The new company has a budget of about $1.3 million and has so-far attracted some 2,500 of the former Meadow Brook's subscribers. Individual contributions are up, according to spokesperson Christy Fogarty, who said corporate donations and government grants are also being sought.
The company got the go-ahead in early summer that it could fill the 600-seat Meadow Brook space at Oakland University, in Rochester, MI, but it must remain a separate business entity from the university. The previous troupe was a cultural arm of the university for 37 years and acquired so much debt that the operation became a liability. OU agreed to absorb the debt and disband the old regime, though some staffers are being rehired by the new company.
David L. Regal, a respected actor and director who has worked on Meadow Brook shows for more than 25 years, is the new venture's artistic director and will helm three shows in 2003-04: Bruce Rodgers' two-actor play, The Gravity of Honey (about a priest and a nightclub singer, opening the season Oct. 15), Jane Martin's Talking With, and the musical, The Fantasticks (closing the season starting April 21).
A managing director is expected to be named shortly, and a staff of 25 people will be on board during seasonal operation.
The new season includes a return of the Meadow Brook tradition, A Christmas Carol; the two-actor comedy, Greater Tuna; John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men; Martin's Talking With, a collection of monologues by female characters. Regal told Playbill On-Line that he wanted to make sure the first new season for the Ensemble was about pleasing the audience and being fiscally sound — nothing experimental or large-cast, and yet works with a track record and a reputation for being crafty. Playwright Bruce Rodgers and A Christmas Carol adapter Charles Nolte have agreed to royalty concessions to help the company along.
According to ensemble member Fogarty, Meadow Brook will operate under a LORT D contract with Equity, a downgrade from the former theatre's LORT B and C status at various times. Base weekly salary for an actor will be $520 compared to $679 at the LORT B level, according to a representative of Actors' Equity Association. Shows will run four weeks. Student matinees of Romeo and Juliet are also in the works.
About the continuation of the theatre as a union house for the resident Michigan acting community, Kathryn V. Lamkey, central regional director of Actors' Equity Association, told Playbill: "We're very pleased. To Detroit based actors it's extremely important. It represents a lot of their bread and butter work."
The phone lines for season subscriptions are now open. Individual tickets go on sale beginning Sept. 29. For information, call (248) 377-3300.