By Erin Tarr
As you take your first step onto the teak floor, the fabulous smells from the small café overtake you and the unique architectural features of the building do not escape your attention. You know, just KNOW that something amazing happens in this place each and every day … then your 2-year-old starts screaming and running around like a lunatic and the moment is over.
This is the reality of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts for me anyway! As a University of Illinois alumna, I have seen a show in each of the four main venues and even performed in one of them. Despite that familiarity, I recently attended a 40-minute, student-led tour of the facility that taught me a lot about the building, its history and captivated the theater lover in me.
Ryan was an affable and extremely knowledgeable guide who first wanted to know about me and my interest in KCPA prior to the tour, so he could ensure he hit the high points that I would be interested in. He said he gives tours to people of all ages, from all walks of life with interests varying from young children on field trips to grandparents in town visiting and almost everything in between.
From the stages and theaters themselves – each with unique and interesting features, to the underbelly of the Center complete with workshop, costume shop and rehearsal venues – there was no shortage of interesting nooks and crannies to peak into and ask questions about. Along the way Ryan edited the tour – letting me know how he would change aspects of his presentation to fit younger children – making the tour into a Q&A game to keep kiddos engaged.
In spite of his tricks for the petite crowd, he mentioned that the tour would be best suited to school-aged children with an interest in theater. In his estimation, middle school was the best age, with highlights for children a little older and a little younger as well (including a chance to “perform” on one of the stages during the tour!
So, how do I partake and how much is it going to “set me back” — you ask? Well, hold onto your hats – because this is both a DAILY tour (3:00 p.m. while classes are in session, even on weekends during the fall and spring semesters) and it’s FREE! Double check the schedule, for any changes or additions.
As an added bonus, if you call two weeks ahead of time – they can often schedule you for a private tour if there is a time that works better for you… still for free! There are a variety of potential tour guides, but Ryan seemed confident that ChambanaMoms (and dads) would receive an excellent tour no matter which guide they encountered.
So, on the next rainy (or cold, hot, humid, windy, etc.) day – I highly recommend you check out this Champaign-Urbana landmark and find out more about how special it is to our community! (I don’t want to ruin the surprises!)
What: Tours of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
When: Daily at 3 p.m., even on weekends in the fall/spring semesters, when school is in session. NOTE: Summer session tours follow a different schedule. Check the full schedule.
Where: KCPA is located at 500 S. Goodwin, Urbana
How much: FREE!
Appropriate for: All ages, but best suited for school-age children and up.