Kauffman Center opens new accessibility resources in partnership with Variety KC

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Kauffman Center / Photo by David Riffel

On October 1st the Kauffman Center, in a 10-year partnership with local organization Variety KC, announced new amenities that celebrated inclusive arts experiences. The new features will support the Center’s ongoing effort to ensure attending a performance is a positive experience for all. Variety KC parents and children attended a ribbon cutting ceremony and were invited to be the first to experience these new additions.

Variety KC understands the challenges that families face when navigating a world that is not designed for children with disabilities. The organization has been working for years to provide adaptive equipment and opportunities for children with developmental disabilities. The Variety KC supported amenities are a meaningful step to ensure all audiences can experience the performing arts at the Kauffman Center.

Variety KC parent Nancy Truitt, who was in attendance with son Maddox (age 16) shared, “As the parent of a child with special needs, it is really exciting that the Kauffman Center is so willing to create access for all and has such an interest in becoming a leader in the inclusion revolution that is happening here in Kansas City.”

The Variety KC kids and parents were the first to explore the Kauffman Center’s new accessibility amenities made especially with them in mind. The official opening day for the resources was marked with a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by families attending Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild Live! matinee.

Family in the newly opened Serenity Room / Photo by David Riffel

The two new Variety-supported Serenity Rooms were especially notable. The rooms offer a quiet, welcoming space that patrons can visit when they need a little privacy or to take a break from the performance or crowds. Each Serenity Room is equipped with comfy furniture, outlets, dimmable lights, and sensory items like a fiberoptic color changing lamp and playable art sculpture. All of these items can help someone relax and refocus in potentially stressful or overwhelming moments. Since each Serenity Room is outfitted with a monitor, patrons don’t need to worry about missing a moment of the performance they came to see. Patrons can use either of the two Serenity Rooms during a visit to the Center by asking a staff member or volunteer.

“The Kauffman Center is an exceptional experience and the accommodations you guys have put in are just wonderful!” Variety KC parent Carol Caron said. “The sensory room was so well thought out and is going to be just the thing needed for families to go and enjoy shows who would not be able to otherwise.”

Sensory Kit / Photo by David Riffel

New Sensory Kits made available by Variety KC were also on hand and used by many families throughout the morning. Each kit includes noise-muffling headphones, a weighted lap pad, and a handheld sensory item. These items are designed to provide comfort and sensory stimulation for someone who is affected by the sights and sounds of a performance. During all performances, Sensory Kits will be available for complimentary use by any patron at Coat Check, located on the Plaza Lobby Level.

Universal changing table / Photo by David Riffel

Family restrooms at the Kauffman Center have always featured changing tables for the very young, but the newly added universal changing tables, located in the Mezzanine Level family restroom and First Aid Office, can accommodate infants to adults. Variety KC parent Katie Ernzen, who was in attendance with her son George (age 6), was thrilled by this addition.

Being able to take George to see Jack Hanna at the Kauffman Center was a dream come true,” Ernzen said. “The new accessible restrooms, equipped with adult changing tables, gave me peace of mind knowing that I wouldn’t have to worry about where to change George’s diaper. In fact, we used the new changing tables twice while at the Kauffman Center and they were perfect!”

Shortly before the ribbon cutting ceremony was set to begin, special guest Jack Hanna made an appearance to greet attendees and take a photo with each Variety KC family. Families delighted in the exclusive, intimate time with America’s favorite zookeeper.

Variety KC family with Jack Hanna / Photo by David Riffel

Janet Mark, vice president of development at the Kauffman Center, welcomed those in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony and reinforced the Center’s commitment to provide inclusive arts experiences to all patrons. Other speakers at the ceremony included Kansas City’s First District Councilwoman Heather Hall, vice president of Variety KC board Marc Harrell, and Variety KC kid Olivia Bloomfield. Amid many poignant comments from the speakers, the most endearing address came from 7-year-old Olivia.

“I’m here today to thank Variety KC and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Thank you guys for letting everyone be able to come here, be safe, have fun, and not have to worry about anything. Thank you for making the arts available to everyone!” Olivia said.

Variety KC kid Olivia Bloomfield at the ribbon cutting / Photo by David Riffel

Following the ceremony, Variety KC families made their way into Muriel Kauffman Theatre to enjoy the Jack Hanna Into the Wild Live! matinee performance. As Jack Hanna took the stage, the Variety KC children and parents clapped enthusiastically alongside approximately 1,500 other students from area Kansas City schools. The hour-long performance featured animal facts and tales from Hanna, along with appearances from many animals including a penguin, sloth, and kangaroo. The audience delighted in the chance to experience this fun, yet informative performance.

Jack Hanna on Muriel Kauffman Theatre stage / Photo by David Riffel

The Kauffman Center is committed to providing an enjoyable, safe, and welcoming environment for all patrons to experience live performing arts. Unveiling the new accessibility resources was another major step forward for the Center as they work to provide access to the performing arts for all.

For a full album of photos from the October 1 ribbon cutting event, visit our Flickr.

To learn more about the Kauffman Center’s accessible amenities, visit the accessibility page on our website.

The Indigo Girls Coming to Kauffman Center this November

Celebrated acoustic duo Indigo Girls will perform at the Kauffman Center on Thursday, November 19

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After 20 years of releasing hit records, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have done everything but slow down. The Indigo Girls have forged their own way in the music business, selling more than 14 million records and drawing crowds of fans spanning generations while touring across the U.S. and internationally.

Amy and Emily met in Atlanta, Georgia as fifth and sixth graders. They started singing together in high school and coined the name Indigo Girls as students at Emory University. The duo released Strange Fire in 1987, a self-produced full-length album. They signed with Epic Records in 1988 and released their acclaimed album Indigo Girls, which garnered them overnight fame. The album earned a double platinum status, won a GRAMMY for “Best Contemporary Folk Recording,” received a GRAMMY nomination for “Best New Artist” and remained on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for 35 weeks.

With 14 studio albums, six GRAMMY nominations and tours with stars like Neil Young and Emmylou Harris, the Indigo Girls remain ranked among the top all-time great duos. Decades into their career, they continue to gain lasting respect and devotion from old and new fans alike.

The Indigo Girls aren’t just passionate about music. They are dedicated to supporting social causes including Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA rights, the environment and voting rights, just to name a few. The duo helped establish Honor the Earth, an organization dedicated to creating support and education for native environmental issues. They were also a part of the True Colors Tour 2007 which benefited the Human Rights Campaign and other organizations that support the LGBTQIA community.

Tickets for the event range from $39 to $69, plus applicable fees. Tickets can be purchased at the Kauffman Center Box Office, by calling (816) 994-7222, or online at kauffmancenter.org.

New Backstage Intensive program Introduces Students to Careers in the Arts

Students learn about operating a sound board with Production Services Manager, Donna Miller Brown. Photo By Cassidy Zwart.

The Kauffman Center is always aiming to expand arts opportunities for students. Through a recent First Hand Foundation grant, the Backstage Intensive program now provides students with exclusive and unique experiences to ready them for a potential career in the arts.  This new Backstage Intensive program serves the Center’s Open Doors Spotlight on Youth initiative which provides access to youth artists and future arts professionals through a variety of performing arts experiences. The program is offered to high school and college students interested technical theatre and arts administration, and participants will engage in hands-on-activities, tours, and discussions with Kauffman Center production and administrative staff members.

Expanding this program would not have been possible without the support of Kansas City’s First Hand Foundation. First Hand believes that hands-on experiences and exposure to the business of operating a performing arts center will help introduce students to career options in technical theatre and arts administration.  With First Hand’s support, the Backstage Intensive program now focuses on the Center’s use of technology throughout various departments including theater operations, marketing and patron services.


Students learn about volunteer management and ticketing services in the Kauffman Center’s Brandmeyer Great Hall. Photo by Cassidy Zwart.

Invited high school and college participants  take part in activities ranging from hanging and focusing stage lighting equipment and operating a sound board, to selling tickets and developing a promotional social media campaign. Fifteen Hickman Mills Freshman Center students were the first Backstage Intensive participants in spring 2019. With First Hand’s support, the newly-expanded Backstage Intensive program will engage more than 120 youth throughout the 2020 school year.

Kauffman Center is passionate about providing opportunities for youth artists and future arts professionals to learn more about the thriving arts industry. Through the Kauffman Center’s Open Doors Spotlight on Youthinitiative, young people experience a diverse set of engagements and programs that connect tomorrow’s artists, arts patrons, and arts administrators with the Kauffman Center’s staff and stages.

To learn more about Backstage Intensive and other Open Doors programs, visit www.kauffmancenter.org/open-doors or email opendoors@kauffmancenter.org.

Michael Feinstein and Special Guest Storm Large Coming to the Kauffman Center this February

Shaken & Stirred: Michael Feinstein and Special Guest Storm Large

to perform at the Kauffman Center in February

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Award-winning musician Michael Feinstein is coming to Muriel Kauffman Theatre with renowned vocalist Storm Large on February 9, 2020.

Michael Feinstein, known for being the Ambassador of the Great American Songbook, has dazzled audiences with his music for more than three decades. He has earned five GRAMMY nominations, an Emmy nomination for his PBS special, and has performed in the world’s most iconic venues, including The White House, Buckingham Palace and Carnegie Hall, just to name a few. His most recent award-winning album is A Michael Feinstein Christmas, which features GRAMMY- winning jazz pianist Alan Broadbent.

In addition to his music, Feinstein founded The Great American Songbook Foundation in 2007. The foundation is committed to the celebration and promotion of music through educational programs, master classes and the annual High School Songbook Academy. Feinstein is the artistic director of both the Palladium Center for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall’s “Standard Time with Michael Feinstein,” and also serves as the director of the Jazz and Popular Song series at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Vocalist Storm Large gained national attention on CBS’s Rock Star Supernova in 2006. Her recent highlights include working with the New York Pops, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony. In addition, Storm Large made her guest debut in 2011 as a vocalist in Pink Martini, singing four sold-out concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets for this must-see performance range from $49 to $109, plus applicable fees. They can be purchased at the Kauffman Center Box Office, by calling (816) 994-7222, or online at kauffmancenter.org.



Squirrel Nut Zippers and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Coming to Kauffman Center this February

Two bands with New Orleans-inspired rhythms will perform a quirky mix of jazz, folk, punk rock and a “musical gumbo” of bebop jazz, funk and R&B

Squirrel Nut Zippers

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Squirrel Nut Zippers and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band will perform in Muriel Kauffman Theatre on Saturday, February 1, 2020. Squirrel Nut Zippers began their music journey in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the mid-1990s. The group started as a casual musical foray among family and friends and quickly began attracting a national following with their mix of jazz chords, folk music and punk rock sound. Between 1995 and 2000, the band sold three million albums. Their pivotal album Hot (1996) broke free of jazz stereotypes, taking their signature style of anti-establishment sound to commercial radio.

Years later, Squirrel Nut Zippers emerged from a lengthy recording hiatus, reinvigorated, reinvested and rejuvenated with an all-star cast of New Orleans musicians determined to reignite the band’s unique, enigmatic sound. The result was their first studio album in 18 years, Beasts of Burgundy. The album’s name is a handsome moniker referring to Burgundy Street in New Orleans. The album itself heralds the band’s mission while offering a fresh objective of its own – a hand-tailored thrift store suit of songs, stitched into one complete body of material.

In the past few years, Squirrel Nut Zippers have spent time on the road honing their sound and further developing the band’s chemistry.

“The Zippers have always been full of outlandish characters which provides great self-referential material for songs,” said co-founder Jimbo Mathus, whose motto to “let the music lead” still rings true 18 years later.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band

In 1977, The Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club began in honor of two antiquated traditions known to New Orleans: social and pleasure clubs; and brass bands. Dating back more than a century, social and pleasure clubs would offer funeral arrangements for black southerners who could rarely afford life insurance. Brass bands, early predecessors of jazz as we know it, would often follow the funeral procession playing somber dirges, then burst into jubilant tunes causing onlookers to dance in the streets. By the late 1970s, few social and pleasure clubs or brass bands existed. The Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club decided to assemble as a house band, and eventually, the seven-member ensemble adopted the venue’s name – The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Known for their high-octane performances and genre-bending romps, the band is now celebrating more than 40 years of their unique “musical gumbo” sound – a  blend of funk, R&B and bebop jazz . They have toured in more than 30 countries across five continents and recorded 12 studio albums. Their nontraditional sound has led them to collaborate with many artists, including Modest Mouse and Norah Jones.

Tickets for the event range from $29 to $49, plus applicable fees,and can be found at the Kauffman Center Box Office, by calling (816) 994-7222 or online at kauffmancenter.org.