Few families in Kansas City can trace their theater and arts connections back as far as Dick Durwood. “Around 1915 or so, my father and his two brothers rewrote Shakespearean plays in ‘shirt-sleeve English,’ Then they sold tickets to their performance of the plays they held in traveling tent shows around the Midwest,” Durwood says. The brothers hadn’t graduated from high school but they found a way to make Shakespeare accessible and become theatrical entrepreneurs.
From there, Dicks’ father joined Paramount Theatres and evenutally went on his own to found Durwood Theatres. It was the beginning of a storied family history in the movie business – one that included an office in Kansas City’s Film Row, the invention of the multiplex theater concept and beyond.
Wife Maureen says that getting involved in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts was inevitable against this backdrop – especially when combined with her own lifetime love of the arts. Maureen shares, “The moment we moved to Kansas City, I become involved with the Symphony and the Opera.” All of which has culminated in a generous gift to the Kauffman Center capital campaign. Dick and Maureen have selected the gift shop as their naming opportunity.
“We also had a close relationship with Ewing and Muriel,” Maureen says. “Muriel would call us at 10 p.m. and ask what we were doing.” Soon afterward she and the Durwoods would be down at Alameda Plaza, listening to piano music late into the night. “Helping Julia Irene build this center, in honor of her mother, is important to us.”
Maureen, who serves as vice president on the boards of both the Kansas City Symphony and the Lyric Opera, explains that she and Dick are both huge music fans — and their love isn’t limited to the classics. As they travel, they seek out the arts and incorporate them into their experiences. “It’s worth noting,” she explains, “that when we were in Australia and New Zealand, the first thing the locals showed us were their performing arts venues and productions. That’s going to happen here with the Kauffman Center and Dick and I want to be a part of showing off Kansas City to the world.”
The Durwoods also enjoy shopping in the cities they visit. “I seek out museum gift shops when we travel,” Maureen admits. “They often have high quality, specialty items that become memories of the city we’ve enjoyed. We want to be the couple that helps visitors enjoy the arts and take home a piece of Kansas City,” says Maureen.
When asked what impresses them about the Kauffman Center, the Durwoods say “everything.” Both mentioned the incredible attention to detail and the talented team developing the project. But they also appreciate the intimacy that will occur because of the way seating is arranged. “I think that, when you sit in the concert hall, for example, it will feel like the orchestra is playing just for you,” Maureen says.
And Dick mentions the experience for the audience, “In my business the customer was king and we did everything we could to treat them royally. I think audiences are going to have an excellent experience here. Even parking is going to be easy.”
Maureen adds, “Just the way the Kauffman Center will gather everyone together around the arts, and mingle them together comfortably, in that big lobby will be a new experience for Kansas City. We can’t wait.”