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Performing arts in Kansas City continue to evolve amid pandemic

Rehearsal at the White Theater
Posted at 10:33 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 23:59:55-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The show must go on, so the performing arts in Kansas City continue to find new and creative ways to adapt for their audiences almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the Broadway musical "Something Rotten" debuts at the White Theatre at the J next month, there won't be a crowd. Instead, there will be a camera.

"There'll be wearing a clear plastic face shield," Keith Wiedenkeller, director of arts and culture at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, said, "which allows the microphones to pick up their voices better and also allows you to see their faces, so it's a little bit of a compromise on our part just for the filming."

Many live performing arts organizations have opted for virtual performances, including The Coterie Theatre and UMKC Theatre co-production of the student-led "Brainstorm: The Inside Life of the Teenage Mind" that is currently streaming.

"There's 10 actors, and all of those actors performed their pieces playing all of their characters from their own living spaces," Carla Noack, a Coterie Theatre board member and associate theater professor at UMKC, said. "Then, this was beautifully pulled together by the director and the editing team."

Although the visceral reaction from a live audience is missing, some organizations say they're audience reach is wider now.

"Our last concert, so far over 4,000 households have viewed that concert," Clark Morris, executive and artistic director of the Harriman-Jewell Series, said. "That's a larger audience than we can get in any hall in Kansas City."

The Harriman-Jewell Series is considering what live audiences in concert halls may look like once restrictions ease.

"We'll probably be restricted in the total capacity as we work our way back to a larger capacity, and also I think it's very likely that we'll be wearing masks for quite a while as an audience," Morris said.

For now, The Harriman-Jewell Series is preparing to present a free live-streamed performance Feb. 20 by guitarist Jiji as part of its Discovery Concert series from the "1900 Building" on Shawnee Mission Parkway.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has turned some artists into entrepreneurs.

Kelly Main and Bess Wallerstein Huff are the co-founders of Show Delivered, which brings the performers to you.

"It is contagious," Main said. "It's so exciting to watch, because we are all desperate for community. So, when somebody has a show in their driveway or on their front yard, all the neighbors come out and they sit at the edge of their front yard."

From fire dancing to Shakespeare sonnets, Show Delivered offers a variety of performances from local artists.

"We are creative people," Wallerstein Huff said. "The arts has adapted throughout the centuries and millennia, so we are here to try to work through a new model."