Summer theater program involves local youth

Youth from throughout the area participated in KC Rep’s Youth Summer Theatre Ensemble program under the umbrella of the EnrichKC programming. (Photo from KC Rep, Summer Youth Theatre Ensemble)

As a part of its expanding education outreach, KCRep launched its first Youth Summer Theatre Ensemble program under the umbrella of the EnrichKC programming.

Thirty-six cast members from 25 local schools wrote, cast, and directed an original play, To Be Human,” which explores a hero’s journey from the origin story through life’s challenges, and onto the discovery that to be a superhero is to be a super human.

EnrichKC: Summer Youth Theatre Ensemble, or SYTE, is a four-week program open to young artists ages 13-18 in the Kansas City area from July 5 to July 29 at Spencer Theatre on the UMKC Campus. Thanks to the support of generous donors, the program is completely free for every student.

In preparation for the program, several workshops were conducted in area schools. KCRep teaching artists guide students through an interactive four-week rehearsal process full of games, ensemble-building activities, playwriting exercises and more.

From this process, the student company worked together to write and produce “To Be Human,” which had two performances on the Spencer stage in the Olson Performing Arts Center on the UMKC campus at 7 p.m. Friday, July 28, and at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 29.

– Story from Tammy Cunningham, EnrichKC

Three candidates run for UG Commission, 8th District

Running for the 8th District, Unified Government Commission, are, left to right, incumbent Commissioner Jane Winkler Philbrook, Kendon McClaine and Brad Isnard. They were at a candidates forum July 19 at KCKCC. (Staff photo)

In the 8th District, Unified Government Commission contest, incumbent Commissioner Jane Winkler Philbrook has opposition from Brad Isnard and Kendon McClaine.

Philbrook, a fourth-generation optometrist, grew up in a family business in Kansas City, Kansas. She attended Washington High School, Park College and the University of Missouri – St. Louis School of Optometry. She has served as the 8th District commissioner for four years.

During her past term, she has made a special effort to work to improve animal services and also to coordinate local community efforts for jobs with Workforce Development.

The 8th District has everything in its district, she said, including very nice homes, and blighted areas, and new manufacturing with Amazon jobs in the Turner Diagonal area.

Philbrook said she viewed her job as a commissioner as listening to her residents, and giving direction to City Hall.

In response to a question from Edgar Galicia about what the candidates bring to the table, Isnard, who is the assistant director of finance for the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools, said his biggest asset for this position was his understanding of public finance.

He said his skills will help make better decisions for the public, when discussing projects that are important versus projects that can wait.

Isnard said he had experience managing a public budget of more than $350 million.

Isnard has a bachelor’s of business administration degree, and has worked with turning around large-format businesses that were struggling, he said.

He said he was in favor of expanding economic development to all areas of the city, and he supported expanding the partnership between the UG and the school districts.

McClaine, who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, said he had a passion and a drive to do what’s best for his family. He wants to live here and is raising his family here, he said.

McClaine added he brings a mix of skills to the position, including board and financial experience, as well as community experience. He said he works in client services for a company that manages portfolios.

Also, McClaine said through his community work, he has helped feed people in apartment complexes, provided backpacks, and offered services to make life better for residents.

“We’re all about ensuring that everyone gets their fair shake,” McClaine said. “This isn’t about a position for me. It’s not about how much money I can make, it isn’t about how much money I manage. This is about purpose. What is your purpose for doing the job that we do? Is it about the people or about the businesses, or about the businesses that serve the people?”

Philbrook, who has been active in community groups including Business West and the Kansas City Kiwanis West, said she brings experience in business and working for others to the table, skills such as working as a team and following directions at work. She has worked with the UG’s budget of $330 million for the past four years, she said.

While they all have their own goals, the commissioners have to collaborate with each other, or they won’t get any work done, she said.

“Our commission has worked well together, although we don’t always agree,” Philbrook sad.

“I don’t attend the mayor’s church, and I wouldn’t be a rubber stamp for his agenda,” Isnard said during the forum.

Isnard said at the forum that he didn’t owe any allegiance to any other candidate or group, and has no alliances with others. He added his only allegiance was to voters here.

“I don’t owe anybody anything, and no mayor tells me what to do, and neither does my minister,” Philbrook said during her remarks at the forum.

On the topic of what to do with Indian Springs, Philbrook said there will be another community conversation about what will happen with Indian Springs. She said she hopes it will be something that is progressive and has the local community involved on it.

As to the Leavenworth Road improvement project, Philbrook said originally the plan was for utility lines on the south side to be underground, north side would have utility poles, and the lines across the street would be removed, to give it a more open and pleasing appearance, and let people feel that they matter.

“Hearing somebody say Leavenworth Road doesn’t count just hurts my heart,” she said.

McClaine said Indian Springs should sit until the UG can get it right.

Ideally, the site should bring in new revenue, but there are cultural issues around it, he said. If one developer doesn’t get the job done, open it up to another one, he said.

McClaine said the millions of dollars needed to bury power lines could be used to do a lot more in the community.

Isnard said, regarding Indian Springs, there isn’t truly a loss until there is a sale. The proposal to sell some of the Indian Springs property for pennies on the dollar was dumping an investment that could raise in value, he said.

“We’ve got to wait for the right deal at the right time,” he said. The land could be worth more in the future, he believes.

On the Leavenworth Road issue, Isnard said he lives nearby and the road is in sore need of improvement; he supports the improvements. Many residents experience power outages after every storm because the UG hasn’t made the investment to bury power lines, he said.

McClaine, who also ran for the 8th District Commission seat four years ago, said his campaign is focusing on three areas – financial health, physical health and social health. Financial health revolves around wasteful spending, he said.

“None of our firehouses are up to code in our district,” McClaine said. “I believe we should create a clear path for our business entrepreneurs.” He also talked about health risks from lead, and problems such as crime and blight.

“I don’t support reckless spending or bribing every business to come into the community,” Isnard said. “The Legends and Village West have amassed an economic gravity of their own and are expanding at a rapid pace still on their own. Our job is to continue to pave the way so that that growth can continue eastward. District Eight is next in line for that.” He added that he supports first responders.

“We still have a whole lot of work to do,” Philbrook said. It takes everyone working together, including community groups, to get things done, she added.

Candidates answered other questions, and more of their responses are on a video of the KCKCC forum July 19, posted online at

The campaign forum videos also are showing on the KCKCC cable channel, Channel 17 on Spectrum, and Channel 146 on Google TV.

Remaining defendants sentenced in designer drug case

Two defendants who appeared in federal court Monday in Kansas City, Kansas, were the last ones to be sentenced in a Kansas-based synthetic drug trafficking operation that generated $16 million in sales in less than two years, U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said.

On Monday, Taylor Loeffler, 29, Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and Melissa Gelston, 27, Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced to three months in prison and nine months home detention. The case included connections to an Olathe, Kansas, business.

Last week, five other defendants were sentenced, including:

Heather Perez, 32, Riverside, Calif., two years on supervised release.
Cindy McRoberts, 51, Lees Summit, Mo., 30 months in federal prison.
Michaela Hackley, 31, Oak Grove, Mo., 12 months and a day.
Phillip Hackley, 36, Oak Grove, Mo. two years on supervised release.
Christopher Freemyer, 29, Adrian, Mo., one year on supervised release.

The leaders of the drug trafficking conspiracy, Tracy Picanso and Roy Ehrett, owned an Olathe-based business producing and selling dangerous controlled substances and controlled substance analogues of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) and methcathinones (stimulants).

They sold products under exotic names including Pump It, Head Trip, Black Arts, Grave Digger, Voodoo Doll and Lights Out. Some of the drugs were manufactured in buckets with drill-powered immersion mixers and tried out on “testers” who helped tweak the recipes by reporting on the drugs’ effects.

The operation stretched from Kansas to Missouri, California, Texas, Georgia and Colorado, involving more than 15 companies with more than 40 financial accounts at more than 10 financial institutions.

Businesses owned and operated by the defendants included Retailing Specialists, Innovative Products 4U, The Outer Edge, Lakeridge Holdings, Monster Warehouse, Monster Distribution, Monster, 3P Distribution and Life Source.

Beall commended the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations, the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, the FBI, the Overland Park Police Department, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, the Olathe Police Department, the St. Joseph Police Department and the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway, and Michael Varrone, associate chief counsel at the Food and Drug Administration for their work on the case.