In 1982, six artists looking for an opportunity to present the work of contemporary playwrights in an intimate setting formed Artists Repertory Theatre. Rebecca Adams (as producing director), Peter Waldron(as designer), Joe Cronin, Amy Fowkes, David Gomes and Vana O’Brien operated as a cooperative in the local YWCA’s 110–seat Wilson Center for the Performing Arts. In 1988, Allen Nause became the theatre's first artistic director, a role that he held for the next 25 years. In 2012, Dámaso Rodríguez became the second artistic director of Artists Rep.
Portland’s longest-running professional theatre, Artists Rep has shown significant growth since its early days. The timeline below offers just a few highlights of the theatre's adventures, accomplishments and robust history.
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. Today 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 went 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 moved 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 which represents 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 nationally to be selected.
2004: Artists Rep closes on a 29,000 square foot purchase transaction for $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 appeared 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 doubled 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.
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.
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 ArtsHub, housing a diverse group of EIGHT complementary arts organizations within its red walls. Those organizations include: Portland Shakespeare Project, Profile Theatre, The Red Door Project, Portland Area Theatre Alliance and Portland Revels.
2014: Artists Rep is awarded an Oregon Community Foundation Creative Heights Award to found 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. Called 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.