Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Postcards from the Past: Schubert Theatre" by Felicia Londré

This article is from the December 2012 issue of KC Stage

When David Warfield played The Music Master at Kansas City's Shubert Theatre in April 1907, over 1,000 people lined up overnight to buy tickets. In the morning, despite heavy rains, the line stretched east on 10th Street across Baltimore and into the lobby of the bank that is today's Central Library. The charming theatre opened in 1906 as part of the New York-based Shubert brothers' chain of theatres built to check the power of the ruthlessly monopolistic Theatrical Syndicate. Known as "the house cosy", the Shubert long maintained an avid clientele by presenting top stars in New York touring companies. But times changed and it was demolished in 1936.

 The Shubert's main entrance faced 10th Street in the middle of the block where spines of gigantic books now adorn the parking ramp. From the lobby of the theatre, one entered the main floor of the auditorium that sloped down toward the stage so that one did not have to climb stairs. The two balconies hung low to enhance the feeling of intimacy in the 1,625-seat house. The Shubert was equipped with both gas and electric lighting.

Felicia Hardison Londré is curators' professor of theatre at UMKC, specializing in French, Russian, and Kansas City theatre history. She currently (2012-14) serves as dean of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.

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