2010 Year in Review

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{Featured photo by Dafne Cholet, via Flickr, and used under a Creative Commons Attribution license}

Note: this article will be published in the January 2011 issue of KC Stage Magazine.

As I write this, December is drawing to a close. Writing a year-in-review, especially in December, is an interesting challenge. What do I include? Do I mention the Haiti earthquake in January? Well, KC Stage handles just performing arts, so maybe just cover the year in performing arts. But what constitutes performing arts? The 2010 Winter Olympics had performances. And what about the mid-term elections or the Wikileaks controversy? Plenty of drama there.

Other year-in-review articles mention prominent deaths. In 2010, we lost Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Lynn Redgrave, Gary Coleman, Dennis Hopper, Rue McClanahan, and Tony Curtis, just to name a few.

In the world of performing arts, there has to be mention of the Tony Awards. This year’s, hosted by Sean Hayes, had Red as the big winner, with six awards including Best Play. Memphis won Best Musical, while Fences won Best Revival of a Play and La Cage aux Follies won the Best Revival of a Musical.

Host Sean Hayes at the 2010 Tony Awards rehearsal. Photo by Anita and Steve Shevett, and courtesy the Tony Awards

There’s also the Oscars to mention for film buffs – with The Hurt Locker being the big winner, with six awards including Best Director and director Kathryn Bigelow being the first female director to win Best Director.

As for local performing arts, here are some of the highlights from the year:

  • January: While it technically started in December, January saw the official launch of the KC Stage blog. With over 2,500 posts, the blog is fast becoming the place to go to see what we can’t cover in the print magazine for time purposes as well as to see other arts coverage in the KC area.
  • February: Our top-rated shows were announced, as well as the launch of the Arts Council’s 2010 ArtsKC Fund campaign.
  • March: Carole Ries, our January spotlight, announced her retirement from Topeka Civic Theatre, and the Association of Kansas Theatre had March Madness, a festival of workshops, networking, and idea-sharing.
  • April: Shawnee Mission North High School sophomore Casha Mills won the 2010 Kansas State Poetry Out Loud recitation competition and traveled to Washington, DC, to compete in the national finals.
  • May: I attended the National Endowment for the Arts Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater at USC Annenberg, seeing 10 shows in 11 days and attending various workshops and seminars.
photo of my NEA Fellowship group at Balboa Island
  • June: Award announcements were in full swing; with the Cappies, the Blue Star Awards, the Charlotte Street awards, and the Focus Film Festival awards.
  • July: KC Stage once again covered the KC Fringe Festival, receiving nearly 100 reviews on our website.
  • August: The Missouri Association of Community Theatres had their own festival (Theatre on the Fly), and filmmakers in the area participated in the 48 Hour Film Project.
  • September: The Just Off Broadway Theatre closed until April for some upgrades, and ArtsKC’s new ARTunitites program was announced.
  • October: The first meeting of CinemaKC, as well as the passing of former KC Rep artistic director George Keathley.
  • November: Two classics were produced in new ways, with Aristophanes’ The Birds being produced with an environmental theme, and Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream being heard in the original pronunciation.
  • December: Our regular round up of Christmas shows and spotlight on Peter Bakely.

The Lyric Opera’s performance of Carmen wasn’t only the highest selling opera in the past 20 years, but also was the highest grossing in the organization’s history. On the other end of the budget spectrum, Shawnee Mission South High School – in danger of not having enough money for their season – was able to raise almost $20,000 thanks to SMS alum Peter Spears and an aggressive Facebook campaign that saw help from the local community and Hollywood alike.

Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s ‘Venice”. Photo courtesy UMKC.

Time Magazine not only proclaimed the Kansas City Rep’s Venice as the year’s best musical in May, but in December proclaimed it to be the second best play of the year. “And so, once again, it took a trip outside New York — to Kansas City, which happens to be my hometown — to find a show to really get excited about,” writes Richard Zoglin. “Though early in its creative life, the next major American musical could well be in the making” stated Zoglin in his May article.

KC Stage saw the premiere of two new programs in 2010: the ‘conversation with’, with our first one with Art Suskin in June; and KC Stage Live, a ‘play-watching’ club in the vein of book clubs, where we will pick a show every few months to have people attend and then discuss afterwards, in November. And thanks to getting plenty of giveaways for our now-annual Fringe Festival reviewer contest, we were able to start giving away tickets on a regular basis – many just to subscribers, and we were able to have our first audience survey in August.

So, that’s 2010 in the proverbial nutshell. Looking forward to 2011, we see the opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in September, with the KC Ballet’s world premiere ballet Tom Sawyer kicking off the season in October. Opening weekend (Sept. 16-18) will feature international opera star Placido Domingo and violinist Itzhak Perlman. KC Stage hopes to continue the ticket offers and events, and will be announcing our top-rated shows of 2010 in next month’s issue. And then the whole thing starts up again – happy new year!