Circle Repertory Company

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Circle Repertory Company, originally named Circle Theater Company, was founded in July 1969, in a second floor loft at Broadway and 83rd Street by director Marshall W. Mason, playwright Lanford Wilson, director Rob Thirkield, and actress Tanya Berezin. The plan was to establish a pool of artists- actors, directors, playwrights and designers- who would work together in the creation of plays.

Circle Rep became home to some of the most prolific talent in American theater. Founder and resident playwright, Lanford Wilson, wrote Hot L Baltimore (1972-1973 season), The Mound Builders (1974-1975 season), The Fifth of July (1977-1978 season), Talley’s Folly (1979-1980 season), and A Tale Told (1980-1981 season) for the company. The list of playwrights who worked at circle Rep includes numerous award-winning playwrights, such as John Bishop, Michael Cristofer, Arthur Kopit, David Mamet, Murray Schisgal and Milan Stitt.

Circle Repertory Company provided the genesis for acclaimed productions such as Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love (1982-1983), Larry Kramer’s The Destiny of Me (1992-1993), William M. Hoffman’s As Is (1984-1985), Terrence McNally’s Master Class (1994), Craig Lucas’ Prelude to a Kiss (1989-1990), Jon Robin Baitz’s Three Hotels (1992-1993), Albert Innaurato’s Gemini (1976-1977), and Jules Feiffer’s Knock Knock (1975-1976).

Circle Rep received numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize, Tony Awards, Obies, Drama Desk Awards and the 1991 Lucille Lortel Award.

A distinguished group of actors developed from Circle Repertory Company. The list of actors who either called Circle Rep home or participated in specific productions includes John Malkovich, William Hurt, Kathy Bates, Alec Baldwin, Christopher Reeve, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Tandy, Judd Hirsch, Joan Allen, Demi Moore, Gary Sinise, Swoosie Kurtz, Timothy Busfield, and Patricia Wetting.

Other Circle Rep alumni includes Conchata Ferrell, Trish Hawkins, Beatrice Straight, and Helen Stenborg.

In 1979 Circle Rep initiated a classics project, producing two plays in repertory; Hamlet, and Schiller’s Mary Stuart. By 1982 Circle Rep had outgrown its theater and for the first time had to present its work on other stages. Running parallel to the classics, Circle Rep became celebrated for its productions of new plays, particularly those in the style that has been labeled “lyric realism,” with Lanford Wilson being the father of the genre. Marshall Mason directed dozens of Wilson’s plays starting with Sextet (Yes) in 1971.

In addition to major productions Circle Rep ran a Projects-in-Progress series. Plays selected for this series received a week of rehearsal and a four-performance run. Several of these plays went on to become major productions the following season.

The literary office was one of the few that read unsolicited scripts and responded with detailed criticism. To the end of developing scripts, the company ran two reading series, Friday Readings and Extended Readings.

The company collaborated with the Dramatists Guild on a series called Young Playwrights Festival, founded by Stephen Sondheim in 1981. For the festival, ten plays with writers ranging from 8 to 18 were chosen for full production or staged readings. Plays were produced at Circle Rep with professional actors. Among the playwrights were Kenneth Lonergan and Jonathan Marc Sherman.

After Marshall Mason’s departure in 1987, Tanya Berezin became Circle Rep’s artistic director until 1994. In 1995, Austin Pendleton succeeded her, with actress Lynn Thigpen as associate artistic director.

Originating in the Sixties, a time when many experimental theaters arose, this company outlasted virtually all others. They closed their doors in 1996 after 27 years.

From the guide to the Circle Repertory Company records, 1965-1996, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Paul Cranefield papers, 1824-2002, 1951-200 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Transcripts of the New Broadways interviews, 1995-1996 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Lindsay Crouse papers, 1967-1987. Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Gossage, James D. James Gossage photographs, 1965-1975. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Interviews for the book New Broadways [sound recording] / Gerald Berkowitz The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
creatorOf Cranefield, Paul F. (Paul Frederic), 1925-. Paul Cranefield papers, 1824-2002 (bulk 1951-200) New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Playbill Inc., Playbill, collection, 1924-1985. Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Ruth and Augustus Goetz papers, 1930-1966 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn James Gossage photographs, 1965-1975 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Berkowitz, Gerald M. Transcripts of the New Broadways interviews, 1995-1996. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Circle Repertory Company records, 1965-1996 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Programs collection I : New York City theaters, [ca. 1865]-[ongoing] University of Pittsburgh
referencedIn Lucille Lortel papers, 1902-2000 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Berezin, Tanya, 1941- person
associatedWith Berkowitz, Gerald M. person
associatedWith Cranefield, Paul F. (Paul Frederic), 1925- person
associatedWith Crouse, Lindsay. person
associatedWith Goetz, Ruth person
associatedWith Gossage, James D person
associatedWith Gossage, James D. person
associatedWith Lonergan, Kenneth person
associatedWith Lortel, Lucille person
associatedWith Mason, Marshall W person
associatedWith Pendleton, Austin person
associatedWith Playbill Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Saddler, Donald person
associatedWith Sherman, Jonathan Marc person
associatedWith Thigpen, Lynne person
associatedWith Thirkield, Ron person
associatedWith Wilson, Lanford, 1937-2011 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Theatrical producers and directors--New York (State)--New York
Repertory theater--New York (State)--New York
Off--Broadway theater
Occupation
Theatrical producers and directors
Function

Corporate Body

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