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70-year-old SLO theater company takes a new name

The company's new logo.

In May, one of region’s premier theater companies announced a major rebranding. It’s no longer the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre - the company’s new name is the San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre, and unlike many performing arts groups these days, the SLO Rep is thriving and expanding.

Founded in 1947, the former SLO Little Theatre company took its name from a movement at the turn of the 20th century, a focus on creating intimate, artistically-driven theater in contrast to melodramas and the new art form of cinema. For 70 years, the company has brought quality works to life on a variety of stages.

“We’re one of the longest continually running non-profit theaters in the nations, having not missed a year,” Artistic Director Kevin Harris said. “We’ve been in 27 different locations and we’re just a very established community institution.”

Until 2012, the company wholly ran on volunteers. But after Harris had been at the helm for a few years, he started pivoting the company towards a more semi-professional model.

“We’ve steadily been hiring more and more actors over the past couple of years as the company has expanded,” Harris said.

During the early decades of the company, it moved many times around San Luis Obispo County. But for the past 24 years, the company’s been headquartered in the old city library building at the corner of Palm and Morro Streets.

“We’ve also been partnering with the City of San Luis Obispo for the past four years on a new performance venue across the Children’s Museum as part of the Palm Nipomo parking structure project,” Harris said. “So we are getting ready to launch a capital campaign for our new building as well.”

Since 2012, the company’s season ticket sales have been growing by over ten percent each year, and its budget has nearly doubled. Now with a new name, Harris says the company is going to keep riding its current wave of success for as long as they can.

“By transitioning to a professional regional theater and being able to bring in the best talent from around the nation as much as we can afford, we’ll be able to hopefully change the conversation a little bit and play a small part in evolving the art form,” Harris said.

The company’s next production is Lionel Bart’s Oliver!

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