The Topeka Symphony Orchestra heralds its 66th year of performances, as well as the final season for conductor and music director Dr. John Strickler, with its upcoming 2011–2012 season. On opening night, "Czech Mates" tasks the professional soundsmiths with transmuting the pages of Dvorak's Symphony no. 6 and Tchaikovsky's violin concerto into an aural spectacle. Ivan Zenaty, an experienced maestro who currently resides in Dresden, leads the concerto's melodic charge and waves his baton with fingers nimble enough to play cat's cradle one-handed. "The 5th!" unfurls an ear-tickling soundscape that includes Beethoven's Symphony no. 5, as well as Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem and Rainbow Body by Theofanidis. White Concert Hall sports more than 1,000 seats, allowing patrons ample room to indulge in the orchestra's acoustic delights or privately conduct their own shadow-puppet rendition of Amadeus.
Spurred by a drive to instill children with a love for the arts and to build their self-esteem, professional actor Miles McMahon helms an array of educational programs at Theatre of the Imagination. He and his staff of local theater lovers build on more than 2,000 successful children's theatrical productions through creative summer camps, acting and performance classes, special workshops, and birthday parties for performers in prekindergarten through ninth grade. Miles writes a completely new work for each class and camp, using the script to immerse students in a cooperative, creative environment while freeing them from the pressures of lead roles, auditions, and autographer's elbow. Staff members can also conduct Movie Star Acting birthday parties, where they shoot a short film with the birthday child as the star.
Roving Imp Theater & Coffee House—the only improv venue in Kansas—showcases the madcapped, off-the-cuff antics of improvateurs culled from across the U.S. and abroad. Comedic illusionists conjure one-act plays, making characters, scenes, and plots appear out of thin air using a complicated system of smoke, mirrors, and audience suggestions. The schedule changes as regularly as the star performer in a one-man adaptation of Cats, but recurring acts include Serial Cereal, an improvised sitcom that follows a family of wrestlers through weekly episodes, and RI Spectacular, a Whose Line Is It Anyway?-style game show.
Though it was once the sport of choice for the nation’s well-heeled gentry, croquet slowly found itself relegated to being a game played at family reunions with equipment found in your grandparent’s basement. Wanting to halt one of their favorite childhood pastimes slide into obscurity, the team at Kactus Creek Croquet Club decided to open up a six-wicket club specializing in these fun, less-formal games of American golf croquet. Greenery, a large waterfall—and the club’s namesake cacti—surround the USCA-certified club, creating a scenic spot for guests to learn the game under the helpful eye of an onsite instructor or hone their skills with an afternoon of match play. The club’s groundskeepers maintain the cushy hybrid bermuda grass to a fast golf-green quality with water supplied by caught rainwater, preserving the environment without having to buy pedal-operated golf carts.
The performance begins with Kansas City Symphony Music Director Michael Stern leading the ensemble through Maurice Ravel's 1919 Le Tombeau de Couperin, a four-movement orchestral homage to baroque composer François Couperin. Next, the evocative melody of Samuel Barber's 1947 lyric rhapsody for orchestra and voice, Knoxville: Summer of 1915, fills the air as Ms. Murphy narrates scenes from author James Agee's dreamlike childhood memoir. After a brief intermission for flutes of champagne and handfuls of de-sloppied sloppy joes (also known as Dapper Dans), Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 4 sneaks into the concert hall with the jingle of two sleigh bells, then erupts into a ghostly scherzo that builds to a solemn march before finally reaching a gentle conclusion with the soprano's bucolic, childlike warbling.