Leaders request help revitalizing Folly Theater

Posted at 11:59 AM, Feb 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-06 17:59:40-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Leaders of the oldest theater in Kansas City are asking for help from the public to make sure the theater remains a mainstay for the next 100 years and beyond.

The marquis and flashing lights are raised high above 12th Street in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri. There’s no business like show business, which is why Gale Tallis and Brian Williams have made it their business to preserve what many call a jewel box of a theater. 

The Folly Theater first opened its doors in 1900.  

"Sir James Galway called it the Carnegie Hall of Kansas City," Williams said.  

Originally called the Standard Theater. The next year it became known as the Century Theater. It later changed names again as the Shubert Theater before it was finally called the Folly Theater in 1941.  

“Gypsy Rose Lee first stepped foot on stage at our theater,” Tallis said. “Roseanne Cash, Art Garfunkel, Walter Cronkite.”

Tallis said the Folly Theater was a thing of beauty until the 1970’s.

“It became a little bit seedy, and the acts on stage became a little bit seedier as well," said Tallis.

Slated to be torn down in 1974 until civic leaders stepped in. Tallis and Williams showed our crews pictures of the before and after and the images are very telling.

"9 and a half tons of pigeon poop, because there was a lot of broken glass," said Tallis.

"Walter Cronkite said saving this theater was a stroke of genius because no other building in this city embodies the spirit and history of Kansas City like the Folly Theater does,” Williams said.

The Folly Theater needs help from the public to maintain the current charm and integrity. The HVAC system is nearly 40 years old and needs replacing. There are efforts underway to refurbish the lobby, relocate restrooms, install an elevator. Williams said the immediate goal is to raise a little more than $1.5 million.  

"We are only able to exist because of the generous support of thousands of donors," said Williams. "Without the Folly Theater, there are so many organizations that would not be able to thrive and express their artistic voice."

Without help, the final curtain call could be here before you know it.