The KC Rep’s Fearless Fête shows off a newly remodeled theater

Nearly 40 years since it was first erected at 49th and Cherry, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre has gotten its first makeover. In November, the Rep unveiled a new main stage as well as several renovations and amenity expansions. The upholstery is bright and plush; the stage floor has been reconstructed; the bathrooms are gleaming.

It’s all for the patrons, says Executive Director Angela Gieras. Ahead of the Rep’s annual gala fundraiser, the Fearless Fête, I spoke with Gieras about the impact she hopes the renovation will have on the audience’s experience, and the role of the Rep in Kansas City.

The Pitch: Tell me about the renovations. How long have they been going on? What was the impetus behind them?

Gieras: The building has not had a major renovation since 1979, when it was built. There were systems that were out of date, and there were things — like our restrooms — that were out of date for our patrons. So our focus was about creating a better environment for the patrons that came to see our work, and we wanted them to enjoy coming to the Rep more. We wanted to set up what the future would look like for the Rep, which is what we felt we were renovating for, so it was about setting expectations for what the future of the Rep would be. We’re a vibrant, modern company, and we wanted our environment to reflect that.

Let’s talk about the Fearless Fête and the idea behind it. What kind of show is it? What will patrons be doing and hearing?

The first part of the evening is food and cocktails. There’s interactive things involved — we have Guitar Hero stations and fake tattoos. Everything is rock-and-roll-themed throughout, and we encourage people to come in costume. It’s fun, because people really do take the theme seriously. We’ll begin the evening with cocktails and food; we have 10 restaurants participating this year. That’ll start at 7 p.m. We have a silent auction and raffle, and at 9 p.m. we’ll move into the theater for a music review celebrating rock musicals. So there will be the favorite performances from Tommy and Hair and different iconic musicals.

With so many rich cultural events going on Kansas City on any given night, tell me how you feel the Fearless Fête — and the Rep itself — fit into the landscape.

I think Fearless Fête, and particularly with the gala this year, it merges music and theater really well. I think people will come to see an exciting show, but they’re also supporting one of the largest nonprofit theater companies in the area, and Fearless Fête is the No. 1 fundraiser in the organization. We serve over 10,000 kids through our education programs annually, so it’s one of those opportunities for people to be hedonistic do-gooders. You can do good and have a great time doing it.

I think in the cultural landscape, we’re the flagship organization for theater that’s produced in this city, and we take that role very seriously. We view the KC Rep as an opportunity for people to come in and see theater for the first time, and then they’ll go forth to enjoy the many types of theater companies throughout the region. As a result of that, we do a very great variety of repertoire in a given year — classical musicals, classics, brand-new plays — it’s a little bit of everything, because we serve a little bit of everybody.

You’ve got a big job, overseeing an organization with a lot of moving parts, and that can sometimes take away the shine of a position like yours. How do you continue to find joy in your work?

My greatest joy in my work is when I’m able to sit in the back of the theater and watch people have profound experiences on our stage. Sometimes people see themselves onstage [through the artists], and many times they don’t. And it’s in the those moments, when they don’t see themselves, that they’re developed into more passionate, compassionate and understanding audience members. That’s what theater does best, and it’s why I love coming into work and why I think most of the people who work here, work here.

Fearless Fête
Friday, May 20
KC Repertory Theatre
4949 Cherry

Categories: Music