Repertory

Repertory

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Repertory or rep, also called stock in the United States, is a term used in Western theatre
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 and opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

.

A repertory theatre can be a theatre in which a resident company presents works from a specified repertoire, usually in alternation or rotation. In the British system, however, it used to be that even quite small towns would support a rep, and the resident company would present a different play every week, either a revival from the full range of classics or, if given the chance, a new play, once the rights had been released after a West End
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 or Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 run. The companies were not known for trying out untried new work, however. The methods, now seldom seen, would be also used in the United States, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

.

The resident company


The acting company would consist of a "leading lady", a "leading man", a "juvenile", both male and female (ingenue
Ingenue (stock character)
See also Disingenuous, which is not quite the antonym that it may seem!The ingénue is a stock character in literature, film, and a role type in the theatre; generally a girl or a young woman who is endearingly innocent and wholesome. Ingenue may also refer to a new young actress or one typecast in...

) for the young often romantic roles, a "character" actor and actress (for the older parts) and perhaps a "soubrette
Soubrette
A soubrette is a female stock character in opera and theatre. The term arrived in English from Provençal via French, and means "conceited" or "coy".-Theater:...

". A "guest star" name might be brought in to boost attendance which only might cover the added cost. Hence the resident cast would number 7, plus the resident director, usually doubling as the artistic director in charge of the whole enterprise, and in addition there would be the stage director, the "ASM" (assistant stage manager), some (unpaid) apprentices, and lights and sound technicians. Newcomers to the profession would often start their careers in this fashion, and members would not only gain a foundation upon which to base a career, but, apart from the apprentices who might even pay for the experience, also be sure of a steady income for one or more "seasons". The season might last for 6 months, basically because the schedule was exhausting, both mentally and physically. Examples of performers who went on to universal recognition are Jeremy Brett
Jeremy Brett
Jeremy Brett , born Peter Jeremy William Huggins, was an English actor, most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in four Granada TV series.-Early life:...

, Judi Dench
Judi Dench
Dame Judith Olivia "Judi" Dench, CH, DBE, FRSA is an English film, stage and television actress.Dench made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company. Over the following few years she played in several of William Shakespeare's plays in such roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo...

, Rosemary Harris
Rosemary Harris
Rosemary Ann Harris is an English actress and a member of the American Theatre Hall of Fame. Throughout her career she has been nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award and has won a Golden Globe, an Emmy, a Tony Award, an Obie, and five Drama Desk Awards.-Early life:Harris was born in...

, Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen
Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE is an English actor. He has received a Tony Award, two Academy Award nominations, and five Emmy Award nominations. His work has spanned genres from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction...

, Christopher Plummer
Christopher Plummer
Arthur Christopher Orne Plummer, CC is a Canadian theatre, film and television actor. He made his film debut in 1957's Stage Struck, and notable early film performances include Night of the Generals, The Return of the Pink Panther and The Man Who Would Be King.In a career that spans over five...

, Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter, CH, CBE was a Nobel Prize–winning English playwright and screenwriter. One of the most influential modern British dramatists, his writing career spanned more than 50 years. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party , The Homecoming , and Betrayal , each of which he adapted to...

, Imelda Staunton
Imelda Staunton
Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton, OBE is an English actress. She is perhaps best known for her performances in the British comedy television series Up the Garden Path, the Harry Potter film series and Vera Drake...

, Lynn Redgrave
Lynn Redgrave
Lynn Rachel Redgrave, OBE was an English actress.A member of the well-known British family of actors, Redgrave trained in London before making her theatrical debut in 1962...

, Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave, CBE is an English actress of stage, screen and television, as well as a political activist.She rose to prominence in 1961 playing Rosalind in As You Like It with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has since made more than 35 appearances on London's West End and Broadway, winning...

, Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart
Sir Patrick Hewes Stewart, OBE is an English film, television and stage actor, who has had a distinguished career in theatre and television for around half a century...

, Geraldine McEwan
Geraldine McEwan
Geraldine McEwan is an English actor with a diverse history in theatre, film, and television. From 2004 to 2009 she appeared as Miss Marple, the Agatha Christie sleuth, for the series Marple.-Background:...

, Ronnie Barker
Ronnie Barker
Ronald William George "Ronnie" Barker, OBE was a British actor, comedian, writer, critic, broadcaster and businessman...

, Dirk Bogarde
Dirk Bogarde
Sir Dirk Bogarde was an English actor and novelist. Initially a matinee idol in such films as Doctor in the House and other Rank Organisation pictures, Bogarde later acted in art-house films such as Death in Venice...

, who wrote about his start at tiny Amersham
Amersham
Amersham is a market town and civil parish within Chiltern district in Buckinghamshire, England, 27 miles north west of London, in the Chiltern Hills. It is part of the London commuter belt....

 rep in 1939, and Michael Caine
Michael Caine
Sir Michael Caine, CBE is an English actor. He won Academy Awards for best supporting actor in both Hannah and Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules ....

, who recounts his time spent at Horsham
Horsham
Horsham is a market town with a population of 55,657 on the upper reaches of the River Arun in the centre of the Weald, West Sussex, in the historic County of Sussex, England. The town is south south-west of London, north-west of Brighton and north-east of the county town of Chichester...

 rep in the early fifties, to present just a few.

The weekly rehearsal schedule


For weekly rep, and for a typical 3 act play with a wise director, the actors' week would start Tuesday and go as follows: Tuesday: Notes on last night's opening from the director, then a sitdown readthrough of the next play with some discussion by the director, on-the-feet blocking
Blocking (stage)
Blocking is a theatre term which refers to the precise movement and positioning of actors on a stage in order to facilitate the performance of a play, ballet, film or opera. The term derives from the practice of 19th century theatre directors such as Sir W. S...

 of the moves for Act I with few questions from the actors, and there are performances of last week's play each night. Wednesday: Run Act I and start to block Act II, but break early because there's a matinée. Thursday: Finish blocking Act II, run Act II, and block Act III. Friday: Run Act III, runthrough of entire play, no scripts in hand and technicals, meaning lights and sound, to watch and write down cues. Saturday: Runthrough again, stop and go to test lighting and sound cues, may use costumes if ready. Two shows today, the evening one closing the current play. After the show, the set will be struck (taken down) by the crew, usually apprentices, and the stage manager.

Sunday is an opportunity to brush up on lines and moves and private rehearsals. But for the crew it means putting up the new sets, and hanging and focusing lights, and setting sound equipment. Monday: Morning, runthrough, no costumes usually (save wear and tear), mainly for the techs. Afternoon, "Full Perfect" Dress Rehearsal, maybe a few friends in front to gauge reaction, then copious notes. Evening, 8 o'clock Opening Night, followed by notes from the director, visits with friends from the audience, and maybe a party nearby. The process starts again on Tuesday.

Audience and management


From the audience's point of view, local communities would become fans and champion their favorites who would be treated as celebrities. And sometimes entire families would make a visit to their local rep as part of the weekly routine like going to church, and for the young ones, it became a part of their future appreciation for live "legitimate" theatre.

During the forties, fifties and sixties, two impresarios dominated the field of British rep, mostly in the North. They were Harry Hanson and his Court players, and Frank H. Fortescue's Famous Players, with Arthur Brough
Arthur Brough
Arthur Brough was a British actor, best known for portraying the character of senior menswear salesman Mr...

 in Folkestone for the South. Their system was the toughest of all, for if you joined one of their companies, it could mean "twice-nightly" shows, and a new play to learn every week. Rosemary Harris tells of her 50 consecutive weeks of doing just that at Bedford
Bedford
Bedford is the county town of Bedfordshire, in the East of England. It is a large town and the administrative centre for the wider Borough of Bedford. According to the former Bedfordshire County Council's estimates, the town had a population of 79,190 in mid 2005, with 19,720 in the adjacent town...

 rep. It cannot happen any more, due to the restrictions of British Equity which came to mandate just 8 shows a week, including perhaps two matinées. Fortescue, who died in 1957, was known to be a strict and upright man. When Pygmalion was playing at one of his theatres, because Eliza says "Not bloody likely!", "FOR ADULTS ONLY!" would be posted in the front of house
Front of House
Front of house is primarily a theatrical term, referring to the portion of the building that is open to the public. In theatre and live music venues, it typically refers to the auditorium and foyer, as opposed to the stage and backstage areas...

. Or perhaps he was afraid of the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
The Lord Chamberlain or Lord Chamberlain of the Household is one of the chief officers of the Royal Household in the United Kingdom and is to be distinguished from the Lord Great Chamberlain, one of the Great Officers of State....

, Her Majesty's official censor
Censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

 whose duties were abolished in 1968.

Today's practice - UK


Times have changed, the practice of a new play every week and a week's rehearsal doesn't happen, and today the practice of "rep" is more likely to be seen in large cities in the manner applied by such well-known established companies as Birmingham Rep in the Midlands
English Midlands
The Midlands, or the English Midlands, is the traditional name for the area comprising central England that broadly corresponds to the early medieval Kingdom of Mercia. It borders Southern England, Northern England, East Anglia and Wales. Its largest city is Birmingham, and it was an important...

 of England which states in its programmes: ""The REP" presents a season with each play generally having an unbroken run of between three and six weeks. This is the form of repertory theatre that the majority of theatres like The REP — which are also called producing theatres — now follow." Actors have the luxury of at least 3 weeks of rehearsal, and audiences see better shows. Repertory can still be found in the UK in a variation of the old time manner, for example the producer Charles Vance still produces weekly rep in Sidmouth
Sidmouth
Sidmouth is a small town on the English Channel coast in Devon, South West England. The town lies at the mouth of the River Sid in the East Devon district, south east of Exeter. It has a population of about 15,000, of whom 40% are over 65....

 (12 plays), Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England. For Eurostat purposes Walsall and Wolverhampton is a NUTS 3 region and is one of five boroughs or unitary districts that comprise the "West Midlands" NUTS 2 region...

 (8 plays), Burslem
Burslem
The town of Burslem, known as the Mother Town, is one of the six towns that amalgamated to form the current city of Stoke-on-Trent, in the ceremonial county of Staffordshire, in the Midlands of England.-Topography:...

 and Taunton
Taunton
Taunton is the county town of Somerset, England. The town, including its suburbs, had an estimated population of 61,400 in 2001. It is the largest town in the shire county of Somerset....

 (4 each). The one Equity standard company left producing Weekly Repertory theatre is the semi-legendary Summer Theatre season at Frinton-on-Sea
Frinton-on-Sea
Frinton-on-Sea is a small seaside town in the Tendring District of Essex, England. It is part of the Parish of Frinton and Walton.-History:...

, produced by Ed Max. This season has been running for seventy years now, and until recently maintained its links with the oldest traditions of British commercial theatre by being run by the actor Jack Watling, his son Giles and most recently, his son-in-law Seymour Matthews. Frinton saw the early launch of actors such as Michael Dennison, Vanessa Redgrave, David Suchet, Jack Klaff, Neil Dudgeon, Owen Teale, Lynda Bellingham, and continues to give first jobs to graduating drama students.

USA


In America, the repertory system has also found a base to compete with commercial theatre. Repertory theatre with mostly changing casts and longer running plays, perhaps better classed as "provincial" or "non-profit" theatre, has made a big come-back, in cities such as Little Rock, AR, Washington, DC, Minneapolis, Indianapolis
Indianapolis
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, Houston, Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, San Francisco, San Diego, Buffalo
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City. Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the principal city of the...

, and Seattle. Festival theatre
Theatre festival
Theatre festivals amongst the earliest types of festival. Classical Greek theatre was associated with religious festivals dedicated to Dionysus. The medieval mystery plays were presented at the major Christian feasts...

 now provides actors with work in the summer.

American's oldest resident repertory theatre, Hedgerow Theatre
Hedgerow Theatre
Hedgerow Theatre is a theatre company based in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. It is the oldest residential repertory theatre company in the United States....

, is located in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania. It was founded by actor Jasper Deeter in 1923. The present Producing Artistic Director is actress and director, Ms. Penelope Reed.

See also: Asolo Repertory Theatre
Asolo Repertory Theatre
The Asolo Repertory Theatre or Asolo Rep is a professional theater in Sarasota, Florida. It is the largest Equity theatre in Florida, and the largest Repertory theatre in the Southeastern United States. Asolo Rep is a resident regional theatre company which also invites in guest artists...

, Barter Theatre
Barter Theatre
Barter Theatre, located in Abingdon, Virginia, opened on June 10, 1933. It is one of the longest running professional theatres in the nation. In 1933, when the country was in the middle of the Great Depression, most patrons were not able to pay the full ticket price...

, Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a regional repertory theatre in Ashland, Oregon, United States. The festival annually produces eleven plays on three stages during a season that lasts from February to October...

, Alabama Shakespeare Festival
Alabama Shakespeare Festival
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is the seventh largest Shakespeare festival in the world. Each year, it attracts more than 300,000 visitors from throughout the United States and more than 60 countries, to its home in Montgomery, Alabama....

, Hedgerow Theatre
Hedgerow Theatre
Hedgerow Theatre is a theatre company based in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. It is the oldest residential repertory theatre company in the United States....

 Hedgerow Theatre
Hedgerow Theatre
Hedgerow Theatre is a theatre company based in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. It is the oldest residential repertory theatre company in the United States....


Canada


Canada has its repertory and non-profits; its crowning achievement being the world-renowned Stratford Festival of Canada
Stratford Festival of Canada
The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is an internationally recognized annual celebration of theatre running from April to November in the Canadian city of Stratford, Ontario...

, but has had to contend with the tendency of Canadian actors to head South for greener pastures. The Vagabond Repertory Theatre Company was formed in March 2009, and currently resides and performs in Kingston, Ontario. But the old English-style repertory theatres such as Ottawa's CRT (Canadian Repertory Theatre), and Toronto's Crest Theatre don't exist any more. Although they did have a version of summer theatre
Summer stock theatre
Summer stock theatre is any theatre that presents stage productions only in the summer within the United States. The name combines both the seasonal time of year with the tradition of staging shows by a resident company, reusing stock scenery and costumes...

 in smaller holiday districts, such as the "Straw Hat" players of Gravenhurst and Port Carling at Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

's vacation Muskoka Lakes
Muskoka Lakes, Ontario
The Township of Muskoka Lakes is an area municipality of the District Municipality of Muskoka, Ontario. It has a year-round population of 6,467 and a summer population of 34,000.-History and government:...

 area.

Other


Not to be overlooked is a form of touring repertory theatre known as "bus and truck", which involves transporting the actors and sets for about five different plays which can be performed in smaller communities on consecutive nights.

In Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and much of Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 repertory theatre is based on the idea that each company maintains a number of productions which are performed on a rotating basis. Each production’s life span is determined by its success with the audience. However, many productions remain in repertory for years as this approach presents each piece a few times in a given season, not enough to exhaust the potential audience pool. After the fall of the Soviet regime and the substantial diminution of government subsidy, the repertory practice has required reexamination. Moscow Art Theatre
Moscow Art Theatre
The Moscow Art Theatre is a theatre company in Moscow that the seminal Russian theatre practitioner Constantin Stanislavski, together with the playwright and director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, founded in 1898. It was conceived as a venue for naturalistic theatre, in contrast to the melodramas...

 and Lev Dodin
Lev Dodin
Lev Abramovich Dodin is a modern Russian theater director, the leader of Saint Petersburg Maly Drama Theater.-Biography:Lev Dodin was born in Siberia in 1944. He first experienced theatrical production as a child at the Leningrad Young Viewers’ Theatre directed by Matvey Grigorievich Dubrovin...

’s Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg are the world’s most notable practitioners of this approach.

In German speaking countries, most opera companies function in a similar way, too.

Pros and cons



Among the benefits of such a system are increased variety and better quality, due to fresh actors and shopped in directors. The theatre can afford to take risks, and a show that is likely to attract a large audience will effectively subsidize a show that is less likely, especially if season tickets are sold.

Drawbacks to the repertoire system are increased production costs as each show will need separate sets, props, costumes and actors, (although sometimes an actor will be engaged to play in more than one production). Many such companies are large, and are able to have a smaller space available to workshop
Workshop
A workshop is a room or building which provides both the area and tools that may be required for the manufacture or repair of manufactured goods...

 an experimental production or present playreadings. But the standard should be higher than under the old-time repertory system, because there will be more time for rehearsal. Also many repertoire companies today have non-profit status, so that budgets and income should be higher because they will not just depend upon ticket sales. However, the downside is that promotional costs will also be much higher due to having to employ a separate staff.

See also


  • Combination company
    Combination company
    A combination company was a theatrical touring company which performed only one play. Unlike repertory companies, which performed multiple plays in rotation, combination companies used more elaborate and specialized scenery in their productions. Repertory theatre had been popular in the United...

  • Community theatre
    Community theatre
    Community theatre refers to theatrical performance made in relation to particular communities—its usage includes theatre made by, with, and for a community...

  • Fringe theatre
    Fringe theatre
    Fringe theatre is theatre that is not of the mainstream. The term comes from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which name comes from Robert Kemp, who described the unofficial companies performing at the same time as the second Edinburgh International Festival as a ‘fringe’, writing: ‘Round the fringe...

  • Summer stock theatre
    Summer stock theatre
    Summer stock theatre is any theatre that presents stage productions only in the summer within the United States. The name combines both the seasonal time of year with the tradition of staging shows by a resident company, reusing stock scenery and costumes...

  • Stagione
    Stagione
    Stagione is an organizational system for presenting opera, often used by large houses. Typically each production is cast separately and has a brief but intensive run of performances. By contrast, companies that use a repertory system maintain a permanent company and rotate productions over many...

  • Theatre festival
    Theatre festival
    Theatre festivals amongst the earliest types of festival. Classical Greek theatre was associated with religious festivals dedicated to Dionysus. The medieval mystery plays were presented at the major Christian feasts...

  • Theatre (structure) (i.e. building)


External links