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Volume 26, Number 2 — February 2019

Rick Rose leads Barter to new heights

Rick Rose talks to his actors during a rehearsal of
Rick Rose talks to his actors during a rehearsal of "Peter Pan."

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | April 28, 2015

Not many communities are lucky enough to have a professional repertory theater; Abingdon, Virginia, is fortunate to have Barter Theatre, the state theatre of Virginia, and its artistic director, Richard Rose. He not only put his artistic stamp on the Barter, he helps lead the artistic, tourism and economic development efforts in the community.

Rose is only the third artistic director in Barter's 80-year history and is in his 23rd-season. During his tenure, he has quadrupled annual attendance and led Barter to three record seasons while in one of the worst recessions since its founding during the Depression.

He brought Barter into the spotlight with national tours and international exchanges, New York productions and premieres of new works. He oversaw the renovation and expansion of both of Barter's historic theater buildings, and the addition of the café space to Barter Stage II and the renovation of Barter Square.

He twice led Barter to winning the Shining Star Award for the Commonwealth of Virginia, which is given annually to one arts organization that makes an extraordinary impact on its community. Only Barter has won the award twice. Rose received the first-ever Town of Abingdon Arthur Campbell Award (Abingdon's highest honor recognizing citizens who have made extraordinary contributions to the community), and other accolades.

He says his most treasured artistic accomplishments are adapting and directing "Frankenstein" and "Dracula." He has directed, adapted, designed or choreographed more than 135 shows at Barter. He directed productions throughout the United States including off-Broadway in New York and has been involved in the development of many world premiere productions. His original adaptations ("It's A Wonderful Life," "A Modern Christmas Carol," "Dracula" and "Frankenstein") have been extremely successful. His "It's a Wonderful Life" adaptation has been produced in Thailand, and "Dracula!" was acknowledged as one of the best new regional theatre plays of 2009.

His work as a director has been lauded by Barter's audience and includes such recent triumphs as "Tarzan," "Les Miserables," "The Wizard of Oz," "9 to 5," "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," "The Full Monty" and the national tour of "The Diary of Anne Frank."

This season he is directing "Mary Poppins," Barter's big summer musical. "It promises to be an absolutely unique experience for Barter's audiences," he says. He is also directing "The Understudy" and "Curtains" and working on a dozen new initiatives resulting from Barter's 2014 strategic plan.

For the future, he has several world premiere plays and musicals in the works.

Rose's community involvement includes serving on many of the region's and Virginia's non-profit and economic development boards. He was a member of the executive committee and the tourism committee of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. He served on the boards of Virginians for the Arts and Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association. He is a Paul Harris fellow from Rotary.

He did post-graduate work at New York University, has a Master of Fine Arts in theatre directing and design from the University of California, Davis, and Bachelor of Arts from St. Norbert College, DePere, Wisconsin, where he was honored with a "distinguished achievement award in humanities."

He says of winning one of the first Arts Achievement Awards, "I'm just humbled to be among a great group of artists and honored to be part of the ever-growing and vibrant arts scene in the Tri-Cities region.

"There is no true life without the arts; they help us understand and make the most of our humanity; allow us to explore and understand the best and most important part of our natural selves; and allow us to reach for the stars in ways that nothing else that we do as humans can do. Tapping into our artistic selves and creative selves has been at the forefront of the progress of man since his creation.

"My biggest concern is that we, as a nation, are beginning to devalue art and introspection, which will prevent us from continuing to progress as a species in meaningful ways.

"My favorite part of what I do every day is to give employment to artists so that they are able to make a living, have a life, and raise their families while being able to do their art. Next favorite is to be able to work in collaboration — and theatre is truly a collaborative art form — with so many truly wonderful and talented people. I am inspired every day by their creativity and learn from them something new each day, for which I am grateful," he says.

Sara Reese creates plaque for AAME Arts Achievement Awards