One of the first things I did when I moved to Kansas City was go to the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival with my family. I was still adjusting to life in the quiet Midwest, away from the bustle of the big city, and my family wanted to show me the unique and beautiful cultural offerings of Kansas City.
Last year, they were producing my favorite Shakespearean tragedy, "Othello." This year, I went back with my family to enjoy "The Merry Wives of Windsor." It was a magical evening and I loved of every second of it - it is a tradition I'm sure I will continue as long as I live in Kansas. It is absolutely free, they only ask for donations at the entrance to keep the production free and open to the public.
For the last seventeen years, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival has put on 21 Shakespeare productions in Southmoreland Park, a small park west of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Marilyn Strauss, the festival's founder, tells the story of her inspiration for bringing Shakespeare to Kansas City, "The dream for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival began in 1990 with a promise to my friend, famed N.Y. Shakespeare Festival founder Joseph Papp. 'You’re a Kansas City native. There’s not a festival there. You made it in New York and on Broadway – now, give something back, something you personally create. You can't beat the feeling, kiddo. Do it now, make it the best, and keep it FREE!'"
On a rainy night in 1993, Strauss' dream became a reality and her vision has reached over 450,000 audience members. Now, in its 22nd production, it continues to fill the park every night with eager Kansas Citians. If you decide to go, the show starts at 8pm but be sure to be at the park no later than 7pm to get a good spot on the lawn. Also, parking can be tricky to find so give yourself plenty of time. And ignore the people who leave at intermission, who knows why they are missing the great second half. The last show of 2009 is tonight, but I'm sure we'll see another thrilling production of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival in 2010!
Total Trip Time: 5 hours
Total Travel Distance: 32 miles