Take a look backstage at Kansas City’s Starlight Theater

Kansas City is home to various venues for performing arts, with Starlight Theater being a changemaker in the way Kansas Citians enjoy live entertainment. Let’s dive into the outdoor theater’s history + view behind the scenes.

Starlight KCtoday

The first sign of a great evening ahead.

Photo by KCtoday

Table of Contents

Showtime. Welcome to the Starlight Theater, Kansas City’s oldest and largest continually operating performing arts organization. Let’s pull back the curtain and take a look at behind the scenes of this theater under the stars.

Starlight 1952 KCtoday

The Starlight view in 1952.

Photo via Kansas City Public Library

Turn back time

Starlight Theater was constructed in 1950 in the heart of Swope Park. It was designed by Edward Buehler Delk, who was also largely responsible for the design of the Country Club Plaza. Discussions of an outdoor stage in KC were in the works for decades. Eventually, overall plans for the venue were rushed in order to put on a show for the city’s 100th birthday.

The cost of the original facility was $1.75 million. By the mid-1990s, that number reached $40 million. Where it stands today, the theater is worth upwards of $80 million. We think it’s priceless.

Starlight KCtoday

Editor Bella is channeling her inner Elle Woods on stage.

Photo by KCtoday

See the space

Over the years, Starlight has seen rounds of renovation and improvement to keep visitors happy + excited about the arts. Back in 2000, the stage house was enclosed in a $10 million project. Following suit through the rest of the decade, the theater saw multiple projects including a new stage, restrooms, concessions, and indoor rehearsal spaces.

The stage house, where you see the performances happen, is 12,000 sqft and 10 stories tall. Its structure consists of 90-ft battens, a 71-line fly system, trap floor system, and a sprung wood floor. Fun fact: the door to the audience is actually an airplane hangar door.

For audience members, there are four mega-fans standing 35 ft tall with 10-ft blades plus nearly 8,000-seats to choose from.

KCtoday Starlight Theater

Channeled our inner dare devils standing at the light deck, suspended over the audience.

Photo by KCtoday

Crunching the numbers

Now for some annual fast facts:

  • 250,000+ guests visit Starlight
  • 100+ live performances occur
  • 200+ volunteers provide 5,700+ hours of service
  • 175 nonprofits receive 13,000+ free tickets
  • 30,000+ people engage with community programs
More from KCtoday