The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is a newly inaugurated performing arts center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, USA, at 16th and Broadway near the Power & Light District, the Sprint Center and the Crossroads Arts District. Its construction was a major part of the ongoing redevelopment of downtown Kansas City.
The Center was created as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Unlike some other major civic construction projects, no taxpayer funds went into its construction. The City of Kansas City contributed and operates a parking garage adjacent to the Kauffman Center. It is the performance home to the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Ballet which in the past performed at the Lyric Theatre (Kansas City, Missouri), eight blocks north of the center. The Kauffman Center houses two unique performance venues: Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall.
According to its website, the Kauffman Center’s mission is “to enrich the lives of communities throughout the region, country and World by offering extraordinary and diverse performing arts experiences.” The Kauffman Center seeks to fulfill this mission by offering a wide selection of performances, and also by offering specific programs to connect with the youth in the Kansas City area.
Performance Facilities :
The 285,000-square foot (26,500 m2) Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts houses two sophisticated performance halls: Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall. The venues share backstage space that runs the entire length of the Kauffman Center. There are dressing rooms that can accommodate more than 250 performers, along with 11 rehearsal rooms. The Kauffman Center joins the Lincoln Center as another of the few performing arts centers in the country to have two (or more) performance venues in one building. Another example is the Kennedy Centre in Washington, D.C.
This decision to have two halls, each tailored to a specific purpose, rather than a multipurpose building, reminded many Kansas City residents of a similar decision in the 1970s—when Ewing Kauffman and city officials decided to build separate stadiums for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals, rather than a single arena for both.
Muriel Kauffman Theatre :
This is an 1,800-seat theater whose design was inspired by the great European opera houses. With multiple balconies and box seating on either side of the theater, attendees are much closer to the stage than in most other auditorium-type venues. The balconies and boxes, which feature seats covered in various shades of red, also boast balustrades that glimmer with gold lighting and dim when the performance begins.
The undulating walls of the theatre are painted with a brightly colored mural, designed and carried out by students at the Kansas City Art Institute, under the guidance of Moshe Safdie. With a 5,000-square-foot stage, an orchestra pit that can house up to 90 musicians, and a 74-foot tall fly tower, Muriel’s Theatre is the performance home of the Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, as well as the site of many other theatrical, musical, and dance productions. Another feature of the Muriel Kauffman Theatre is the installation of the Figaro Simultext Seatback System, which displays subtitles in various languages on the backs of chairs, as opposed to most other opera houses that require the audience to look above the stage for opera translations.
Helzberg Hall :
This is a 1,600-seat, oval-shaped concert hall, and it is the performance home to the Kansas City Symphony. Because the stage extends into approximately one-third of the space, even the seat farthest from the stage is a mere 100 feet away. Helzberg Hall features vineyard-style seating on all four sides of the stage, adding to the intimate feel of the space. Safdie explains it thus: “From the outset, we wanted a hall that was intimate and in which the public is engaged with the musicians in a feeling of embrace.” Within the stage itself are motorized risers, which can either lie flat or rise into a tier, depending on the needs of the performance.
Helzberg Hall also houses a 79-stop, 102-rank pipe organ built by the firm Casavant Frères in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada. Fewer than 10 percent of the 5,548 pipes are visible to those in the hall. The largest pipe is 32 feet tall and weighs approximately 960 pounds. After the two-month installation process, and an additional two-month tuning period, the organ was dedicated on March 10, 2012 with a special concert by James David Christie.
Brandmeyer Great Hall :
The two venues are noted above are linked by the Great Hall, which features an expansive view of the Kansas City skyline to the south. It serves as a lobby for patrons on performance nights and is also available for special events. The pristine white great hall provides access to the performance halls by a series of stacking, open balconies. This means that on performance nights, patrons attending events in either hall are visible to each other, as well as to the city below.