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Hungry for experimental art in Wichita? This series may have what you’re looking for

hungry - sheldon mba dancing.JPEG
Andy Tade
Dancer Sheldon Mba performs an improvisational dance number as part of "Hungry? Have a Snack." The series lets artists showcase works-in-progress and get feedback from a live audience.

'Hungry? Have a Snack' is an informal, experimental workshop series that invites artists of all types to perform works in development and get feedback from a live audience.

Gavin Myers grew up in Wichita’s performing arts scene.

He attended Bishop Carroll Catholic High School and Wichita State University, where he earned degrees in music theater and dance. Wichita Children’s Theatre & Dance Center, Kansas Dance Academy, Music Theatre for Young People — he did them all.

Then he moved away to New York City, where he worked as a dancer and met his partner, Daniel Gonzalez. The pandemic brought them back to Wichita.

“We decided to come to Kansas to continue doing art and continue living without all the pressures of a big city,” said Myers, 28. “We’ve had opportunities to grow here and to see our community grow around us.”

Part of that growth is a new artist series called “Hungry? Have a Snack.”

About every two weeks at the Harvester Arts gallery near First Street and Washington, Myers invites all kinds of artists for an intimate, live workshop, where they can demonstrate what they’re working on and get feedback from the audience.

The events are open to the public. A suggested $10 donation at the door is split among the performing artists, and the proceeds from a makeshift concession stand goes toward Harvester Arts.

“You are witnessing the moment these beautiful arts are being birthed,” Myers said. “You are sitting at the bedside while people are exploring themselves and exploring different ways to communicate and to find connections. … Part of this is to allow creators to get an idea of what the next step should be.”

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Andy Tade
Performing artists, from left, Sheldon Mba, Gavin Myers, Daniel Gonzalez and Meghan Welch take questions from the audience during the talk-back session at the end of "Hungry? Have a Snack."

A recent show featured Sheldon Mba of Friends University, who read excerpts from his personal journal and then performed an improvisational dance.

Wichita comedian Meghan Welch tried out some new material, including a bit about breaking up during the pandemic.

Gonzalez sang two music theater numbers, and Myers performed a dance-mime act inspired by his first ride on a roller coaster.

Other shows have featured acrobats, acoustic musicians, magicians, playwrights, dancers and improv visual artists.

The atmosphere is casual, with an off-Broadway, underground art sort of feel. Audience members sit on folding chairs or lawn chairs. After the performances, the artists sit facing the audience for a question-and-answer session Myers calls “the talkback.”

“It gives the audience a little bit of clarity, but also it gives the artist the insight to say, ‘Oh, this worked,’ or ‘This decision that I made did not impact at all. How can I make this more available for the audience?’” he said. “We’ve been able to witness a creative explosion that left a lot of pieces everywhere, and we were like, ‘Oh my god, maybe not.’”

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Andy Tade
Artists (from left, Meghan Welch, Daniel Gonzalez, Gavin Myers and Sheldon Mba) answer questions from the audience after a recent "Hungry? Have a Snack" performance.

Welch, the comedian, joked before her recent performance that “Hungry? Have a Snack” offers a different setting and audience. And that’s good for her act.

“There’s not any PBR or well-whiskey drinks,” she said. “There’s wine, and there’s some figs over there. So yeah, this is a different environment. … People are coming here for a variety of art, and they’re not necessarily comedy people.”

Myers says the series benefits artists and anyone who appreciates art and creativity.

“It’s a low-risk, high-reward artist showcase where you get to experience your community,” Myers said. “We've had little girls present collages on colors that made grown men cry. We’ve had full community dance numbers that spurred out of nowhere. I can't promise anything in ‘Hungry,’ except that the next one is going to be just as amazing.”

For information about performing or to find out about upcoming shows, follow the series on Instagram at hungry.haveasnack, or email Myers at hungry.havea@gmail.com.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.