For the past 30 years, Charles Burr has been the Artistic Director of Tibbits’ professional summer stock theatre program, but this year when the curtain falls, he will pass the clipboard to a new artistic director.
Those familiar with Tibbits Summer Theatre (TST) in Coldwater most likely also know the name Charles Burr. He has welcomed audiences at nearly every performance including Popcorn Theatre, often sharing a perspective of why he chose the show or some other interesting tidbit. His memorable stature, tall and slim with clipboard in hand, is so familiar. It is also much welcomed when he takes a role. Many loved him as Captain Hook in Peter Pan, the Rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof, Moonface Martin in Anything Goes, or the title character in Harvey.
Being the face of TST is the tip of a mammoth job. Burr auditions and hires all of the actors, directors, designers and crew. He assembles a company tasked with producing top-quality theatre for the historic venue, then oversees every aspect of the summer helping the tight, intense schedule run as smoothly as possible. When first hired he was tasked with “making Summer Theatre happen” and that is an overly simplified definition of what he does.
Burr’s ties with Tibbits started almost 40 years ago when first hired as an actor in 1982. Originally from Plymouth, MI, he studied under Gloria Logan, a TST fan favorite. Between his seasonal duties at Tibbits he has worked as actor and director at theatres throughout the state and across the U.S. including the True Grist, the Boer’s Head and Thunder Bay Theatre, Amish Acres and Myers Dinner Theatre in IN, Cider Mill Playhouse in New York, Chaffins Barn Dinner Theatre in Nashville, and several cross-country tours with Birmingham Children’s Theatre.
Burr has clearly left his mark and he has announced the 2020 summer will be his last summer as TST Artistic Director. The season is special as it rounds out some things for him, beginning with Ain’t Misbehavin, which Burr says is “a great show…I’ve always wanted to do it!” Though Annie has been done twice in his years at Tibbits, he noted that it was time to come back to it. Man of LaMancha was part of Burr’s first season at Tibbits and a show that he has wanted to do again.
“As for Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors,” Burr says “I certainly did want to do one last farce… a genre within many of our season that we do well.” He adds, “Since Lend me a Tenor was in the first season of my artistic directorship, it made sense to come back to the new adventures of the lead character Tito.”
From here, Burr will continue freelance acting and directing. Taking over the role of Artistic Director is another face long-associated with Tibbits, Peter Riopelle, who began his career at Tibbits as an actor in 1992. He will work alongside Burr this summer and assume full artistic director duties the summer of 2021.
For more information on Tibbits or the summer theatre schedule, or to purchase tickets, visit Tibbits.org.