KANSAS CITY’S FOLLY THEATER HONORED AT LEAGUE OF HISTORIC AMERICAN THEATRES 2023 NATIONAL CONFERENCE
The League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT), the nation’s leading historic theatre advocate, recognized outstanding achievement within the industry when it announced that Kansas City’s Folly Theater (1900) is the 2023 Outstanding Historic Theatre in America. Additionally, George Levesque, Executive Director of the Paramount Theatre of Abilene, Texas, was given the 2023 Outstanding Individual Contribution Award. The LHAT National Conference, presented in different cities each year, is the largest gathering of historic theatre professionals in the nation. The conference took place in Kanas City, Missouri at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center. This year’s conference focused not only on the preservation, restoration and operation of historic theatres, but also the role arts organizations play in the ongoing conversations around diversity, equity inclusion and belonging (DEIB), which the conference highlighted with presentations from the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, the Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater, MI and the Jayhawk Theatre in Topeka, KS. LHAT OUTSTANDING HISTORIC THEATRE AWARD The Folly Theatre built in 1900 took home the 2023 Outstanding Historic Theatre Award during the conference which was attended by over 300 historic theatre operators and service providers from across North America and the United Kingdom. In addition to receiving the award, the staff and volunteers from The Folly hosted a tour and conference closing party featuring local BBQ and libations. Other theatres toured during the conference included Kansas City’s Uptown and Midland theatres as well as the Aztec, Liberty Hall, and Jayhawk in Kansas as well as the Missouri Theatre in St. Joseph. “The 1900 Folly Theater stood out among an impressive list of nominations to claim the award this year,” said Ken Stein, LHAT President and CEO, as he presented the award to Folly’s Executive Director, Rick Truman. “While there were many reasons The Folly was worthy of the award, our judges were particularly impressed with how well the theatre incorporated members from Kansas City’s diverse community. It was apparent that everyone is welcome and celebrated at The Folly,” Stein continued. The Outstanding Historic Theatre Award is given each year by LHAT to a historic theatre that has demonstrated excellence in community impact, quality of programs and services, and quality of physical restoration. “It was apparent to the League that the Folly has remained true to its architectural history while remaining relevant to its changing audiences.” The nominating committee consisted of former LHAT Board Presidents and leaders in the industry. Nominations were accepted from across the nation, representing some of America’s finest performing arts venues and film houses. Past winners include New York’s City Center, The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, The Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, and Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. The award has been given annually since 2003. LHAT OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTION AWARD The Outstanding Individual Contribution Award was given to George Levesque who has served as Executive Director for the Abilene Paramount for the past seven years. Given annually, this award recognizes an individual who demonstrates vision, dedication, selflessness, and excellence through his, her or their contribution to historic theatres and their communities. Levesque is credited with building on the theatre’s past success, taking the Paramount to new heights and reaching new audiences. When asked about the nomination Stein said, “It’s clear that since hiring Mr. Levesque, the Paramount Theatre has expanded its mission and artistic reach within the community of Abilene and West Texas. There were numerous worthy nominees, but George hit all the criteria and then some.” ABOUT THE LEAGUE OF HISTORIC AMERICAN THEATRES The League's annual conference is the largest annual gathering of historic theatre professionals, community leaders, and service providers and suppliers, attracting participants from across the U.S., as well as Canada and the United Kingdom, for idea sharing and network building. Professionals, volunteers, and community leaders join together for four days of networking and peer information exchange, tools & techniques sessions, and tours of local historic theatres, plus events, banquets and receptions. By defining our field, creating a shared vocabulary, and identifying best practices, the educational components of the League's annual conference strengthen efforts to sustain historic theatres of various sizes, operating structures, and programming philosophies. During theatre tours, docents emphasize how each venue has dealt with the specific challenges of sustaining their operations to serve their communities, now and in the future. The conference takes place in different locations across North America each year.