As our season long series “25 Seasons—25 Stories” continues, Executive Director Hal Cropp explains the creation of the rotating repertory production schedule. We have entitled this portion of the series, “The Commonweal Timeline Explained.” Without further ado, Hal Cropp.
The Timeline Explained: The Rotating Rep
In my second year at the company (1993), Eric Bunge and Patrick Ferguson hit upon the notion of changing two plays over on a daily basis, instead of creating one show at a time, opening it and running it for four or five weeks, closing it and opening the next. This had been the model for the first four years of the Commonweal.
The original impulse for this was Eric’s notion of the possibility that a visitor to town might want to see two different plays during their stay here. This would increase attendance and possibly extend people’s stays by a day or two. Never one to do something in small measures, the first attempt had three shows ALL rotating on a nightly basis: GREATER TUNA played Tuesdays and Fridays, the musical TINTYPES played Wednesdays and Saturdays, and LOVE LETTERS played Thursdays and Sundays.
This meant that we changed the stage over SIX times each week, from June 10 through the end of August.
While the initial concept had merit (people did indeed want to see two different plays during their brief stays in Lanesboro), the company almost (physically) died. To say that six changeovers a week was stressful is an understatement. But never a group to throw out the baby with the bathwater, we looked at what WAS successful and moved to the current model – two shows playing simultaneously, with no more than four changeovers in any one week.
Not only has this led to more people attending our plays, it has continued to sharpen the acting skills of the ensemble. We are challenged to maintain multiple characterizations through skillful manipulation of acting talents and are delighted to be bringing several people to life in the same week! This, in turn, has led to a broadening of the talents of the individual members of the ensemble. All in all, a good deal.