Group strives to unify performing arts in Midwest

This year marks the first summer season for the Baldwin-based Heart of America Performing Arts group.

HAPA director Lori Lee Triplett says the group was created as a way to unify the performing arts in the Midwest.

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Special to the Journal-World

Members of the Lawrence-based Bowery Dancers, from left, Kathleen O'Connor, Christine Scott, Ellie Goudie-Averill, Beau Hancock and Alison Mize, will perform Friday and Saturday as part of Heart of America Performing Arts' inaugural summer season at Baker University in Baldwin.

"We really needed to have a unified theater organization in the Midwest," Triplett says. "We wanted to unify all the performing arts into one organization. That really seemed like an element that we needed here."

It took five years to get things off the ground. HAPA was incorporated and received its nonprofit status last year, and in June 2002 staged "The Silent Movie" with the Salt & Light Troupe.

"In some ways, 'The Silent Movie' incorporates all four elements of the performing arts," Triplett says. "It's theater, but it also incorporates film, there's silent movie music played during the play itself and then there's dancing that occurs in it also. It allowed us to start out with all four elements of the performing arts in one piece."

Outside of putting on shows, the group has plans for other events, such as workshops, including a playwriting session in August.

"One of the things we want to do is encourage local talent in the region," Triplett says. "We'd like to do premiers of several plays next year, either with one of our troupes or in the season."

Triplett says one of HAPA's goals is to get involved with the community by doing co-fundraisers with different organizations every year. She's working on organizing one with area fire departments using the play "The Guys," the story of a New York firefighter writing eulogies for his colleagues who died in the 9-11 attacks.

So far, audiences have not been as large as Triplett would like, but she acknowledges that as the organization gets older, things will get bigger.

"Hopefully, with each show, we'll increase not only our crowd and audiences but also our presence in the community," Triplett says.

HAPA recently staged "Twain's Eden," a play Triplett wrote (with HAPA production manager Jeff McLaughlin) based on the writings of Mark Twain. Up next will be a performance by the Bowery Dancers, a Lawrence-based group of nine dancers performing more than 15 dances in a variety of styles on Friday and Saturday. A youth acting workshop will be held along with the performance.

For more information on HAPA call (913) 385-7775.










All events will be held in Rice Auditorium on the Baker University campus.¢ "The Bowery Dancers," 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.¢ "Over the River and Through the Woods," 7:30 p.m. July 8-12, 3 p.m July 13.¢ The Steve Miller K.C. Band, 7:30 p.m. July 18-19.¢ "Women of the Wind," 7:30 p.m. August 12-16, 19-23; 3:00 p.m. August 17, 24.Tickets are $7.50 for individuals and $5 for parties of four or more. For tickets, call (785) 594-8438.HAPA will hold several workshops this summer, including a Youth Acting Workshop, open to grades 3-12, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Enrollment fee is $10. For more information about upcoming workshops, call (785) 594-9439.

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