UMKC Theatre Presents “Kansas City Swing”

Baseball, Jazz and KC History Make this Show a “Must See!”

KANSAS CITY, Mo– Baseball and jazz act as the backdrop for UMKC Theatre’s “Kansas City Swing.” The play takes place in the fall of 1947 as the baseball season is winding down, and tells a story of hope, uncertainty and an America on the threshold of change.

Directed by Tony Award-winning Ricardo Khan, this UMKC Theatre show previews April 19, 20, 22 and 23; opens on April 24 and runs through April 28 at the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center, 4949 Cherry St., Kansas City, Mo.

Co-written by Khan and award-winning author Trey Ellis, the story begins as the Satchel Paige All-Stars are preparing to play the Bob Feller All-Stars as part of a Negro Leagues “barnstorming” showdown. Across the state, the St. Louis Cardinals are going against Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Both are historic events; yet only one game is truly remembered.

A storm is brewing – baseball and America will soon never be the same again.

“If you love jazz, baseball and history, then these are all reasons to appreciate ‘Kansas City Swing,’ ” Khan said.

Khan is a visiting professor who writes and directs a UMKC Theatre performance every two years.  Khan also wrote and directed “Quindaro,” and directed “Train to 2010” for UMKC Theatre.

While the storyline is based upon factual events, the play is a dramatization. Khan and Ellis explore a variety of themes, including the eventual decline of the Negro Leagues, and racial integration, and Kansas City history.

“I want the story to move audiences on a human level, apart from the issues of race and injustice,” Ellis said.  “We worked hard at digging deeper than the more obvious issues of injustice to tackle the more complicated issues of the time.  Ironically, desegregation for some blacks was not the paradise they had envisioned. Yes, it provided tremendous opportunities for many, but it also destroyed most all the small black businesses.”

Jazz music plays an integral role as the glue that holds the themes together. Jazz composer and musician Bobby Watson not only composed the music, he is also acting in the show as the character Jazz Man. Watson is a professor with the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Khan gained inspiration for the play from several sources, including the 18th and Vine Historic District and in particular the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.  The Museum’s Bob Kendrick, executive director, and Raymond Doswell, Ph.D., curator, helped Khan research the topics.

“This is a chapter in our history that is rarely talked about or studied,” Khan said. “I am fascinated with the history of Kansas City and our roots. It’s another step in my personal journey to discover Kansas City.”

Cast and Artistic Team
Significant roles in “Kansas City Swing” are played by:

Bobby Watson (Jazz Man) A saxophonist, composer, arranger and educator, Bobby Watson grew up in Kansas City, Kan.  He is the recipient of the first endowed chair at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Michael R. Pauley (Franky Palmieri) is a second year graduate acting student. UMKC credits include “The Lady From the Sea,” “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” and “The Winter’s Tale.”  

Rob Karma Robinson (Satchel Paige) received his BFA from the University of Evansville and then an MFA from the National Theatre Conservatory. Some of his credits include “The Blowin of Baile Gall” by Boston playwright Ronan Noone and the world premiere of “Expedition Six” at the Kennedy Center.

Janaé Mitchell (Mrs. Hopkins) is a second year graduate acting student from Baton Rouge, LA, where she earned her B.A. in Theatre-Performance from Louisiana State University. Previous roles include Jenny in “Death of a Saleman” (KC Rep), Caitlin in “A Devil Inside,” and Hilde in “The Lady from the Sea.”

Ricardo Khan  is a director, writer, educator and Tony Award-winning Artistic Director. In 1978 he co-founded the Crossroads Theatre Company, one of the few African American theatre organizations to ever rise to both national and international prominence as a major professional regional arts institution.

Trey Ellis is a novelist, screenwriter, playwright, essayist and an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of the Arts at Columbia University.  He is the author of the novels, “Platitudes,” “Home Repairs” and the American Book Award Winning “Right Here, Right Now,” as well as the memoir “Bedtime Stories.”

Ticket Information
Single ticket prices are: Adult, $15; Senior (60+), $10; Non-UMKC Student, $10; UMKC Faculty/Staff, $10; UMKC Student, $6. Industry Night is Monday, April 22 and tickets are $10.  For tickets, call the Central Ticket Office at (816) 235-6222 or purchase online at (additional fees apply with online ticket purchase).

Previews: 7:30 p.m., April 19, 20, 22, 23. Opens: 7:30 p.m. April 24 -27. Closes: 2 p.m. April 28.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City
The University of Missouri-Kansas City, one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students, and celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2013. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TTY) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).


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