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Open captioning available for ‘Miracle Worker’ production

Jessica Franz (left), who portrays Annie Sullivan in The Jewish Community Center production of the “The Miracle Worker,” spelled out the word “water” for a young Helen Keller, portrayed by Shawnee Mission South junior Audrey Hartwell.
Jessica Franz (left), who portrays Annie Sullivan in The Jewish Community Center production of the “The Miracle Worker,” spelled out the word “water” for a young Helen Keller, portrayed by Shawnee Mission South junior Audrey Hartwell. Photo provided

“The Miracle Worker,” which tells the story of the deaf and blind girl, Helen Keller, and her extraordinary teacher, Annie Sullivan, continues this week at the Jewish Community Center — enhanced by a new open-captioning system for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

William Gibson’s play is being presented by The Lewis and Shirley White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th St. in Overland Park. Remaining evening performances will take place March 22 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee performance on March 25.

The all-local cast includes Shawnee Mission South junior Audrey Hartwell, who uses hearing aids herself, portraying Keller.

With the open-captioning system, a transcriber provides live captioning via a feed from the community center’s sound system. Large white type on a black background is displayed on 72-inch screens placed on either side of the stage. Patrons also can read the captions on their smart phones.

“We’re especially proud to be able to offer this inclusive technology that will allow many more audience members, regardless of their different abilities, to enjoy this show about overcoming adversity and breaking down barriers,” Director of Arts and Culture Keith Wiedenkeller said in a release. “We’ve been testing this open captioning capability for some time now, and it seems only right to be able to offer it as a regular amenity for this show.”

Wiedenkeller said that while many other venues offer closed captioning that can be seen only by the person with the device, The White Theatre is the only area venue to offer open captioning, which is preferred by many in the community. For this show only, Wiedenkeller said, every performance is offering the captioning service.

Tickets for the play are $23 for the general public, $16 for community center members and $14 for students. Group discounts are available.

Contact the White Theatre Box Office at 913-327-8054, email, go online to or visit the box office in person from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays or 90 minutes prior to the performance.

Deadline looms to appeal property appraisals

March 28 is the deadline for residential property owners to appeal their appraised values.

“The state requires us to appraise homes based on fair market value,” Johnson County Appraiser Paul Welcome said in a news release. “We encourage residents to review their appraised values closely. If they have information that would assist in better determining their home’s value, please contact our office before the deadline.

“Residents should provide photos, repair estimates and other documents to assist us in reviewing their appraised values.”

Residents can call 913-715-9000 for answers about their appraised value or the appeals process.

Approximately 40 to 50 percent of those property owners who file an appeal will see a reduction in the appraised value. The reduced amount will vary for each of those appeals.

The appraiser’s website contains information that allows homeowners to compare sales of nearby homes “for a comprehensive look at how the appraiser’s office determined their property’s appraised value,” Welcome said.

“We are required to compare homes to recently sold homes; therefore, if residents wish to provide different comparable homes for us to review, they should have been sold around Jan. 1, 2018.”

Go to for detailed information and a video on the process. Under the Property Data tab, residents can search for their property to verify the accuracy of information about their home. The listing includes a tab to find home sales used to determine the appraised value.

Turn off the power for Earth Hour

From 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time on March 24, environmentally minded people will observe Earth Hour. It’s a time to turn off lights and computers and think about ways to conserve resources.

The city of Mission is offering people a chance to experience the event together, weather-permitting.

The Mission Sustainability Commission will meet at Broadmoor Park, 5701 Broadmoor St., at 8 p.m. when people can gather and socialize. At 8:30 p.m., it’s lights out for roasting s’mores and walking trails.

The city encourages people to bike or walk to the event, leave their houses and businesses dark, bring lawn chairs and flashlights, and come with ideas for saving energy long-term.

The area chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council-Emerging Professionals also will be in attendance. Additional visitors are encouraged to RSVP at Mission’s event page on Facebook.

Remembering Iwo Jima

Marines gathered March 9 at the National Cemetery in Leavenworth to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

The battle was fought from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945, in the Pacific Theater. About 6,800 U.S. servicemen, mostly Marines, died there. Many more were wounded.

Col. Steve Lewallen of the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College at Fort. Leavenworth spoke at the event.

Free weekend at Overland Park arboretum

The Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is offering free admission March 24-25.

The arboretum, located at 8909 W. 179th St., features gardens, sculpture and hiking trails, as well as nature and science activities.

Roeland Park hopes to raise $80,000 for police dog

The Roeland Park Police Department is trying to raise $80,000 to purchase the city’s first police dog. The money will pay for the animal, training, equipment and a police canine vehicle.

The dog will be trained in narcotics detection, tracking, building searches, suspect apprehension and crime prevention.

Find the GoFundMe page through the city website, Click on the notice about the fund drive.

‘Justice is a Decision’ at JCCC

Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan will speak about the justice system on March 28 at Johnson County Community College.

His talk, “Justice is a Decision,” will take place from 11 a.m. to noon in the Polsky Theatre in the Carlsen Center.

Harvard describes Sullivan as a leading theorist in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, trial practice and techniques, legal ethics, and race theory.

In 2014, according to his university bio, Sullivan was asked to design and launched a Conviction Review Unit for the new Brooklyn district attorney. Its mission was to identify and exonerate wrongfully convicted persons, and 20 were identified the first year.

A perfect ACT score

Scout Rice, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School, has earned a perfect composite score of 36 on the ACT college entrance exam. The feat is achieved by fewer than one-tenth of 1 percent of those who take the ACT.

Rice is a member of the varsity drill team and is involved with the Harbinger school newspaper, cross country and the International Baccalaureate diploma program. She aims to pursue a degree in the STEM field, most likely engineering.

Semifinalists announced for Junior Design Challenge

Four Kansas City area students will be chosen as finalists this weekend during the inaugural Junior Design Challenge at the 2018 Greater Kansas City Home Show.

The show, which takes place March 23-25 at Bartle Hall, is hosted by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City.

The interior design competition was open to junior high and high school students with each student being asked to design a room based on a theme and specific criteria.

After receiving 30 entries, the Home Builders Association whittled the field to 14 semifinalists who will be invited to Bartle Hall for the announcement of the four finalists at 7 p.m. on March 23.

The finalists, two from middle school and two from high school, will be asked to design a room for a client during a live challenge on March 24 with the winners announced the final day of the show.

The semi-finalists are Avery Ahlers, Katherine Kirby, Liz LaHood and Claire E. Vanderpool, all from Harmony Middle School in Overland Park; Heather Britten, Khadija Ceesay, Peri Johnson, Isabel Alyssa Pierce and Anna Scarlett, all from Olathe South High School; Presley Busenbarrick from Maur Hill-Mount Academy in Atchison, Kan; Brooklyn Griffin and Abigail Sander, both from Olathe East High School; Demitria Mateja from Lee’s Summit West High School; and Brooke Warden, from Olathe Northwest High School.

For show hours, highlights and tickets, visit

New park catalog available soon

The newest activities catalog from Johnson County Park & Recreation will be available March 23 at and in print the week of March 26, the day that registration for classes in the catalog begins at 8:30 a.m.

The free publication includes programs and events offered from May to August.

The catalog format has changed. It is printed on higher quality paper with color throughout, but contains more concise listings that direct readers to details at the park district website. The website, which is now the agency’s main marketing tool, has been redesigned as well.

Aqua-Tots Swim Schools opens in Olathe

Aqua-Tots Swim Schools has opened in northeast Olathe, providing swimming instruction and water-safety courses.

The public is invited to its grand opening from 4 to 6 p.m. on March 23 at Aqua-Tots, 11943 S. Strang Line Road. Activities include face-painting, giveaways, raffle prizes, refreshments and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Visitors can tour the school and learn more about its programs.

Aqua-Tots offers year-round swim classes for children from 4 months to 12 years old at locations around the world, including Europe and the Middle East. In addition, “Swim Club” is offered for advanced students looking to maintain their skills and increase their confidence. “Swim Team” offers a competitive experience for advanced students.

Plant problems? There’s a hotline for that

As the area emerges from an unusually dry winter, the free Johnson County Extension Master Gardener Hotline has ramped up to help residents diagnose problems with their plants.

The hotline is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. pn weekdays, excluding holidays.

Residents can reach the hotline’s master gardeners by calling 913-715-7050, emailing, or visiting in person at 11811 South Sunset Drive, Suite 1500 in Olathe.

To provide the best advice, the trained gardening experts need emailed photos or detailed descriptions of the problem or large plant samples for walk-ins — a branch 1 to 2 feet long, a piece of sod the size of a dinner plate or several leaves.

Dead parts of plants are not as useful as portions just beginning to show symptoms or withering.

Garmin Marathon coming up

Registration has opened for the 16th annual Garmin Marathon next month, which starts and ends at the headquarters of Garmin International, 151st Street and Ridgeview Road in Olathe.

The April 21 event will feature full and half marathons, a 10K and the Munchkin Marathon Family Run. Go to for course information, cost and registration.

Park system partners with Fort Hays State

In honor of its partnership with Fort Hays State University, Johnson County Park & Recreation has renamed one of the four multipurpose courts at Okun Fieldhouse. It’s now called Tiger Court.

Okun Fieldhouse is part of the Mid-America West Sports Complex at 20200 Johnson Drive in Shawnee.

“Fort Hays State University is excited to begin this partnership,” Tricia Cline, the university’s admissions director, said in a statement. “Eastern Kansas is a growing student population at FHSU and this new relationship is a wonderful opportunity to not only support students in the area, but also market our educational opportunities to prospective students and family members.”

Eggs will be hiding in Leawood park

The city of Leawood has scheduled its 25th annual egg hunt, which is free for kids 8 and younger, on March 25.

“Eggstravaganza,” begins at 11 a.m. at Leawood City Park, 10601 Lee Blvd.

Lunch and activities — including face-painting, balloon artists, and photos with the Easter Bunny — will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., when the egg hunt begins.

Boy Scout Troop 10 will serve a breakfast and lunch menu until 12:30 p.m. for cash-paying customers.

JCCC events focus on women in jazz

“Women in Jazz” will be featured in two free events at Johnson County Community College on March 28:

▪ Musician, author and educator Carolyn Glenn-Brewer will give an illustrated talk on the history of women in jazz at noon;

▪ The documentary film “The Girls in the Band” will be shown at 5:30 p.m. It depicts all-girl bands in the 1930s and ’40s and the hurdles those musicians faced and ends with a look at the Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival, of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Light snacks will be available.

Both will be in the CoLab, room 100 in the OCB building.

Art show and reception in Leawood

The Leawood Arts Council will present an art show and reception on March 23 with the cooperation of Gallery V Fine Arts.

The community event will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Gallery V Fine Arts, 4020 Indian Creek Parkway in the Mission Farms West area of Overland Park.

Green Lantern Car Washes set for name change

All Green Lantern Car Washes will operate under a new name, Charlie’s Car Wash, beginning in May. The name change honors company found Charlie Walker, who died in 2012. Customers helped spur the name change via a survey.

“Our family and staff are very happy and excited to be able to honor our dad, grandpa, founder and dear friend in this way,” Trace Walker, Charlie’s son and the current company president, said in a release announcing the rebranding.

The car-wash chain has seven Midwest locations, including five — Independence, Lee’s Summit, Liberty, Olathe and Overland Park — in the Kansas City area.

Company ownership and the core services offered won’t change, but customers can expect to see new logos and signage.

Compiled by Elaine Adams, Special to The Star