In the past, to enter one of the four theaters at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in a wheelchair meant entering through some less-than-attractive routes.
“You might have to go into a back hallway, or you might have to go backstage in some cases,” Krannert Center associate director for finance and operations Cindi Howard said. “We really wanted to work on the patron experience the best we could and provide a way for people to get into theaters where they’re getting the same experience as those folks who sit in non-accessible seats.”
When shows resume, noticeable changes will be apparent. In its 51st year of existence, Krannert was allocated $500,000 by the University of Illinois to make the building more accessible.
“With the makeup of our audience, we’ve found out that we need to be able to provide more seating for people that need no-step or few-step options in the theaters,” Howard said, “and also to provide more efficient and better ways for getting people in and out of the theater.”
In the Foellinger Great Hall, a ramp has been added so that disabled patrons can enter the foyer from Level Four. Restrooms in the theater’s foyer were also made to be accessible, and the carpet was replaced to a thinner material to make it easier to push a wheelchair on the surface.
In the upper parking deck, where patrons had to traverse the same ramps as cars to get into the building, defined paths for pedestrians have been carved out. Accessible seats were added to Tryon Festival Theatre, and the same will be done to Colwell Playhouse.
At a university known for its accessibility, the renovation was a much-needed update.
“Krannert Center values inclusivity, and we want to make sure we are a place that’s welcome to people with a wide range of abilities,” Howard said. “We want everyone to feel welcome here. We want everyone to be able to participate in our programs, and so any time we get the chance to be able to add amenities or make changes or increase the accessibility, it’s really at the top of our list.”