Rep Archive

Partial archive: a decade of Rep productions as resident professional theatre company (LORT) at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

The Rep performed in multiple spaces in early years. When the company was founded (as Actors Contemporary Ensemble in 1976) Charlotte was a city of 300,000, with no resident professional Actors' Equity theatre and no independent performing spaces. ACE became resident company when the renovated Spirit Square Arts Center opened in 1980. Then the 1992 opening of the $62 million Blumenthal Performing Arts Center with two theatres, in the new Bank of America headquarters, helped mark Charlotte's place as a growing New South city. Since no professional arts group owned its own space, some companies including the Rep became tenants in the PAC as the city grew to become the country's 17th largest, and second largest banking center behind N.Y. Here are a few of the mile markers during the Blumenthal decade.


As the audience grew larger (and more disparate), a mainstage series was created, and a Second Stage series was developed for the less traditional fare for which the company was first formed. Founded by a group of actors as a home for artists, The Rep cultivated an open collective of recurring actors* from casting in Charlotte, N.Y. and Atlanta, and worked to maintain an ensemble foundation in nationally recognized plays and new work chosen to broaden perspective on contemporary life.

Growth and new facilities also allowed the Rep and its actors to explore the classics. With the Charlotte Symphony the Rep co-produced a three year collaboration on Shakespeare's plays A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, with 100 performers on stage in the center's 2,000 seat Belk Theatre. Fully staged productions using complete texts and scores, the project helped develop the Rep's third production series. Dream, the first collaboration, broke the Belk's box office record. The project was directed by Steve Umberger, returning for a second term as Rep AD for the Blumenthal decade, and produced by Keith Martin. It was an example of Martin's many collaborative efforts in his 12 years as Rep Managing Director. (This team's work also included completely retiring a $200,000 deficit from an earlier era.)

"The sumptuous production is a fantastic amalgam of light, dance, and live symphony
music. From atop a cunning yet minimal set, a majestic Prospero commands an
uncanny 12 person Ariel, whose delightful choreography makes the spirit seem
literally everywhere at once."  Backstage

These landmark plays - seven hours in two parts - were the Rep's best selling work ever, and playwright Tony Kushner joined the Rep for the production's opening weekend. A nationally watched debate about the plays' themes engaged the public as never before, and the production became its own widely reported landmark for the city and the company's growth. One of Angels' first post-Broadway productions, the two parts were produced separately, then together in rep, then were extended by demand. In the next season, the Rep's ticket sales increased 20%, due largely to Angels, which became a catalyst for cultural change in the city in the next decade.

"The successful opening of the Rep's 'Angels' is, on one hand, about the intersection
of morality and art, but it is also about the cultural tensions created when a Bible Belt
town tries to move quickly into the first rank of American cities."  New York Times

"Whether I compare acting, design, or direction, or technical effects, there isn't a 
single aspect of the N.Y. production that outclasses what I've seen here."   
Creative Loafing 


New plays became central to the Rep's program through an annual weeklong festival of staged readings of four plays culled from national submissions. 34 of the 60+ new plays were later published or premiered at the Rep and other U.S. theatres. The festival was originally conceived by Mark Woods (pre-Blumenthal Producing Director for seven years) and developed by Literary Manager Claudia Carter Covington with Associate Carol Bellamy. The festival helped the Rep grow its own work, and an audience for it. For example, the popular Benedictions, inspired by the Angels events, was in the festival and a workshop production before its Rep premiere. (Above: festival playwrights Mark DeCastrique (Charlotte), Angus MacLachlan (Winston-Salem), Mark Eisman (N.Y.), Wendy Hammond (Ann Arbor), Brook Hailey Egan (Los Angeles)

"A special energy pervades the theatre at these staged readings, often lifting the
spirit of the performance as high - or higher - than a fully staged production." 
Creative Loafing

"The festival is the coolest performing arts event in the city."  Observer

Guest artist Olympia Dukakis (pictured above at a Rep gala) directed for the company, and hosted the event during which she took questions about life, career, the Academy Award© she won for the classic film Moonstruck, and the importance of regional theatres (one of which, N.J.'s Whole Theatre Company, she co-founded.).
Occasional guest artists joined the Rep as special events. In a typical season, there was a roughly 60-40 balance of roles for core resident actors and new performers, continuing the company's commitment to building an ensemble. Resident actors worked often at other theatres including Peoples Light & Theatre in Philadelphia, Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Actor's Theatre of Louisville, theatres in Charlotte and N.C., and in movies and television as the state's film production, based in Wilmington, grew to rank second in the U.S. (Films including Bull Durham, The Color Purple, A Time to Kill, and series including Banshee, Dawson's Creek, Matlock, Ozark and Homeland, all featured work by Rep resident actors.) Credits of the Rep's visiting actors typically included Broadway, off-Broadway, regional theatre, film and television.

"The Rep is one of the largest theatres in the Southeast, with only the Alabama 
Shakespeare Festival boasting a longer season. With a commitment to non-
traditional casting, 26% - five times the industry standard - of this season's roles
are filled with artists of color."  Focus, N.C. Arts Council

In the 25th anniversary season, David Auburn's Tony Award© and Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof was the last production for this administration before staff changes. Proof was an example of one Rep niche in the arts landscape as professional regional producer of prominent plays not available through national tours.

"An almost full house witnessed the first preview of 'Proof,' the final production of the
season and the last play for Steve Umberger with the company he founded. This is a
solidly expressed play about love, achievement and possibility." WFAE/NPR

"'Proof' positive: The Rep nails it."  Observer 


Rep facts and figures

THE REP BY THE NUMBERS (for the season before administration changes 2001-2002)
- 53% earned  (95% of goal) (National average 55%, via Theatre Communications Group)
- 27% Arts & Science Council grant (87% of ask)
- 15% contributed  (57% of goal)  (Drop from previous seasons due to 9/11; see below)
- 5% government  (102% of goal)
- 40% of income from ticket sales; just over 100% of goal (National average 48%)
- % of capacity paid attendance: 72% (National average 74%, via TCG)
- % of capacity total attendance: 85% (includes corporate sponsorship tickets)
- Season end cash reserve: $37,096
- Budget - $1,680,145 (Almost $2m including in-kind office, rehearsal, and storage expenses)
- Budget projected for following season: $2,066,377
- The largest budget / program for a resident professional theatre for adults in the metro region
- 3,500 subscribers, balanced budget, year end cash reserve, endowment, no accumulated deficit
- N.C. Governor's Business Award in the Arts
- One of 35 (of 200+) professional theatres in the 10 Southeastern states  with a $1 million+ budget
- *Figures from Rep annual reports and Arts & Science Council Basic Operating Grant Request
- Theatre Communication Group figures referenced are from TCG's Theatre Facts 2002

MAINSTAGE: Wit, Dinner With Friends, The Foreigner, Blackbirds of Broadway*, The Old Settler, Proof, Breaking Legs*, A Few Good Men*, Sherlock's Last Case, The Last Night of Ballyhoo (2), Lost in Yonkers*, The Sisters Rosensweig, Five Guys Named Moe*, Forever Plaid*, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Always Patsy Cline*, A Tuna Christmas* (3), Beau Jest, Sylvia*, Moon Over Buffalo*, Taking Steps, Camping With Henry and Tom, Communicating Doors, Tru, The Exact Center of the Universe, The 1940s Radio Hour*, True Home, Swingtime Canteen, Prelude to a Kiss, Proposals*, Having Our Say, King Mackerel and the Blues, Picasso at the Lapin Agile

SECOND STAGE: The Speed of Darkness, Falsettos, Sight Unseen, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, Three Hotels, Oleanna, Angels in America (Millenium Approaches and Perestroika), Three Tall Women*, Six Degrees of Separation*, Valley Song, A Delicate Balance, How I Learned to Drive, Gross Indecency, Psychopathia Sexualis, As Bees in Honey Drown, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Substance of Fire  

GOLDEN CIRCLE: The Importance of Being Earnest*, A Midsummer Night's Dream*, Romeo and Juliet*, The Tempest*, The Royal Family, Inherit the Wind, Light Up the Sky, Mrs. Warren's Profession, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Misanthrope, A Man For All Seasons  (* Co-productions including Flat Rock Playhouse, Barter Theatre, Mill Mountain Theatre, Cape & Ogunquit Playhouses, American Stage Festival)

NEW PLAYS & PREMIERES IN THE DECADE  + From new play festival /All playwrights in residence:
- Miracle at Memphis by Dorothy Velasco+
- Catfish Moon by Laddy Sartin+ (later published by Dramatists Play Service)
- Boca by Christopher Kyle+
- The Guy Upstairs by Mark Eisman+
- Signature by Beth Henley (later published by Dramatists Play Service)
- The Floatplane Notebooks by Jason Moore and Paul Fitzgerald+ (from the novel by Clyde Edgerton)
- Sister Calling My Name by Buzz McLaughlin+
- The Deer and the Antelope Play by Mark Dunn+ (later published by Dramatists Play Service)
- Benedictions by Judy Simpson Cook+ (premiere and workshop production)
- Home on the Range by Brooke Hailey Egan (workshop production)
- Could I Have This Dance? by Doug Haverty

Plays from the festival also went on to production or workshop at theatres around the country including Actor's Theatre of Louisville/Humana Festival, Long Wharf, Steppenwolf, Sundance, Naked Angels, off-Broadway and feature film.


- Julie Johnson by Wendy Hammond subsequently appeared in the
Humana Festival/Actor's Theatre of Louisville, and was then made into a feature film with Courtney Love and Spalding Gray. Road Rage, another of Hammond's plays for the festival, went on to workshop at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

-The Safety Net by Chris Kyle and The Old Settler by John Henry Redwood went on to off- Broadway production. (Kyle's work also includes the screenplays for the feature films K19: The Widowmaker, Alexander, and Serena with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.)

- Angus MacLachlan, author of Bridge and other plays in the festival (and also a Rep resident actor) wrote the screenplays for the Oscar©-nominated feature Junebug, and for Stone with Robert DeNiro and Ed Norton, as well as the films Goodbye to All That and Abundant Acreage Available, both of which he also directed.

- The Floatplane Notebooks co-author Jason Moore was later Tony Award© nominated for his direction of the musical Avenue Q on Broadway, and directed the feature films Pitch Perfect and Sisters. Floatplane co-author Paul Fitzgerald is a film, TV and stage actor, including a Broadway production of Noises Off.

- Beth Henley's Signature, Laddy Sartin's Catfish Moon, Judy Simpson Cook's Benedictions and Buzz McLaughlin's Sister Calling My Name were all later published and/or produced by many U.S. theatres. Mark EIsman's The Guy Upstairs received a nomination for Best New American Play from American Theatre Critics Association.

THE VILLAGE / Partial Rep staff list  (Various staff titles during the decade conflated for the list)
- Steve Umberger, Founder/Artistic Director
- Keith Martin, Producer/Managing Director
- Debbie Fitts, General Manager
- Terry Loughlin, Resident Director
- Claudia Carter Covington, Literary Manager
- Carol Bellamy, Literary Associate
- Wendell Walters, Company Manager
- John Mayes, Margie O'Shea, Management Staff

- Matt Olin, incoming Managing Director (final season)
- Mitzi Corrigan, Kasey Latham, Roger Durrett, Monica Kane, Production Management
- Jim Gloster, Jeff Brown, Bill Hurd, Tim Kottyan, Technical Direction
- Bev Seitz, Kari Bates, Amy Cervantes, Alli Kuehn, Yolande Rubin Benton, Marketing Staff
- Audrey M. Brown, Cubby Terry, Bill Munoz, Stage Management
- Eric Winkenwerder, Todd Wren, Lighting Design
- Bob Croghan, Rebecca Cairns, Monica Kane, Costume Design

- Jim Gloster, Joe Gardner, Anna Sartin, Frank Ludwig, Scenic Design

- Fred Story, Gary Sivak, Sound Design / Tim Parati, Sandra Gray, Charge Artists
- Mark Woods, Alan Poindexter, Randell Haynes, Jack Beasley, Olympia Dukakis, John Carrafa, 
Ann Marie Costa, Jim Patterson, Matthew Parent, Anthony Zerbe, Marion J. Caffey, Guest Directors

Below is a representation of recurring resident and visiting actors in multiple or leading roles during the Blumenthal decade
Terry Loughlin, Angus MacLachlan, Mary Lucy Bivins, Duke Ernsberger, Barbi VanSchaick, Kevin R. Free, Randell Haynes, Rebecca Koon, Graham Smith, Tamara Scott
Claudia Carter Covington, Alan Poindexter, April A. Jones, Mark Lazar, Breton Frazier, Brian LaFontaine, April Armstrong, Brian Robinson, Jamie Day, Michael Edwards
Rob Treveiler, Neal Mayer, Cynthia Boorujy, Ben Epps, Katherine Goforth, Scott HelmJim Gloster, Mitzi Corrigan, Jill Bloede, Raphael Nash Thompson

A typical Rep season had roughly a 60/40 balance of roles for Rep resident actors and visiting artists from annual casting in Charlotte, New York and Atlanta.


With thanks to everyone who worked at the Rep, too many to name but impossible to have done without

The 73 plays produced under the administration above at the Blumenthal include 12 Best Play Tony Award© and/or Pulitzer Prize winners. 48 of the 73 were area premieres of notable work from the national scene. Playwrights represented include Donald Margulies, Alfred Uhry, Beth Henley, Neil Simon, Moises Kaufman, Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, John Patrick Shanley, Craig Lucas, John Henry Redwood, Emily Mann, David Mamet, Martin McDonough, Wendy Wasserstein, Jon Robin Baitz, A.R. Gurney, Athol Fugard, Edward Albee, John Guare, Alan Ayckbourn, and, among the classics, Moliere, Shaw and Shakespeare. The new play festival introduced 60+ scripts in staged readings, 34 of which were later fully produced by the Rep and numerous other U.S. theatres. Festival playwrights include Rich Orloff, Kate Hawley, Deborah Brevoort, Jason Sherman, Lewis Black, and Joan Vail Thorne. With Playmakers Rep in Chapel Hill, Charlotte Rep was one of two LORT/AEA companies in N.C.

Starting as a fringe company producing contemporary plays, the Rep developed into a full-time professional Actors' Equity theatre offering a broad range of work for a diverse audience. In the last seasons for Umberger, Martin and staff, there were 3,500 subscribers, and attendance comparable to national averages. There was a balanced budget and cash reserve for the decade, and no accumulated deficit for the team's last five seasons. Earned income and expenses were on budget, despite long-standing unavailability of support facilities for professional arts groups, and a U.S. downturn that compounded unearned income problems in the team's last season.

The information above is mainly about the production aspects of the Rep. There was also an ongoing relationship with the public schools through which students attended productions, and staff and artists visited classrooms. There was an outreach program that included violence prevention productions through the touring arm Key Players, and a prolific program of seminars and talkbacks between artists and audiences, incorporating community leaders in fields related to production content. Finally, a laurel and hardy handshake to the artists, staff, technicians, trustees, press, friends, and especially the audiences, without whom ACE and the Rep would never have happened.

Before the Blumenthal, the Rep had a 16 year life as Actors Contemporary Ensemble, producing many area premieres including The Shadow BoxChildren of a Lesser God, Bad Habits, A Texas Trilogy, The Foreigner, Fences, Who's Happy Now?, Talley's Folly, Miss Ever's Boys, Whose Life Is It Anyway? and pictured below: 

- The Primary English Class, director Jane Hadley (J.A. Nelson, Libby Seymour. Allen Lane, Nancy Hamada, Graham Smith) 
- Noises Off (Angus MacLachlan, John Woodson, Rebecca Koon, Steve Umberger, Catherine Carlson, Claudia Carter Covington, Randell Haynes, Graham Smith, Catherine Smith, director Geoffrey Hitch, stage manager Shelby Wirt)
- 1983 company: Katherine Goforth, Steve Boles, J.A. Nelson, Libby Seymour, Graham Smith, Susan Hunter, Kevin Reilly, Jane Hadley, Barbara Hird, Steve Umberger


- Terra Nova (Kevin Reilly, Jerry Colbert, David Canary, J.A. Nelson, Graham Smith)
- Da (Graham Smith, David Lenthall)
- Who's Happy Now? (Michael Dowell, John Woodson, Kirtan Coan, Lucius Houghton, Linda Pierce)
- The Robber Bridegroom (Libby Seymour, Becky Kent Story, Barbara Hird, Jonathan Hadley, Graham Smith) co-directed by Jane Hadley and Steve Umberger
- Hadley and Umberger on stage with Academy Award winning actor and film icon Charlton Heston on the opening night of the company's seventh season. Heston congratulated company and audience on "the marvelous reality that your city now has what every city deserves - a fully professional theatre."

Actors Contemporary Ensemble founding four: Steve Umberger, Beverly Brown Lueke, Terri Haugen, Becky Kent Story / Instigators: Kevin Campbell, Mary Montague, Connie Welsh, Jack Beasley, Libby Seymour, David & Nancy Howe, Charles Hadley, Charles LaBorde, et al / Early Co-Artistic Director: Jane Hadley

Charlotte Rep image credits: Mitchell Kearney, Donna Bise, Rebecca Cairns, Joe Deese

© 2021 Steve Umberger