Kansas City Strip

Porn Free: Late Night Theatre impresarios Ron Megee and Missy Koonce conducted a no-holds-barred tour last week of the troupe’s new digs: the Old Chelsea Theater, a River Market porn emporium that petered out earlier this summer. The creative duo behind Shoctopussy and The Valley of the Dolls has all but signed a deal with a Columbia-based development corporation to bring their shows to the River Market, so a maintenance man set the padlock free to let them roam.

A placard in the old theater’s lobby still warns patrons that they’re “not permitted to engage in any type of sexual conduct or prostitution” and lays out rules about “less than opaque” attire and which portions of the breasts and genitals can be visible and from how far away.

Megee says the signs will stay, as will the velvet-flecked ladies’-room wallpaper depicting various sexual positions. TV screens are still on, casting an eerie glow in the video booths, which might become dressing rooms. Megee and Koonce will cut the lighted runway in half and replace the stained seats (some with strategic holes), bringing capacity from 235 to about 140. And, laws permitting, they’ll auction 63 reels of abandoned porn — classic titles such as Inside Marilyn Chambers and Debbie Does Dallas II — on eBay.

“We’ve been longing for an arts use (for the Old Chelsea),” says Dana Gibson of the Mallin-Gibson Development Company, which has turned several old warehouses into lofts in the neighborhood. Megee’s pal Jeff Church, who lives in a Mallin loft, helped grease the connections — but not nearly as much as WDAF Channel 4 reporter Dan Vogt thought on Friday. Vogt apparently got a bit overheated when he mistakenly heard that Church, the Coterie’s artistic director, was bringing the children’s theater to the XXX house. “Sounds like the Coterie’s involved,” Vogt, eager for a scoop, said on Church’s answering machine. Megee eventually set Vogt straight.

For Megee, making the Old Chelsea legit is an answer to the plea, “God, why can’t we have our own space?”

Reflecting on Late Night’s brief association with the Unicorn Theatre, where the all-female James Bond parody Shoctopussy had to share a stage with the cancer play Wit, Megee says the new space “will make us imaginative again. When we went to the Unicorn, every show had to be glitzier and glossier. We’d like to step back to our roots again. We like raw.”

But the Unicorn taught them “more responsibility and how to be better producers,” Koonce says, adding that monthly fundraisers will help Late Night gild its pocket toward a solid budget.

Before Late Night was called Late Night, Megee was doing his disco musical Nasty Sally Seersucker in Lou Jane Temple’s River Market loft. His return to the area with a reprise of The Birds in October makes a complete if abstract circle. There is, after all, no place like home.Late Night Theatre brings a new — but no less nasty — purpose to the Old Chelsea Theater.

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