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Cynthia Levin: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

Photo Credit: Manon Halliburton

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Cynthia Levin.

Without a doubt, the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City offers one of the most unique theatre-going experiences in the city. According to their mission statement, the Unicorn strives to enhance the Kansas City community “by developing and producing high-quality, thought-provoking plays that have never been seen in the region.”  With an emphasis on illuminating social issues and providing inclusive stories which include race, religion, and gender identity, the Unicorn Theatre stands as one of the most preeminent theatres in the city.  Serving as the Producing Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre is our next panelist to be featured – Cynthia Levin.

Quite the fixture at the Unicorn, Levin has been with the theatre for 39 of its 44 years in existence.  During that time, she has served as a director, actor, designer or producer for over 300 productions. Reading through a personal letter shared by her on the theatre’s website, Levin’s passion for the Unicorn and the unique plays it showcases is apparent.  “The idea of doing or seeing something you have never experienced before is exhilarating,” she says, “and we want to share that with you.”  With this mission in mind, it is interesting to note that 65 of the Unicorn’s 324 productions have been world premieres.

Levin’s work in the theatre world has extended beyond the Unicorn Theatre on more than one occasion.  She has directed plays such as Number the Stars and To Kill a Mockingbird for Kansas City’s Coterie Theatre, a local children’s theatre that seeks to open the lines of communication between races, sexes, and generations.  She has also directed readings at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for the MFA Playwright’s Workshop. In addition to her theatre work, Levin is a founding board member of the National New Play Network, which is an organization dedicated to the development and production of new works.  She has also been honored with numerous awards, including the Pinnacle Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award, and most recently the Kathryn V. Lamkey Award from the Actor’s Equity Association for her ongoing commitment to inclusion and diversity. We look forward to hearing more about Cynthia Levin’s experiences soon as she joins our panel to discuss her role as a woman who leads in the arts!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit