A professional actor for the past 25 years, Kane will come to The Carlsen Center on Feb. 8 and 9 to perform "Gothic at Midnight," a one-man show based on classics of the horror genre. (See box.)
Drawing from the works of literary giants as Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Ambrose Bierce and George Bernard Shaw, Kane will bring the stories to life with an array of characters and vignettes that range from inspiring to horrific, the whimsical to the bizarre.
Kane said he has always loved gothic horror. And as a Jew he also finds a personal connection to the tales.
"The Jews with our folklore and literature had immortalized many of the classic horror motifs," he said. "Lilith was among the first vampires. Frankenstein paled next to the Golem. And the Baal Shem Tov defeated a werewolf."
There is no fixed script for "Gothic at Midnight." As Kane goes across the country performing, he alters each performance in response to the audience.
"I have a very large repertoire. And, depending on which direction the audience is going, I literally create parts of the show on the spot," Kane said. "The audiences themselves become part of the show."
Unlike most actors, Kane works to add a personal touch to his performance. Often, between bits of classics, he will share stories of his Jewish-Russian family.
"I do talk about being Jewish in the show," Kane said.
Mike Alley, sales and marketing director at the Carlsen Center, said Kane is a unique performer.
"He is knock-down terrific," Alley said. "Not only is he very good at interpreting the material that he performs, but he is also very good at interacting with the audience. He is both a fine actor and a great entertainer."
Born in New York, Kane developed a love for the theater at a young age.
"I come from a very theatrical family who both have a love for theater in life as well as theater on the stage," Kane said. "My grandmother was a tremendous influence. She was very connected with that world. She knew everybody and she used to take me to the theater all the time."
At age 18, Kane began working as a street performer in Central Park and elsewhere. In 1982, he began studying with such theatrical luminaries as Stella Adler, Bobby Lewis, Marcel Marceau and Patsy Rodenburg. He also studied at the National Shakespeare conservatory. His theater credits include "Pirates of Penzance," "1776," "I'm Not Rappaport," and "Much Ado About Nothing." He also recently completed a limited run at off-Broadway's historic Lambs Theatre.
Since 1991, he has run his own theatrical production company, Gothic at Midnight Productions. In addition to "Gothic at Midnight," he performs one man shows across the country that includes material from Shakespeare and traditional Jewish immigrant stories, among others. Kane also leads creative workshops on Shakespearean verse, creative writing, voice and the images of women in gothic horror.
Judaism is an important aspect of Kane's life and career.
"Being Jewish is very much a part of who I am. It is very much a part of my identity. It has made my life so much richer. The deeper I explore Judaism, the richer my life becomes."
Although when performing Kane does not formally observe Shabbat, he does find the stage to be a way to bring him closer to God.
"I do observe Shabbos in my own way," Kane said. "Even though I do perform on the Sabbath, to me, performing is not work, because it is my way of interacting with the community. Anything which brings me closer to people brings me closer to God."
As a Jewish performer, Kane said he sometimes faces challenges and yet finds blessings in them all.
"It has been interesting being a Jew traveling across America," he said. "Particularly being a Jew from New York, because that seems to be an even more weighted phrase. New York is a very safe place to be Jewish. Whereas when I travel to parts of the country, I very often even feel more Jewish by the absence of Jewish surroundings."
That, he said, makes connecting with far-flung Jewish communities sweet.
"I was out in Texas all alone and when one of the local synagogues heard there was a wandering Jew in the vicinity, the local synagogue not only gave me free tickets to the High Holy Day services but arranged for a lovely family to take me in for meals and help me get back and forth from the services," Kane said. "That is a wonderful aspect of being Jewish. It is being able to connect with community where one might not have normally been able to find it."
A creative career entertaining people across the country gives Kane joy.
"I love what I do," he said. "I can honestly say I am one of the basically happy people on the planet. I am married to a wonderful woman, and we have been together for 10 years."
Kane said he hopes audiences will enjoy his show.
"I hope audiences get several things out of the evening performance," he said. "One is intense pleasure. It is a happy show. And I hope they walk out with an expanded sense of community."
At a glance
Who/What: Joshua Kane performs "Gothic at Midnight"
Where: Carlsen Center, 12345 College Blvd, Overland Park, Kan.
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8
How: Tickets are $18 for adults, $9 for youth. To buy tickets, call (913) 469-4445