Apr 01

Theatre in the Park’s 2021 season gets under way in multiple forms

Posted on April 1, 2021 at 4:23 PM by Becky Burnside

Despite changes because of the pandemic, Theatre in the Park is proceeding with its 2021 season.

April will bring later-then-usual auditions for TIP’s summer season, and the virtual premier of a locally-created and unique show. In addition, the theatre has started planning for its long-range future.

TIP’s auditions for outdoor summer shows produced onstage in Shawnee Mission Park usually take place in late February or early March, but this year, they’re set for April 17 and 18 inside the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park.

“We really wanted to get as far into the year and into the vaccination process as possible,” explained Producing Artistic Director Tim Bair. “This is as late as we could move them and still have time to begin rehearsals for our first outdoor show which will open the first weekend in June.”

Other alterations to the audition process have been made as well. 

“We are going paperless,” Bair said. “Previously, those folks auditioning would have to bring 11 copies of their audition form with them. This year, all of our stage managers - one for each show - will have laptops with them, and the information for each person auditioning will be available to them electronically. No touching everyone’s papers! We’ve done them for quite a while, but we are also really encouraging video auditions this year.”

Everyone who comes to the in-person auditions will be provided with a clear shield face mask. 
“We really need to see everyone’s face that auditions, and hear their voice,” Bair said. “So folks will wear their own cloth masks when entering the building and anytime they are inside JCAHC, and then they can change to the clear shield mask just before they begin singing. We are also utilizing different rooms in the JCAHC this year, which will provide more space for social distancing, and we are limiting the number of people on each production team that will be present as well.”

The ongoing pandemic will be a factor in how many people are cast as well, Bair said.
“We are trying to be mindful about cast sizes, and are trying to cast with an eye toward exactly what is needed and not a lot of extra,” he said. “At this point we really don’t know what restrictions will be in place for the summer months, and we are moving forward with onstage distancing in mind. We generally see 500 or so folks audition for our summer season. I’m not really sure how many we will see (this year) We’ve not had many opportunities in the last year for participating in theater, so we might see more than usual because people are excited for the opportunity to participate again! We shall see” 

TIP’s Outdoor summer productions this year will include: “Mamma Mia,” which is on stage June 4 through 12; “Curtains” on stage June 18 through 26;  Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” July 2 through 10 with no performance on July 4; “Half Time - Gotta Dance,” July 16 through 24; and “Newsies,” July 30 through Aug. 7. 

Complete information about 2021 auditions can be found at theatreinthepark.org.

Audience at Theatre in the Park

But before the summer season gets here, TIP has a production called “Songs For a New…Now,” an original show in the form of a musical cabaret featuring brand new songs written by Kansas City regional composers and lyricists. 

“At the heart of it, “Songs” is really a showcase for songwriters in our area,” Bair said. “It’s also a way to highlight some wonderful singers! A quartet of singers will sing most of the tunes, along with a few special guests. The songs range from pop to country to what we will call “novelty” songs; much in the spirit of musical theater. Each will stand on its own. There will be a little dialogue mostly telling a little about the song writers and where the tunes came from, but the real stars are the songs themselves. A few of the numbers will have staging, movement, and choreography, but this is really about enjoying the music, lyrics, and voices of our singers. I think there will be something for everyone that enjoys exploring music!”

In all, 19 songs were submitted and 13 were selected. The songwriters come from all walks of life; from teachers, to a high school student, to people who love to write music just for fun.
Singers for this production are: Darcie Hingula, Kameron Cole, Maddox Bane, and Hewleek McCoy. Musicians include: Marsha Canaday (Music Director/Conductor), Blake Vignery (Drums), and Frank Annecchini (Bass).

“Songs For a New…Now” is Rated PG for a little colorful language. The show will have a virtual opening on Friday, April 23, and will be available for streaming thereafter. The cost is $10 per streaming ticket which can be purchased at theatreinthepark.org/songs-for-a-newnow.

TIP is also in the beginning stages of considering ways to improve its outdoor facility in Shawnee Mission Park.

“After 40 years in our current facility, it’s time for some upgrades,” Bair said. “Our world of ‘what is possible’ in theater has certainly come a long way in those decades! We are looking ahead and are in the beginning stages of seeing what we can do to upgrade our facility and still retain the spirit of TIP as it has grown through the years. We will always be a place that you can bring the entire family, and enjoy the talent of our local community on stage. There are some physical structure elements we need to address, and that will increase the comfort and usability not only for casts, crews, musicians, etc. but everyone who visits the park as a spectator!”

A public survey on this topic was sent out in March and received more than 2,000 responses, Bair added.

“Lots of folks were echoing some of the things that we are most interested in upgrading; bathrooms, parking, seating, etc.,” he said. “It was really wonderful to hear the comments from so many people as they reflected on their time at TIP and how much it means to them. The ultimate goal, really is to take us into our next 50 years with a more modern, and beautiful facility that can continue to provide great theater created for our community by our community and remain the place that families look forward to going during the summer (and beyond, hopefully!) months.”
Apr 01

No printed catalogs for May through August season – all programs online at JCPRD.com

Posted on April 1, 2021 at 2:51 PM by Becky Burnside

As usual, JCPRD is planning more than 500 great spring and summer programs, including classes, camps, and special events, but you won’t find information about them in your mailbox or in printed form at the Johnson County Library - because it’s all online! No printed or flipbook version of a My JCPRD Activities catalog will be produced for the May through August season.

The decision to make the website (JCPRD.com/Activities) the primary source of program information for the upcoming season was made after much consideration and was based in large part on the uncertainly of the past year and a desire to present the most up-to-date information possible. 

And if fun and healthy programs aren’t enough to motivate you to check out the website, JCPRD is also planning a series of weekly program discounts to be announced each Wednesday beginning April 7. See below for more information.

JCPRD has not totally abandoned printed program listings, because another part of the marketing strategy involves a four-page insert in The Best Times Magazine, beginning with the March-April issue, which came out in late February. These inserts will be the new home of printed 50 Plus program listings, with two months of that department’s offerings with a few other programs thrown in. The Best Times is distributed by mail every other month, and reaches over 60,000 households with residents over 60. The popular magazine will continue to carry regular editorial content about JCPRD programs as well.

You’ll also find an insert in the spring issue of JoCo Magazine, which came out in mid-March, telling readers about the Trail to Savings promotion and the fact that there will be no printed catalog for the upcoming season. That insert also includes some screen shots of what you’ll find at the website, tips on how to navigate, as well as a listing of special events for the May through August season. 

If you’re looking for 2021 summer camp listings, the May through August online program listings do contain a number of camps, but our 2021 Summer Camp Guide was printed and mailed in late January and you can find copies in Johnson County Library branches and JCPRD facilities, and all those listings are online at JCPRD.com/camps.

Follow our Trail to Savings promotion to save on programs!

It’s not often that JCPRD offers discounts on programs, but as a way to get folks used to accessing programs on our website, an initial two months of weekly discounts are planned, and this promotion could be extended.

Beginning April 7 and running through at least May 26, the promotion called Trail to Savings will offer several discounted programs each Wednesday and patrons will have until midnight that day, or until the programs fill, to sign up and receive their savings. No codes or coupons are required, unless otherwise noted. Find the weekly listings at JCPRD.com/Discounts. Remember, these discounts are good only on the Wednesday they come out!

Be sure to like JCPRD’s Facebook and Instagram pages for reminders about the discounts. Check back weekly because you never know which programs may be discounted next!

Apr 01

Molly Postlewait moving on to new adventures after 24 years with JCPRD

Posted on April 1, 2021 at 2:16 PM by Becky Burnside

In her nearly a quarter of a century with JCPRD, Senior Park Naturalist Molly Postlewait has gone by many names.

Some call her Miss Molly, others know her as Muddy Molly. She is also sometimes called The Snow Queen, the Queen Fairy, Mrs. Parker, Gigi, and Dee Dee the Decomposer. She’s even gone by “Jimmy” on occasion!

Many of these names relate to characters she portrays in some of the more than 200 programs she presents annually (that’s more than 5,000 programs over her JCPRD career).  If it’s all a little confusing, one thing that’s clear is that Postlewait has made a big impact for nature education in her job, which is based at the Ernie Miller Nature Center. Postlewait is retiring on April 16.

“When I started 24 years ago, I felt so lucky and I was hopeful it would be a longtime job,” she said. “I knew I had landed in a very special place and I am glad it has lasted. I have stayed here so long because of the people and parks. The chance to be creative and work in a team of talented people has kept me excited all these years. I had experience with caving and challenge courses, with yoga, and early childhood education, and storytelling.  I did not have the traditional education of most naturalists. It was my good fortunate that I could bring these skills to this position and I was given the freedom to develop programs that people enjoy. My supervisors have allowed me the opportunity to explore different program possibilities and be a little out there with my ideas. I hope that one of my contributions is mentoring and encouraging others to take chances and risks and try new things. Lots of my ideas have bombed but those experiences have helped me to help others.”

“During her career with JCPRD, Molly has personally developed over 50 programs,” said Outdoor Education Manager Bill McGowan. “She has a passion for writing scripts that weave together nature and history. These include preschool, school outreach programs, school field trips, scout programs, teambuilding experiences, adult programs, special events, and camps. Molly is best known for her wonderful storytelling and the many colorful and engaging characters she portrays in her programs. Her boundless enthusiasm, creativity, and hard work is contagious and results in countless memories for her program participants.” 

Here's a small sampling of the original programs Postlewait has created: Campfire Thrills & Chills; Whimsical Woods; Fall, Frights, and Folklore; Green at Heart Yoga; Lamp of Freedom; Animal Scene Investigation; and summer camps like  Amazing Adventures, Blast from the Past, and June Bug Favorites.

“Molly has a way of getting participants out of their comfort zone and gently coaching them through adventures of a lifetime,” added Outdoor Education Specialist Andrea Joslin. “She has helped countless people experience newfound adventure and create memories they will hold on to forever. She has also made storytelling a very important aspect of the JCPRD Outdoor Education program and has shown how it is a significant way to connect people to history and the natural world. Molly will always be known for her stories - her boundless enthusiasm can capture the attention of any audience member and inspire her coworkers and other professionals. “

Molly Postlewait with a participant

Postlewait may be the “teacher” for her programs, but she has also been the student, she said.
“I have learned so much here” she exclaimed. The staff is nothing short of amazing.  I enjoy working with the park police (who present interpretive programs in addition to their law enforcement duties).  I truly could not have survived without these incredible people. I have grown comfortable with handling a variety of animals. I have developed a love of kayaking. I have gained a more heighted sense of awareness of the natural world, and the importance of it for the wellbeing of humans.  

She recalls a story that shows just how important what she does has been to her audience members. 

“At one of the first fairy festivals, a little boy asked me to come see his fairy house,” Postlewait said. “Of course, I am dressed as Violet the woodland fairy. He showed me his creation built from bark upon a bed of green moss.  I praised his efforts and chatted with his mom.  She told me he had a traumatic brain injury and the doctor recommended as therapy for him to be outside and create things. That just made my heart sing; the work we do here is so important!”
She is also proud of an annual summer camp segment she leads which is affectionately known as the “Trail of Doom.”

“This is an off-the-trail tromp through the park where we go through stinging nettles, gooseberry briars, and lots of mud and muck,” she said. “I tell the kids this is an optional activity, and they don’t have to do it; but if they come, there is no whining or complaining and they have to help each other. It is a camp tradition and the kids love bragging that they survived the ‘Trail of Doom.’ I like for them to see that they can be miserable and complete a challenge. Good lessons for us all!”

Postlewait said growing up in southern Missouri’s Ozarks was a great training ground for her job at EMNC.  

“I used to just wander about looking at nature,” she said. “I grew on a working dairy farm so cows and farm livestock was what I knew. Handling snakes was a new challenge!  I have also had the wonderful opportunity to network with folks from all around the world through the NAI (National Association for Interpretation).  I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel and meet fellow park and living history professionals.” 

“Molly is a mentor to many other interpreters around the country and is highly regarded in the profession,” Joslin added. “She has won many well-deserved awards and has shared her talents through workshops and training, both nationally and internationally. Molly has inspired many interpreters with her true passion to test the boundaries of the profession by creating educational, meaningful, and fun connections to nature, history, and the outdoors.”   

Among the many, many awards Postlewait has garnered are the Fellow/Life Time Achievement Award, and the Master Front-Line Interpreter Award, both from NAI Region VI. She has been JCPRD’s Employee of the Year for her division twice, won at least two quarterly awards, and has been voted the Best Workshop Presentation at NAI regional conventions three times. She has also written articles in JCPRD and regional publications, and has made nature-themed audio recordings with names like “Whisper on the Wind.”

Postlewait’s retirement plans are many, and in some cases, even more adventurous that her work life has been.

“First, I am going on a road trip by myself to visit some people and places that were instrumental in my career,” she said. “My husband and I will go to the four corners area of the west to see Zion and Arches (national parks) and I hope to hike the Grand Canyon. I hiked there in college and I want to do it again. I plan to spend some time in Alaska and Colorado. I will be a grandmother for the first time in July, so that’s exciting. Summiting Mount Kilimanjaro is a lifelong goal that I hope to accomplish in the fall.”

Her other plans include biking Missouri’s KATY Trail, leading World Groove Classes, and presenting storytelling workshops.

“Molly’s legacy at JCPRD will live on through her programs, the people she has mentored, and the hundreds of thousands of people she has moved and inspired through her stories and programs,” McGowan said.