For many people, the lifestyle changes COVID-19 has imposed has been an opportunity to return to the “good old days,” whether that means cooking at home, taking up some sort of craft or spending time in nature.
For the Kansas City Public Theatre, it means radio drama is making a comeback. They will perform the Spanish language radio drama El Amor que Mueve el Sol y las demás Estrellas written by Karen Lisondra with music by Amado Espinoza on KKFI 90.1 FM on Oct. 29, 2020 at 7 p.m. It will also “show” again on Facebook Live through the Kansas City Public Theatre page on Nov. 1 at 7 pm.
“This is our company’s first time producing a radio drama,” said Executive Artistic Director Elizabeth Bettendorf Bowman. “El Amor que Mueve el Sol y las demás Estrellas was originally going to be staged live in Spring 2021, but once the theatres started shutting down we needed to think outside of the box.”
Karen Lisondra, the playwright, reached out to the theatre group with the idea of producing it as a radio drama this fall. She and partner Amado Espinoza have collaborated on similar projects before and thought that this would be a great piece to make for the radio.
The fictional drama is inspired by the lives of Lenora Carrington and Remedios Varo. The story begins at their auspicious reencounter, during their exile in Mexico City: the Mexico of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the Mexico of the Popol Vuh and indigenous healing, the Mexico that provided refuge for Europe’s artists and intellectuals, according to the synopsis.
Surrounded by the “exciting and utterly strange” land where “even the trees were unfamiliar,” they begin to create art unbound by the masculine surrealist manifesto and towards the “true muse.” Nurtured by their immeasurable imaginations and unique friendship, Leonora and Remedios discover that the poetic journey between madness and knowledge lies in reclaiming their own feminine mysteries.
Inspirada en la vida de estos dos artistas, esta historia ocurre durante su exilio en la Ciudad de México. El México de Frida Kahlo y Diego Rivera, el México del Popol Vuh y la curación indígena, el México que dio refugio para los artistas e intelectuales de Europa.
Rodeados por la “emocionante y completamente extraña” tierra donde “incluso los árboles eran desconocidos,” comienzan a crear arte sin ataduras por el manifiesto surrealista masculino, más allá del subconsciente impulsado por el instinto y hacia “la verdadera musa.” Descubren que la poesía entre la locura y el conocimiento radica en abrazar su propio misterio.
The Kansas City Public Theatre office is located right here in Northeast in the Pendleton Heights ArtsBlock on Independence Avenue.
“For the actors, a lot of the same skills go into voice acting, but the main difference is how important the sound design is,” Bowman said. “The sound design is its own character. It tells us the location, it tells us how we should feel, and it sets the mood of the play. Amado led the creation of not only the sound effects but also the musical underscore and collaborated with other artists on songs that are performed during the radio drama.”
Some actors recorded their performances from their homes and connected with the director and sound designer through Zoom. Others came to the recording studio one at a time. There they had their own space to work that had been sanitized to keep each artist safe. The majority of the time spent on this project was from Lisondra and Espinoza after the performances had been recorded.
For the most part, all live events have been cancelled since March due to COVID-19. Only recently have there been a few live theatre performances, but they are very small scale. Bowman said this has greatly affected local performers as well as designers, directors, stage managers and other technicians.
“We are doing our best as a company to provide opportunities to work in a safe way, but until events spaces can safely open a lot of people can’t be employed in this field,” Bowman said. “We have continued our programming virtually.”
Their monthly program, Theatre Lab, has been moved completely online. They stream each performance on Facebook Live. Once a month, a brand new script from a local writer is workshopped and performed. After the performance they have a post-show discussion with the audience to discuss thoughts and ideas that were found interesting in the reading.
“Artists are resilient, and the ones in Kansas City are no different,” Bowman said. “They have found ways to continue to create even though we can’t meet in person. Playwrights are developing new scripts and performers are helping with that development through Zoom readings. Many theatre artists have found new avenues such as creating podcasts or live variety shows through social media.”
Although creating and performing hasn’t stopped, the artists are excited for the time when they can all be together again.
Kansas City Public Theatre provides access to the arts through year-round theatre entertainment free of charge to the public.