Rep chronology



30 years at Charlotte Rep

1975  Actors Contemporary Ensemble is founded by Steve Umberger with Beverly Brown Lueke, Terri Haugen, Becky Kent Story and a group of actors. The company was formed to create an independent professional theatre, not under the wing of an existing organization.

1976  ACE's first production, a program of one-act plays, is the first theatre production at Spirit Square Arts Center (formerly the city's First Baptist Church) in its 75 seat playhouse (Entertainment Place, the church's chapel). Spirit Square is the city's first arts center.

1977  ACE incorporates as a non-profit organization, producing area/regional premieres of 4-5 notable contemporary plays annually.

1978-1980  Spirit Square closes for a second phase of renovation; ACE performs in theatre spaces in schools in the absence of other independent spaces.

1980  ACE becomes resident company in the 700 seat NCNB Performance Place (later McGlohon Theatre), Spirit Square's newly renovated theatre, formerly the church's sanctuary.

1981  Steve Umberger and Jane Hadley become Co-Artistic Directors; ACE becomes a professional Actor's Equity theatre with a summer-only rotating rep season cast in Charlotte and New York.

1984  Mark Woods, Co-Founder of N.C. Shakespeare Festival, becomes ACE's Producing Director, and introduces a new play festival of staged readings. Steve Umberger becomes a guest director for the Rep and the Artistic Director of Children's Theatre.

1986  The company's name is changed from Actors Contemporary Ensemble to Charlotte Repertory Theatre and production expands to year-round operation.

1987-1989 The Rep again uses other spaces while Spirit Square is further renovated, and the The Rep's playbill is expanded to include older plays and classics.

1990  The company returns to Spirit Square's newly created Duke Power Theatre (later, Duke Energy Theatre) as a resident company.

1990-1992  Steve Umberger becomes 'Founder & Artistic Director," and Keith Martin joins the Rep as 'Producer and Managing Director.' Mark Woods leaves the company after directing its inaugural production at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

1992  Charlotte Rep becomes the resident professional theatre company in the Booth Playhouse at the newly completed Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. (During the Rep's years, no professional arts company owned or managed its own space.)

1993  Claudia Carter Covington assumes leadership of the Rep's New Play Festival as the annual event grows in national participation and recognition.

1996  The Rep is one of the first six theatres nationwide licensed to produce the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning Angels in America after its original Broadway run, and hosts  playwright Tony Kushner during the Charlotte run.

1995-1997 The Rep collaborates on an unprecedented three year project with Charlotte Symphony, staging three of Shakespeare's plays in the 2,000 seat Belk Theatre. The three consecutive year collaboration uses complete texts and classical scores.

1998-2002  The Rep joins The League of Resident Theatres (LORT), achieves a subscriber base of 3,500, and operates with balanced budget and no accumulated deficit.

2001-2002  Umberger and Martin leave the company. and the Rep celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2001-2002.

2002-2005  The effects of 9/11 create severe economic conditions for the country and its arts groups; The Rep incurs a new $400,000+ deficit under its new administration; and four Charlotte theatres close including Charlotte Rep

2005  Charlotte Rep ceases operations in February 2005 after 29 years of continuous operation


City and metro population growth during the Rep's years, and today
1980   315,000, metro area 1,300,000 - 47th most populous U.S. city
1990   395,000, metro area 1,600,000
2000   540,000, metro area 2,000,000
2005   645,000, metro area 2,195,000
(2020  860,000, metro area 2,600,000 - 15th most populous U.S. city)



LAST YEARS: In the 2000's, 9/11 events and financial challenges converged for the city's leading arts funder, the Arts & Science Council, and for Charlotte arts groups. By 2002, with a budget of $1.7m (excluding in-kind), the Rep could not move forward without increased funding especially for long-needed support facilities, yet despite the efforts of many that funding was unavailable locally (a persistent problem for Rep staff through the years including multiple Artistic and Managing Directors). The Rep's '01-02 staff transition was driven by a timely change of leadership, and an attempt to secure funding outside usual sources. Then, in the period 2002-05 after staff changes, a new $400,000+ deficit was accumulated, and during the decade four theatres closed including Charlotte Rep in 2005 after 29 years in continuous operation. (Contrary to reports that Angels in America caused the closing, it boosted the Rep's profile and sales. The Rep ran for nine years after Angels with some of its best-attended work ever.)


In 2016, more than a decade after the Rep's closing, arts giving remained low. The Arts & Science Council's annual fund drive total dropped to roughly half its record high of $11.6m during Rep years, and the agency began an inevitable reinvention of its business model. Charlotte Rep remains the only LORT / Actors' Equity affiliated company in the city's history. The city and the metro region remain among a few of the largest in the country without a resident professional Equity/LORT theatre.