Once upon a time, many regional theater troupes shared a dream: Companies of actors performing plays in rotation, with a different show every night.
Few troupes can afford it these days, but the ones that do -- such as the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, which will have six plays in its repertory this spring -- can reap big benefits.
Doing plays in repertory is challenging for everyone involved, especially the actors. For this season at the festival's state-of-the-art facility in Montgomery, a total of 38 actors -- and their understudies -- will take on multiple roles in six different plays.
Alabama Shakespeare Festival repertory actor Sam Gregory describes the three characters he plays this season:
Jaques from 'As You Like It' -- A spiritual journey.
Hortensio from 'The Taming of the Shrew' -- The most uptight person in Padua.
Henry from 'The Real Thing' -- Learning yourself, through pain...
Actor Sam Gregory, who's been doing repertory theater for about seven years, says he likes the challenge. He will play three very different characters this year -- and finds different facets of himself in each.
Hear clips of live performances at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival:
Sam Gregory as Jaques in a scene from 'As You Like It'
Sam Gregory as Hortensio woos Bianca in 'The Taming of the Shrew'
Sam Gregory as Henry in Tom Stoppard's 'The Real Thing'
"All of those sides of you increase your abilities," Gregory says. "Actors all have a comfort zone where they know they can do the roles well -- repertory forces you to expand your comfort zone."
Actors, directors, costumes, sets, sound design, lights and props make repertory both expensive and labor-intensive. So why do it? For the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the main reason is the audience. Many drive long distances to see a play. To keep them coming back, the festival is compelled to offer a variety of productions.