40th anniversary book

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  • 1c e l e b r a t i n g 4 0 s e a s o n s

  • 2

  • 1text: Joseph Whelan | design: Jonathan Hudak

    c e l e b r a t i n g 4 0 s e a s o n s

  • 2CYRANO de beRgeRAC

    John cullum

    as cyrano, seated, w

    ith lisabeth bartlett as roxane and M

    arcus smythe as c

    hristian above in Cyrano de Bergerac by edm

    ond rostand, adapted by em

    ily Frankel. season: 1983 1984. Director:

    arthur storch. Photo: susan Piper Kublick.


    e: John cullum


    the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac, his first of tw

    o appearances at syracuse stage. H

    e would return in

    the 1988 1989 season for Look H


    ard, Angel, also directed by arthur storch. Cyrano enjoyed a successful national tour draw

    ing critical acclaim

    from atlanta to


    ond to boston.

  • 3curtain raiser

    in 1958, syracuse university acquired the regent Theatre building located at 820 east genesee street in syracuse. at the time alexander n. charters was Dean of university college. as charters recalls, he was asked one day by Hugh gregg, then vice president and treasurer of the university, to take a walk along east genesee. They stopped in front of the regent. Have you ever done anything in the theatre? gregg asked. no, charters replied. Why? because weve bought this building and youre going to run it, said gregg. like the opening lines of a good play, this brief exchange signaled the beginning of a great story to come.


    The m

    arquee of the regent Theatre

    advertises The n

    ew Playhouses production

    of eugene on

    eills A Touch of the Poet.


    e: The n

    ew Playhouse

    presented its first summ

    er season in 1961. Th

    e company used

    professional actors with som

    e roles played by syracuse u

    niversity D

    rama students. Th

    e presence of professionals in the regent led to the form

    ation of the s.u. Th

    eatre c

    orporation to negotiate with

    actors equity association.

  • 5Prologue

    The regent had been a movie house since 1914. it was built by Myron Kallet as the first in the Kallet Theatre chain. The university had acquired the build-ing without a clear plan of how it would be used. university college assumed full responsibility for the budget, the building, and the programming. The re-gent Theatre became a unit of university college and was administered as one of the numerous uc pro-grams. The goal that emerged, as charters later noted, was to develop a comprehensive program in educa-tion and culture for the syracuse communitys taste in music, drama, and film. Fulfilling that goal became the job of robert bergeron, who set about scheduling programs for what eventually became known as the university regent Theatre.

    although the auditorium was fairly large with a seat-ing capacity of 1100, the theatre was not built for live performance. The stage was small with very little room behind the movie screen. The hall was long and nar-row with a small balcony and a projectionists booth. nonetheless, the university regent Theatre hosted a wide variety of local companies and visiting performers. Marcel Marceau performed. Hal Holbrook brought his Mark Twain Tonight to the tiny stage. over time other performances included The salzburg Marionettes, The buffalo Philharmonic, James Whitmore in Will Rog-ers USA, Jose greco Dance, Doyle carter opera, The Modern Jazz Quartet, and The acting company. some of the local groups included skaneateles lyric company (the first to use the space), syracuse little Theatre, syra-

    cuse Musical Drama company, onondaga Hill Players, town and country Players, and the center Players. in 1961, the first community-oriented professional group premiered in the space when the newly-formed The new Playhouse presented a summer season. it was a first step in an evolutionary process toward creating a thriving professional theatre in syracuse.

    The artistic director of The new Playhouse was Drama Department chair gerald F. reidenbaugh, who had a clear vision for the company. The new Playhouse would serve two purposes: one, to bring professional theatre to the syracuse community, and two, to provide an edu-cational tie-in for Drama students. advanced students, reidenbaugh believed, could gain valuable professional

    gerald F. reidenbaugh, artistic director of the syracuse repertory Theatre and chair of syracuse university Drama Department, gives notes to student actors during a rehearsal.


    The regent marquee announces performance dates for syracuse repertory Theatres production of Dear Liar by Jerome Kilty.

    Aside: The first full-time professional theatre company in the regent, syracuse repertory Theatre presented a total of eight seasons, including a trial season in 1964. The first official season was in 1967. srts final season was 1973.

  • 7experience by performing supporting roles in new Playhouse productions. These goals, first articulated by reidenbaugh in 1961, have since helped define the mission and direction of professional theatre at 820 east genesee street.

    The use of professional actors by The new Playhouse created a need for an administrative apparatus to man-age relations with actors equity association, the union for actors and stage managers. on January 25, 1962, the new York state education Department approved a provisional charter for the s.u. Theatre corporation. The charter established a five member board of trustees: clark D. ahlberg, president; Francis a. Wingate, vice president; alexander n. charters, secretary; Victor J. conway, treasurer; and clifford l. Winters. as noted in the charter, The purposes for which such corporation is formed are to promote and further the education of the general public by producing, sponsoring, and foster-ing literary, musical, and dramatic productions of high artistic and cultural value and to develop in the public an enhanced appreciation of art, drama, and music.

    at around this same time, the university provided $120,000 to finance the first of what would be a series of upgrades and renovations to the university regent Theatre. This initial improvement expanded the stage area and increased lighting capacity. The inaugural pro-

    duction of The new Playhouse was eugene oneills A Touch of the Poet, directed by reidenbaugh. summer seasons continued through 1964 and featured similarly challenging material, including tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie. Marlow g. burt replaced bergeron as program administrator and the regent became the home space for Drama Department productions as well as hosting performances by a local amateur group, The civic company. Management of the Drama Depart-ments childrens Theatre also came under the univer-sity regent umbrella. at around the same time, The rosamond gifford charitable Foundation awarded burt a $70,000 grant for the development of a profes-sional resident theatre company.

    The new company took the name syracuse repertory Theatre (srt). reidenbaugh became artistic direc-tor and launched a five-week trial season in 1964. The ambitious line-up included george bernard shaws Man and Superman, shakespeares The Merry Wives of Wind-sor, anton chekhovs The Cherry Orchard, and samuel becketts Waiting for Godot, performed in repertory with a company cast in new York. The season proved instructive as reidenbaugh was able to determine what the hard-core syracuse theatre-goers liked, as well as to examine the structure and operations of the company. before srt could begin in earnest, however, the university undertook a $1 million renovation of the

    regent Theatre. The plan called for construction of an l-shaped building that would adjoin the regent Theatre structure and form an integrated complex. The new structure would contain a new theatrethe 200 seat experimental Theatre, todays storchrehearsal halls, scene shops, dressing rooms, and office space. completed in 1966, the new facility hosted a variety of performances including a chamber music series, a cleveland Play House production, carlos Montoya, su Drama and su childrens Theatre productions, a travelogue film series, and a sunday evening film series. That same year, rex Henriot arrived from Minneapolis to replace burt as general manger of the regent and to become managing director of srt.

    The syracuse repertory Theatre kicked-off its first of-ficial season on January 26, 1967 in the experimental Theatre. What better way to begin than with shake-speare: Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,/Live registered upon our brazen Tombs . . . The opening lines of Loves Labours Lost introduced a theatrical endeavor that would last seven seasons and bring 37 productions to the syracuse community. The Devils Disciple, Tiger at the Gates, and Slow Dance on the Killing Grounds rounded out the first season and contained hints of what was ahead. The company employed 16 profes-sional actors with 12 su Drama students performing minor roles. in addition, 30 students appeared in a

    a play closes some saturday night, but a theatre continues on, Henriot said. The theatre must not stand or fall on one play or one season. We cant sell one play to the community we live in. We sell an institu-tion that a community can be proud of.

    left: gary gage as glas and roger robinson as randall in Slow Dance on the Killing Ground by William Hanley. season: syracuse repertory Theatre, 1967. Director: rex Henriot.

  • 8crowd scene in The Devils Disciple, and 30 more gained experience working backstage in lights, props, sound, costumes, and set construction. Slow Dance on the Killing Grounds, directed by Henriot, featured a young actor named r