Kansas City’s Hot Ticket: Performing Arts

Our listing of visual and performing arts—by no means exhaustive or comprehensive—will hopefully lead you to another great performance or exhibit or compel you to contribute your own creativity.

Kansas City Symphony Executive Director: Frank Byrne

The internationally acclaimed Kansas City Symphony, under the dynamic baton of Musical Director Michael Stern, continues to bring accolades to the city for its work. September kicks off the orchestra’s season and the range of programming offers something for every music lover, whether seasoned or novice, notes Executive Director Frank Byrne. Sept. 11 will be a “Classics Uncorked: Made in America” performance in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

“We have found a successful formula to reach many different constituents,” Byrne says, noting the symphony’s robust partnership with area school districts. “The range is very diverse and we will continue on that path.”

Kansas City Ballet

This professional company, led by Artistic Director Devon Carney, brings in top choreographers and rising talent, helping to create buzz about its new interpretations of classics that create an innovative ballet experience. Community members know the company for its accessibility and lessons to more than 20,000 students and adults annually at the Kansas City Ballet School. And of course, the beloved Nutcracker is a seasonal affair that draws young and old to the stunning Muriel Kauffman Theatre for enchanting performances, this year scheduled from Dec. 5 – 24.

Owens/Cox Dance Group

This troupe continues to gain recognition for its ingenuity through the leadership of founders Jennifer Owen and Brad Cox, who tap into the local artistic talent to bring a variety of people together to execute their music and dance collaborations. The Owens/Cox Dance Group represents an intoxicating blend of diverse backgrounds and ideas—fresh and vibrant new works that are classical in form, but contemporary in expression. The organization is also a big hit in their outreach programs at schools and community groups.

Harriman-Jewell Series

William Jewell College’s concert and performing arts series carved out its own acclaim in Liberty under the leadership of founder and artistic director, Richard Harriman, who died in 2010. The stellar reputation grows as artists present their work through recitals and free discovery concerts. Harriman emphasized the importance of what the arts should be at an outstanding liberal arts college—and his mission continues to be carried out on a note that resonates with audiences.


UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance

Led by Dean Peter Witte, the Conservatory draws world-class instructors and advances creativity, performance, scholarship and learning in the arts. A vital partner in Kansas City’s rich cultural environment, the Conservatory presents an extensive array of performances. Talented students know that they can study with the finest instructors and get experience they need to escalate their skills. Nearly 600 students are enrolled and many perform and find a home in another artistic group or venue during their study or following graduation. Tickets for concerts and recitals are one of the best deals around for experiencing Kansas City-grown music and dance in a classical sense.


Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Nearly 60 years ago the founders of the Lyric Opera took a chance to bring the art to the Heartland and over the years, despite a few twists and turns, it has grown, in popularity and in scale. Its performances bring audiences to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts for innovative interpretations of shows such as “The Elixir of Love and Carmen” in the upcoming season.

Kansas City Repertory Theatre

This professional theatre in residence at UMKC, in the Helen F. Spencer Theatre, has graced Kansas City with high-caliber, compelling, imaginative and passionate productions for more than 50 years. Equity actors and students collaborate in works such as “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Diary of Anne Frank.” Eric Rosen, who took over as artistic director in 2007, continues to infuse the Rep with an eclectic mix of productions. The KC Rep’s long-held dream to establish a second, smaller theatre was realized in 2007 when Copaken Stage opened in downtown Kansas City, expanding the theatre’s performance options and further establishing the Rep as a leader in Kansas City’s arts community.

The Fishtank

This avant-garde company takes live theater to a new level with the intimacy of a charades game in someone’s parents downstairs during college break. But what results is a personal touch you won’t forget in performances that are original and refreshing.

Theatre for Young America

The future of art lies in getting youngsters in on the act at an early age. Theatre for Young America does this by encouraging participation in classes and workshops, where kids meet professionals and learn tips about the trade. Then the theatre brings to life the books they love—“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” “Junie B. Jones, The Musical” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

Marilyn Strauss returned to her hometown of Kansas City 25 years ago from Broadway and brought Shakespeare along. Now volunteers help to create and build the set for the popular free summer festival in Southmoreland Park, across from The Nelson-Akins Museum of Art. Camp Shakespeare beckons youth to get a jumpstart on the Bard’s famous works and throughout the year, as the festival hosts other workshops and performances.

Kansas City Chorale

The Chorale, a cornerstone of Kansas City’s performing arts community, formed in 1982 and offers a historically diverse repertoire of both new and traditional music. Grammy Award-winning Artistic Director Charles Bruffy helped refine the chorale’s sound, garnering international recognition for artistic merit over the years. The Chorale has been praised for its passionate interpretations, phrasing and flawless intonation. The Chorale’s 2012 release of “Life and Breath, Choral Works of Rene Clausen” won the 2012 Grammy for Best Choral Performance.


Search for words to describe Quixotic and they are beyond reach, flickering like the light shows that illuminate a dancer on toe dressed in an edgy body suit to music that seems otherworldly. Founded in 2005 by renowned graphic designer, percussionist and artistic director Anthony Magliano and joined a year later by award-winning lighting and technology guru Mica Thomas, the troupe can be found in provocative performances around town: scaling the walls of The Nelson-Atkins, performing aerial feats on stages. The more adventurous can try out the Quixotic School of Performing Arts for unique instruction in the athletic and evocative artistry this group has come to symbolize.

Five Quiet Treasures

KCAI Ceramics Program

One of the nation’ s leading ceramics programs is housed in The Richard J. Stern Ceramics Building at the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI). The original building, which opened in 1968, has undergone a recent $750,000 renovation and the upgrades add to its already established world-class reputation. Improved technology and equipment have been added to the wood-fired kilns and studio space that allow students to create and sharpen their skills. The KCAI Board of Trustees backed the projects that topped the school’s priority list with Tony Jones, the interim KCAI president, leading the way. The overhaul and improvements come just in time for the college—which recently received an uprecedented $25 million anonymous donation—to host the National Council on Education for Ceramic Arts (NCECA) in March 2016, the organization’s 50th anniversary conference.

Musical Theater Heritage

This small space in Crown Center invites American musical lovers to join them in an intimate setting that seats only 243 patrons. Experience the thrill of a big cast with local performers and a big orchestra in this delightfully off-the-beaten path venue. Get there early for the pre-show talks and grab a drink from the bar.

Alcott Arts Center

A former neighborhood school escaped transformation into a minimum-security prison and instead became the L.M. Alcott Arts Center, a self-sustaining arts foundation. Volunteers run the nonprofit organization that provides arts classes, theatrical training and performances. The Alcott Arts Center has presented more than 300 art exhibits and several plays in 13 years and has even been involved with national arts programs, including the National Endowment of the Arts’ “The Big Read.” Positive energy powers this place that welcomes donations to help propel its mission.

The Living Room

Unconventional theater spaces are part of the charm of the Crossroads Arts District, complementing the ingenuity of those who set their artistic stakes here. The five-year-old Living Room is located in a renovated auto showroom where audiences sink into vintage-style couches and chairs to watch performances or listen to the variety of provocative concerts and readings on the schedule.

Kansas City Actors Theatre

This traveling troupe takes its acts to settings across the city, performing at places such as the National World War I Museum and Memorial and Union Station. They call it a “virtual theatre” and the lack of overhead allows the organization to use ticket revenue to pay actors while using creativity in the presenting production.