Playing our Part Since 1957
The Repertory is recognized
for its pioneer efforts in all phases of theatre and its strong
community involvement. Born and bred in the heart of Detroit, the
Repertory, since its inception, has remained in the theatre vanguard
by staunchly advocating interracial casting, creating novel audience
development techniques, stressing theatrical relevancy, inventing
an array of cultural and educational community services and playing
an active role in neighborhood revitalization.
The theatre has been
guided by the belief that the sense of community is stronger than
the forces that splinter and that efforts to preserve unity deserve
the same attention and support as the justly cultivated efforts
to retain diversity. The implicit goal in all the theatre's efforts
is to produce the best possible professional theatre while fighting,
by example, the disturbing level of racism that still exists.
In order to continue
the quest to culturally, socially and artistically help to transform
our city, our region, and our state into a more civil society and
"a more perfect union," the Detroit Repertory is constantly
looking for ways to expand its sphere of influence. Otherwise, in
the years ahead the Repertory will become a quaint anomaly, a faded
vision that came, that saw, then slipped from memory.
While we can be justly
proud of the elegant, intimate, cultural and civic force we have
become, making a few friends, changing a few minds, winning a few
hearts, and providing a few glimpses into a different future, are
not enough. To pass the baton to a new generation of leaders and
keep the mission alive, the Repertory must continue to grow physically,
artistically and civically and relentlessly help to build bridges
across and between all Metropolitan Detroit communities.
The Detroit Repertory
Theatre is the oldest alternative professional theatre in Michigan.
The theatre produces 4 major productions each year. Each production
runs approximately eight weeks and is performed 6 times per week.
The Repertory gives 180 or more performances a year. Last two seasons
the Repertory totaled slightly over 60,000 admissions.
The Repertory seats
194 and operates under an Actors' Equity Association Small Professional
Theatre contract. The Repertory owns its theatre and two other buildings.
The two auxiliary buildings house backup facilities which include
scene shop, costume shop, design and photographic studios, print
shop, and necessary rehearsal and instructional space.
Repertory Theatre is one of a handful of neighborhood based professional
theatres in this country that still survives. It has become a model
of grassroots artistic development and remains in the forefront
of race transcendent casting, casting without regard to ethnicity
(unless germane to the play) and when possible, gender.
From 1957 to 1963 the theatre toured Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and
Western Pennsylvania presenting musical plays for children performed
by adult professionals. In the early sixties the theatre migrated
to Woodrow Wilson where rents and circumstances matched the theatre's
financial condition and interracial policies. The theatre managed
to survive the riot of 1967, racial polarization, and "white
flight," clinging to its original artistic principles in the
face of official and unofficial bigotry and vilification from all
During the seventies the Repertory slowly built an audience despite
being surrounded by neighborhood decay and poverty. The theatre
took on a mortgage to acquire ownership of their intimate theatre
and two additional backup facilities. The Repertory became franchised
by the Actors' Equity Association becoming, at that time, the only
fully professional non-profit theatre in Detroit.
In 1980, armed with a grant from the Kresge Foundation, the theatre
renovated the exterior of its theatre building. It became a living
monument to neighborhood revitalization. Soon funds were raised
to build a new, lighted, enclosed, paved parking lot. The City razed
a series of decayed buildings, and the Repertory stood out like
an oasis in a desert. In 1986 the Detroit Repertory Theatre received
the CCAM Governor's award attesting to extraordinary achievement
in theatre art. By 1987 the theatre burned its mortgage and owned
all its buildings outright. The average attendance more than tripled.
During the eighties over 150,000 admissions were sold. All these
accomplishments were attained in a theatre house with a seating
capacity of 184.
The nineties entered with funding of the arts under siege, deep
recession, skyrocketing deficits, plummeting unemployment and rising
poverty. Once again, the theatre, armed with a Kresge grant, designed,
raised funds and executed a quarter of a million dollar Renovation
and Expansion Project. The lobby was expanded, carpeted, refurbished
and restrooms remodeled. The auditorium was refurbished, carpeted
and new seats installed raising the seating capacity to 194. The
parking lot was expanded and a new guard shanty built.
More importantly, the Repertory has continued to fill seats to 85%
capacity; the majority of the audience remains African American,
and despite funding cutbacks and funders changing priorities the
Rep manages to operate with a balanced budget. The theatre is looking
forward to widening its sphere of influence, expanding its workweek,
raising artists wages and increasing staff.
The Detroit Repertory Theatre has scrapbooks full of praise and
a reputation for excellence and innovation in the field of theatre.
Perseverance, invention and loyal support have brought the theatre
this far. The Repertory would like to think that its longevity is
attributable to what New York critic, Julius Novick, wrote about
the Theatre many years ago in his book, Beyond Broadway, "...the
company knows what theatre is about and what it can do."