Missouri Repertory Theatre (Kansas City, MO)

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Two meiddle aged African American men at a table in converssation

Adolphus Ward and James A. Williams in Missouri Repertory Theatre’s production of August Wilson’s Two Trains Running, directed by Lou Bellamy. Photo by Don Ipock Photography

Missouri Repertory Theatre (MRT) serves the greater Kansas City area (both the Kansas and Missouri regions), producing classical and contemporary works annually. In addition,  MRT offers outreach and education programs, including study guides for teachers, school performances, and workshops.

In FY 2005, Missouri Repertory Theatre received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $25,000 to support the production of August Wilson's Two Trains Running. The play was performed at two venues in January and February 2005: the Spencer Theatre on the campus of the University of Missouri and the Gem Theatre in the 18th and Vine district, the historic center of African-American life in Kansas City. Performing Two Trains Running at the Gem, reaching nearly 1,700 people, allowed MRT to directly serve the African American community with a goal of building new audiences for the theater. August Wilson was able to attend the performances at the Gem. MRT gave a total of 33 performances at the two venues, including two student matinee performances.

MRT's Producing Artistic Director Peter Altman has a long history with Wilson's work, having produced the world premieres of six of his plays. Set in a restaurant in Pittsburgh in 1969, Two Trains Running examines the lives and struggles of a neighborhood's black residents. Performances at the Spencer Theatre drew audiences of more than 12,000 people.

In addition to the performances, MRT held four free pre- and post-production public lectures, a free public reading of the play at a church daycare center in the 18th and Vine district, and six in-school artist residencies for high school students. Matinee performances and related outreach activities served 14 area schools and 1,457 students.

(From the NEA 2005 Annual Report)