Among the highlights of the upcoming Fringe Festival is a play based on true stories about people living on the edges of society in Midtown. Bingo on the Boulevard was inspired by interviews with an undocumented immigrant, female impersonator, schizophrenic patient, and many others living along the Troost corridor.
It is the work of playwright Donna W. Ziegenhorn, who also wrote The Hindu and the Cowboy. She says Bingo on the Boulevard was similarly inspired by real people living in Midtown ten years ago.
“The stories here spring up from the community itself,” Ziegenhorn said. “Through the play, I hope to open up a window to the actual lives of people who live in the area that’s long been known as Kansas City’s dividing line,” she said.
Actor Stevie Hertz plays a character called Rollins, one of ten characters who meet playing bingo. Hentz describes Rollins as a professional who can talk that language, but also someone who comes from the neighborhood around Troost, making him a person who can “go between many different worlds.”
“He stands out as the person who is from the neighborhood from the beginning. He has not moved to the neighborhood later in life, but he began in this neighborhood, so he has a childhood memory of this neighborhood whereas the others in the play do not necessarily have that perception of what the neighborhood has been and what it has stood for and the potential that it presents.”
Marcus Moses, the real-life inspiration for Rollins, says ten years ago when Ziegenhorn interviewed him, he had opened a restaurant in Midtown area after earning an engineering degree and working in the IT field for 12 years. While many people characterized the area as a bad neighborhood at the time, Moses found it then, and now, a great place to live.
“When you’re here in Midtown and you’re walking around the street, you can look at every single person and tell that they have a story; there’s something interesting about them even happening right at that moment.”
“Case in point. Saturday, we were going down Linwood and we went past the spot where they keep the ice cream trucks that deliver in the neighborhoods and right next to that there’s this tire shop where the owners are three young Mexican men, two of which don’t speak English that well and they use the third one to translate. And there’s a lot of people who you might call unsavory who hang out at the carwash nearby. And in the midst of all these situations, there’s a tiny little Chinese woman with a big floppy hat walking down the sidewalk with a suitcase. So it makes you think, ok, where is she going, where did she come from, why is she out here?”
Moses says he knows a number of people who left the city to live in the suburbs while their children were growing up and are now moving back as the area is redeveloped. For him, one important message in the play is that life around Troost is different than what they may have encountered in a less urban environment.
“I think what they will find is that the people who live in this neighborhood are people who are dealing with real issues in real time, so therefore they won’t have a lot of room for pretention, a whole lot of room for snobby speech,” he says. “That’s its beauty. Rather than being a place where you block yourself off in a little cul de sac, you just deal with people as you see them on the street and the pretention is gone.”
Moses says he hopes people will leave the production with the idea, “I really ought to live over there because there are a lot of different people, there’s a lot going on.”
- Presented at the Unicorn Theatre’s Jerome Stage, 3828 Main, on Sat., July 23 at 6 PM; Sun., July 24 at 7:30 PM; Fri., July 29 at 7:30 PM; and Sat., July 30 at 4:30 PM.
- “Bingo on the Boulevard” is directed by Elizabeth Herron formerly with New York’s Lincoln Center and Apollo Theatre. The cast includes Bob Allen, Bill Bergman, Pancha Brown, Glendora Davis, Kevin Elmore, Steven Haynes, Lynn King, Parker McCallop, Ted McKim, and Sam Salary.
- Tickets are $10 and available at kcfringe.org. A fringe button (one time charge of $5) is also needed and may be purchased at the door.
- More information