Our Story

Rochester Repertory Theatre Mission:

To provide theater productions of the highest quality that will challenge, develop, and enhance the skills of directors, actors, designers, and technicians, while intriguing, challenging, and delighting our audiences.

 

Our Black Box Beginnings

Rochester Repertory Theatre was founded in 1984 as a 90 seat, “black box” venue. The intention was to establish a Rochester-based professional theater company utilizing a corps of professional theater artists augmented by volunteers.

History1
Left to Right: Thom Hoffman, Kim LaFontaine, Jeanne Skattum, Rochester Mayor Chuck Hazama and Michael Lenzen

The four founding directors – Michael Lenzen, Kim LaFontaine, Thom Hoffman and Jeanne Skattum – rented space on south Broadway Avenue in downtown Rochester in October of that
at year and began renovation of what had been a second floor dance studio.  The Rep’s doors opened to the public in November 1984 with a three-show pre-season that played to 10-15 people each performance.

The Rep’s first full season consisted of eleven productions.  Ticket sales made it possible to pay the rent, but the struggle of that first season resulted in the 1985 decision to continue to offer “professional quality” theater using an all-volunteer cadre of artists and staff.  The Rochester Repertory Theatre was incorporated as a non-profit, tax exempt organization at that time.

Displaced, But Not Discouraged

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The Rep’s founding directors with the theatre’s original marquee announcing the venue’s premiere production of The Shadow Box

Midway through the opening production of The Rep’s 24th season in October 2007, the Board of Directors learned of a rumor that the building the theatre occupied was to be demolished to make room for construction of a new office complex. Investigation proved the rumor to be true and a formal eviction notice was received a week later, requiring the Rep to vacate the premises by December 1, 2007.

The Rep’s holiday production, Comfort and Joy, was canceled and a massive volunteer effort was put in motion to save the theatre.  In only a few weeks, a new venue was located, a lease was negotiated and the move to 103 Seventh Street NE in Rochester (former site of the Studio Academy Arts Charter School) was successfully accomplished by the first week in December. The Rep resumed the 2007-08 season in the new venue with its planned January production, Terra Nova.  The final three shows of the season were completed, as scheduled, at the new theatre.

Our New Home “Off Broadway”

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The Rep’s home on Seventh Street NE in Rochester.

Despite the disruptions, the 2007-08 season incorporated the work of more than 100 artists and technicians, plus additional volunteers who assisted with the forced relocation.  They laid the foundation for the 2008-09 Silver Anniversary season, a milestone that seemed unattainable only a year earlier when The Rep was facing eviction.  The Rep’s 25th season during 2008-09 was marked by a full slate of productions, celebrations, reflection and a sense of accomplishment.

The Rep’s new home on Seventh Street is a stand-alone facility incorporating a 90-seat thrust stage performance space, public areas, technical and workshop space, dressing rooms, rehearsal space, administrative facilities and property and costume storage.  All public and performance areas are on one level providing ease of access from the sidewalk through to patron seating.

The Rep TODAY

As the community theatre scene continues to shift in Rochester and SE Minnesota, the Rep remains a strong and steady presence embracing the pure meaning of “community.” We are open to all artists and technicians and bring our plays to life utilizing over 400 volunteers from within our community. Except for a small stipend, the individuals on our stage and behind the scenes, do it for the joy it brings them and the audience.

We are the only theatre in SE Minnesota that offers unseasoned directors, actors, artists and technicians an opportunity to hone their craft in a fully equipped theater. We provide a nurturing environment for technicians and artists during our main stage season. We have created opportunities in our calendar to reach out to other theatre groups in town who do not have a venue in which to perform, and allow them full use of our stage.

The director for each production in our main stage season assembles their own unique team of designers and actors. Supported by seasoned technicians, they create their own magic. This provides a variety of subject matter, style, and flavor since the personalities of each team shifts from play to play. Our artistic strength is in this diversity.