Known to many for his involvement in Kansas City’s annual Fringe Festivals, Kevin King, artistic director of his Whim Productions theater company, has been busy creating unique theater experiences for years. In October, when we celebrate National Coming Out Day and LGBT History Month, he is bringing a second year of Alphabet Soup: Stories from Queer Voices, to the stage.
King said he originally developed the theme of Alphabet Soup for the Fringe Festival.
“ At that point I was just thinking it would be a one-shot little playwriting showcase … all focused on LGBT life,” he said. “What I was looking for was a slice of life from queer lives that you wouldn’t necessarily see onstage. And maybe there are some intimate moments that broader audiences might not have even thought of.
“I was really pleased with the talent that came out of it. I realized that there were any number of stories that could come out of such an event. So I decided to spin it into its own stand-alone festival that happens every year. So this was the first part of the stand-alone festival, but it’s the second annual year of the festival.”
He said that it’s important to know that each evening’s performance will be a recurrence of the six plays, unlike a festival that has different performances each night.
The advantages of holding the plays outside of the Fringe Festival, King said, were that he could stage them during LGBT History Month and that he could offer longer performances.
“I was able to put in more works and the pieces themselves could be longer than 10 minutes,” he said.
• “Peggy and Paul at the Post Office in Provincetown,” by David Wayne Reed – Two Provincetown locals passin’ time in a post office.
• “Mannford & Son,” by Cynthia Hardeman – A drag queen visits his father in the hospital while in full drag.
• “Failed Seduction,” by Jamie Mayo – A storytelling performance piece about lesbian flirtations in college.
• “Boys Suck,” by Jesse Ray Metcalf – A look at the classic summer camp romance.
• “Lesbian Potluck,” by Diane Hightower – A look at the politics of lesbian potlucks.
• “To Boldly Go,” by Kevin King – A peek inside a bathhouse steam room.
“We’ve got a really great group,” he said. “… The directors are doing their own casting and direction for their plays. I’ll see that for the first time altogether in a couple of weeks before we open.”
Other shows from Whim Productions have been Heaven So Far in 2011 and Flowers in the Wardrobe in 2014. King’s work has also been featured in Kansas City’s inaugural One-Minute Play Festival in 2016 and 12 Plays of Christmas at the Fishtank Performance Studio in 2013.
Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residency
Recently, King was selected to be part of the 2016-17 Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residency program, which offers free studio space, rehearsal space, and other supports to the 30 visual artists, writers and performing artists who are selected.
Five other writers were also selected this year, and King said he was really honored to be in that group. He will be writing new plays and developing his existing work.
In his Charlotte Street application, King said, he was asked for projects he’s working on. He told them about his full-length play that explores the dynamics of a May-December relationship between gay men, focusing on a man in his 40s who is dating a man in his 20s.
“We didn’t necessarily have to have something in the works, but they were definitely interested in what you planned on working on during the residency. Their focus is on helping build and to develop the artist, as well as new works. So this was something I was actively working on and was going to continue to work on.”
King said he has been seeing a lot more young gay men recently who are interested in dating older gay men.
“I know when I was in my early 20s, the idea of dating someone who was older wouldn’t necessarily have crossed my mind,” he said. “But that is not necessarily the case anymore.”
‘Dirty Birdie Story Hour’
Whim Productions is also producing Dirty Birdie Story Hour, a monthly feature at the Buffalo Room. Susanna Lee (aka Lucky DeLuxe) has moved back to Kansas City from Los Angeles and will bring this show with her. She’s familiar to many from her work with the Kansas City Fringe Festival,
King’s press release said that Lee’s career spans the worlds of standup, storytelling, writing, burlesque artistry, yoga instruction, and sex work. She’s always taken a shine to all things outside the box. In 2014, she was the creator, co-executive producer, and host of a web series (“that no one watched,” she says) called Peeping Comics, filmed in the only remaining traditional peepshow in Los Angeles. In the show, she interviewed fellow comedians about their personal deviance, while at the same time giving them a fully nude peepshow. Her favorite part of the experience (besides showing her tits to her far-more-successful colleagues) was hearing the stories, so when the opportunity presented itself do a live show, Dirty Birdie Story Hour was born.
King said, “Dirty Birdie Story Hour is a celebration of deviance of all kinds. It’s a naughty evening of personal stories, like a version of The Moth [radio show] that will make your mother blush and may make your grandmother want to slap you.”
Lee has actors and other local personalities sharing some of their darkest secrets, ranging from tales of petty larceny and sexcapades to the time they stole their brother’s inhaler to huff paint fumes (don’t try it). Lee hosts the show and also shares tales from her treasure trove of deviant experiences.
King said that both he and David Wayne Reed will be among the storytellers for Lee’s shows.
He met Lee through a burlesque show. “I met Susanna backstage around 2009, I think, and I fell in love with her back then.” Since she has moved back to Kansas City, he said, “I told her that I would love to produce these shows for her. I’m very excited that she’s back.”
Whim Productions is also sponsoring a screening of Upstairs Inferno, a powerful documentary about the 1973 arson at the Up Stairs Lounge in New Orleans. The film is being presented by Kansas City International Film Festival on Nov. 6 at the Glenwood Arts theater in Overland Park.
King said, “It’s a huge shame that many people don’t know about that fire, which was the largest mass murder of gay people in U.S. history until the Orlando shooting.”
Even with all the events he’s producing, theater is not a full-time job for King, 43. He has lived in Kansas City for about 10 years and works with his company, Kevin King LLC, as a software consultant for PeopleSoft, a company that specializes in software for human resources and finance. He is a native of Kansas and grew up in the Topeka area. He went to college at Washburn University, then attended the University of Kansas.
King said he was part of the group that changed the name of the KU campus LGBT organization to Queers and Allies. “That’s where I really started to develop a queer identity,” he said.
Alphabet Soup: Stories from Queer Voices
MTH Theater, Stage 2, third floor of Crown Center.
Shows at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7-8, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9
Doors open 30 minutes before the show.
Tickets are $15 (plus a $2.75 ticketing fee). Tickets may be purchased at www.whimproductions.com and at the door. Parental guidance is suggested.
Dirty Birdie Story Hour
Sept. 27, Oct. 25, Nov. 22 at the Buffalo Room, 817 Westport Rd., Kansas City, Mo.
Showtime 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30.
Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at www.dirtybirdiestoryhour.com.