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When you’re a theater company known for adventurous teen programming, living up to your reputation often means thinking outside the box and challenging yourself to present unique and surprising programs to your audiences. With the Coterie Theatre’s upcoming production of the award-winning Broadway musical Spring Awakening, the theater looks set to raise the bar yet again.
The show, with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by 1990s pop-rock artist Duncan Sheik, won an impressive eight Tony Awards in 2007, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The Coterie production’s promotional material says the show will deliver “raging choreography” and a “magnetic young cast” in this musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1890s play of the same name.
But why celebrate spring in September? For the Coterie, there’s a lot to celebrate — 2012 marks the 34th season of live theater at the Coterie as well as the 20th anniversary of the Dramatic Health Education Project.
Coterie’s producing artistic director, Jeff Church, said, “The more we thought about it — because the Coterie is really interested in the well-being of teenagers and we have a project that goes into the schools — it started making sense that the idea of giving teens information — frank information — matches up to the theme of the play.”
The Coterie’s Dramatic Health Education Project pairs dramatic monologues on being young and being HIV- positive with peer educator question-and-answer sessions led by medical students from UMKC School of Medicine and Pharmacy and the KU Medical Center School of Nursing. The award-winning program aims to present a balanced message on sexual health to 8,000 eighth- through 12th-grade students annually. Its intent seems the complete opposite of the prudish adult characters in Wedekind’s play.
“It’s interesting,” muses Church. “It seems to always shock people that not giving teenagers the information they need about sex leads them to make bad choices. It seems not very surprising, does it?”
The musical, a faithful adaptation of Wedekind’s original play, follows a group of teens as they discover and explore their own sexuality. As the teen characters experience their sexual awakenings, the adult characters are intent on avoiding frank discussions, which leads some characters to disastrous consequences.
The production is part of the Coterie at Night series, and the story deals with serious issues head-on, including abortion, child abuse, suicide and homosexuality. Church hopes the production will appeal to a wide audience, including Kansas City’s LGBT community.
“Anything to do with hiding sex from adults — or feeling like you have to — is of concern to an LGBT audience because of what it’s like to be gay, particularly in the heartland,” Church explains.
“A lot of the lyric content will refer to gay sex attractions. Not all the way through the play, but there are moments scattered through, and by the end of the play, you see that two of the male characters have come together. Of all the plot lines in the show that end in tragedy or serious choices that get kids into trouble, [it’s> the two gay characters [that"> are kind of crafty and make the choice to kind of separate themselves. So interestingly, that plot line doesn’t end in the mess that all the other plot lines do.”
A gay storyline from a hundred-year-old play is likely to surprise audiences, and Wedekind’s play seems truly ahead of its time.
“It’s always been interesting to me, you know?” Church says. “What’s fun about that is that the rock musical didn’t change that. That’s how it was originally in the original 1890s play that Frank Wedekind wrote. ... I think that’s the neat thing … It still works today.”
The Coterie production has a cast and crew of familiar names for Kansas City’s LGBT theater community. The production team includes veteran professionals such as Church and music director Anthony Edwards. The cast includes, among others, Steven Eubank, Shea Coffman, Hughston Walkinshaw, and a relative newcomer, Tyler Eisenreich.
Eisenreich just graduated from high school this spring, but he is already one to watch, gaining attention for his acting skills and winning the Starlight Theatre’s 2012 Blue Star Award for Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role as Jimmy Smith in his high school’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. The prize included a weeklong workshop in New York.
Of his recent successes, Eisenreich said, “Yeah, winning the award was crazy. I just went in it not expecting anything. I was just happy to be there.”
In New York, he gained valuable insight from the cast of NBC’s musical drama series mash — experience that he’ll be bringing to his role in Spring Awakening.
“The trip was awesome. It was a lot of work packed into six days with rehearsals [all day long">. We got to work one on one with [the cast"> on solos, and they really helped us with the acting side of singing a song. I got to work with Leslie [Odom Jr.">.”
Yet for Eisenreich, having Brian d’Arcy James, a Tony-nominated Broadway actor and current star of Smash, announcing the winners was the best part.
“That was really freaking cool to hear him say my name. That was really freaking cool,” he said.
As Ernst, Eisenreich plays one-half of the couple in the gay storyline running through Spring Awakening.
“He’s a younger soul than most the other characters,” Eisenreich notes. “He’s not immature, but innocent. He’s really quiet and [keeps"> to himself. He is gay, but that’s not said directly, but it’s assumed by Hä
Worldwide opera star Renée Fleming will perform in Kansas City on Thursday night, November 18, but the day before, she'll be part of a panel discussion for "Music and the Mind" — a conversation about how music affects the brain, cognitive development, healing and quality of life.
WHAT: Music and the Mind with Renée Fleming
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021
TIME: 4:00-5:30 PM
WHERE: The 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, KS, 66205
Music has a profound impact and the ability to shape 86 billion neurons in the brain for cognitive development, healing, and therapy. Science research has clearly shown that music therapy interventions can improve quality of life across nearly all neurological disorders. And there is tremendous public-interest in applying music to creative aging, childhood development, and community wellness.
But scientists want to know more.
Join soprano Renée Fleming and a distinguished panel of local Kansas City experts in neurology, music therapy, music and healing, and more for this cutting-edge discussion. Audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
*Please note this Music and the Mind Event is not a musical performance*
As Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Renée Fleming has spearheaded a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH, and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. This initiative has also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years.
As part of her advocacy, Fleming is also advisor to the recently launched NEA/UCSF Sound Health Network and co-chair of the Aspen Institute/Johns Hopkins NeuroArts Blueprint, both working to advance the field of arts and health.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call the Harriman-Jewell Series at 816-415-5025 to reserve your seat.
WHAT: Renée Fleming, soprano in recital
WHEN: Thursday, Nov 18, 2021
TIME: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
COST: Tickets from $25.00 *discounts available for students, educators, first responders, active duty military and veterans with valid I.D.
Pair a glorious voice with a winning personality and you have a diva for the ages. Renée Fleming is a longstanding Harriman-Jewell Series favorite. With her many television and Broadway appearances, Fleming has been embraced by music lovers of all genres.
Whether singing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Olympics, or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, Renée Fleming represents opera to the world. In addition to her numerous operatic performances, Fleming often works classic show tunes and the Great American Songbook into her recitals. Fleming’s trademark rapport with audiences will give her Kansas City performance a warmth that is personal and sincere.
Rob Ainsley is pianist for the recital. His diverse career as a musician, conductor, educator, and administrator has taken him to top organizations and colleges from coast to coast. He now serves as Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative. Ainsley performed with Renée Fleming in The Metropolitan Opera’s August 2020 “Met Stars Live in Concert” that was streamed worldwide.
ABOUT THE HARRIMAN-JEWELL SERIES
Renée Fleming's recital will mark the 977th performance since the Series was founded in 1965. From free education events that allow interaction with musicians and dancers, to our free Discovery Concerts that are open to the community, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues to offer life-enriching opportunities for its community's youth and lifelong learners.
Whether you're spreading truth, information, or love, traveling abroad for humanitarian reasons can have risks. Detained American journalist in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, is to be released from jail, and to fly home soon. But it doesn't always end well for every foreign national attempting to do good in a foreign country.
The missionaries consisting of sixteen Americans and one Canadian kidnapped by the Haitian “400 Mawozo” gang on October 16, is extremely scary. The gang has threatened to kill the humanitarian Christians if a million dollar per person ransom is not fulfilled. The group consists of men, women, children and an eight-month-old baby.
These missionaries have sacrificed their time and paid their own way to go to the poorest place in the Western hemisphere to try to spread God’s love and save some souls. In turn, the missionaries are experiencing a nightmare like they’ve never imagined. They’re imprisoned and being threatened with a bullet in the head.
Most of us will never get over seeing journalists being beheaded and tortured in Syria and Iraq by the barbaric Islamic extremist group called ISIL. Burning people alive and beheading others were too graphic and gruesome to ever be forgotten.
Years ago, I traveled to a third world country on a “missionary trip” with others thinking it would be a nice break. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
Sadly, the 17 missionaries in Haiti are undergoing a cruel experience that may end with the cost of their very lives. What are they thinking now? What is going through the minds of the little children who traveled to a world to help others and spread God’s love?
Haiti has been the site of years of humanitarian efforts. The United States and other countries have given billions of dollars to help Haiti. Sadly, hurricanes, political unrest, underdevelopment and extreme poverty have all made for a sad scenario.
How much money would the world have to give to Haiti to make life better for this nation? This is a question no one can answer because usually aid is a short-term solution. We spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and they aren’t any better off today.
Good missionary people went to Haiti with good hearts for helping others in the name of God’s love. They went to share a message they hoped would bring about change and better lives. They may now lose their lives.
Christians point to Jesus as the model for such missionary efforts. He came preaching and teaching in an effort to demonstrate and spread God’s love and it cost him plenty – his life, executed in public on a cross.
There are some Christians today who, like Jesus, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Did these men and women literally go to Haiti taking their children with them truly believe they could be killed? Would they purposefully do this to their children? Who convinced these people that such a trip with small children was a good idea?
My goal here is to simply say, think about such trips to places like Haiti. Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and numerous others countries are not vacation spots. Foreign travel may sound exotic and adventurous but consider the possible cost.
Many missionaries and Christian workers have paid the ultimate price in order to spread the gospel of Christ. Only eternity will reveal what their selfless sacrifice has meant to those whose lives they impacted.
By chance, if you decide such an international trip is not for you, don’t feel bad. Consider helping in an American inner city, Appalachia or maybe your own neighborhood. Service at home is needed across America.
Let’s pray for the safety of these missionaries and for those negotiating their release. May God help them and all who may consider such endeavors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a graduate of numerous schools including Georgetown College, Southern and Lexington Seminaries in Kentucky. He is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store, Minister's Guidebook: insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Glenn Mollette has been on numerous International humanitarian and missionary group trips. Hear Glenn Mollette every weekday morning EST at 8:56 on XM radio 131. Editor-If you need to tweak or do a small edit for you paper or website that is okay. Please respond to this email if you need a picture for this column. Scroll down for additional biographical info. Buy his latest recording titled "Black Coffee" on iTunes. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com
The Black Trans Fund, incubated at Groundswell Fund, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color launched the Holding a Sister Initiative, the first-ever national fund explicitly dedicated to transgender girls and gender-expansive youth of color.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and Bré Rivera, program director of the Black Trans Fund are together spearheading the Holding a Sister Initiative to bring attention and resources to organizations supporting trans girls of color, normalize concern and investment in their success, and create learning opportunities for cis and trans girls of color to move in deeper community with one another.
The initiative will award $1 million in grants in the first year, and will ultimately engage trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color in the decision-making process for selecting grantees on an ongoing basis.
While there has been an increase in donor attention to work led by people of color, it has yet to translate into significant gains in funding for trans and gender-expansive youth of color.
According to recent regional studies in Detroit, South Florida and New Orleans, trans women of color face higher levels of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and discrimination. At the same time, the majority of this year's record-breaking anti-trans legislation are targeted to affect youth, including bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing in school sports and the "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act." Research has show sharp rises in suicide attempts among trans youth during 2020 and 2021.
"The reality is transgender and gender-expansive youth of color require more attention, and resources to interrupt the staggering intersections of trauma and crises they experience," said Bré Rivera.
The initiative joins existing funding intermediaries who have been leading the work to resource trans communities and engage trans people in the direction and distribution of resources, including the Third Wave Fund, the Black Trans Travel Fund, and Fund for Trans Generations. As funding partners, the Black Trans Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color aim to expand and transform philanthropy's investments in trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The initiative will move resources to organizations serving and led by trans girls and young women of color. It will also amplify narratives that elevate the humanity, dignity and leadership of trans and gender-expansive youth of color, as well as the ways their experiences and contributions have been overlooked, minimized and targeted by oppositional and systemic forces, and larger social justice movements.
The Holding a Sister Initiative will be led by a manager, who will steward culture change through grantmaking, capacity building, narrative shifting and philanthropic organizing. The position is currently open for applicants.
About Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Fiscally-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) works to mobilize resources and amplify transformative organizing work to dismantle systems of oppression led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color. Grantmakers for Girls of Color openly invites partners and stakeholders to co-create an inclusive space in support of girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth of color across programmatic issues and geographic areas. Learn more by visiting Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
About the Black Trans Fund
The Black Trans Fund is a groundbreaking endeavor: the first national fund in the country dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans social justice leaders. BTF seeks to address the lack of funding for Black trans communities in the U.S. through direct grantmaking, capacity building support, and funder organizing to transform philanthropy. Learn more by visiting Black Trans Fund.