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A Personal Message from REP Producing Artistic Director Sanford (Sandy) Robbins

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Dear Colleagues and Friends,

On August 31, 2022 I will complete my leadership of the Resident Ensemble Players (REP) and the University of Delaware Theatre Department. Then, after a year of retirement leave during which I will have no REP or Theatre Department accountabilities, my last day of employment at the University of Delaware will be August 31, 2023. This means that the upcoming theatre season and academic year (2021-22) will be my last in Delaware.

Steve Tague has generously agreed to serve as Producing Artistic Director of the REP and Chairperson of the Theatre Department for one year from September 1, 2022 through August 31, 2023. During that year, UD administration, in consultation with the Theatre Department faculty, will determine how to replace me as REP Producing Artistic Director and Theatre Department Chairperson, as well as how they will conduct whatever search they deem appropriate to fill my current positions.

Steve Tague is an outstanding actor, director, and educator, and I am confident that he is the right person to head the REP and Theatre Department in the interim year between my departure and the beginning of new leadership. During the upcoming (2021-22) theatre season and academic year, Steve and I will work closely together to ensure a smooth transition.

I have chosen to complete my work at UD at this time for several reasons.

It has always been my commitment that what would most distinguish the REP was its commitment to a resident acting company and resident artists, craftsman, and administrative staff. When the pandemic began and the REP could no longer produce live theatre, I intentionally shifted my primary commitment from realizing the artistic goals of the REP to ensuring its future by doing whatever I could to protect the livelihoods of as many REP employees as possible in the face of the downsizing that the University administration exacted upon us. This downsizing consists of a reduction to the REP operating budget of more than 50% and the laying off (or, in several cases, the voluntary retirement to avoid being laid off) of virtually all of the REP’s award-winning staff in Production (i.e., sets, costumes, props, lighting, etc.), Marketing, Front of House, Production Management, Company Management, and Administration.

Because of the impact of these budget and staff reductions, the REP – which has always presented six to seven live productions each season – will, for at least the next two or three years, produce only two to three live productions annually. In this way, while the REP must offer a smaller quantity of productions than in the past, it can do so at a level of production values which is consistent with, or close to, what our audience has come to expect.

While working to design a 2021-22 season within the REP’s greatly reduced resources, several things became clear to me that led to my choosing to complete my employment at UD.

First, I realized that because of the severity of the downsizing imposed upon the REP, I am left with a very high level of confidence that the post-pandemic employment of the REP resident acting company and the REP’s few remaining REP staff members is, and will remain, secure and stable for the foreseeable future.

Along with my confidence in the employment security of the current REP personnel, my strong conviction that this stability in personnel ensures a future for the REP, and the University administration’s assurances that they are committed to continue the REP, it also became clear to me that the REP’s necessarily reduced production activity over the next few years presented an opportunity to begin a turnover to new leadership for the REP; leadership that has the appetite for rebuilding and, perhaps, re-inventing the REP.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “complete” as:

            “having all necessary parts or elements”

                     “to bring to an end, especially into a perfected state”

                                  “to make whole or perfect”,

                                              “fulfilled”

                                                   “to mark the end of”.

With regard to my work at the University of Delaware, I am complete.

I now have the freedom to direct my energies toward the many plans, goals, and projects I have happily deferred for many years while working to fulfill the extraordinary opportunity of creating and leading the Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) and then the REP.

I am enormously grateful for the opportunities I have had at UD and especially for the privilege it has been for me to participate with the many people who have made my work here possible. I am proud of and grateful for what my colleagues and collaborators and I have achieved together.

I am proud of the outstanding graduates of the Professional Theatre Training Program and their contributions to theatres across America, as well as in film and television.

I founded the PTTP at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where it operated for twelve years before being aggressively recruited by the University of Delaware administration. After two years of negotiations, I relocated the entire program – faculty, production staff, administrative staff, and clerical staff – to the University of Delaware, an unprecedented move that remains singular in the history of American theatre training programs.

During its 22 years of operation at the University of Delaware, the PTTP was consistently rated one of the top 10 theatre training programs in America by U.S. News and World Report and one of the top 25 in the English-speaking world by Hollywood Reporter.

The unique structure I invented for the PTTP from its inception – accepting one class every four years for three years of training followed by a year of auditions and interviews to select its next group of students – has since been emulated by theatre training programs at several universities.

From 1989, when we inaugurated the PTTP in Delaware, until 2011 when the University of Delaware administration defunded and terminated the program, each PTTP student – in Acting, Stage Management, and Technical Theatre – received a full tuition waiver and a generous stipend that enabled them to graduate from our training program without debt and with the financial freedom to pursue work in the theatre. It is heartening to see, as I am completing my work here, that Yale University’s School of Drama has recently announced that they will begin next fall to offer that same level of financial support to their graduate students.

I am equally proud of having established in the Resident Ensemble Players (REP) a professional theatre centered around a resident company of exceptionally talented actors, all of whom were trained in the PTTP.

The REP has offered thirteen seasons of theatre, each presenting six to seven diverse productions, including seven new adaptations of classic plays, five world premieres of plays written expressly for the REP, and, during the pandemic, seven new audio plays and a Zoom play. These productions have all featured our outstanding resident actors, often augmented by exceptionally gifted guest actors from the top tier of the profession. REP productions have been directed and designed by some of the world’s foremost theatre artists as well as our talented resident staff.

As I hoped would be the case when we began the REP, several of our resident actors have become outstanding directors, one is being recognized nationally as a formidable playwright, and one other has also begun to write exciting work for the theatre.

I am most particularly proud that we have, for all thirteen years of the REP’s existence, been true to my originating commitment to compensate artists – both resident and guests – at levels appropriate to the important contribution they make to our community and to society as a whole.

I am grateful that my leadership of the PTTP and the REP has also afforded me the opportunity to direct many plays at leading theatres in the US and abroad, including several award-winning productions, and in 2019 to be honored with the John Houseman Award for my contributions to the American theatre.

Throughout my time in Delaware, I have been privileged to collaborate with extraordinarily talented, committed, and big-hearted people in our organization and in our guests.

I will always deeply appreciate the gift it has been to participate with you. Over the course of the upcoming theatre season and academic year, I look forward to expressing my thanks to each of you personally.

In the meantime, I am very much here and very much looking forward to the upcoming theatre season and academic year.


With gratitude, love, and respect,

Sandy Robbins Signature

​Sanford (Sandy) Robbins

Producing Artistic Director, Resident Ensemble Players

he/him/his

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