Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Hindu and the Cowboy…and others: free theatre at the Kansas City Public Library

Recently, I read Donna W. Ziegenhorn’s script called “The Hindu and the Cowboy”. While we are a country with diverse people, some call it a melting-pot, before things melt, before people mix, they confront one another. This dramatic tableau one-act play of drama and music will see two performances at our Kansas City Public Library with the first being tomorrow, Sunday at 2pm at the Plaza Branch.

This show, a production of the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre (the MET) and directed by Karen Paisley, sounds interesting. Set in present time, this post 9/11 atmosphere of ours, we will meet people with personal stories that have as a common theme the power of history and origin of us. How does who we were, shape who we are? How do we reconcile what we believe with what are as a society? How do we fit? How does what we do define who we are?

I think of how this living library of characters fits so well in the setting of a library. While each character seems to speak volumes about their life and stories, those stories reside in books and film, audio files, and downloadable text in our city’s library branches. Like this free production, the content is free. Like the free materials, we’re free to experience this with people and take that freedom to the street, too.

The script doesn’t sound preachy but rather expository. The characters do not possess agendas but instead long for life. Their motivation to tell, to expose and to be understood. Sounds pretty fair to me.

This is not a provincial city. This is not a provincial script. Ziegenhorn has written what she heard, interviewing real people, listening. There’s rich local authenticity to her characters, people from real local places right around your corner.

Great theatre transports you. Actors act to affect you by affecting themselves. The stage is a world but also a mirror. This reads like a wide-angle lens on our community, where you’ll see a piece of yourself while meeting multiple pieces of others. It will be a bit of a puzzle with pieces that may not fit together right now.

The Kansas City Chiefs will begin their stomp upon the Raiders tomorrow at around 4 our time. So you have time to stroll or ride to the Plaza Library to catch this play. If the pre-game snack preparation gets busy, pencil yourself in for the Monday encore performance.

This is such a cool city, this Kansas City of ours. Our library system, one of our community gems, continues to offer an abundance of programs that inject us with enriching food for the heart and mind. It’s an open forum, with beautiful public spaces that offer private nooks for learning and reflection. And this public space has theatre, too.

Go Chiefs!


The Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre and Festival of Faiths of Kansas City present The Hindu and the Cowboy, a one-act play inspired by the stories of Kansas City residents, on Sunday, November 7, 2010, at 2 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.

An encore performance takes place on Monday, November 8, at 7 p.m. at the Plaza Branch.

Among the stories are those of a young Muslim and his surprise encounter with New York City fire fighters after 9/11, an African-American pastor and the enslaved grandmother he will never forget, and the Hindu and the cowboy who came face to face over the fate of land.

The idea for the play was sparked by the Mosaic Life Stories Project, undertaken in 2002 by a group of volunteers seeking to foster interfaith encounters and promote the power of stories. The project encouraged people to share stories that have affected them in a visceral way.

A reception hosted by Saint Andrew Christian Church follows each performance. After the reception, the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre will present a preview of new stories.

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