Jayhawk Theatre


(Frank) Good morning, I’m Frank Chaffin and this is Around Kansas. It echoes a little bit today because we’re in the historic Jayhawk Theatre in Topeka, Kansas. This theatre was built in 1926 by E.H. Crosby who had a department store. In fact, behind that wall right there was the Crosby Brothers Department Store. This was a magnificent theatre then in 1926. It survived for several decades before of course, it unfortunately closed several years ago. It is in the process of restoration as you can probably see because there are no seats in here. But anyway, the theatre- I’m gonna read from their brochure here- E.H. Crosby of Crosby Brothers Company opened the Jayhawk Theatre, the construction costs (now remember this was 1926) $750,000 to $1 million dollars. Gonna let that sink in. I mean, this is a magnificent place. And you’re gonna get to see some of it. And it really needs to be restored. Historically, yes it was part of the of the time when there were traveling companies that traveled all over Kansas. That was the form of entertainment at the time. And let me tell you some of the people that trogged the boards here at this wonderful Jayhawk Theatre. Rose Havoc who became Gypsy Rose Lee. If you are familiar with the Broadway show and the movie, you know Rose left the family. She left the family at this theatre. This was where she left and became Gypsy Rose Lee. George Burns played here. He had a story that there was not room to cross backstage so they had to go out the back door over here and around the alley and then back through the Jayhawk walkway. And of course people would recognize him and want to talk to him. And he’d say, “Excuse me. But I have to be on stage.” Also, Marilyn May played here. Lon Chaney. Bob Hope sang, “Thanks for the Memory” on this stage. The Three Stooges. Abbot and Costello. Lucille Ball. Jack Benny. Judy Garland. And those are only a few of the people that actually played in this wonderful, wonderful theatre during the days of Vaudeville. So anyway, you can come and see this theatre if you want. There are many activities that are planned to help renovate this wonderful theatre called the Jayhawk Theatre. It’s in Topeka, Kansas, just off of 8th and Jackson. They also have an art gallery and of course, if you really talk to ’em nice they might come show you this theatre. For now, I’m Frank Chaffin and I’ll see you somewhere Around Kansas.

(Frank) Good morning, I’m Frank Chaffin and on Around Kansas we’re doing some stories about the old Opera Houses in the state of Kansas. Many have been restored and we’re really in the Gallery of one that is in the process of being restored. And we’re here with Ben who is the secretary of the Jayhawk Theatre of Kansas Board. We had said previously that in 1926 it took $750,000 to one million dollars to build the theatre. (Ben) Yeah. (Frank) Now we’re looking at a restoration, kind of give us an idea of the cost. (Ben) The restoration’s total bill is going to be right around 8 to 9 million dollars. That includes re-doing the theatre, also we’re going to have a conference center attached to it as well. (Frank) Now where we are now not in the theatre itself, we’re adjacent to the theatre. This is the Upstage Gallery which is on Jackson Street, in the 800 block. And there are a lot of activities that go on here as well. So tell us some of the things that have been done. (Ben) Sure, we’ve been busy, course you see here in the Upstage Gallery which is part of the theatre we have First Friday, the First Friday of every month we have a new artist who comes in here and shows off their paintings and any other type of medium they may be working in. We also do some events inside of the theatre, we just recently show “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” showed it four times over a weekend and had great success and were sold out at almost every showing. And we’re looking to do some more things of that nature. (Frank) if someone would want to get interested in the restoration process how can they find out more about that? (Ben) Go to our website the jayhawktheatre.com or jayhawksociety.org. We’re also the official State Theatre of Kansas, we got that designation during the Bill Graves administration, while he was Governor, the official State Theatre. (Frank) Kind of elaborate on that. What does that mean, that nobody can tear it down now, or what? (Ben) Yeah, it can’t be torn down now because we’re also on the Historic Register. So we are safe but as the official State Theatre of Kansas it was a Boller Brothers design, the prototype of the Boller Brothers, a prototype for about 300 other theaters across the United states at one time, this was the first one. So it does have some historical significance. It was one of the very first concrete and steel theaters, no wooden beams and they always said every seat in the house was the best seat in the house. (Frank) During “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” there were a lot of people who came here that had never seen this. And if you haven’t seen this place, I mean there’s a beautiful walkway which they’re out there polishing tile. Give us an idea, can there be groups that come in and take tours? (Ben) Sure, just go to our website and give us a call and come down and take a tour, we have volunteers that would love to take you on a tour. We have Board Members that if someone says Hey we’d love to come down and take a look, we’re always anxious and we’d love to do that. Although right now the theatre is in a lot of disrepair, it has great bones. I’ve never done a tour where someone’s gone in and said, Oh my goodness..everyone goes in and says, Wow! This place is amazing and when it gets going it’s just going to be even more amazing. (Frank) Yeah, it is a Wow! So for around Kansas, this is Frank Chaffin with Ben at the Jayhawk Theatre in Topeka, Kansas, and we’ll see you somewhere Around Kansas!

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