By Patsy Isenberg
The Flint Repertory Theatre, branded “The Rep,” officially made its transition from its old life as the Flint Youth Theatre with a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday.
It’s a big week for The Rep. Today the Stephen Sondheim musical, “Assassins,” opened at 8 p.m. It runs through Nov. 18.
In addition, staff of The Rep found out this week they’ve been granted $10,000 for “Initial Support” from the American Theatre Wing (ATW). The ATW is the creator of the Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards. The Rep shares the honor with three other theatre companies in the U.S., Cardinal Stage (Bloomington, IN), Local Theater Company (Boulder, CO), and The Wilbury Theatre Group (Providence, RI).
Michael Luberes, producing artistic director of The Rep, will travel to New York City Monday to receive the award. Luberes said “The recognition from the American Theatre Wing is a tremendous honor. This boost of support on a national level shines a spotlight on our commitment to developing world premiere plays and musicals, creating bold new takes on the classics, and reaffirms our commitment to diversity in every level of our work. We’re honored to be in the company of these other theatres. This grant will allow us to share our work with even more of the Flint community.”
Last August, as EVM reported, the Flint Youth Theatre changed its name to Flint Repertory Theatre (“The Rep”) and reorganized the theatre company. Controversy surrounded that move among youth and their parents who had participated in past productions in part because of the word “youth” being removed.
But representatives of The Rep continue to assert to the community their determination that young thespians will not lose out. They say they are focussed on getting community youth involved and a lot of education in theater will continue to be offered.
The Rep has produced one other show so far, “The Boatman,” which ran from Sept. 28 through Oct. 7.
Ceremony celebrates The Rep’s new mission
In addition to Luberes and the staff of The Rep, Flint Institute of Music (FIM) President and CEO, Rodney Lontine, participated in Wednesday’s ribbon cutting along with FIM symphony conductor Enrique Diemecke who is celebrating 30 years with the Flint Symphony Orchestra. The cast of “Assassins” performed “Everybody’s Got the Right” from the show, accompanied on piano by Frank Pitts.
Leigh LaForest of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce kicked off the ribbon-cutting, summing up The Rep’s new mission.
“The Flint Youth Theatre announced in August of 2018 that it will undergo expansion to become The Flint Repertory Theatre, otherwise known as The Rep,” LaForest said. “Starting with the 2018-2019 season, they’ve expanded their programming to accompany a wider depth and breadth of work… The existing Flint Youth Theatre programming which touched the lives of Flint children for over 60 years will coexist among other theatrical programming and the program of The Rep’s education department…will run forth throughout the entire community.”
Luberes, the staff at The Rep, Lontine, Diemecke and cast members of “Assassins” backed up Luberes who held the giant scissors. After a practice run, he successfully cut the giant blue ribbon and applause erupted. Lunch followed, with theater tours led by Sam Richardson, managing director of The Rep.
Luberes is directing “Assassins” as well. He’ll also be directing two more shows this season, “The Glass Menagerie” which he describes as “one of the most beautiful plays ever written,” and “Songs About Stuff” which “will be the world premiere musical review based on the songs of Michigan singer-songwriter Wally Pleasant.”
“Assassins” about “people disillusioned with the American Dream”
Luberes said “Assassins,” is reported to be Sondheim’s favorite.
“This has been a dream show for me,” Luberes said. “I’ve always wanted to direct it. The design work is out of this world. The theatrical metaphor we’re playing with is America as this broken down carnival ride. This rigged game for suckers. It’s a really bold design, pieces of amusement park, and pieces of light up sign letters put together.
“The costumes are also quite bold and unique. We’re playing with multiple masks that the characters wear. Big carnival “bread and puppet” style masks that the assassins wear – they almost look like political cartoons and reveal themselves underneath and crude rubber masks for the presidents.
“I couldn’t think of a better show to do in the current political circus we’re living in,” Luberes said. “The country seems so divided right now and this show is all about people disillusioned with the American Dream.”
“Assassins” opened today, Friday, Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at thewhiting.com and regular admission is $20 and $18 for seniors and teens. The how runs through Nov. 18, with four matinee performances available as well.
EVM arts writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at email@example.com.