Theater is alive and well in Kansas City.
Yes, I said Kansas City.
A little known fact about Kansas City is that in nation wide rankings, they rank third in professional theaters per capita.
Kansas City has the renowned Missouri Reparatory Theater, situated on the University of Missouri, Kansas City Campus (UMKC) in the Helen Spencer Theater. In its 43rd year, “The Rep,” is also opening, in February of 2007, the new theater, the Copaken Stage. The Rep performs up to seven plays per season and serves up to 100,000 patrons annually. Every year thousands of members of the community flock to see “A Christmas Carol” at the Rep, which has become Kansas City tradition.
The Unicorn Theater, just over 30 years old and having produced over 200 plays, has a reputation around town as the place to go to see edgy theater. Originally known as Theater Workshop, The Unicorn is now in its third location at 39th and Main, and produces an original script each year. The theater as won several awards and receives scripts from playwrights year round.
The Lyric Opera of Kansas City shows four operas per season, on average. In addition to the shows, The Lyric offers educational programs such as “Lyrikids,” providing professional training for children elementary through high school aged. There is a summer camp, as well as weekly lessons for children who are to be holding important roles in Lyric productions. Lyrikids perform their own opera as well.
The Folly Theater is Kansas City’s oldest, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open for several events of both music and theater, The Folly also hosts its own jazz series, and The Friends of Chamber Music.
The New Theater Restaurant is a huge attraction. Dinner theater at it’s finest; The New Theater is the place to see both Broadway musicals and comedies. The New Theater is well known for celebrity performances, from the likes of Jamie Farr, Don Knotts and Marion Ross.
Kansas City is pretty rich in community theater activity, too. The Bell Road Barn Players of Parkville is the longest performing community theater west of the Mississippi. Founded in 1954, Bell Road Barn Players was originally a summer stock theater in the Barn of the founders, Jenkin and Barbara David, on Bell Road in Parkville. Jenkin worked for Park University and in the summer, many college students would receive credit for working or performing at the theater. The Bell Road Barn Players now have their home at Park University, and perform four shows every summer.
The Chestnut Fine Arts Center is an intimate setting in an old house in Olathe. Converted to a theater that seats about ninety, some of the recent hits have been “On Golden Pond,” as well as tributes in the form of a revue for both Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
Kansas City is also a good place for up and coming actors; its colleges and universities offer theater major programs and most universities have many patrons for their performances. Kansas City also has a few well known professional training studios.