Lacking Money and Support, Charlotte Repertory Theatre Closes Its Doors Feb. 20
By Kenneth Jones
Charlotte Repertory Theatre, the North Carolina LORT theatre that has been financially troubled for years, will shut its doors for good Feb. 20, the last day of its run of The Exonerated, the theatre announced in a press statement Feb. 19.
William Parmelee, board chair, announced the decision to close "after an exhaustive communications, assessment, stabilization and renewal plan was developed and presented to civic, community and business leaders, but did not produce the ground swell of support that would have been expected or needed for The Rep to survive," according to the closing notice.
"It is very unfortunate that there was little community support for a core cultural organization—The Rep—in our city," Parmelee said in a statement. "We feel that it is a tremendous loss to the quality of life for our entire region. Charlotte Repertory Theatre is the only accredited professional theatre in the region—it indeed is a major cultural loss that will be felt for many years to come."
(North Carolina has other resident Equity theatres in its borders, including Triad Stage in Greensboro, Playmakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, North Carolina Theatre in Raleigh, and others with union affiliations.)
Charlotte Repertory Theatre was founded in 1976 and "has been under-funded and under-capitalized since its inception," according to the statement. "In the last few years, it has felt the brunt of lost funding because of the economic downturn and changes in funding priorities."
Subscribers and single ticket holders will be contacted regarding refunds.
According to its website, The Rep, originally called Actors Contemporary Ensemble (ACE), was founded by Steve Umberger in 1976. Under Umberger's and co-director Jane Hadley's direction, ACE became the region's first professional theatre. In 1984, Mark Woods, founder of the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, joined the company. Woods changed the name to Charlotte Repertory Theatre, transitioned the theatre to year-round status, and created the theatre's first affiliation with Actors' Equity Association. In 1990, Keith Martin was hired as managing director. Under Martin's direction, the Rep merged with Umberger's own company, PlayWorks.
In December 1992, the Rep found a new artistic home in the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, "which provided an essential ingredient toward realizing its mission – a facility in which the theatre could realize the breadth and scope that a diverse season would require," according the Rep website. In 1998, the Rep was invited to join the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), the industry’s organization of professional regional theatres.
In Fall 2003, the Rep completed its move into a new production facility in the historic Charlotte neighborhood known as NoDa (North Davidson). This move enabled the Rep's operations to function under one roof, for the first time in the theatre's history. The nearly 18,000-square-foot facility was home to the Rep's administrative offices, rehearsal space, set construction, as well as costumes, props and set storage.
The Rep billed itself as the Central Carolinas' only fully professional LORT theatre. Among productions seen there were The Miracle Worker with Hilary Swank (under the brief artistic directorship of Michael Bush, who returned to Manhattan Theatre Club when he found too little support in Charlotte), Angels in America, Proof, A Tuna Christmas, The Glass Menagerie and much more.
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