Johnson County Community College’s Performing Arts Series celebrates 25 years of world-class programming.
As Johnson County Community College celebrates the 25th anniversary of its renowned Performing Arts Series, people still wonder how a suburban community college in the Midwest manages to draw such a high caliber of performers from all over the world.
Since 1990, many of the country’s finest artists from every performing arts genre have graced Yardley Hall and Polsky Theatre, both of which are housed in the Carlsen Center.
Emily Behrmann, general manager for the past six years, said the Performing Arts Series has hosted international artists who have performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and other prestigious venues around the world.
“We hear from artists all the time who didn’t know much about us. They tell us how much they loved performing in the state-of-the-art acoustics in Yardley Hall, and that they appreciated how smoothly everything went,” Behrmann said.
“We are doing good work,” she said. “We are making it easy on them when they are with us.”
This good work will be evident throughout the 2015-2016 anniversary season of the JCCC Performing Arts Series, celebrated with special events and receptions weaved in throughout the year.
The 25th anniversary season began this summer and ends in May 2016 with Under the Streetlamp. In between, the series features everything from Blue Man Group and Arlo Guthrie to the Australian Bee Gees Show and Jane Lynch of “Glee” Fame. There also are dance troupes, international music, holiday programs, family theatre and many more genres and collaborations— 23 performances in all.
“With this series, we have tried to honor our past history and offer a broad range of performances like we always do,” Behrmann said.
Joining this range of sought-after performers, the series will feature collaborations with other local arts organizations, such as the Friends of Chamber Music-Kansas City, UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, Heartland Men’s Chorus and Kansas City Chorale.
These collaborations are part of the Performing Arts Series mission, which is to “lead, partner and collaborate on campus, in the community and across the country.”
Prior to Behrmann, there have been only two other directors of the series in its 25-year history: Dr. Gerald Snider and Charles R. Rogers. Behrmann said their leadership established the program and then brought in a wider variety of performers.
As the Performing Arts Series international reputation grows, so do its local audiences and supporters. “We are a gateway into the arts for some (audiences),” Behrmann said. “who might be intimidated navigating in downtown Kansas City. Our theater on the college campus is easy to get in and out of, and it’s a comfortable place that’s not so formal.”
Email surveys conducted after every performance receive high response rates of 28% to 30%. Audiences are 72% Johnson County residents, 13% Kansas City, MO residents, with the rest coming from across the KC Metro and as far away as 26 states. Surveys reveal JCCC audiences prefer country, bluegrass and classical rock genres, as well as Broadway touring shows. “Broadway shows are becoming a little easier to afford, from a presenter’s viewpoint, as there are more producers willing to book tours including one-night plays,” Behrmann said. “We encourage suggestions from our audience.”
Behrmann said the series has been successful because of community support from the Friends of the Performing Arts Series, as well as private donations from foundations and grants. The PAS also serves as a comprehensive arts education resource for the community.
“We feel that those connections we have to the schools and educational community are really important to what we do and dovetail with the mission of the college,” Behrmann said.
“We are the only venue in Johnson County bringing in professional artists from all over the world,” Behrmann said. “It gives the local arts scene another dimension. What we try to achieve is excellence. We want to bring in the highest quality performers we can, and share them with our community at a reasonable ticket price.”
For more information about this year’s 25th Anniversary Performing Arts Series visit www.jccc.edu/TheSeries.