A group of Oklahoma City University theatre alumni who were scattered like seeds on the wind following graduation more than 20 years ago have landed back in the city where they studied to form a new Equity theatre.
Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre will be the city's only year round professional troupe with an Actors' Equity Association contract, artistic director Donald Jordan told Playbill On-Line. The first season will offer three productions at the 286-seat Freede Little Theatre, a proscenium within the Oklahoma City Civic Center, a complex that also houses an auditorium where national touring shows play.
The first season of City Rep, as it will be called, has a budget of more than $100,000, including in-kind services and donations. The three shows include a booking of a concert by The Leading Ladies, three sopranos who have all played Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera (including OCU alum Teri Bibb, with Lisa Vroman and Karen Culliver), Nov. 22-24; a resident staging of the revue, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (directed by Linda Leonard), opening March 7, 2003; and the solo drama about a teacher at the crossroads, I Am a Teacher, by David Marquis, May 2-11, 2003. Marcellus Hankins, local actor and award-winning music teacher, plays the educator.
Jordan said he eventually envisions a six-play season of mainstream titles complemented by an "city series" of edgier works, presented 10 months out of the year.
"Part of the mission of the theatre is to create a home where the people who have gone on to have a good professional career can return and share their talent with Oklahoma," Jordan told Playbill On-Line. "There are extraordinary schools in Oklahoma City, but what happens is that young people get out of school and they have to leave: There's no place for them to work in the state. That was one of the things that motivated us. We all went to school, and then went our separate ways and 20 years later came back together and said, 'We dreamed of having a theatre like that here. If not us, who? If not now, when?'" The Rep plan was first talked about in 1997 when Jordan and alumni pals from the OCU program found themselves, due to varied circumstances, back in the city where they studied.
"Life has a way, after many years, of bringing people back together," Jordan said.
Among core members of the group are Jordan, a New York actor who has toured with 42nd Street; Jonathan Beck Reed, a busy regional actor recently seen in the Schmidt and Jones musical, Roadside in Manhattan; managing director Ruth Charnay, who is head of the theatre department at Oklahoma City Community College; Rep board president Michele McNalley Wilson, a former administrator of The Lyric Theatre; Rep electronics and media consultant Elaine Pfleiderer, a former regional actress. All graduated from OCU.
The only other Equity theatre in Oklahoma City is The Lyric Theatre, the summer stock troupe that moved its performances to the Civic Center earlier this summer.
For more information, visit www.oklahomacityrep.org.
— By Kenneth Jones