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’re at 1604 E. 41st St., Harris Park’s new address,” Harris said.

Harris can’t help but smile as he pronounces the address, because it used to be his, nearly 30 years ago, when the neighborhood didn’t have as many people investing there.

Courtesy of Chris Davis

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

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

Since then, approximately $3 million has been raised in cash and in kind to continue building on her.

RELATED STORY: The founder of the Harris Park golf course in the heart of KCMO demolishes his house to expand the course

The newest addition to the park is a stage and theatre, 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 for the show came from. put a covered 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’re not able to let that stuff out,” improv teacher and co-founder of Tribe University says Robert E. Coppage III. “They have to pretend to be at school, they have to act all day at school – like they want to be there, like they’re calm, quiet, laid back, but I try to give them the opportunity to get out of who, think outside the box, use their imagination.

Coppage first came across Harris Park 10 years ago when he was living on 40th and Troost. He went to court one day.

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

Harris Park

KSHB

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

“This park itself, like for the community, is a very good thing,” Coppage said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth happening here, I’ve seen a lot of people feel safe on this street. And what’s more, it’s a really neat thing, we can see kids running around.”

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

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, doing improv and watching all the other actors that were in there and I was like you, we were all the class clowns. We were all the ones who used to get kicked out of the classroom and now we get paid to do it,” Coppage said.

Because if growing up to do something you’re passionate about is a possibility, even on a small scale, why not, offer this opportunity to even more class clowns.

“You give them something and you 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 about Harris Park website.

Performances are scheduled for spring 2022.

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