© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Gale Tallis draws the curtain as executive director of the Folly Theater

A white woman with dark hair smiling at the camera while seated in an empty theater. She is wearing a red sweater set and a multi-colored silky scarf around her neck.
The Folly Theater
Gale Tallis served at the Folly Theater for 15 years, 11 of those as executive director.

In her 11 years leading the historic venue, Tallis has greeted everyone from strippers to presidents.

Gale Tallis holds a double major in psychology and child development from the University of Kansas.

Although she originally thought she'd go into some area of counseling, Tallis says her coursework "frankly, has helped me tremendously in what I do today." She notes that very few individual artists, Art Garfunkel among them, were difficult and needed the special touch her educational background offered.

Growing up with a father deeply involved in Major League Baseball, Tallis and her family led an itinerant existence, at various times residing in Jamestown, New York; Providence, Rhode Island; Montgomery, Alabama; Vancouver, British Columbia; Seattle, Washington; Sherman Oaks, California; and Orange County, California.

She ended up in Kansas City after her father, Cedric Tallis, was approached by the Kansas City Royals when he was working as the business manager for the Angels organization in California.

From the Royals, Cedric Tallis went on to become a vice president with the Yankees, where he garnered two World Series rings. Gale Tallis describes them as "gorgeous and incredibly gaudy, but they're beautiful and a real treasure."

Her own career brought her to the Kansas City Board of Trade right out of college, with an opportunity to move up in the commodities world.

But a casual conversation with a friend of her parents led her to apply for the position of office manager with the Renaissance Festival. She got the job. A year later she was its executive director.

From there she assumed positions with the Westport Merchants Association, then with Pat Riha Productions, an events organizer. After that, her experience landed her at Union Station just as it was getting ready to reopen and where she worked for almost six years.

Her skill at booking and staging events eventually landed her a job at the Folly Theater. Four years later, she was its executive director.

The Folly is not just another workplace for Tallis. What makes it special are "the people I get to work with," she says.

And there's the building itself, which Tallis describes as "this jewel box of a theater. It's so intimate even though there are a thousand seats . . . and the sound is amazing."

She points to the history of the building and all the entertainment it has hosted since the days of burlesque. "You feel that those spirits are imbued in the theater itself," Tallis says.

Among her goals was to diversify the Folly's offerings. Now, Tallis says, "we do have everything from Drag Queen Christmas to Renée Fleming and Yo Yo Ma and everything in between."

A building as old as the Folly Theater takes some looking after. As Tallis notes, "The Folly was built in 1900 and the grand lady needs a facelift every now and then."

Over the years, repairs and improvements have included a $111,000 bill to fix a burst pipe that ran under the building and plumbing issues that remain a constant worry.

Another constant is keeping the sound and lighting updated "because we want to keep up with the other theaters in town," she says.

During her tenure, the building has been tuckpointed and the Folly marquee sign reestablished on the outside.

One of Tallis' last great memories is the Sunderland Foundation's gift of $2 million to the theater, which will allow for second-phase renovations to move forward. Improving the dressing rooms, putting up new drapes and laying new carpeting are all on the to-do list.

What may excite Folly patrons the most, however, are new seats. "We want to put butts in seats, but we want those seats to be comfortable," Tallis says.

A major accomplishment of her tenure has been building the theater's endowment up to about $2.3 million. "That's part of why I feel like I can leave on a high note for the theater and know that things are being taken care of."

Stay Connected
When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.