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Fiscal officer Barbara Busby is the woman with many hats at the Detroit Repertory Theatre. Photo: Bruce Millan
By Donald V. Calamia
In the geographical center of Detroit sits the state's oldest professional producing theater company, the Detroit Repertory Theatre. Founded in 1957 as the Millan Children's Theatre, three co-founders are still running the company's day-to-day operations more than a half-century later. As the Rep's 52nd season continues in April with the world premiere of Two Point Oh, fiscal officer Barbara Busby - the woman of many hats - talked with EncoreMichigan.com about the popular, history-making company and its unique mission.
What is your theater's mission statement?
From inception the DRT mission has been to produce the best possible professional theater; demonstrate the power of diversity acting in unity; utilize indigenous professional artists; provide a venue for a professional life in theater; and attract audiences reflecting the cultural/ethnic diversity of Southeast Michigan.
What are your theater's short-term goals and objectives - such as for the current season?
Finish the 2009/10 season without suffering too great a deficit.
What are your theater's long-term goals and objectives?
To continue our quest to culturally and artistically transform our city, our region and our state into a race transcendent, civil society.
The implicit goal in all our efforts is to produce meaningful, relevant and thought-provoking (entertaining) professional theater while fighting, by example, the disturbing level of racism that still exists.
What makes your theater different from any of the others in Michigan? What is it about you that is unique?
I guess we've been around the longest! (smiles) And we're still in the geographic center of Detroit, easily accessible by freeways.
What is your programming philosophy? What type(s) of shows does your theater produce on its main stage - and why?
We look for issue-oriented plays, be they comedy or drama. We like to hear the audience talking about what they've seen on the way out.
What other types of programming, if any, does your theater offer - such as theater for young audiences, educational outreach, etc.?
Education: (1) Cultural Fellowship Program reaches the clients of social and civic agencies so that the clients can attend productions on a regular basis. (2) Artists in the Schools provides artists to support learning in reading, writing, math and science. (3) Two 10-week Acting Workshops for students 18 yrs and older (fall and winter).
New Playwrights' Program reads over 200 new plays each season looking for production worthy scripts for our Main Stage.
Charitable Fundraising Partnerships for groups/organizations wishing to use the theater as a venue to raise funds for their charitable causes.
Does your theater offer any classes or workshops - either to the general public or to industry professionals? If so, what are they?
Yes, the Acting Workshops.
Is your theater an Equity (union) company?
What is the philosophy you use to cast your shows? From what talent pool(s) do you draw from?
We do not hold "generals." We cast each show separately. We send notices to actors on our substantial Equity and non-Equity lists by direct mail, e-mail and post audition notices in newspapers.
We hire indigenous actors. We cast roles, not ethnicities, unless the play is ethnic specific.
How does an actor go about arranging an audition?
They follow the directions in the notices.
Does your theater offer an apprenticeship or internship program? And if so, what is the criteria - and how does someone apply for such a position?
No, not at this time.
Does your theater accept new play submissions? If so, how does a playwright go about submitting a script for your consideration?
Yes. Submission guidelines are on our Web site.
What else should we know about your theater, the current season, etc.?
Each season begins the first Thursday in November and ends the last Sunday in June.
April 1 we open the third show of the season, Two Point Oh, a world premiere by Jeffrey Jackson.
June 3-10 we close the season with another world premiere, My Soldiers, by Richard Kalinoski.
Office are open weekdays all summer, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Auditions for the first show of the 2010-11 season are shortly after Labor Day.
Theater name: Detroit Repertory Theater
Business & performance address (including zip code): 13103 Woodrow Wilson, Detroit, MI 48238-3686
Web address: www.DetroitRepTheater.com.
Facebook fan page: Detroit Repertory Theater
Twitter name: Detroitrep
Business office & box office phone (including area code): 313-868-1347
Business office hours of operation: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
Box office hours of operation: Office hours, and one hour before show times.
In what year was your theater established: 1957
Company's founders: Bruce Millan, Barbara Busby, Dee Andrus
Current leaders or management team: Bruce Millan, artistic/managing director; Barbara Busby, fiscal officer, literary manager; Dee Andrus, outreach and company chef; Milfordean Luster, education director; William Boswell, administrative asst., workshop director; Harry Wetzel, production manager, set designer; Annie Cross, group sales manager; Leah Smith, public relations.
Is your theater a non-profit, tax-exempt organization? Yes.
Is your theater wheelchair accessible? Yes.
During which months of the year does your season run? November-June; the office is open year-round.
How many main stage productions do you offer each season? Four.
How many OTHER productions or programs do you offer each season? Artists in the Schools - during regular school hours; Two 10-week Acting Workshops - Fall and Winter.
How many seats does your theater have? 194.
What type(s) of seating is offered to your patrons (ex: general admission, reserved, etc)? General admission.
In general, what is the price range for your non-discounted main stage tickets (exclusive of service charges and other fees)? $17 in advance; $20 at the door.
Are there service charges or other fees added to the price of the tickets? And if so, what are those charges and fees? There are no service charges or fees.
In general, what is the price range for your OTHER programs and services?
Acting Workshop: Tuition subsidized for low-to-moderate income students residing in Detroit; others: $150 for a 10-week session.
Matinee Bargain Booklets: $100 (for 10 tickets); Anytime Booklets: $110 (for 10 tickets). The booklets can be used all at once or a few at a time.
Do you offer subscriptions to your main stage season? Yes.
Do you offer discounts to senior citizens (and if so, what are the details)?
No. Our regular price is economical - at least compared to other theaters.
Do you offer discounts to students (and if so, what are the details)? No; same as above.
Do you offer group discounts (and if so, what are the details)? Bargain booklets take care of small groups; group sales of 150 to 194 tickets offer bigger discounts.
For ticket purchases, does your theater accept personal checks? Yes.
For ticket purchases, does your theater accept credit or debit cards? Yes, both.
Can tickets to your shows be purchased online - and if so, how? No.
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ABOUT BARBARA BUSBY:
Barbara Busby is co-founder of The Millan Theatre Company/Detroit Repertory Theatre and serves as its fiscal officer. She's a member of Actors' Equity Association, Screen Actor's Guild, American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, and American Federation of Teachers.
Directing credits include the theater's premiere productions of Decision at Valley Forge, Sunday Revolution, The Little Dog Laughed, Daytrips, Detroit Stories, Kosher Grocer, Carpool, Angels of Lemnos, T for 2, Fast Ducks and Between Men and Cattle. Other directing credits include Waiting for Godot, Rhinoceros, My Children! My Africa!, Scott Joplin: A Musical Play, Sorrows and Rejoicings and A Song for Coretta.
Busby is also an accomplished actress, with dozens of roles to her credit, including Agnes (Delicate Balance), Dolly Levi (The Matchmaker) Giza (Catsplay), Lizzie Borden (Blood Relations), Bea (Other People's Money and Miss Emma (Passed Over.
Two Point Oh: An unexpected event reveals that a world renowned computer genius has created a cyber copy of his brain, his human feelings, his intelligence, his memories and perceptions. Detroit Repertory Theatre, 13103 Woodrow Wilson St., Detroit. April 1 - May 23. Tickets: $17-$20. For information: 313-868-1347 or www.DetroitRepTheater.com.