When the Kansas City Fringe Festival opens this weekend, one of the plays that will be produced could easily have been a creative reaction to the events of the last couple of years, or the last couple of months or even weeks. But it isn’t.
The interviews that informed “Bingo On Broadway” were collected 10 years ago – before Ferguson and before a national reflection on race and diversity. Playwright Donna Ziegenhorn of Fairway tells the stories of people living on the fringe of society. The 10 characters in the play are composites of 25 people Ziegenhorn interviewed who had different stores to tell about their lives in the Troost corridor.
“I hope that I have faithfully represented the true experiences of the people,” Ziegenhorn said. “I am doing this to bring their authentic voices (to be heard). Just to say these things out loud is important.”
The characters include an undocumented immigrant, a female impersonator, a schizophrenic patient, a drug dealer, and many more. “The stories here spring up from the community itself,” said Ziegenhorn. “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.”
The bingo game as a setting was inspired by the summer bingo game at the church Ziegenhorn attends, Trinity United Methodist on Armour Boulevard not far west of Troost. In the play, the characters are brought together by the bingo game. “Everybody is equal at the bingo table,” Ziegenhorn said.
“We don’t expose ourselves to the diversity that is here,” she said. “I hope to make more voices heard or accessible.” Some of the characters are where they are by default and some by choice, Ziegenhorn said. Some are passing through and some are committed to engaging in the neighborhood. What they have in common is the geography.
The interviews for the project, Ziegenhorn said, “were based on who and what caught my attention.”
The play in some ways is an extension of her previous work, “The Hindu and the Cowboy,” which told the stories of Kansas City residents of diverse cultural and faith traditions in the shadow of 9-11.
The play will be presented at the Unicorn Theatre’s Jerome Stage, 3828 Main, on Saturday at 6 p.m. Sunday at 7:30 p.m., July 29 at 7:30 p.m.; and July 30 at 4:30 p.m.
“Bingo on the Boulevard” is directed by Elizabeth Herron formerly with New York’s Lincoln Center and Apollo Theatre. Tickets are $10 and available at kcfringe.org.