February 29th, 2024

come from away spotlight pageResidents of Gander and their ‘come from away’ guests share a rowdy moment in a past national tour performance of “Come From Away.” The American Theatre Guild started a Staging The Future program to help provide students and under-served community members the ability to experience live theatre such as “Come From Away” as well as access to education opportunities. Courtesy photo/Matthew MurphyELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


There are many young people interested in the performing arts in some capacity, and the American Theatre Guild has a program to help further that interest. 

“The American Theater Guild is in 13 markets, including in Wichita, and our Broadway touring shows all take place at the Century II Concert Hall. We're a non-profit organization presenter for the Broadway in Wichita series. We started an education/outreach program called Staging The Future, and it's really about working to put our mission into practice and implemented across our different communities,” Elaine Stolze, senior director of development and community relations for the American Theatre Guild said. “This program, at least in the Wichita area, has been in place for about six years, and across all of our markets, we started out with providing opportunities for underserved students and organizations that support underserved community members so they can have access to our Broadway shows, these high-caliber productions, and learn about the performing arts. We also provide educational opportunities that include master classes and talks so these people can engage with the cast members and others associated with the shows. We are absolutely thrilled to have been able to grow that program to almost 13,000 students, and those students are from communities from all across our markets.”

on your feet spotlightA scene from the upcoming production of “ON YOUR FEET! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan.” The show will be making its way to Wichita March 15 through 17. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The American Theatre Guild wants audiences to get on their feet with its next production. 

“On Your Feet! The Story Of Emilio & Gloria Estefan” will take the Century II Concert Hall stage March 15 through 17, with performances taking place at 8 p.m. Friday, March 15, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16, and the final show at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 17. The show is a jukebox musical based on the lives and music of 26-time Grammy Award-winning husband-and-wife team Gloria and Emilio Estefan and features several of the Estefans' songs including 'Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,' 'Conga' and 'Get On Your Feet,' among others. As cast member Kristen Tarragó tells it, there is a lot of excitement surrounding taking the show to Wichita. 

“I've been a part of this particular tour since last year, and I don't think the show got to go through Wichita the first time around, so it's really special to me getting to meet people who are really into theatre and the Estefans' music but don't have the chance to travel to New York or somewhere like that,” Tarragó said. “I think it's really cool to bring a show like this to a different town, and that area will also be a new experience for me since I'm not originally from there.”

american fiction spotlightJeffrey Wright in a scene from Oscar-nominated “American Fiction.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The annual Oscars ceremony is coming up soon, and in a somewhat odd turn of events, I’ve actually been able to watch several of the movies that happen to be up for Best Picture this time around, with my most recent viewing being for “American Fiction.”

I’d sort of heard of the film through the grapevine for the past couple months and had heard a fair amount of praise for it, so I recently decided to give it a view of my own. Based on the 2001 novel “Erasure” by author Percival Everett, it follows novelist/professor Thelonious "Monk" Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) who, frustrated by a lack of more mainstream success, ends up writing an outlandish satire of stereotypical "black" books as more of a gag, only for it to be taken as a serious piece of literature and published to high sales and critical praise, with rather interesting results for everyone involved. 

One of the movie’s big assets is how well it blends humor and drama throughout. The more humorous moments had me laughing out loud and with the more dramatic moments, it felt like my heart was being stomped on by 4-inch stiletto heels. And while more subtle (but something I still noticed), I also liked the movie’s message about how people shouldn’t be kept in boxes and how people should be allowed to explore and have a chance to go beyond whatever stereotypes they might be put into. Slightly less subtle – though still done in a good way – is the movie’s message about the public’s media consumption and how tastes have evolved (or devolved, depending on your viewpoint). Overall, I felt the writers did a wonderful job blending everything, and it’s a pretty solid screenplay.