.

Weaver recalled first hearing of Niven when he was an undergraduate in KU’s theater program. Niven was a few years ahead of Weaver and had moved to Los Angeles where he garnered some success.

“We all grew up wanting to be Kip,” Weaver said.

Niven was in films such as “Magnum Force” and had roles in TV shows including “Alice.”

He later returned to the Kansas City area where he directed and performed in numerous shows. He had three children.

About seven years ago, Niven approached Weaver about starting a a theater group. They formed Equity Actors’ Readers’ Theatre.

On stage, Niven was “a great actor” who gave other actors the chance to do their job in their performances, Weaver said.

He was like the “glue that held the theater world together,” Weaver said. “He’s going to be incredibly missed.”

On Monday Wilmott, who won an Oscar in March, wrote about Niven on social media.

“He was just terrific,” Wilmott posted. “We have lost a mighty man.”

Actor Manon Halliburton said Niven’s death was a tragic loss.

“Kip was a legend in his own right as a person and artist,” she said.

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Katie Moore covers crime and justice issues for The Star. She is a University of Kansas graduate and was previously a reporter in her hometown of Topeka, Kansas.


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