Annual show brings different theme for TYA

Theatre for Young America


 The Toughest Kid in the World

 Theatre for Young America presents The Toughest Kid in the World at Union Station City Stage. The Toughest Kid in the World runs at Theatre for Young America January 29th to February 2nd, 2019. The cast features the talents of Kyra Weinberger, R.H. Wilhoit, Bradley Thomas, Hailey Jones, and John Mulvey. This production is directed by Valerie Mackey and assistant directed by Jake Walker.

The Toughest Kid in the World is a musical play about a boy named TK—short for Tough Kid—his peaceful friend Serena and their brave discoveries about ways to get along in today’s world with love and respect and without violence or bullying.

Curriculum Connections: Live musical theatre, conflict resolution, anti-bullying, current affairs, mental health, tolerance, empathy.

Since 1986 a version of this original play has been presented by Theatre for Young America every season. Producing Artistic Director (now Executive Director) Gene Mackey researched and developed the script of the play TOUGHEST KID IN THE WORLD. It was in response to a request from Kansas City, KS public school officials and Arts Partners of Kansas City. Every year since 1986 Gene and the Artistic Director Valerie Mackey make revisions due to current acts of violence and bullying that have happened throughout the past year. This year the script makes mention of incidents at the Charlottesville, Virginia, unite–the-Right rally, where there were clashes between gun and torch carrying white supremacists and unarmed counter-protestors. It also refers to the Las Vegas mass shooting that occurred at the Route 91 HARVEST MUSIC FESTIVAL on October 1, 2017.

Also Gene and the Director of Education add any changes to theories of best practices of educators regarding ways to reduce violence in society. The late Molly Jessup added original music to the script. All these artists are concerned about the growing violence they see in the world. Gene knows that theatre is a powerful medium for changing attitudes and habits of thought. Bullying is a serious issue for people of all ages. Bullying causes harm by interfering with learning, and can lead to depression, isolation, or violence. Many news stories have told of teenage suicides by young people who were being bullied. Some of the most harmful bullying is being done by Cyber Bullying on the Internet, and cell phone text messaging. Additionally, a large number of people with physical disabilities are targets of bullies so that is addressed the play presentation and the following group discussion.

Playwright Gene Mackey has a Master of Arts from the University of Illinois and also studied at New York University, the University of Arkansas, Instituto Allende in Mexico, and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. He has taught in the Theatre Department at the University of Illinois and the University of Arkansas and was a resident director at the University of Delaware. Gene has written over 40 plays, including Bubbylonian Encounter, which has been produced in 20 states and internationally. He has also written a book for young people on the topic of sexual abuse, Dear Elizabeth. Before coming to Kansas City, Gene was Artistic Director of the Casa Manana Playhouse in Fort Worth, Texas. He is currently on the adjunct faculty at Avila University where he teaches Theatre classes and has directed several productions.

Performances take place on the City Stage, located on level B in Union Station. Union Station is located at 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO.

Season, single, or group rate tickets may be reserved by calling Theatre for Young America at 816.460.2083. Group and single tickets may also be purchased from Union Station at 816.460.2020 or reserved online at  The single ticket price is $12.00.  Groups of 15 or more are $5.50 per person with a reservation. For information about our season or other programming visit our website at

 Theatre for Young America is a professional theater company, which primarily employs local actors, many of whom are members of Actors Equity Association.

Theatre for Young America, Inc., is a not-for-profit 501(c) (3) corporation.  Gifts are tax deductible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On Linkedin