Harris Park brings the performing arts to the heart of the city


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With the biggest smile, Harris Park founder and Kansas City native Chris Harris stood outside what is now his theater.

“We are located at 1604 E. 41st St., the new address for Harris Park,” said Harris.

Harris can’t help but smile as he says the address as it was once his, almost 30 years ago, when the neighborhood didn’t have as many people investing there.

Courtesy of: Chris Davis

“I wanted to use sport as a catalyst to clean up and educate our community,” said Harris, who was fed up with the negative stigma often associated with the area east of Troost Avenue.

He started change your community clearing a patch of land across from his childhood home and opened Harris Park on the corner of 40th and Wayne in 1998, with a basketball court and local tournaments for the kids.

Since then, around $ 3 million has been collected in cash and in-kind donations to continue operating it.

RELATED STORY: Founder of Harris Park golf course in the heart of KCMO destroys his home to expand the course

The park’s newest addition is a stage and theater, to extend the performing arts to the urban core.

Harris Park Theater

KSHB

“How about theater in a sports park? Because not everyone can play basketball, not everyone can play golf,” Harris said when asked where the idea came from. put an indoor theater next to the golf course.

Inside, the space is small, but its purpose is huge.

“Often children go to school all day [and] they can’t let that sort of thing come out, “improv teacher and co-founder of Tribal university says Robert E. Coppage III. “They have to give themselves a facade at school, they have to act all day at school – like they want to be there, like they’re calm, quiet, cold, but I try to give them the opportunity to think outside the box, use their imagination.

Coppage first came across Harris Park 10 years ago while living in the 40th and Troost. He spent one day in court.

“It was a little park but then I came back and I’m like yooo! That’s it, do you have a golf course now? ”Said Coppage.

Harris Park

KSHB

This golf course later became the backdrop for a music video Coppage shot, titled “Father of the year.”

“This park itself, as well as for the community, is a very good thing,” said Coppage. “I’ve seen a lot of growth happening here, I’ve seen a lot of people feeling safe on this street. And what not, that’s a really cool thing, we can see kids running around.

When the theater opens in 2022, the hope is that some of these running kids will audition to be part of the Harris Park Theater, where Coppage will teach improvisation.

Robert E. Coppage III and his son

KSHB

Robert E. Coppage III and his son show how improvisation is done for KSHB 41 News.

“I started working in a comedy club, I did improv and I watched all the other actors that were there and I was like you, we were all the clowns in the class. We were all. those who were kicked out of the classroom and now we get paid to do it, ”Coppage said.

Because if growing up to do something you are passionate about is a possibility, even on a small scale, why not, give this opportunity to even more classy clowns.

“You give them something and let them decide what to do with it and it’s a beautiful process – it’s that community thing,” Coppage said.

Auditions will take place this winter. Information will be posted on Harris Park website.

Performances are expected by spring 2022.

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During the pandemic, KSHB 41 News wants to shine a light on the people, organizations and businesses that are helping the community. To share these stories, use #WeSeeYouKSHB on social media.

About Madeline J. Carter

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