By Lynn Venhaus

Described as a cultural shaper and visionary creator, Kate Bergstrom assumes the role of Augustin Family Artistic Director at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis beginning May 13.

While she is new to St. Louis, theatergoers are familiar with her work, as she directed “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” at Christmastime, for which she was nominated for best director by the St. Louis Theater Circle. She also directed “The 39 Steps” in 2022.

“The unwaveringly beautiful and crucial component of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is, of course, St. Louis! I am honored and humbled to return to this wonderful community in this role to celebrate – through excellent, engaging, and relevant storytelling – this beloved region,” Bergstrom said.

Her appointment follows a six-month nationwide search after Hana S. Sharif’s departure last summer. Sharif stepped down after five years in the role and moved on to The Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., to serve as artistic director there.

Bergstrom becomes the eighth artistic director in The Rep’s 58-year history. The region’s premiere theater was founded in 1966 and made its home at the Webster University’s Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts.

Kate Bergstrom. Photo by Antonio T. Harris

After a bombshell announcement last fall that The Rep season was in jeopardy and they needed to cover a $2.5 million budget shortfall to continue, community support came through in an organized “Rally for the Rep” multi-year fundraising campaign.

People had cited dwindling ticket sales, season subscribers not renewing, employee turnover, shows in several different venues, and eroding community support as factors that led to the predicament, in addition to challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Managing Director Danny Williams acknowledged the need for better communication and consistency in programming.

“We had to change. We are listening to what people are saying. Some of the shows were not up to the Rep’s standards,” he said last October.. “We are committed to programming for St. Louis audiences.”

Williams became managing director in January 2022 when Mark Bernstein retired after 32 years in that role. He had served as senior director of finance and administration at New York’s Public Theater.

The Rep was able to complete the 2023-2024 season because of the Rally success. A Holiday Benefit Experience that featured St. Louis alumnus John Goodman raised more than $150,000.

Williams announced in January that 80% of the goal had been reached to fund the second half, productions “Moby Dick” and “August: Osage County.”

At that time, Williams said the goal was to ensure continuing to bring world-class, adventurous new works and beloved classics to their stage as they approach their 60th anniversary.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support that we’ve received from the St. Louis community, he said. “While our first big hurdle is behind us, the need for continued support remains as we build a sustainable future for The Rep to inspire generations and ensure the arts thrive in our beloved city.”

Williams cited the need to build a stable future amid an industry undergoing radical change.

The Rep exterior. File photo.

“We are working to build a model that responds to today’s cultural landscape so that we remain an anchoring cultural force for St. Louis, using the transformative power of the arts to build bridges in our region and beyond,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Rep stated: “With her appointment, Bergstrom brings a passionate energy for The Rep’s next chapter that builds on the theater’s success as a vital, celebrated, cultural cornerstone of St. Louis.”

Bergstrom said she considers The Rep more than a theater.

“It serves as a critical cultural heart in St. Louis by elevating and expanding the capacity for the extraordinary in us all. I’m excited to set down roots and galvanize transcendent work, using my skills and experiences to foster engagement that uplifts and world-class storytelling that is both tremendously entertaining and vital,” she said.

Williams said he looked forward to partnering with Kate to realize this new chapter.

“Kate is a bold and generous leader, who works with a heart-forward approach to center an artistic vision that will bring out the best in The Rep. At this critical juncture in the organization, her passion, energy, and commitment to St. Louis makes her an inspired choice to ensure a vibrant future for the theatre,” he said.

To conduct the search, The Rep engaged Arts Consulting Group. From a field of many applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences, the committee narrowed down the search to three extremely qualified candidates.

Each candidate participated in Zoom interviews and full-day in-person meetings, during which The Rep staff were encouraged to meet and ask questions with the potential candidates. The process took six months and included Rep staff and leadership, along with a search committee of arts leaders and community stakeholders led by Board Vice President Ann Cady Scott, the board of directors and independent search firm ACG.

“The Rep has a long-storied history of inspiring and thoughtful leaders, and we are thrilled to pass the torch of leadership to Kate Bergstrom,” said Brian Clevinger, The Rep’s Board President. “Kate’s It’s a Wonderful Life was an electrifying production that brought out the best in our local talent and inspired joy throughout St. Louis. We look forward to her work in deepening The Rep’s impact on its stages and in the community.”

“It’s a Wonderful Life: Live Radio Play” at The Rep.

New Season

The Rep’s 2024-2025 season, which kicks off in September with the suspense thriller “Dial M for Murder,” was programmed by Williams and the current artistic team. Bergstrom will lead the selection of the Steve Woolf Studio Series this season.

Bergstrom said she will continue to deepen her relationship with St. Louis and the local arts community by actively listening to audiences as crucial collaborators to bring about a vision and strategic plan for the 25/26 season and beyond.

“We have the grand opportunity ahead to celebrate the power of extraordinary togetherness in this beloved region during a divisive time. By bridging the differences that make us unique and the undergirding humanity that unites us all, The Rep looks to spark joy, discovery, and that extraordinary togetherness towards a thriving St. Louis and beyond. I’m ready to infuse care, love for this community and a clear, heart-forward vision of excellence into the Rep for years to come,” she said.

Williams said, in announcing that “August: Osage County” was a go thanks to completing the fundraising, that the season had rallied their staff, board, volunteers, artists, and community to keep the magic of live theatre alive at The Rep.

“We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support that we’ve received from the St. Louis community. It is their belief in our 57 years of work and dedication to the arts that propels us forward and allows us to continue to bring world-class theatrical experiences to our stages,” he said.

Next year’s season is:  Dial M for Murder Sept.18 – Oct. 13; the holiday musical “Million Dollar Quartet Christmas” in partnership with Stages St. Louis on Dec. 4 – 22; Lynn Nottage’s Tony-nominated comedy, “Clyde’s,” Feb. 5 – March 2, 2025; the retelling of “Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood,” March 19 – April 13, 2025, all performed at the Loretto-Hilton Center, in the Virginia Jackson Browning Theatre on the campus of Webster University.  Tickets are on sale now. Visit for details and follow @repstl.

In December 2023, The Rep was named a Missouri Historical Theatre, which is awarded to theaters that contribute to tourism in Missouri, promote arts in its community and throughout Missouri, and has been operational for a minimum of 50 years.

Kate Bergstrom. Photo by Antonio T. Harris

About Bergstrom

Born in California, Bergstrom holds an MFA in directing from Brown University and a BA in Directing and Acting from UCLA. She will move here from New York. with her husband Mike and their dog Crispy.

Among her credits are directing at regional theaters across the country, which belong to the League of Resident Theatres, including the Marin Theatre Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Trinity Repertory Company and more.

As a festival director, she programmed the Big Eddy Film Festival in Upstate New York where her responsibilities included fundraising, audience and community development and partnership building.

This grew from her tenure as Founder and Producing Artistic Director of On The Verge, a festival premiering female and LGTBQIA writers in Santa Barbara, Calif.

As a performance coach and account manager at Stand and Deliver, she has worked with dozens of large corporate clients such as Google, Genentech, and Cisco co-leading multi-day programs and long-term adviserships toward improving external and internal organizational communication.

The Rep interior, File photo.
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