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'The best kept secret in Johnson County’

The Leawood Stage Company promotes community, theatre and volunteerism

For one tight-knit group of thespians, theatre is about more than just the performances — it’s about making a positive impact on the community.

As a community theatre group based in Leawood, The Leawood Stage Company has a mission to enhance the quality of life for residents and those in surrounding areas through its theatrical productions, educational programming and engagement opportunities. Michael Blinn, chair of The Leawood Stage Company board of directors, said the group provides an opportunity for people to express themselves while entertaining and interacting with the community.

“I think we have a lot of very talented people in the city that love doing community theatre, so it’s an outlet for them,” he said. “We do pull people from all over the city, it’s not just Leawood itself; that’s one of the things I love about it, it’s all inclusive to Kansas City.”

The Leawood Stage Company has worked in partnership with the City of Leawood and the Leawood Parks and Recreation Department since 1998, presenting theatrical productions and programming each year. Backed by the casts, musicians and other volunteers who work to make each show successful, the stage company enhances the lives
of approximately 10,000 audience members annually.

“The cool thing is, we’re all volunteers,” Blinn said. “None of us get paid to do any of this; it’s all a volunteer effort.”

The stage company welcomes all volunteers — those interested in painting, building sets, costumes, behind the scenes work, being on a committee, performing or even selling concessions.

“When you volunteer you get to see the show … and be a part of the family,” Blinn said.

Without an official location, the stage company performs in a handful of venues, including the Lodge at Ironwoods Park and at the Ironwoods Amphitheater.

“We’re a faction of the city and we don’t really have a theatre that we call home,” he said. “We’re trying to find a permanent home for us.”

Community engagement is a vital part of the stage company’s mission and vision. The group provides fundraising opportunities for organizations like the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and Kansas KC Metro Animal Response Team by taking donations and providing tickets for their silent auctions.

“We’ve also done events like “Pooch Paint” where you can bring your dog and make a painting with their paws and the proceeds to go to help others,” Blinn said.

The stage company has donated dollars and organized toy drives at events for CASA. For a performance of “The Nuncrackers” musical in 2019, theatre guests brought
more than 100 toys to donate to the organization.

“I couldn’t tell you how many boxes of toys we had; we filled up my jeep, that’s for sure,” Blinn said. “We just like doing things for other groups as well. I think it’s important that we give back.”

For so many involved, the Leawood Stage Company feels like family.

“My favorite part: it’s opening night and (you see) all the hard work you put into the show,” Blinn said. “Knowing that I’ve got a great group of people I’m working with… it’s just that whole family atmosphere.”

The Leawood Stage Company’s 22nd season includes “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a musical parody of American musical comedy of the 1920s; and the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a musical comedy about a middle school spelling bee.

“The summer show, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” is absolutely free,” said April Bishop, artistic director for the
Leawood Stage Company. “It allows families to come out that maybe couldn’t afford a ticket to a Broadway series downtown at Kauffman.”

The summer show is a gift to the public from the City of Leawood, Blinn explained. As a committee of the city, the stage company produces one show per year backed by the city. The remaining shows are funded by ticket prices and
fundraising events.

“The other shows we do have ticket prices for, but it’s under $15 — to come and have a great evening — it’s pretty cheap,” Blinn said.

Bishop calls the Leawood Stage Company the best kept secret in Johnson County.

“We are the best free entertainment that you will ever see,” Bishop said. “The quality of the performance is equal to something that you would pay a big price for.”

For more information about auditions for an upcoming show, or how to get involved, visit leawoodstageco.org.

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