Cortland Repertory Theatre: A Brief History
Oscar winner Holly Hunter
in To Kill a Mockingbird in 1976 with Forrest Robinson and Scott Reid
Two time Tony-award
winning director and
Tony-nominated actor Joe Mantello (right)
in The American-Italian Reconciliation in 1990
with Russell Goldberg
Actor Stephen Bogardus (right) in Capt. Jinks of the Horse Marines in 1977
with Ted May
In the winter of 1971-72, Dr. James Palmer, associate director of theatre at SUNY Cortland, and David Yaman, a local real estate developer, recognized the need for a quality summer theatre experience for residents of Central New York. Through the generosity of 23 charter members, Cortland Repertory Theatre was born. The theatre opened on July 5, 1972 in the charming, turn-of-the-century Pavilion at Dwyer Memorial Park on Little York Lake and boasted a young, semi-professional company dedicated to bringing popular plays and musicals to theatre lovers in the area.
For six years, the theatre played an eight-week season in rotating repertory, after which the format was changed to five plays running for two weeks each. Currently, CRT does 6 plays, with one being a three-week musical. In 1988 CRT introduced "Early Stages," a program designed to introduce children to the range of performing arts, which was disbanded in 1996. 2001 saw the creation of "CRT KIDS" which includes children's productions, workshops and "The Pavilion Awards," an awards program which recognizes outstanding achievement in local high school theatre.
During the Theatre's history the annual budget, which in 1972 was approximately $35,000, has grown to over $445,000 in 2006. Through the years CRT has received invaluable support from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Cortland County Legislature, the Central New York business community, and many generous individual donors. CRT has been awarded capital improvement grants totaling $225,000, sponsored by Senator James Seward, Assemblyman Clarence Rappleyea, Assemblyman Dan Fessenden, and Assemblyman Marty Luster, administered by the Natural Heritage Trust. CRT utilized these grants to add dressing rooms and air conditioning to the theatre, replace antiquated lighting and sound equipment, and purchase a headquarters in Cortland which houses the business office, costume and scene shop, and props storage. Recently, CRT has installed a sprinkler system and handicapped accessible elevator to the theatre.
Over the years, CRT's acting company has included several rising stars. The most prominent of these is Holly Hunter, a CRT intern during the 1976 season. Since her debut in Cortland, Ms. Hunter has become a critically acclaimed movie star winning the Best Actress Academy Award in 1994 for The Piano. Also, two time Tony-winning director (for Assassins and Take Me Out) and Tony-nominated actor (for Angels in America) Joe Mantello has acted on the CRT stage and Tony-nominated actor (for Love! Valour! Compassion!) Stephen Borgardis has also appeared. In 1993, Tony nominated actor (for Play On!) Andre De Shields directed CRT's production of Ain't MisBehavin, after starring in the original production. CRT boasts a superb artistic and technical staff, built around a core of professionals augmented by talented local performers. Dedicated community volunteers also devote countless hours to the innumerable activities that go on behind the scenes.
The Little York Pavilion
The Little York Pavilion, the Theatre's performance space, was built in 1906. The Pavilion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. From its idyllic, country setting it commands a sweeping, picturesque view of Little York Lake. Cortland Repertory Theatre's use of this historically unique Pavilion has created strong feelings of pride and a growing sense of cultural awareness and civic responsibility within the community and region at large. Read more about the History of the Little York Pavilion.