Our History

1982: Eleven artists looking for an opportunity to present the work of contemporary playwrights in an intimate setting found Artists Repertory Theatre. Rebecca Adams (as producing director), Peter Waldron (as designer), David Beetham-Gomes, Joseph P. Cronin, Amy Fowkes, Vana O’Brien, Diane Olson, Annalee Purdy, Linda Schneider, Tim Streeter, and Michael Welsh operated as a cooperative in the local YWCA’s 110–seat Wilson Center for the Performing Arts.

1988: Allen Nause became the theatre's first artistic director.

1990: Artists Rep introduces ART Reach (later renamed Actors to Go and currently no longer a program) to bring artists off the stage and into the community. Actors to Go teaches life skills through improvisation and role-playing. Actors present workshops and performances that foster creativity, critical thinking, problem–solving, and cooperation skills.

1991: Artists Rep debuts its play development program with the world premiere of Nancy Klementowski’s After the Light Goes. The play is an artistic and financial success and goes on to earn an Oregon Book Award nomination. The program has continued to foster the development of new plays resulting in productions on our stages and beyond and awards for their creators.

1995-1997: Artists Rep launches its first capital campaign for a new facility. Two years and $1.2 million later, Artists Rep moves into the Alder St. space, with a 220–seat black box theatre, administrative offices, a green room and dressing rooms, set–building shop, wardrobe room, and rehearsal hall.

1997: A tour of Pakistan includes an Artists Rep production, representing the United States in an international play festival on human rights.

2000: Artists Rep participates in the Vietnam America Theatre Exchange, the first-ever reciprocal artistic collaboration between the United States and Vietnam.

2002: Artists Rep launches its Second Stage season, with off-site productions to complement its Main Stage season on Alder St.

2004: The US/Vietnam collaboration is extended with a tour of seven Western states through the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Shakespeare in American Communities” initiative, the largest-ever tour of Shakespeare in U.S. history. Artists Rep is one of only six companies selected nationally. Artists Rep closes on a 29,000 square ft. purchase transaction of $4.8 million for the entire city block where the theater currently resides.

2005: The 164-seat Morrison Stage opens to house all Second Stage productions.

2008: Artists Rep introduces the first Resident Acting Company since the company's inception. Michael Mendelson, Vana O'Brien, Amaya Villazan, and Todd Van Voris appear in six of the season's productions.

2009: Construction on a staircase uniting the two levels of the theatre building and a renovation of the Alder Lobby that doubles its size is completed.

2010: Artists Rep kicks off its 2010/11 season with a co-production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night with the award-winning and internationally-recognized Sydney Theatre Company. The production features a stellar cast including Academy-Award winning actor William Hurt, Australian star of stage and screen Robyn Nevin, Artists Rep Company Member Todd Van Voris, and Sydney Theatre Company Members Luke Mullins and Emily Russell. In June 2010, Artists Rep welcomes Sarah Horton as the company’s third Managing Director, following the tenures of Jill Baum and Kandis Brewer Nunn (as Interim Managing Director from March to August 2010).

2012: Artists Rep celebrates its 30th Anniversary season! Allen Nause, the theatre's Artistic Director for 25 years announces his retirement. An extensive nationwide search for his successor begins and Dámaso Rodríguez is selected among hundreds of applicants. Rosalie Tank, the “mother of the theatre,” retires after 24 years of dedicated volunteer service to the theatre; the Ed & Rosalie Tank Greenroom is named in honor of her commitment to Artists Rep.

2013: New Artistic Director Dámaso Rodríguez expands upon Artists Rep's Resident Artists to include not only actors but also directors, designers, and writers. Artists Rep becomes a bustling arts campus, dubbed the ArtsHub, housing a diverse group of eight complementary arts organizations within its red walls. Organizations include Portland Shakespeare Project, Profile Theatre, The August Wilson Red Door Project, Portland Area Theatre Alliance, and Portland Revels.

2014: Artists Rep is awarded an Oregon Community Foundation Creative Heights Award to create a new play development program to create opportunities for local and national playwrights, ensure that underrepresented voices are heard on stage, and establish Artists Rep and Portland as an engine for new play development. Named Table|Room|Stage, the program is led by Director of New Play Development and Dramaturgy Luan Schooler. 

2015: Artists Rep launches the Broadway-scale world premiere musical Cuba Libre, featuring the three-time Grammy-nominated band Tiempo Libre led by music director Jorge Gómez, with a book by Carlos Lacámara inspired by their collective stories, choreography by Maija Garcia, and directed by Dámaso Rodríguez.

2016: Artists Rep joins the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and the National New Play Network (NNPN). The Resident Artist group grows to 27 multi-disciplinary artists. The ArtsHub continues to grow to more than 10 organizations and hosting over 600 community events per year.

2017: Artists Rep produces the world premiere of The Talented Ones by Yussef El Guindi, the first full production commissioned through Table|Room|Stage. Sarah Horton completes her tenure as Managing Director, following nearly eight years of leadership through a transformative period for the theatre. Highlights include the creation and implementation of programs such as Table|Room|Stage, the ArtsHub, and amplifying Artists Rep’s reputation as a regional leader for new work. Dámaso Rodríguez assumes the title of Artistic Director/Interim Managing Director.

2018: Artists Rep presents the World Premiere of Magellanica by Oregon playwright E.M. Lewis, a five-hour epic focused on eight scientists in Antarctica in 1986. The play is supported by the prestigious Edgerton New Play Award; previous winners include Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson, and A Doll’s House, Part 2. The second World Premiere of the season, The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota) is Artists Rep’s second full production of a Table|Room|Stage commission. After a six-month national search, in September 2018 J.S. May joins Artistic Director Dámaso Rodríguez to lead the company as Managing Director.  

2019: In January, Artists Rep produces the west coast premiere of Mike Lew’s groundbreaking Teenage Dick, a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III. The production features local artist Tess Raunig in the role of Buck and New York-based artist Christopher Imbrosciano in the role of Richard, marking the first time that multiple actors with disabilities are featured onstage at ART. Artists Rep produces our third Table|Room|Stage World Premiere in March with Wolf Play by Hansol Jung; the production is also a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, receiving support to have multiple productions across the country in the coming years. ART successfully closes the sale of the north half of our property in downtown Portland to Wood Partners of Atlanta and launches an ambitious project to redevelop the remaining south half of the block and announces ART on Tour with administrative offices offsite and productions at multiple venues across the city as we pursue the transformation of our home into a modern multi-use arts center.