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The Folly Theater and its Board of Directors value Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity as one of Folly’s primary guiding principles. 

The Folly Theater recognizes the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. While this statement is not an end-all statement and will constantly evolve as we as an organization learn, this is a starting point for forming actions that will encourage equity and make an impact in Kansas City.

The board, staff, and volunteers of the Folly Theater believe in the transformative power of the arts to enrich lives and revitalize communities.

We also recognize the true value and the critical role that diversity serves in helping our theater and community thrive.

We are committed to sustaining a diverse, inclusive, and equitable space where everyone who walks through our iconic theater doors —  patrons, artists, employees, volunteers, and vendors — feels valued and respected regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, education, or ability.

  • By reflecting the diversity of the KC metro, we model diversity and inclusion for the entire arts industry of the nonprofit sector and better serve our patrons’ and constituencies’ needs for art and culture.
  • We contribute to the revitalization of the Kansas City region by providing diverse entertainment/arts programming that respects and values diverse life experiences and heritages.
  • We are committed to using inclusive practices to attract and retain talented employees and to providing equal opportunity for development and advancement in all our departments, programs, and worksites.
  • We build a stronger theater by ensuring that all voices have an opportunity to be heard and a safe environment to share ideas.

We understand that the foundation of a vibrant, thriving arts theater and performance venue is the cross-pollination of creative/diverse programming, the cultivation of inclusive practices and strategies, and the development of a diverse team of employees and volunteers who share in these values.

We believe this is a continuous evolution as we strive to reflect and meet the needs of our patrons and our community. Our commitment to upholding these principles and strengths is interwoven within the faithful mission to preserve the true heritage and legacy of Kansas City’s oldest historic theater.

The Folly’s Imperfect History

At the end of the 19th century, Colonel Edward Butler, a Saint Louis businessman, commissioned the design and construction of the Standard Theater, a project of generosity inspired by his son’s love for vaudeville. During its first 74 years, private ownership of the theater passed through several hands under different names. The Performing Arts Foundation of Kansas City, an existing 501(c)(3) nonprofit, acquired the building in 1974 and has operated it under the Folly Theater name since then.

From the beginning, the Grand Lady of 12th Street served a multitude of audiences seeking culture and catharsis through entertaining song and story. Any faithful recounting of her-stories must begin with the recognition of our culpability in the complicated growth and development of Kansas City. Ours is not an exhaustive account of the theater’s past, but a continual self-critical gaze on the Grand Lady’s very foundation.

The Folly Theater acknowledges this theater was constructed on the traditional land and ancestral home of many different Indigenous people. We acknowledge this theater was built in the Midwest during the height of the “Jim Crow” era, a period deeply marked by laws of prejudice and exclusion. For many years, prior theater operators implemented racist practices, including segregated seating, and presented entertainers who engaged in racist stereotyping. We acknowledge that, during its first 74 years, the theater routinely presented both live programs and movies that were degrading and demeaning to women. We do not recount these unjust and disreputable practices to shame or discredit our predecessors. We simply accept ownership of the flaws and errors of our imperfect past and commit ourselves to pursuing a better path that honors and respects the humanity in each of us.

As we continue serving our increasingly diverse audiences in the 21st century, the Folly Theater strives to advance inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility in all aspects of our programming, governance, and operations. We believe embodying inclusion and equity in our vision and mission as a world-class theater will make our communities stronger.

Remembered histories are often the ones written by those like Edward Butler who have the means and resources to invest in reshaping architectural and cultural landscapes. Those of us who sit under the Grand Lady’s chandeliers and who gaze at the stage lights now have the responsibility to recount the alternative narratives of our artists, audiences, and performance artistry. the untold stories of our conscious past. Engage with new performances reflecting our lived histories. Come experience the Folly of our times.