In Kansas City, there is no shortage of performing arts venues, ranging from historic jewels to charmingly intimate spaces.No matter what sort of performances you love—concerts, spoken word, ballet, opera, symphony, plays or lectures—Kansas City hosts it all.
In this month’s Urban/Suburban, two favorite performing arts venues take the spotlight, and rightfully so. Consider this your ticket to go backstage and find out why these two venues captivate area performance-goers.
Urban: The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Watching the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts rise out of the ground and into its now iconic place in the Kansas City skyline wasn’t dissimilar to watching a performance—if, of course, that performance lasted several years. Yet seeing the Kauffman Center’s completion served as a standing ovation not only to Moshe Safdie’s brilliant architecture, but also the growing prominence of the performing arts in Kansas City.
Stroll through stunning Brandmeyer Great Hall, a glass-enclosed area that offers truly breathtaking views of the surrounding downtown, and the Kauffman Center’s mission “to enrich the lives of everyone in our community through extraordinary and diverse performing arts experiences” is already underway. Enter the hushed yet soaring Muriel McBrien Kauffman Theatre or Helzberg Hall for a transformative performance from any number of talented artists from the worldwide stage and organizations, including the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Symphony and the Lyric Opera, not to mention nationally touring musicians and speakers.
The Kauffman Center not only serves as an internationally renowned performance arts venue—it’s also a symbol of greater arts accessibility. Take the center’s EncoreTix program, for example, designed to make performing arts more accessible to adults ages 18 to 39 with significant discounts, special presale opportunities and ticket giveaways.
Children’s programming is also one of the primary areas of focus at the Kauffman Center, thanks in large part to the center’s namesake. Earlier this year—in May, to be exact—the Kauffman Center surpassed 1.5 million visitors, 150,000 of which were students from 29 school districts.
“Kansas City can and must nurture and educate its own artists, and the Kauffman Center is solidly committed to participating in that vital endeavor,” says Julia Irene Kauffman.
Start the holiday season with a favorite local tradition, Handel’s Messiah, performed in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Performances will be held at 7 p.m. on December 3, 8 p.m. on December 4 and 5 and at 2 p.m. on December 6. To purchase tickets, visit tickets.kauffmancenter.org.
If you haven’t yet experienced the magic of the Kauffman Center, make it a priority on your to-do list. Single event tickets are available, as are subscription packages for series like National Geographic Live, KC Jazz Orchestra and special events.
And while you’re there, remember that the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts started as a napkin sketch—yes, you read that correctly. Now, it’s hard to imagine the Kansas City skyline—or the local performing arts community—without it, especially as Kansas City continues to build a reputation as a must-visit destination for regional, national and international performers.
Suburban: Yardley Hall
Nestled on the campus of Johnson County Community College, Yardley Hall—one of three theaters in the Carlsen Center—is a favorite venue for a variety of shows, thanks in large part to a modern layout and exquisite acoustics. It’s only fitting that the acclaimed college is home to the acclaimed Yardley Hall, given the educational institution’s ongoing commitment to Kansas City’s creative community that includes housing the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art.
Since Yardley Hall and the Carlsen Center opened their doors over two decades ago, nearly 2 million people have enjoyed performances that range from nationally renowned musicians and international ballet troupes to beloved comedians and favorite plays. Artists who have appeared at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center have also performed at Yardley Hall, a testament to the venue’s appeal to both performers and audience members alike.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company comes to Yardley Hall at 8 p.m. on December 5 with “The Ultimate Christmas Show (Abridged),” which the JCCC Performing Arts Series describes as three zany characters who “take you on an irreverent yet heartwarming trip through the holidays. Gasp at the shocking history of our best-loved Christmas traditions as portrayed in the Annual Holiday Variety Show and Christmas Pageant at St. Everybody’s Nondenominational Universalist Church.” To buy tickets, visit jccc.edu/.
The diversity of shows at Yardley Hall is one of the attributes that make the theater a true Kansas City gem. In between appearances from national touring acts like Blue Man Group, you can expand your cultural horizons with performances like the African Culture Connection, which JCCC describes as “lively interpretations of African proverbs through song, music and dance by creating an authentic African village ambiance.”
Truly powerful performances aren’t merely enjoyable—they’re immersive, whisking you away to another time or place. That’s what happens at Yardley Hall, when you soon forget that you’re in the heart of suburban Johnson County, and instead find yourself transported to a world beyond the stage.
Throughout the year, Yardley Hall hosts performances as part of Johnson County Community College’s Performing Arts Series. Now in its 25th year, the mission of the series is to serve “as a national and community leader for the performing arts” while “advancing and assisting in the development of new artistic work and the careers of young and gifted artists.”
To experience all that Yardley Hall has to offer, creating a Performing Arts Series season ticket package is the way to go. A package includes five events or more, and, based on ticket availability, you can pick and choose which shows you want to attend. Plus, you get to customize your seat selection (don’t worry—there’s not a bad seat in the house) while saving money off of regular ticket prices.
No matter which show you choose, it will be a night to remember. And we won’t be surprised if, after that, you become a Yardley Hall regular. Just don’t forget to save us a seat!