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Theatre Projects at Opening of Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Theatre Projects, in collaboration with architect Moshe Safdie and acoustician Nagata Acoustics, designed and planned the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, opening this month in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri. Theatre Projects played the lead role in theatre design and planning as well as in engineering the customized theatre equipment. BNIM in Kansas City served as the executive architect.

The 285,000 net sq. ft. (435,000 gross sq. ft.) Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is a world-class arts space featuring two distinct performance spaces that will serve as home to the Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Symphony, and Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

The 1,800-seat Kauffman Theatre, a proscenium theatre for opera and dance, draws inspiration from the great opera houses of Europe. Balconies wrap around the auditorium to create ideal proximity and sight lines for the audience. The space gives the audience the sense of an intimate performance yet still feels grand.

In an effort to give the audience the kind of engaging and interactive experience only a smaller, more intimate space can offer, Theatre Projects' concept design for the Kauffman Theatre incorporated multiple balconies and side boxes of seating, which bring more people closer to the stage and wrap the room with live energy.

The 1,600 seat Helzberg Hall, designed for symphonic music, deploys another successful form, only recently rediscovered: the vineyard concert hall, an arena-type space that places the musicians in the very heart of the room with the audience seating in terraces (reminiscent of a vineyard) encircling the concert platform. The sedate wood tone and fluid shape of the concert hall give the impression of a curved musical instrument and follows the exterior shape of the building. Theatre Projects provided flexibility with the design of a six-lift system to easily transform the concert platform into numerous performance configurations, depending on the center's artistic needs.

Richard Pilbrow, Theatre Projects' founder and early Kauffman Center project leader, said "Both the Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall combine outstanding acoustics, fine and spacious stages, and state-of-the-art theatre technology while creating unparalleled intimacy. Each will foster an unrivaled sense of participation, to move, uplift, inspire, and entertain audiences long into the future."

Michael Ferguson, Theatre Projects project manager for the Kauffman Center, said "The two rooms have very distinct characters. Helzberg Hall, with its curves and wood tones, feels like a classical guitar while the Kauffman Theatre plays like an electric guitar with vibrant colors and dynamic shapes - the two together in one facility are perfect complements. The leaders of the Kauffman Center strove to build a top-quality performing arts center, and that attention to quality shows through not only in the audience and performance spaces, but also in the back of house and support spaces. These new theatres will serve Kansas City well."

Theatre Projects began planning a world-class performing arts center in Kansas City with Julia Kauffman and the Muriel B Kaufman Foundation in 1999. Rather than follow the decades-old tradition of creating a single, multipurpose hall serving all the performing arts, Theatre Projects and the Kauffmans focused on a plan to create two high-quality halls, one for music and one for theatre, opera, and dance, that sought to avoid compromise and reach the highest levels of international quality.

Working closely with the Safdie team as well as Nagata Acoustics, Theatre Projects developed the Kauffman's vision into a balance of cutting edge technology and intimate performance space that offers virtually unlimited experiences. The center also includes warm-up rooms, administrative offices, and support spaces.

In addition to Pilbrow and Ferguson, other Theatre Projects personnel include Brian Hall and Carol Allen (theatre designers) and Michael Nishball (theatre equipment designer).

Others contributing to the project are JR Clancy (theatrical rigging), Gala Systems (theatrical lifts), Theatre Solutions, Inc. (theatrical seating), and ETC (theatrical dimming and control.)

The $326 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City opens the weekend of September 16. Performances kick off in the Kauffman Theatre on Friday, September 16 with a range of performances from opera to Broadway, headlined by Placido Domingo, making his first appearance in Kansas City. Multiple Tony Award winners Tommy Tune and Patti Lupone will make special guest appearances. Saturday, September 17 will be the inaugural performance for Helzberg Hall with special guest appearances by singer/pianist Diana Krall and virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman, as well as a salute to Kansas City jazz featuring composer/musician Bobby Watson.


(8 September 2011)

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