UMKC Theatre Dept. fights budget cuts


UMKC Theatre had a wonderfully positive Town Hall this past Sunday evening in Spencer Theatre.  We had over 500 enthusiastic supporters who heard spirited speeches offering a bounty of reasons to SAVE UMKC THEATRE.

You can watch video of this event on our UMKC Theatre Facebook page under the event Save UMKC Theatre.

Today I’d like to share the speech given in 2010 for a major award given to UMKC. After the speech are instructions on writing letters of support to the curators or governor.

Thanks for your help and support,

Tom Mardikes

Professor & Chair

UMKC Theatre

The following is the speech given by Carl Lefko, president of the United States Institute of Theatre Technology, in downtown Kansas City on March 31, 2010.  Over 3000 theatre designers, technicians, engineers, architects, managers and educators attended the institute’s 50th annual conference.  UMKC was selected to receive the institute’s most prestigious award; the first time the award was given to an institution, not an individual.  Chancellor Leo Morton accepted the award for UMKC.

UMKC: “To Lead in the Performing Arts”

Kansas City is big on the arts.  It’s downright bizarre that a metropolitan area of 2 million people would see one billion dollars spent in the first decade of the 21st Century in support of the arts.  A number of new theatres have been built.  Several of the major performing arts companies have built new administrative and production complexes.  New galleries have opened.  The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art completed a $200M+ expansion and renovation.  A designated arts district was even created, known as the Crossroads, and centered a few blocks south of the downtown loop.

When the Kauffman Center for the Performing Art opens in 2011, this new $400M+ home for three of Kansas City’s major performing arts groups becomes the capstone project of this developmental drive, with heightened hopes for the ballet, symphony and opera, as well as an enhanced cultural impact upon the community.  Created by the world’s leading designers in architecture, acoustics and theatre engineering, the Kauffman Center will begin a new era of expectation as the crown jewel for the performing arts in Kansas City. 

How did Kansas City come to deserve such a fine facility?  How did Kansas City, as reported by the Metropolitan Arts Council in 2007, become a city that can actually sell more tickets to performing arts than professional sports?  How do Kansas City’s performing arts groups collectively have a greater economic impact than professional sports?

This arc of performing arts development and growth started 50 years ago on what is now the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). At that time, the campus was the home of the University of Kansas City (UKC). In 1959 this private university added the Kansas City Conservatory of Music as a new college. In 1963 UKC was absorbed by the University of Missouri System (UM) and became UMKC. In 1964, the Department of Theatre, under the chairmanship of Dr. Patricia McIlrath, launched the UMKC Summer Repertory Theatre, inaugurating the concept of a “Teaching Hospital for Theatre” in which theater students could work side-by-side with theater professionals. In 1971 the UM System launched its Role & Scope plan, designating certain campuses for the pursuit of excellence in specific disciplines. UMKC was designated as Missouri’s Campus for the Performing Arts, and until the early 2000’s, the primary mission of UMKC was to “lead in the performing arts.”

Over these fifty years UMKC has focused on the performing arts and funded these programs accordingly.  Exceptional faculties have been formed in the Conservatory of Music and Dance and within UMKC Theatre.  Where most UMKC students come from the greater KC area, the performing arts programs recruit talented students on a national basis and have attracted a consistent international pool.  The university has supported the growth of the Summer Repertory Theatre as well, which has grown over the last 45 years from Missouri Repertory Theatre into the $7million annual budget LORT Theatre known today as Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

As with any university, UMKC’s greatest assets are its faculty and students.  Over a 50-year period, UMKC has trained and educated the necessary audience base and professional workforce for this city’s performing arts.   The most amazing byproduct of UMKC’s commitment to the performing arts has been its greatest gift to this city: faculty and alumni are responsible for founding most of its major performing arts organizations.

Conservatory faculty or alumni are directly responsible for the creation of the Kansas City Chorale, the Kansas City Ballet, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, Quality Hill Playhouse, the KC Chamber Orchestra, Bach Aria Soloists, Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company and many more.

Faculty and alumni of UMKC Theatre have founded KC Repertory Theatre, the Coterie Theatre, the Unicorn Theatre, the New Theatre Restaurant, the American Heartland Theatre, Kansas City Actors Theatre, Martin City Melodrama, Gorilla Theatre and many more.

So the future of the performing arts looks bright for Kansas City, and it’s exciting to consider this wonderful synchronicity between 50 years of growth toward the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and 50 years of celebrating the wonder that is USITT, all coming together in a renovated downtown Kansas City looking forward to a wonderful new era.

Therefore on this 31st day of March, 2010, the United States Institute of Theatre Technology, Inc and its Board of Directors present the 2010 Thomas DeGaetani Award to The University of Missouri-Kansas City in recognition of outstanding contributions in the performing arts through the comprehensive devotion of its administration, faculty, students and alumni who exemplify true leadership in enriching the lives of their community. The strong presence of the University’s Department of Theatre, the Kansas City Repertory Theater, and the Conservatory of Music and Dance are to be commended.  This award also recognizes, posthumously, Dr. Patricia A. MacIlrath, the first chair of Theatre and the founding artistic director of the Repertory Theatre, for her leadership and collaboration in establishing the bridge between academic and professional theatre in Kansas City.

SAVE UMKC THEATRE writing campaign:

Please tell five people, and have them commit to telling five more people


Write a Letter:

People have asked what they can do to help Save UMKC Theatre.

Please write letters to the following state and university leaders. We encourage you to use your own personal stories, but see below a sample text that you may include.


University of Missouri Board of Curators

316 University Hall
Columbia, Missouri 65211


Office of Governor Eric Greitens
P.O. Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102 

Subject: Save UMKC Theatre

Dear ___________________,

UMKC Theatre has for nearly forty years generated and supported Kansas City’s theatre community. Kansas City’s vibrant professional theatre scene has brought the city to national prominence as a center for the arts, and it relies heavily upon UMKC Theatre’s training of its young, emerging artists.

Now the very existence of UMKC Theatre is threatened by administrative budget cuts and we ask you to help SAVE UMKC THEATRE, which in turn will save the livelihoods of hundreds of taxpayers and thousands more people because of the proven domino effect of the arts. Arts and culture add $1.1 billion to Missouri’s economy each year, more than revenue generated by professional sports.

We ask that you urge UMKC’s administration to support and maintain UMKC’s highest nationally ranked program, the MFA in Theatre.


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