KCRep was founded in 1964 by Dr. Patricia McIlrath, a tireless crusader for excellent theatre. Her vision was to establish a training program where theatre students could work side by side with professional actors, designers and directors. Within a few years of its founding, KCRep became affiliated with Actors’ Equity Association and formally took the name Missouri Repertory Theatre.
James Costin also played a vital role in the growth and success of the theatre and served as its longtime administrator from its founding until his retirement in 2000. George Keathley was appointed artistic director after Dr. McIlrath’s retirement in 1985 and served until 2000. That same year, Peter Altman joined KCRep as producing artistic director and he served for seven years. Eric Rosen was appointed artistic director in November 2007 and 2008-09 was his inaugural season.
KCRep moved into the Helen F. Spencer Theatre in the new UMKC Performing Arts Center (now designated the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center) in 1979; that same year marked the not-for-profit incorporation of Missouri Repertory Theatre. In 2004, KCRep’s Board of Directors voted to rename the company Kansas City Repertory Theatre to better reflect its identity, location and audience.
KCRep’s long-held dream to establish a second, smaller theatre was realized in 2007 when Copaken Stage opened in downtown Kansas City, expanding the theatre’s performance options and further establishing KCRep as a leader in Kansas City’s arts community.
In 2014, KCRep celebrated its 50th Anniversary, and launched a $5 Million campaign to renovate its mainstage home at Spencer Theatre. Its first major renovation since its opening in 1979, the new Spencer Theatre will allow KCRep to further develop its vision as the heart of a great theatre town.
Dr. Mac during the construction of Spencer Theatre in 1978. Photo: KCRep Archives