A Brief History

Judith Yeckel and Vicky Lee (left), two graduate students in theatre from the University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC), founded The Coterie back in 1979. The theatre is housed on level one in Hallmark's Crown Center shops. In its first 30 years, the Coterie has given nearly 6,861 performances of 215 productions through 2008, playing to approximately 1,500,000 people.


Artistic Director Yeckel established a mission for The Coterie that has held firm: to open lines of communication between races, sexes and generations. Following Yeckel and Lee's tenure, Kansas City actor/director Jim Tibbs became Artistic Director through 1988. Jim further continued the mission of the Coterie by providing classic and contemporary theatre, which challenged both the audience and the artists. After Jim's death, Pam Sterling then served as Artistic Director for the next two years.

Jeff Church joined The Coterie as Producing Artistic Director in 1990, coming from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where he served as a director and a playwright-in-residence. Since he began, Jeff's goal has been to open The Coterie up to be a "multigenerational" theatre for all ages, redefining it to include families and diverse audiences. Click here for the KC Stage article A Conversation with Jeff Church

Joette Pelster joined Jeff in leading The Coterie in 1993. As Executive Director, Joette's previous experience managing Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey brought a new level of expertise and growth to The Coterie, moving the organization to an annual budget of over $1.3 million, serving 82,000 each year. Joette's skill at developing community partnerships has been important in the life of The Coterie.