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Volume 24, Number 9 — September 2017

The Bard: Barter a True Repertory Theatre

A scene from Barter's <em>Dracula Bites</em>. Shown are Nicolas Piper and Ashley Campos.
A scene from Barter's Dracula Bites. Shown are Nicolas Piper and Ashley Campos.

December 28, 2011

A! Magazine: Is Barter unusual among American professional regional theaters these days in being a year-round repertory theater, with a full-time repertory company?

RICHARD ROSE: To my knowledge, Barter Theatre is the only year-round fully professional repertory theatre company on this continent. Several companies laying claim to being repertory companies offer their actors only 28-40 weeks of work per year and even at that many of these do not guarantee work for their company members for the entire season. Barter, with vacation weeks, offers its company 52 weeks per year, which is a claim almost no theatre of any kind in the U.S. can make and certainly does not happen in LORT (League of Resident Theatres), of which Barter is a founding member and which represents the nation's largest professional theatres.

But Barter has bucked the trends in theatre throughout the last 20 years with more growth and more activity than almost any of our colleagues.

Also, working in true repertory makes Barter somewhat unique. Several other repertory companies have ended their repertory schedules and gone to straight stock performances. In 2008 and 2009, the Barter staff spent a great deal of time examining other operational models and came to the conclusion that our unique mode of operation really does work extremely well for our region, our audience, and our unique economy.

We are an entrepreneurial operation, able to flow with the trends, make changes quickly to adjust to our audiences, and seize opportunities. Very few theatres, or art organizations for that matter, can manage and move in ways that Barter is able to do.

True "repertory" has three meanings in the theatre:

• Shows alternating on the same stage (for example, Dracula Bites at 2 p.m. and Cabaret at 7:45 p.m. on the same day);

• Actors rotating from one show to another (actor Sean Campos portrayed a mortician in Dracula Bites and the emcee in Cabaret);

• Traditional repertory in Europe and as far back as Shakespeare and Moliere's companies meant that a company would present various shows over a number of years, much like dance companies present The Nutcracker for decades as part of their on-going repertory. Barter does this with shows like Keep on the Sunny Side as well as other works that we keep in repertory.

Though many theatres call themselves "repertory," the reality is that they are not; thus, the tendency today to say "true repertory." The vast majority of theatres in the nation perform in "stock," which means that they do one show at a time, close it and, then do another. Barter presents its Christmas shows in stock. We present shows like A Christmas Carol on the Main Stage and Wooden Snowflakes on Stage II without any other production on those stages.

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Directing & Adapting Literary Classics