Paul Wilson: Kauffman Center Celebrates Second Anniversary

Kauffman GlassIn the interest of full disclosure…

I have two separate relationships with the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts as it enters its third season. Both of which I am eagerly celebrating.

First, they’re a client; they turned to me to handle the transition and project management as they moved into this fabulous facility. That was a huge honor, but equally so, has been having the ability to enjoy this piece of architectural brilliance as a mere patron.

It was designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie and most people passing by the first time notice the 40,000 square feet of glass that makes up the Brandmeyer Great Hall. Few know, however, that in order to keep the acoustics pure, what you see is actually three buildings on three separate foundations so that no sound transfers between theatres on nights when there are events in both the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Theatre and the Helzberg Hall.

Wrapping up its second full year, The Kauffman Center has seen more than 900,000 people attend events for over 600 performances along with nearly 600 community or social events having been hosted. At the same time, 55,000 school children from 28 school districts had the opportunity to experience a student matinee at the Kauffman Center through the Open Doors program.

timeline_PACTime_BalletBall412Chu.jpg.420x700_q85_upscaleI recently had the chance to ask Jane Chu, President and CEO of the Kauffman Center, to reflect on her personal thoughts about the last two years.

KCC: You were on board from the beginning of this adventure, what were your earliest thoughts when this was just a sketch on a napkin?

Chu: When you’ve seen one performing arts center, you’ve only seen one. We had completed a lot of research on performing arts centers, and visited many of them. So, we prepared for as much as we could in advance.

KCC: What surprises popped up along the way?

Chu: The most exciting surprise has been how the community has responded. From the first open house to the ongoing flow of school buses filled with children who attend our matinees, the community has really gotten behind the Kauffman Center.

KCC: What did you think would be easy that ended up being a challenge and how did you address it?

Chu: It’s like moving into a new house. Some things you can’t really anticipate until you live in it. A key challenge was getting people to their seats quickly. It took a little trial and error in our first year, but we addressed it with increased signage to get to the right doors, provided additional training, and relied on a remarkable group of volunteers who ushered and guided people through the building. We could not be as efficient and effective without our volunteers, and appreciate when people sign up to help us out.

KCC: What keeps you up at night?

Chu: Making sure that we provide extraordinary and diverse performing arts experiences and that as we grow, we continue to listen carefully to the community, who have been so supportive of the Kauffman Center. Once we opened, we listened after every event, to make sure we were relevant to the community.

HelzbergAs Chu says, some things you just can’t anticipate in a facility this complex.

The details are endless. I remember a very early meeting I had with Greg Davidson, the former Director of Facilities. He’d just left a meeting where he discovered one of those gotchas. They had designed an intricate system of cables and pulleys to clean the outside of the enormous glass wall, but at no time had any one addressed the same issue for the inside glass. How do you clean a solid glass wall that tilts away from bottom to top? The solution ended up being a man lift, but the floor wouldn’t support the weight load of the lift. This forced them to find a carbon fiber mat that could be rolled out on the floor to allow proper weight distribution for the lift.

One of the most fascinating things to me is how perfect acoustics are.

In an early tour before the grand opening a docent took me to the balcony of Helzberg Hall. I sat in a seat with her standing in front of me. While explaining the facility, she began to rotate quarter turns as she talked until her back was facing me, yet at no point was the sound of her voice any different!

“We strongly believe that at the Kauffman Center there is something for everyone, and we will continue to work toward providing enriching arts opportunities for audiences of all ages and tastes,” Chu says.

carol-burnet-euniceNowhere has that been better evidenced than in the lineup they have chose the past two years. From Carol Burnett to Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, from The Kansas City Ballet to ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro and the very best of National Geographic.

Stay tuned for more previews and reviews on KCC as the Kauffman continues to host its many great performances as gifts to our fair city.

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21 Responses to Paul Wilson: Kauffman Center Celebrates Second Anniversary

  1. Stomper says:

    Geez Paul, you’re cranking out high quality pieces almost hourly now. I’m guessing you don’t sleep much. Thanks for sharing your behind the scenes insight on Kansas City’s newest treasure. The Q&A approach nailed it.

  2. paulwilsonkc says:

    Stomper, you’re too kind. I’m managing an enormous relocation for the National Nuclear Safety Administration which has had me spanked in my real world…so I’ve not had time to write like I like to. It’s a lot of fun.
    Then, as I said earlier, Chelle and I drove 34 hours in three days to far SW Texas, packed her mom and moved her to KC. Given that I had 12-14 hours alone in a U Haul truck, I drafted a few stories along the way!
    Always appreciate your comments, pro or con. You’re a nice addition.

  3. Orphan of the Road says:

    Not a fan of big halls. But those which are built properly are the place to see a big name.

    Always enjoyed the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Halls built before amplification are a treasure.

    One of the finest auditoriums in KC is the auditorium at Northeast High School though the seats are much smaller than in my youth.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Orphan, I’m with you on that, but by today’s standards this isn’t “big.” A 15-1,800 seat room, with these acoustics, its just great. Anywhere between the Folly, Midland or Kauffman is perfect for me. I can’t do the Sprint Centers of the world. This is just a fabulous facility, we’ll have to go to something there, it’ll change your mind….promise.

      • Orphan of the Road says:

        Too fancy for me, Paul. Plus no safe place to leave my shopping cart full of cans.

      • harley says:

        paul…heard that joco is possibly considereing a
        4-6k seat center….have you heard anything about this..
        the location is off I 35 heading to olathe by 435….
        great location…private money…
        they believe joco could now support semi pro
        sports….mid size acts….
        money appears to be coming from another foundation
        in joco.
        thought it would be cool to have something like that
        in the area….and joco residents are itching to
        stophaving to drive for dvents…
        what say ye.

    • harley says:

      you really know you’re white trash/scum when the
      nicest facility/arena/performing arts center you’ve been in
      is a high school gynamsium!!!!! Right orphan!!!!!!! Maybe come
      out and see how “real” winners in life live!!!!!!!
      Over the years me and glaze have figured out what the haters
      really are on kcc.
      We figured out smartman…we figured out baldy and the racist
      chuckles the sad lonely clown.
      No lives…posting on weekend nights at 1am/11pm…
      now we’ve figured out orphan of the load….another man at the
      bottom of life…jealous of anyone who’s done anything in life.
      Still waiting for you to put your money where your big mouth is.
      We saw it stop the rest of the kcc crew when it came time to
      put up or shut up…now we see it with you!!!!!!!

      • Orphan of the Road says:

        We are all still waiting for The King of Renege to make good on ANYTHING that has spewed from his arse.

        Just show up where I told you to meet me. But you don’t know it because you are a complete fraud.

        Keep digging your hole while we all wait for you to make good on any one thing you have boasted then reneged on from day one here.

        Just keep posting from your secret hole, deep beneath the Overland Park Sewage Treatment plant. Keep spewing your vile and outrageous lies.

        Repeat your lies enough and maybe you might believe them. No one else will you lying piece of inorganic flotsam.

        • harley says:

          show the money orphan…then we have a reason to
          meet.
          don’t hang in northeast much…most of our
          Italian friends moved out of there …..
          but get your 10K cash…put in escrow with the
          adminsttrator….we’ll meet at butch’s place…
          show you all documentation of claims….
          but you keep wanting to avoid the monetary side
          of this bet.
          so heres what I’ll do…you bring 6K…i’ll bring
          10K to bankers…you got odds…
          I think you’re a scumbag low life….know you’re
          involved in some not so legit deals (hahahaha)….
          but you wanted to bet money….so get it together
          with you and your northeast buddies…
          we can meet at cascones (i’ll call jimmy)…
          we can meet at anthonys….garroozas….gardens…
          meet at loch loyd with joel….at 103 and stateline
          at deluna fruit stand…name the place…but first
          put the money in escrow and lets see if you
          got any balls….
          you’re a peckerwood with nothing…
          face it …!!!!!!!

          • Orphan of the Road says:

            The King of Renege again is without an iota of proof.

            I told you where we will meet. John will tell you where it is but you would never show. Just as you have never showed when called.

            Keep digging your hole.

            Your idle threats and baseless accusations are all you have in life.

            Nothing to show, unable to prove your boasts.

            Now go finish your seafood buffet at Baccala’s.

  4. harley says:

    drove by it today…truly magnificent structure….
    unfortunately this town needs more people./families like mr and mrs. k.
    How incredible has their generosity been to this town…..
    they have done more for kc and it’s citizens than anyone!!!!
    I had the chance to meet him several times….once on a gambling
    junket to vegas (they loved to gamble!!!!)….truly classy and huge
    hearted people.
    there will never be another mr. k……never.
    only been there once….but the reviews from people from out of
    town have been that its truly the finest facility of it’s type.

  5. expat says:

    Alas, my few and far between trips to KC haven’t allowed me to see any shows at this place. However I eagerly await the day when planets align and can see a show there… This place was definitely a step on the right direction or KC, as opposed to most of their other downtown boobdoggles. The only thing I’m curious about – do people dress up to visit a show here? Generally people in KC dress like slobs, I’ve imagined this beautiful opera house full of fat hicks in Walmart jeans, bulbous tennis shoes and chiefs jerseys.

    • chuck says:

      You definitely wanna show up on your clothes horse.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Expat, we kept 6 seats in Orchestra, 4th row, center for the KC Ballet. Dress for that is pretty much what you’d expect; nothing less than business casual and straight up from there.
      Carol Burnett is the first concert I reviewed there; many women in vintage Bob Mackie gowns, her designer for the show, men very well dressed. Symphony, over in Helzberg, total dress up and spectacular.
      My first embarrassment for the Kauffman and Kansas City was the Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull TAAB tour. Honest to god people showed up looking like they pushed the mower in the garage, got in the car and came to the show! Ripped concert t shirts, cargo shorts, cut offs, you name it. I was literally ashamed of the attire.
      There’s a difference in jeans with a $500 Hickey Freeman blazer and cut offs and a Skynrd t!
      I’d have to agree with you on your KC fashion sense. We dress for the venue and act, on balance. Too bad others don’t.

    • chuck says:

      Like I said, when in Rome…

  6. Balbonis Moleskine says:

    When are they going to book Gwar?

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Balbonis, you know, you may not be too far from funny on that. Jane’s interest really is in diversity of performance. Where else would you go from Ukulele virtuoso, to Ian Anderson, Frampton’s Guitar Circus juxtaposed against the symphony, opera and ballet? You may see some things you would never have expected there, keep your eyes open.
      If you’ve not made plans, there’s going to be a huge New Year’s Eve party at the Kauffman; likely the most high end local celebrity packed party the KC has seen. I’ll be there, already been invited to cover it and attend, you should come out.

  7. harley says:

    my prediction…just saw the info on new years eve party at Kauffman…
    sounds incredible….we are going to be there…
    hope to see Wilson there!!!!! what better way to ring in 2014 than with
    my kcc buddies.
    probably going to be one of kc’s greatest Nye parties ever in kc.
    check it out/

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