The Shock and Awe of Sarah Bernhardt in Kansas City

Felicia Londré
Missouri Valley Sundays
Sunday, November 21, 2021
3:00 pm
Event Videos

Mark Twain said there are “bad actresses, fair actresses, good actresses, great actresses – and then there is Sarah Bernhardt.”

The legendary French performer made nine tours of the U.S. during her 50-year stage career. Bernhardt first arrived stateside in 1880 to great fanfare, accompanied by a large retinue. But it wasn’t until seven years later, during her second American tour, that she gave her first Kansas City performance. Bernhardt returned five more times over the next three decades, each stop generating colorful anecdotes about the actress’ tempestuous behavior offstage. 

Theatre historian Felicia Londré examines accounts of Bernhardt’s Kansas City performances that kept newspaper readers fascinated and audiences spellbound. Londré taught theatre history at UMKC for more than 40 years and is the Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emerita of Theatre. She is the author of the award-winning book The Enchanted Years of the Stage: Kansas City at the Crossroads of the American Theater.

The Missouri Valley Sundays program is presented in conjunction with KC Moliѐre: 400 in 2022, a celebration of Kansas City’s French heritage leading up to the famed playwright’s 400th birthday on January 15, 2022.

Watch the Library presentation live online at