Gladstone Theatre in the Park is the only FREE theater in Kansas City!!!!
The dream of Gladstone Theatre in the Park began to take shape in 1988. In June of that year, a very dedicated couple devoted much of their time to provide the Northland community with quality entertainment. Van Ibsen and Susie Ibsen, along with the City of Gladstone, began a tradition that summer with the first GTIP production, “Oliver!”. Van Ibsen was the director, carpenter, and painter for that first show. Susie Ibsen did the choreography, costuming, and made all the frayed ends come together.
We all know that in order to have a musical, you must have music. A piano was the only accompaniment the first year, played by Laurie Mayfield who is still an accompanist to this day. Then the Northstar Community Band, conducted by Faye Rader, became the third sponsor in 1989 and has been in the pit ever since.
Beginning in 1988, the stage for Gladstone Theatre in the Park had very humble beginnings of 2 x 4’s and plywood. It was built from the ground up before the first show each summer and torn down after the second show. Parents and children of Gladstone and surrounding communities helped build this temporary stage and the sets each summer.
Thanks to the efforts of volunteers, donors and the City of Gladstone, a permanent amphitheatre was built in 1996 and Gladstone Theatre in the Park was pleased to debut George M! on that stage in June of that year.
The program continued to grow and flourish until a devastating fire demolished the structure in July 2002. The community dug in the very next day to demo and remove the remnants and a temporary stage was constructed because “the show must go on”. So, without missing a beat, the remaining show, L’il Abner, went on as planned.
Again, the city and community rallied to build anew. From the ashes sprang an even more glorious amphitheatre that is still in use today. And to show the value of the Gladstone Amphitheatre to the entire community, The City of North Kansas City became a major benefactor with their contributions toward the reconstruction. Peter Pan was the inaugural show in June of 2003, showing off the newly added fly system.
Fifteen shows were performed on the original plywood stage, plus 2 more after the fire. Twelve shows took place in the original amphitheatre and as of 2019, thirty-four 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 founders, Van and Susie Ibsen.
Over the decades since 1988, Gladstone Theatre in the Park has served close to a half a million people and looks forward to many performances in the future.