Jeannette and Jerome Cohen Community Stage
Starlight’s state-of-the-art stage may not have been possible if not for the generosity of two longtime supporters, Jeannette and Jerome Cohen. Jerome Cohen was a charter member of the Starlight Theatre Association when it formed in 1950, and the family remains involved at Starlight to this day.
The $1 million donation the Cohens made in 1997 served as a catalyst for the fundraising effort that ultimately allowed Starlight to build its new 10-story, 12,000-square-foot stage house. In total, 38 donors contributed $10 million to make the Jeannette and Jerome Cohen Community Stage a reality.
The spacious, fully enclosed and climate-controlled structure opened in time for the 2000 Broadway season and set the stage for Starlight’s first-ever presentation of nationally touring Broadway mega-hits, including Miss Saigon and Fosse that first summer. Anticipating seeing Broadway bigger and better than ever on the new stage, Kansas City residents and visitors turned out in numbers not seen at Starlight since the 1950s and ‘60s.
Starlight’s historic light bridge is one of the oldest and most picturesque structures at the theatre. Accessed by spiral staircases inside the 60-foot towers that flank it, the light bridge was constructed as part of Starlight’s original design in 1951, sitting 31 feet above the concrete below and 225 feet from the edge of the main stage. “House lights” illuminate the seating area, and numerous 4,200 kilowatt spotlights regulate the color of light, the size and intensity of light beams—a movement of millimeters on the bridge equates to feet on stage. The approximate dimensions of the actual light bridge are 43 feet wide by 13 feet deep.
If you get the chance to climb the stairs of the iconic towers, you’ll find innumerable show logos and artwork, painted by lighting and production teams throughout the years. From Motown to Grease, Dirty Dancing to The Wizard of Oz and many more, it’s a tradition to leave each show’s mark on the walls inside.
Anita B. Gorman Donor Court of Honor
Dedicated in July 2007, the Anita B. Gorman Donor Court of Honor recognizes the 571 donors who provided the financial gifts that allowed Starlight to successfully complete its three-year, $15.25 million Future Generations Campaign. The largest capital campaign in the theatre’s history supported extensive capital improvements, educational programs, administrative technology and creation of the first-ever Starlight Endowment Fund.
Located between two pavilions on Starlight’s north side, the Court of Honor was named in honor of Anita Gorman, a longtime Kansas City civic leader who has been a Starlight patron and dedicated supporter since the 1950s. In 1982, Anita joined Jack Steadman to chair one of the first fund-raising campaigns to beautify the theatre. She was a Starlight board member from 1990 to 1995 and again from 2005 until today. In 1993, Starlight recognized her with its Star Award.
Distinctive architectural and artistic elements distinguish the 40- by 25-foot Court of Honor. The predominant element in the floor is a glass star that 5½ feet in diameter and constructed of transparent white and cobalt blue glass, embedded with copper stars and backlit with a fiber-optic lighting system. Overhead is a series of stainless steel rings with Future Generation Campaign donor names engraved in the metal. We feel it is a fitting tribute to those individuals, organizations and foundations who have helped Starlight grow and glow!
Officially unveiled in March 2016, Starlight’s Education Pavilion provides a dedicated space for the thousands of Kansas City area students that participate in Starlight’s educational programs, classes and performance troupes each year.
This 2,700-square-foot facility was constructed on the site of the original 1950 Director’s Pavilion, located on the southwest corner of the Starlight campus. For 55 summers, performers rehearsed their lines, lyrics and choreography there. Although the open-air Director’s Pavilion had fallen into disrepair in the years before its 2016 renovation, Starlight was able to preserve a part of its history by repurposing much of the original pine flooring and many of the support beams in the new education building.
Now, this beautiful space provides a home and room to grow our education and outreach programming at Starlight.
Prior to 2000, Starlight’s Applause Club was exclusively an outdoor dining experience. In conjunction with the enclosure of the stage house in 2000, it was expanded to provide a covered dining space for patrons.
In 2006, the Applause Club was fully renovated and enclosed to offer not only a climate-controlled dining space but also, during non-show weeks, an additional rehearsal space. The Club’s west wall is completely covered in mirrors for rehearsing dance numbers, and the wooden floor has the same dimensions as the Starlight stage, which allows cast members to rehearse in a similar-sized location.
Now, during the summer Broadway series, patrons can enjoy the Best of Broadway Buffet inside the Applause Club or the KC Barbecue Buffet outdoors on the shaded patio. During concert events, the Applause Club serves as a VIP area with a full cash bar, hors d’oeuvres and private restrooms. In the winter during Starlight Indoors, guests enjoy bar and coffee service and other concessions in the space prior to each show.
Dorothy Jeter Music Room
Since 2006, musicians, performers and students have been able to perfect their vocal skills in an acoustically ideal setting at Starlight. The Dorothy Jeter Music Hall was made possible by a generous donation from an Independence, Mo., family who spent many nights together under the stars.
An accomplished pianist, Dorothy Wickstrom Jeter shared both her talent and lifelong love of music with those around her. When her three children were young, she brought them to many performances at Starlight. At the time, free tickets were distributed for the last three rows of the theatre. Wickstrom and her children would arrive early, stand in line for tickets and then enjoy a picnic dinner in the park before each performance.
Dorothy died in May 1997 at the age of 83. To celebrate the memory of their mother and their Starlight nights, her children Mark, David and Dianne contributed more than $225,000 to Starlight’s Future Generations Campaign, which made possible the construction of the indoor vocal rehearsal space.
Richard Hill Berger & Richard Laurence Berger Rehearsal Hall
A $250,000 bequest from the Richard L. Berger Estate to the Starlight Future Generations Campaign made possible the construction of a new indoor rehearsal hall. The Berger Rehearsal Hall was dedicated in June 2006 and is named in honor of Richard Hill Berger and his son, Richard Laurence Berger.
The elder Berger, Richard Hill, began his 20-year career as theatre manager and producing director at Starlight in 1951, the year the theatre opened as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity. As former production manager of The Muny in St. Louis, he had the experience and contacts in show business to bring quality performers and stage technicians to Starlight’s stage. When his son, Richard Laurence, turned 15, he went to work as a Starlight stagehand. By 1959, he moved from backstage to on-stage as a chorus member in Starlight’s production of The New Moon.
Richard Laurence went on to build a career in Hollywood, including serving as president of both Walt Disney Pictures and MGM, but he never forgot his Starlight roots. When he died in September 2004 at the age of 64, his final act of generosity to our theatre was memorialized for future generations –Starlight performers who now hone their skills in Berger Hall and patrons who utilize the space for various activities, including private events, classes, dinners and more.
Shirley Bush Helzberg Garden of the Stars and Fountain
Upon entering Starlight on the theatre’s east side, guests are greeted by a serene setting – the Shirley Bush Helzberg Garden of the Stars and Fountain. Christened in 1997, the picturesque fountain features 10 waterfalls gently cascading from 11 brick columns, as well as a pool with more than a dozen vertical jets of descending heights.
With a total length of 180 feet and columns standing 20 feet tall, the fountain is a favorite resting spot for theatre-goers, has been the site of numerous weddings and private events, and surely is the backdrop for millions of photos taken at Starlight.
The fountain and surrounding garden commemorate Barnett and Shirley Helzberg’s longtime dedication to Starlight. The former owners of Helzberg Jewelers, the couple donated $1 million toward creation of the site. Shirley served as president of the Starlight Board of Directors from 1991 to 1994.
Steadman Family Fountain
Backed by a beautifully landscaped terrace, the Steadman Family Fountain has flowed near Starlight’s west entrance since 1997. It was donated in honor of longtime Starlight supporters Jack and Martha Steadman.
Jack served as president of the Starlight Board of Directors in 1984-85, led the theatre’s first-ever capital campaign with Anita Gorman in the 1980s, received our Star Award in 1986, led a second capital campaign that resulted in construction of our new stage in 2000, received Starlight’s first and only Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, and remained a Starlight board member until his passing in July 2015.