2011 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 2012 issue of KC Stage Magazine.

The edges of your vision go blurry as a giant clock comes in center, slowly going backwards, spinning faster and faster as we go back in time – back to the beginning of 2011, for our annual year in review.

2011 was a year of disasters and funding issues. There was the flooding and mudslides in Rio de Janeiro in January, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, our own Joplin being hit by a tornado in May, and even an earthquake in Oklahoma in December that was felt in some places in the Kansas City area (I know I felt it). Maybe the ancient Mayans are on to something after all and this is all a precursor to the end of the world in 2012?

Our blog notes column (and the blog itself) noted several funding increases – including nearly $400k raised by the ArtsKC fund, but of course the big funding issue of 2011 was Senator Brownback’s decommissioning and defunding of the Kansas Arts Commission – making Kansas the only state in the country without a state level government arts council, and also losing matching funds from both the NEA and the Mid-America Arts Alliance. This defunding also caused the regional theatre festival the Association of Kansas Theatres planned to be cancelled. In late November, local Shawnee Mission East high schooler Emma Sullivan posted the tweet heard ’round the ‘net as she tweeted that Brownback “sucks”, which caused Brownback’s office to go into overdrive. (When your story is reported on Boing Boing, you know you’ve hit Web 2.0 pay dirt.) Sullivan stated that the reason for the tweet was because of Brownback’s dealings with the Kansas Arts Commission and refused to apologize, defending her First Amendment rights. Brownback ended up apologizing for the situation, and as I type this up is even now rumored to be re-examining the funding situation.

On the national front, we had some fun in April with the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton, and some sadness in July with the last space shuttle landing. Late September, a small movement began in New York City that became known as Occupy Wall Street, which spread to other cities (including Kansas City), as the Republican party shuffled various people about for the potential nominee for the 2012 election.

Notable celebrity deaths included Elizabeth Taylor, Randy Savage, Peter Falk, Steve Jobs, and Andy Rooney. (Locally, we lost Karen Errington, stagehand Lon Moncrief, and Gary Holcombe.) The Book of Mormon swept the Tony awards with nine awards total including best musical, with War Horse getting best play and four additional Tonys. Anything Goes and The Normal Heart rounded up the major awards with best revival (musical and play respectively). In movies, The King’s Speech got all the major awards outside of Best Actress, which went to Natalie Portman for playing a nutter in Black Swan.

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter filming The King’s Speech. Photo by www.lancashire.gov.uk (Flickr: Filming Colin and Helena) and used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Locally, the big arts news was in September, with both the re-opening of the newly refurbished Just Off Broadway facility (with a great photo spread in our September issue) and the opening of the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. We also had the opening of the Kansas City Ballet’s Todd Bolender Center in August. On a sadder note, the Civic Opera Theater announced its closing. Meanwhile, the Leawood Stage Company was having a bit of a kerfuffle with regards to its amphitheatre and the local neighborhood, which was covered in our October issue. UMKC professor Zhou Long won a Pulitzer Prize, and Dr. Felicia Londré becomes dean-elect of College of Fellows of the American Theatre. KCYA celebrated its 50th anniversary, and the Coterie’s Lucky Duck production was brought to N.Y.

KC Stage once again had its fringe.kcstage.com website, and managed to have audience members post over 200 reviews during the 11 days of the KC Fringe Festival (you can read the full review of our coverage in our September issue). Martin City Melodrama went to perform in the New York Fringe Festival, and wrote about their experiences in our October issue.

I asked for feedback from our registered organizations, subscribers, and our e-mail lists as to what to include, and here’s some of what I got back. Theatre Lawrence was able to meet a challenge grant for their new theatre, which will begin construction in early 2012. The Actor Training Studio moved to a new location in April. The Mid-America Arts Alliance received $1.2 million from the NEH for their NEH On the Road program. Liberty North High School opened their new theatre. Jason Sudeikis headlined the Kansas City Improv Festival in September. The Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s production of Venice not only was nominated for 11 LA Ovation Awards, but is now on course for a possible New York run.

The clock slowly stops spinning, stays still for a moment, then starts going forward, faster and faster, as the flashback ends and we come back to the present. Happy 2012, everyone!