Rep press

Charlotte Repertory Theatre
Founder & Artistic Director

Some of the directing work at the Rep (LORT D) at Blumenthal Performing Arts and Spirit Square  

* denotes Rep resident artist  + area premiere

New plays were developed in staged readings, workshops and productions, with all playwrights in residence. The Rep's annual play festival introduced 60+ new scripts, 34 of them going on to premieres at the Rep and production at many U.S. theatre companies, off-Broadway and in feature film.

THE GHOSTMAN by Wendy Hammond (Premiere, from the new play festival)
Scenic: Joe Gardner*; Costume: Rebecca Cairns*; Lighting: Eric Winkenwerder*

"The Ghostman superbly balances wild abandon with austere control. Hammond's propulsive drama is a white-knuckle flight...Best of all, you'll see the cream of our actors stretching themselves - obviously galvanized by the opportunity to do new, vital work."
Tannenbaum, Creative Loafing

"Using a simple set, Umberger takes us deep into the mine-like mind of the central character. The Ghostman will repay you with a rare commodity: truth."
Brown, Observer

The Ghostman, Hammond's first play, first appeared in the Rep's new play festival. It then had further development at Sundance Play Institute and Long Wharf Theatre, before returning to the Rep for its world premiere. It's an example of many Rep plays and playwrights with similar journeys. Hammond's work has since been produced at Actor's Theatre of Louisville, Second Stage, Purple Rose and many others. She's received a Drama League Award, NEA and NYFA grants, and a McKnight Fellowship.

SIGNATURE by Beth Henley   (Premiere; for Women in the Arts Festival)
Scenic/costume: Jan Chambers; Lighting: Eric Winkenwerder*; Prop Design: Tony Elwood*; Music: Fred Story* 

"Henley engagingly reinvents new meanings for words to reflect changes which will evolve through technology. You won't be cooking dinner anymore; you'll be clicking it....Signature is hugely diverting, humorous, sobering and perceptive."  
Tannenbaum, Creative Loafing  

"The ambitious production including video screens, rotating sets, descending flies and special effects all give the effect of great space, and the theatre has never seemed so vast...Yet for all the futuristic trappings, including Henley's snatches of slang, it feels firmly grounded in the present. Homeless people, chicanery in the art world, brain-damaging drugs and toxic spills are very much of our world." 
Toppman, Observer

Beth Henley, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner for Crimes of the Heart, was in residence for the premiere of Signature (later published by Dramatists Play Service).

THE ELEPHANT MAN by Bernard Pomerance (Best Play Tony Award)+ 
Scenic: Joe Gardner*; Costume: Bob Croghan*; Lighting: Jerry Van Campen"

"If, as John Merrick says, art is an imitation of grace, then the lyrical production of The Elephant Man is an imitation of amazing grace....It's a riskily stylized production - its golds, ochers, browns and rusts are the visual correspondents to the mellow hum of Carol Bjorlie's onstage cello... It's a performance filled with disciplined musical rhythms...The company is the age at which one expects a dramatic repertory company to take wing. Under the sure, deliberate direction of Steve Umberger, The Elephant Man proves the company ready for flight... Not a detail's been missed. And by placing The Elephant Man in rep with The Primary English Class, these actors prove they're capable of dazzling shifts of theatrical style."  
Rhetts, Observer 


DESIGN & PRODUCTION TEAM: The Rep's recurring design team included Jim Gloster*, Joe Gardner*, Anna Sartin*, Frank Ludwig (scenic), Todd Wren, Eric Winkenwerder* (lighting), Bob Croghan, Rebecca Cairns*, Monica Cunningham* (costume), Fred Story,* Gary Sivak* (sound), Sandra Gray*, Tim Parati* (charge artists), Shannan Brice*, Blaine Miller* (set dressing). Jim Gloster, also a Rep resident actor, was Production Designer for the HBO series Veep and won the 2017 Emmy Award.

THE LAST NIGHT OF BALLYHOO by Alfred Uhry   (Best Play Tony Award©)+
Scenic: Jim Gloster*; Costume: Rebecca Cairns*; Lighting: Eric Winkenwerder*

"Professional regional theatre does not get much better than this..It is everything theatre should be: utterly entertaining, engaging, absorbing, literate and beautifully observed."
Brown, Observer

"Umberger has directed Uhry's romantic comedy with a keen eye for all the edges and underpinnings - the prejudices of assimilated Jew against immigrant Jew, Gentile against Jew, Confederate versus Yankee, and rich versus poor. The set by Jim Gloster and costumes by Rebecca Cairns support the magic in every way."
Grose, Observer 

Scenic: Joe Gardner*; Costume: Bob Croghan*; Lighting: Eric Winkenwerder*

"Tony Award and Emmy Award nominee (One Day at a Time) Bonnie Franklin's performance is - much to her credit and to the play's benefit - not a starring one but as a member of a superb ensemble of six fine actors. Ayckbourn's play is far too complicated to be called a simple comedy. The happy result is a truly delightful two and a half hours in the theatre. It's loads of fun and has enough of a twist at the end to keep you mulling over the what-ifs long after the final curtain. Umberger's deft hand with physical comedy includes one routine involving three women, a bedsheet and a balcony that stops the show. But he also has sense enough not to sacrifice character for yuks."
Brown, Observer

Scenic: Joe Gardner; Costume: Bob Croghan; Lighting: Todd Wren

"It's an unstoppable river of words: trial transcripts, excerpts from books, newspaper articles, snatches of poetry, even an interview. To watch Moises Kaufman's play is to ride that river past sights that seem familiar at first, but turn out to be unexplored. The trip's well worth your time...Nine actors bring a host of characters vividly to life."  Toppman, Observer

"If you happened to see the original off-Broadway production, you can now learn a little secret: Charlotte Rep is doing it better." 
Tannenbaum, Creative Loafing


A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest (complete texts and scores)  

"This is unprecedented, the Mother of All Collaborations. The mesh of music and theatre is amazing...There's enough poetry, spoken quite naturally (but) the Rep has made it a fast-paced version that would have delighted groundlings at the Globe...Nothing tops it."  
Toppman (theatre) and Smith (music), joint review, A Midsummer Night's Dream 
"The sumptuous production is a fantastic amalgam of light, dance, and live symphony music. From atop a  cunning but minimal set, a majestic Prospero commands an uncanny 12-person Ariel, whose delightful choreography makes the spirit seem literally everywhere at once." 
Backstage, Woods, The Tempest

More about Rep/symphony 

ANGELS IN AMERICA by Tony Kushner / Millenium Approaches and Perestroika+
(Best Play Tony Awards© and Pulitzer Prize)
Scenic: Joe Gardner*; Costume: Johann Steigmeier; Lighting: Eric Winkenwerder*; Music/Sound: Fred Story* Charge Artist: Sandra Gray

"A gigantic undertaking for the city's cultural community...In Umberger's hands and those of his eight brave actors, the play becomes a liberating comedy of intimate emotions and gargantuan implications...Umberger gets at the secrets of the play because he understands it to be a comedy. He gets under the skins of these characters through his close work with the actors. Designer Joe Gardner, with help from Sandra Gray, gives the play an architectural, gritty and urban feel. Eric Winkenwerder's lights make the ultimate scene a revelation."   Brown, Observer

"Doing the whole work justice is an astounding feat...What the Rep does more consistently and effectively than the Broadway production is let the exuberant comedy and laughter peep through the pain...This, we realize, is what theatre can be - how much it can mean."  
Tannenbaum, Creative Loafing        

The production, one of Angels' first after its Broadway run, created a cultural debate that is chronicled in the book The World Only Spins Forward.    

More about Angels    

WIT by Margaret Edson+   (Pulitzer Prize)
Scenic: Joe Gardner*; Costume: Rebecca Cairns*; Lighting: Todd Wren 

"Every so often a play comes along that justifies the very existence of theatre. Wit is such a play, one that involves its audience in the drama of a single death while infusing every one of its 100 minutes with urgent life. The Rep has done some good work this season, but in Wit the company saved the best for last. You will not see a gutsier, more open performance this year than that of Rebecca Koon in the central role."
Grose, Observer

(All playwrights in residence) (* premiere + festival)

THE GUY UPSTAIRS by Mark Eisman*+
BENEDICTIONS by Judy Simpson Cook*+
THE GHOSTMAN by Wendy Hammond*+
BOCA by Christopher Kyle*+
HOME ON THE RANGE by Brooke Hailey Egan
SIGNATURE by Beth Henley*

Photo: Boca, Christina Zorich, Brian Taylor, Angus MacLachlan, Rebecca Koon

Signature and The Deer and the Antelope Play were later published by Dramatists Play Service.

STAGED READINGS: The Safety Net by Christopher Kyle, Signs and Wonders by Joan Vail Thorne, Julie Johnson by Wendy Hammond, Event Horizon by Chris Kyle, Veronica's Position by Rich Orloff, Bridge by Angus MacLachlan 

Literary Manager Claudia Carter Covington (also a resident actor) and Associate Carol Bellamy culled scripts from 350+ national submissions, curating many notable playwrights at key points in their careers. In the week long festival, each play received 16 hours of rehearsal and two staged readings. Minimal production kept the focus on the scripts.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin

"It's a testament to how sheerly entertaining 95 minutes in a theatre can be - a comic tour of the greatest achievements of the 20th century, when 'the accomplishments of artists and scientists outshone those of politicians and governments."
Charlotte Observer, Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Photos: Falsettos: Neal Mayer, Sandy Binion*, Mary Setrakian, Michael Cline, Jonathan Whitton, Susan Roberts*, Brian Robinson*; The Ghostman: Graham Smith*, Linda Pierce*; Terra Nova: Kevin Reilly, Jerry Colbert*, David Canary, J.A. Nelson, Graham Smith*; Three Hotels: Graham Smith*, Rebecca Koon*; Wit: Rebecca Koon*; Communicating Doors: Eva Kaminsky, Bonnie Franklin, Barbi VanSchaick*; Angels in America: Angus MachLachlan*,* Kevin R. Free, Mary Lucy Bivins*, Alan Poindexter*; The Tempest; Raphael Nash Thompson, Forrest McClendon, Mark Sutton*, and the Ariels; The Elephant Man: Graham Smith*; Picasso at the Lapin Agile: Scott Helm*, Kadina Halliday, Barbi VanSchaick*, Seymour Horowitz, Michael Nestor*, Wayne Powers*, Brian Robinson*, Josh Gaffga* (*resident actor)

Rep image credits: Mitchell Kearney, Donna Bise, Joe Deese, Rebecca Cairns
© 2021 Steve Umberger