|Of Mice and Men|
Lewis Arlt, Don Perkins, Arthur A. Rosenberg
Joneal Joplin, Michael Genovese
Opening its premiere season on July 1, 1966, with the Webster Drama Festival, the new company's first production was The Private Ear and The Public Eye, followed by Twelfth Night, directed by Sister Marita, then by Waiting for Godot, School for Wives and The Cage.
Until Labor Day, the five plays were rolled over every three of four days. The company's intention was to perform year-round in quarterly seasons of three plays in rotation. During 1966-67 and 1967-68 they also produced such world classics as A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Miser, Rashomon, The Time of Your Life, The Merchant of Venice, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Misalliance.
|A Flea in Her Ear|
Arthur A. Rosenberg
A patron who attended in those early days still recalls, "I loved having a chance to see plays I'd heard about all my life and never before had a chance to see. It was a real thrill. And it was high art."
Larry Linville, who eventually played in the long-running television program M*A*S*H, was quoted in the Globe-Democrat, "...repertory is blue-collar as well as white-collar theatre. Everybody comes. Theatre that caters only to the so-called carriage trade is doomed to failure. To survive as a vital force, we must offer something for everyone." And they tried to do that.
In the spring of 1967, the company funded by a grant from the Missouri Arts Council, toured the state with newly mounted productions of Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream. They enjoyed a rousing welcome in Branson, where hundreds of hopeful theatregoers were turned away from the sold-out, glowingly reviewed performances.
Joplin residents not only attended in droves, they opened their homes to the actors. Scheduling conflicts and a shortage of funds forced the company to cut the tour short and it was nearly a decade before another production from the theatre was taken "on the road" again.
Besides theatre for adults, the college sponsored The Magic Circle, "where children's dreams come true," composed of the Junior Company under the direction of Camilla Wolak in the summer of 1966. They performed Cinderella, Tom Sawyer and Squire Gullible and the Dragon at the Loretto-Hilton Center, as well as Androcles and the Lion, Winnie the Pooh and other plays over the next few years.
In 1967, a grant from the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis enabled the company to hire an Educational Projects Director to arrange for actors to appear in area secondary schools and colleges. Quite quickly, the Repertory Theatre's high production standards and educational mission were firmly established.
|One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest|
Michael Genovese, Myron Kozman,
From the beginning, a significant segment of the St. Louis community embraced the theatre. BY June of 1967, volunteers, spurred by Yvonne Logan, Elsie Schmitz and other enthusiasts, pitched in to spread the work about the Loretto-Hilton. Determined to help this regional theatre grow, over 60 men and women formed a telephone committee that scoured the area for season subscribers. Volunteers' novel fundraising events and attention-getting strategies included a host of creative parties, especially theme celebrations for the opening night of each play.
In the spring of 1969 alone, volunteers gave 17 separate parties in May and six in June, and enticed new volunteers who were inspired by the first round of parties to give seven more themselves.
Despite reaching a pre-season subscription goal of 800 by May 31, their effort was not sufficient to reverse the deficit trend of the previous three years. The theatre operation was running deeply in the red. Jacqueline Grennan, president of the college, asked the lay advisory board to rethink the theatre's operations.