Starlight Theatre leaders welcomed many familiar faces to the theatre on April 1 to recount and celebrate the important ways in which their volunteer service has enhanced the Starlight venue since the 1980s.
A reunion of members of the Starlight Board of Directors from the past 3½ decades took place in the Applause Club. Current Starlight staff and board members greeted past board leaders and, together, they reminisced about past accomplishments and learned about the vision for Starlight’s future.
Among the nearly 60 people in attendance were four past board presidents/chairs and one lifetime board member:
Robert A. Kipp – president 1986-87
Robert A. Bernstein – chairman 1994-95
James D. Dawson – chairman 2000-01
Charles W. Battey – chairman 2002-03
Anita B. Gorman – lifetime member
The event included a reception and series of brief presentations. Current board chair Carolyn Watley of CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services of Kansas City formally welcomed the guests and thanked them for their continued dedication to Starlight.
Bob Rohlf, who joined Starlight in 1980 and led the theatre as president and executive producer until retiring after the 2008 season, provided historical perspective. “When I joined Starlight in 1980, it was basically a bankrupt organization, and there were people in this community who were ready to let it go,” Rohlf recounted. “Fortunately, those of you in this room were not. You knew Starlight was woven into the fabric of this community and had to evolve and grow!”
Over the next 30 years, board members helped to raise more than $40 million to fund projects ranging from new lighting, bathrooms, a dining deck and creation of education programs starting in the 1980s to the Jeannette and Jerome Cohen Community Stage, indoor rehearsal spaces and much more in the 2000s. “Our facility, product and operations all changed significantly over that span,” Rohlf said. “Today Starlight is a more efficient, exciting, comfortable and serviceable theatre than ever before.”
Current Starlight president and CEO Rich Baker followed Rohlf and gave participants a hint of what lies ahead. After the 2014 season yielded strong financial results, the Starlight board gave Baker a green light to reinvest in the theatre – and guests will see the tangible results in 2015.
“New additions to Starlight to be revealed soon will enhance customer service and customer experience, as well as improve our ability to serve the youth in our performing arts education programs,” he said. “I expect audiences will be very pleased because they want things to continually improve at Starlight.”