Unicorn Theatre: Using Art to Create Community
Photo Courtesy of Visit KC
Main Street has always been a special place for art and artists of all kinds. As more and more theatres and studios pop up, Main Street has begun to make a name for itself as an Arts Corridor. Unicorn Theatre, a popular performing arts venue, just celebrated its 30th year on Main Street. This theatre has anchored our arts community and is excited to see so many other artists pursuing their dreams here.
Unicorn Theatre was founded 42 years ago, however it moved to its 3828 Main Street building in September of 1986. Being on Main Street is very important to them not only due to the visibility, but because Midtown represents who they are as a theatre. Ian Crawford, Director of Development, explained, "It has always been important for us and the kinds of plays we produce that Unicorn Theatre be in the core of the city. Our plays are edgy, and explore provocative ideas - we don't belong in the 'burbs, we have to be in the heart of the city." (#luvmidtownkc)
Being in the heart of the city, Unicorn strives to explore thought-provoking topics and social issues that help the audience open their minds and hearts to new ideas and perspectives. Their plays delve into social issues and minority stories of race, religion, and gender identity. They only produce new plays that have never been performed in Kansas City before and have created a sense of welcoming community through their art.
Between August and June, Unicorn Theatre produces 8 shows, as well as 4 to 6 readings of new plays. These readings allow for a raw, unrefined performance, where actors read the plays with scripts in hand so audiences and playwrights can get a sense of new work before it is produced. Unicorn truly believes that art is for everyone, and that creating a dialogue about the sometimes difficult to talk about subject matter of their plays is important in building an open and safe environment. On Feature Friday nights, patrons are allowed to come together before or after the performance to explore the themes of the show in a more hands on way. They also have "Pay What U Can" nights every Tuesday and Thursday of performance weeks where anyone who can't afford a full-price ticket can pay what they can afford to see the show. They want everyone in Kansas City to have access to great art and a space to explore what that art means to them.
Throughout its 30 years on Main Street, Unicorn has seen quite a few changes to the area. The new streetlamps and CID Red Shirts make a big difference for their patrons in terms of safety and cleanliness. They love to see the influx of new businesses moving in and sharing in their community. As community leaders, they also recognize that being in the heart of the city means being a good neighbor and doing their part to help revitalize Midtown. They own their building and work hard to maintain and improve their facilities. Unicorn is excited for the streetcar extension to connect their audiences with the community, however they recognize the growing pains that could take place during the construction period. However, they believe in public transportation and greater accessibility for all of Kansas City, further emphasizing their value of art for everyone.
Unicorn Theatre has been on Main Street for almost as long as MainCor, experiencing with us the trials and tribulations of revitalizing Midtown. We each worked in our own ways to foster a sense of community here, and after years of hard work, Crawford expressed, "Maincor has changed the feel of Main Street, making it a destination instead of just a busy thoroughfare." Thank you, Unicorn Theatre, for being a destination and helping us build our community.