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Kansas City Strip

Late Night Theatre faces premature eviction from its Old Chelsea home.

Stripping down: With a surprisingly upbeat demeanor, yet fighting back tears, Late Night Theatre directors Ron Megee and Missy Koonce delivered crushing news last week to their various casts and crews: They had sixty days to vacate their Old Chelsea digs in the River Market. There were gasps from the gathered flock and then, true to the troupes' lemonade-from-lemons spirit, plans were laid for the September 10 demolition party. Stripped: Eve of Destruction will be the last benefit for Late Night in the former porn palace before it is razed and the company, yet again, searches for a new space.

"We knew we had about eighteen months going into this," Koonce says of the yearlong occupation of the house, "but this is sooner than we cared to hear." Megee says the seats and Kama Sutra wallpaper from the ladies' restroom will be saved, "then we'll sidewalk sale the fuck out of the place. We've always been a guerrilla theater, and we'll find somewhere else. We always have."

In the past year of Late Night's exponential growth from nomads to the klieg-lighted stars of the River Market, the group has amassed a heady list of supporters, from Patty Duke (who was parodied by Gary Campbell in Valley of the Dolls but wasn't so offended she wouldn't break bread with him during a promotional swing through town) to R. Crosby Kemper. Twice the Kemper Museum has staged Late Night's twisted takes on pop culture in the lobby, and Koonce was encouraged after the announced closing by one loyal fan to "call Kemper this week. He's got to know of a space."

Unicorn artistic director Cynthia Levin invited the company to return to her stage. But in past Late Night-Unicorn partnerships, more headaches resulted than hugs. "Because we had to break down our sets after every show at the Unicorn," Megee says, "we wouldn't get out of there until 2 or 2:30 in the morning. I don't want to go to the Unicorn."

As Late Night shops for a new home for its next season -- Disaster 2001; Dangerous Dirty Little Liaisons; and Come Back to the 9 to 5, Dolly Parton, Dolly Parton, the brainchild of actor David Reed -- the company is imploring former Chelsea girls to join them for one last dance, where for an added donation, Megee says, "you'll get a sledgehammer to do what you will to the place."

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