Directors at the Lawrence Arts Center don’t just want audience members to come to the Summer Youth Theater shows. With the Behind the Story Series, they want them to learn about the cultural and political themes surrounding the plots.
“When we do a summer youth theater, we’re interested in making it a complete educational experience,” Arts Center Executive Director Susan Tate says.
The weekly series, which is sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council, will include three panel discussions, a movie screening, a dance-off and a spoken-word competition, all leading up to the youth theater’s production of “Hairspray” on July 25-28. The programs will make comparisons between Baltimore and Lawrence in 1962.
“What we’re doing is connecting elements of the history of Lawrence on a national scale,” Tate said. “Part of our role is to teach the humanities, and we are acquainting our audiences with important humanitarian themes in a way that is both scholarly and fun.”
The three panel discussions will discuss the Cold War on July 2, civil rights protesting on July 9 and 1960s popular culture on July 16 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. each night. Panelists are from various universities including Kansas University, the University of Central Missouri and the School of Advanced Military Studies at Command and General Staff College.
The Arts Center will also host a Twist-a-thon at 6 p.m. July 12. There will be twist lessons and a twisting contest; a performance from spoken-word competition winners; clips from filmmaker Kevin Willmott’s new films" Jayhawkers," about the life and career of Wilt Chamberlain, and "Destination Planet Negro," a sci-fi comedy; and an outdoor screening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“We do this in part for our students, but we also do it because we want the parents to come, and anyone who’s going to be in the audience, because they will get more out of the show,” Ric Averill, artistic director of performing arts, said.
All events are free and open to the public at the Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.