Repertory

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Repertory or rep, also called stock in the United States, is a term used in Western theatre and opera.

A repertory theatre can be a theatre in which a resident company presents works from a specified repertoire, usually in alternation or rotation. In the British system, however, it used to be that even quite small towns would support a rep, and the resident company would present a different play every week, either a revival from the full range of classics or, if given the chance, a new play, once the rights had been released after a West End or Broadway run. The companies were not known for trying out untried new work, however. The methods, now seldom seen, would be also used in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

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The resident company

The acting company would consist of a "leading lady", a "leading man", a "juvenile", both male and female (ingenue) for the young often romantic roles, a "character" actor and actress (for the older parts) and perhaps a "soubrette". A "guest star" name might be brought in to boost attendance which only might cover the added cost. Hence the resident cast would number 7, plus the resident director, usually doubling as the artistic director in charge of the whole enterprise, and in addition there would be the stage director, the "ASM" (assistant stage manager), some (unpaid) apprentices, and lights and sound technicians. Newcomers to the profession would often start their careers in this fashion, and members would not only gain a foundation upon which to base a career, but, apart from the apprentices who might even pay for the experience, also be sure of a steady income for one or more "seasons". The season might last for 6 months, basically because the schedule was exhausting, both mentally and physically. Examples of performers who went on to universal recognition are Jeremy Brett, Judi Dench, Rosemary Harris, Ian McKellen, Christopher Plummer, Harold Pinter, Imelda Staunton, Lynn Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave, Patrick Stewart, Geraldine McEwan, Ronnie Barker, Dirk Bogarde, who wrote about his start at tiny Amersham rep in 1939, and Michael Caine, who recounts his time spent at Horsham rep in the early fifties, to present just a few.

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