On Friday, August 24th, the KC Public Theatre held its season opening party and fundraiser. It was a delight to see Scott Cox’s And God Did Shake the Pear – Shakespeare for Everyday Living as part of the evening. A favorite of the Kansas City Fringe 2018, this is a one man show that delves into what makes Shakespeare beautiful, adding humor, as well as Cox’s experience in teaching Shakespeare to students in education and the prison system. His show is a beacon of hope for a better future, that words and creating theatre together can change minds and resolve differences. Though it has its serious underpinning, this is most definitely a comedy, interspersed with a mermaid puppet playing the role of his mother and reading from a phone book. This show has been featured around the Kansas City area as a Fringe showcase, so please see it if you can. It is a beautiful and moving work, and a perfect choice for an evening dedicated to raising funds for a theatre company dedicated to bringing live and free theatre to the Kansas City area.
I am a big fan of the KC Public and their mission. This season, their two big main stage shows are written by women, Lindsay Adams and Prisca Jebet Kendagor, so already they are out performing many theatres in their parity for women in writing. This is in addition to their First Mondays and KC Voices opportunities to allow access to those who may not have had their voices or work heard before. In an act that fits with the core of their mission, KC Public is developing a work about an aging drag queen and staging it as at Missy B’s, a truly iconic and perfect location for that type of script.
As the Artistic and Producing Directors, Elizabeth Bettendorf Bowman and Nathan Bowman, explained during the evening, their goal is to bring theatre to the public, while keeping it in a local setting. As they stated, their plays won’t take place in an ‘apartment in Manhattan’, but be central to the look and feel of Kansas City and its stories.
We are living in a time when theatre can cost someone an average of $123 on Broadway and $38.00 average for regional theatre (Statista). In addition to the cost of theatre, as Scott Cox explained in his show, if your last experience with Shakespeare is from ‘Chad reading it in 9th grade you’re going to be turned off by it.’ Too often, theatre is a mandatory school assignment as part of an English class, and it comes off as boring. Then, when someone has left school, access to theatre is expensive and inaccessible. Theatre is so vitally important, now more than ever, whether working with children, prisoners, middle class, or marginalized communities. But it must be accessible and available to everyone, and not behind a paywall or behind a misconception that it is only for the most intellectual. Theatre should be free and available, so I hope the Kansas City theatre community does their best to support and fund this truly unique and brave endeavor that the Kansas City Public is creating. It is desperately needed, and if they succeed, as I believe they will, they can create a blueprint for other theatres and organizations across the country.