On Stage

KMUW commentator Sanda Moore Coleman looks behind the curtain to give listeners (and play goers) a bit of history and perspective.

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She has been known as Katie Woodencloak, Aschenputtel, Cendrillon, and of course, Cinderella. Her rags-to-riches story has been told in books, stage, film, television, opera and ballet. There are versions of it from all over the world. The popular French version of the tale, written by Charles Perrault, is best known for supplementing the narrative with such details as the pumpkin-turned-coach, the slippers made of glass and the fairy godmother.

Mkleine / Wikimedia Commons / GNU Free Documentation License

Theatre loves an old chestnut. Revivals of audience favorites are a never-ending source of stage entertainment. Playwrights from William Shakespeare to Noel Coward to Tennessee Williams to Neil Simon reliably draw audiences who enter comfortably into the production like putting on a well worn slipper.

huntingtontheatreco / Flickr / Creative Commons

Christopher Durang is an actor and playwright known mainly for his satires, parodies and dark comedies. His first professional production, co-written with fellow student Albert Innaurato, was a parody titled The Idiots Karamazov for the Yale Repertory Theatre. It starred another student, Meryl Streep, in the role of Constance Garnett.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Satire has long been a tool of social and political commentary. Many contemporary critics point to the Greek playwright Aristophanes as the most famous of the early satirists. He used his considerable skills to attack powerful figures in fifth-century BC Greek society, including Cleon, a statesman and general during the Peloponnesian War, who was depicted by Aristophanes as a war-mongering demagogue.

Tracy Letts was born in Oklahoma in 1965, and his experiences growing up there inspired his Tony-and-Pulitzer-Prize-winning play, August: Osage County.

It is the story of a damaged family, led by an abusive, drug-addicted matriarch, who was based on Letts’ own maternal grandmother. Letts told the New York Times that after he gave the script to his mother to read, she remarked, “You have been very kind to my mother.”

If your familiarity with cabaret is restricted to a sad Liza Minnelli in a bowler hat, you should be pleased to discover that this type of entertainment is almost certain to be a happier experience.

The cabaret is European in origin, although every country produces its own particular version. It may include song, dance, instrumental, comedy, political satire, juggling and even drama, but the venue is usually a restaurant or nightclub, the content is almost always for mature audiences, and the entertainment is led by an emcee.

huntingtontheatreco (image cropped) / Flickr / Creative Commons

William Inge was born in the small town of Independence, Kan. in 1913, and is almost certainly our best-known playwright from the Sunflower State.

He first attracted notice with “Come Back, Little Sheba,” which won him the title of Most Promising Playwright of Broadway’s 1950 season. It was later adapted for film, starring Shirley Booth and Burt Lancaster.

Inge won a Pulitzer Prize for “Picnic,” which opened in New York City in 1953. It was later adapted for film starring William Holden, Kim Novak and Rosalind Russell.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

We are lucky to live in a city that supports a number and a variety of theatres—whether you’re looking for burlesque or stand-up comedy, children’s shows or improv, musical or opera, tragedy or comedy, melodrama or revue, professional or student or community, the chances are good you can find it on stage in Wichita.

And of the literally hundreds of crew members, cast members, administration and staff who are hard at work at producing entertainment for us, a very few are paid to do this work. And it is hard work, done mostly out of love for the art.


Disney is well known for taking the fairytales of our childhood, sweetening them, and turning them into animated musical extravaganzas for children. Beauty and the Beast was originally a French tale, written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, but it has been translated and retold almost from the moment it first appeared in print in 1756.

Google Images / Creative Commons

  Looking for an antidote to the typical holiday entertainment fare? Consider a musical comedy that celebrates the simple pleasures of beer and sports while contemplating life’s deeper meanings. Guys on Ice takes place in an ice-fishing shack in Wisconsin. The book and lyrics are by Fred Alley, with music by James Kaplan.