Perspectives staff // Spring 2012
Each night, for one month out of the summer, they come with picnic baskets, lawn chairs and blankets in tow. As the smell of kettle corn and funnel cakes permeate the scene, crowds gather in a patch of grass at Southmoreland Park to take in the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. To commemorate the festival’s 20th season, performances of Antony and Cleopatra and A Midsummer Night’s Dream will run for four weeks. “The festival has not done a two-show, four-week season since our 10th year,” says Sidonie Garrett, executive artistic director.
It takes a small army to prepare for each season. UMKC alumni, staff and students help with make up, costume design, set and stage building, sound design and props. Rusty Wandall, MFA ’08, resident sound designer at Webster University, volunteers as chief sound engineer. “There’s a lot of pressure, but it’s an exciting project that’s a joy to be a part of,” Wandall says. He compares the festival theatrical experience to a normal indoor theater, but with some differences. “It’s difficult for an actor to project his voice to 2,000-plus people a night outside on a calm night—add sirens, fireworks and helicopters, and it’s impossible.”
The event was the brainchild of Kansas City native Marilyn Strauss. She previously co-produced the Public Theatre and the New York Shakespeare in the Park event. Joseph Papp, founder of the New York festival, urged Strauss to return to Kansas City and continue the Public Theatre legacy. “You’re a Kansas City native. There’s no festival there. You made it in New York and on Broadway—give something back,” Papp told Strauss. “Do it now, make it the best and keep it free.”
Backstage pass »
Here’s a peek behind the curtain.
Season: June 15 – July 19
Operating costs: $339,000
UMKC faculty, staff and students participating: 45
Distance from Volker Campus: 1 mile
Expected attendance: 22,000 people
Production staff members: 60