Topeka’s Jayhawk Theatre Continues to Shine in Northeast Kansas

The historic Jayhawk Theatre has been a part of the Topeka Community since 1926 when Topeka businessman E.H. Crosby had a dream to build Topeka’s first deluxe motion picture palace. Designed by the famed Boller brothers, Carl and Robert, the resulting auditorium was such a success the brothers used it as a model for future theatres. However, with the passage of time and the availability of other entertainment options, audiences declined, and in 1976, the theatre closed.

For almost two decades the theatre sat vacant in downtown Topeka until a group of local citizens decided to create a nonprofit corporation called the Historic Jayhawk Theatre, Inc. which is tasked with restoring the theatre to its original form.  Yet, as the corporation and other supporters collaborate on the final design of the structure, the Jayhawk Theatre continues to be the venue of choice for area artists and entertainers to host their events.

“There are a lot of amazing musicians here in this town that know other musicians in the industry, around the nation, and around the world, and we want to cultivate that,” said Jayhawk Theatre Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Carson.  

One of the latest collaborations with area partners involves the Jayhawk Theatre and the Topeka Blues Society, who are hosting their annual “Blues Challenge” on August 18 at the Jayhawk Theatre.

“Suki (Willison-Blakely) came with her team of experts who know what they’re doing and they’ve brought a higher level of execution and production quality,” said Vice President of the Jayhawk Theatre Board of Directors Robin Bonsall. “So even though our space is not restored, what she and her team have brought… My goodness!”

With interest in theatre reservations on the rise, a new issue has developed – the need for more volunteers.

“Over the last two years, we’ve kind of been just a hodgepodge, rag-tagged team of local enthusiasts, just kind of putting together these various concerts,” said Bonsall.  “But, it is becoming more and more clear that people are excited about what we’re doing. So, we can’t be hodgepodge & rag-tagged anymore. We actually have to be professionals.  So, at each event, we need a certain amount of volunteers to help maintain safety and crowd control in the space, make sure that people have a smiling face to point them in whatever direction (they need to go).  But, one of the biggest things is that we have our open hours and Wednesday work session, every Wednesday night from 5 p.m until 7 p.m. and that’s where we do prep work for the upcoming events. So, we are seeking volunteers who want to dig in and either be a part of prep execution for the events that are coming up (lighting, sound, sweeping, etc.) and, then, just people who are enthusiastic about all the awesomeness that’s happening in Topeka and what the Jayhawk could represent for a long-term, thriving community.”  

To learn more about the Jayhawk Theatre and their volunteer opportunities, visit