Enrich • Educate • Entertain
Gladstone Theatre in the Park (GTIP) is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to provide an accessible and high quality theatre experience for our community. Each summer, hundreds of community members come to Oak Grove Park to enjoy two musicals put on by local performers.
The dream of GTIP began to take shape in 1988. In June of that year, Van and Susie Ibsen, along with the City of Gladstone, began a tradition with the first GTIP production of Oliver! Van was the director, carpenter, and painter for that first show, and Suzie did the choreography, costuming, and everything else.
To have a musical, you must have music. The first year, the only accompaniment was a piano, played by Laurie Mayfield. By the next summer, the Northstar Community Band (conducted by Faye Rader) became the program’s third sponsor and has been in the pit ever since.
For Oliver!, parents and children of Gladstone and surrounding communities came together and built a temporary stage of 2x4s and plywood – and this tradition continued for eight years. Each summer, these volunteers would build the stage before the first show and tear it down after the second.
In 1996, the efforts of volunteers, donors, and the city of Gladstone helped build a permanent amphitheater, and debuted George M on the stage in June.
Several years of growth seemed to come to a halt in July 2002, when a devastating fire demolished the amphitheater. The community came together once more to demo and remove the remnants. A temporary stage was constructed because, as they say, “the show must go on.” On that temporary stage, Li’l Abner went on as planned.
From the ashes, an even more impressive amphitheater was built thanks to the city and community, and the additional efforts of the city of North Kansas City. Peter Pan was the maiden show on the new stage in June of 2003, and showed off the newly-added fly system.
The original plywood stage saw fifteen shows, plus two more after the fire. Twelve shows were performed in the original amphitheatre, and as of 2022, 40 shows have been performed at the current building. On July 6, 2002, the 15th anniversary of GTIP, the stage was officially renamed the Ibsen Stage in honor of the program’s founders, Van and Susie Ibsen.
Since 1988, GTIP has performed for close to half a million people, and the program’s participants look forward to many performances in the future.