Repertory Theatre Names Kate Bergstrom as New Artistic Director

The accomplished director and producer is the eighth person to hold the position in the company’s storied history

Apr 23, 2024 at 9:12 am
Kate Bergstrom fills the spot vacated by Hana S. Sharif.
Kate Bergstrom fills the spot vacated by Hana S. Sharif. ANTONIO T. HARRIS
After an extensive six-month search that identified three well-qualified finalists, Kate Bergstrom was selected to join the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis as the eighth Augustin Family Artistic Director in the company’s 58-year run. Officially starting in the role on May 13, Bergstrom is already busy moving to the city and becoming familiar with the staff and region.

St. Louis theatergoers may already be familiar with Bergstrom, who directed well-received productions of The 39 Steps in 2021 and 2023’s crowd-pleasing holiday production It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Those experiences, particularly working with entirely St. Louis-based talent on the holiday show, made a huge impact on Bergstrom and influenced their decision to apply.

“The cast and company were just transcendent delights, and I can’t wait to work with all of them again,” Bergstrom notes with enthusiasm. “And I felt what was so beautiful in that room was everyone’s desire to help and be there for everyone else. There’s a generosity of spirit that I feel St. Louis and the community of artists here embody and that I want to be a part of.”

While Bergstrom is incredibly excited to join the Rep, they also acknowledge the many challenges and opportunities facing the company and live theater in general.

“I think the opportunity to celebrate what’s here is huge and in this moment,” Bergstrom explains. “But St. Louis has also faced challenges and divides in recent years. So, there’s an opportunity to uplift the undergirding humanity that unites us all. That’s what I want to do while also celebrating the unique components that keep us special and different, and who we are.”

Still, Bergstrom readily acknowledges that theater and theater audiences have changed in recent years, and building audience reach is part of their goal. They are energized by the prospect of respecting, even revering, the long history of the Rep and its traditional audiences while finding new ways to excite and welcome the generations to come. Making the Rep “a place where people can gather together, nondenominationally, in a live setting and converse and listen to stories together,” Bergstrom says.

“There’s a couple of ways that will happen. One is programming work that has components that will bring multiple generations together. I love that a grandparent might remember seeing Dial M for Murder and the grandchild may say I don’t know that, but I’ve been hearing about Agatha Christie and I love White Lotus,” they continue. “What does it mean to bring mystery stories together here today, live? With a new, fresh perspective from director and cast.”

Bergstrom’s love of the theater was sparked at an early age. They were profoundly moved by seeing Phantom of the Opera in the third grade and speak fondly of a devised version of Hamlet that they will never forget. Then in middle school they auditioned for Wendy in Peter Pan but were challenged by a teacher and read for and played Captain Hook. From that moment on, Bergstrom was officially a theater person. Most importantly, the experience helped Bergstrom understand how exposure to theater can open up imagination and possibility in transformative ways.

“My hope, at the very baseline, is to prioritize excellence and relevance and engagement in everything we do, and that is all scalable,” Bergstrom says. “So that scalability of those tenants is what I think we focus on. And we prioritize that in workshops, in new plays, in second and third productions of plays and in classics.”

Bergstrom plans to continue the Imaginary Theater Company, playwriting workshops, the Steven Woolf Studio Series and to add new initiatives aimed at welcoming everyone into the theater.

“We’re in a moment now where plays that are by all sorts of different identities can touch on that deep human experience in a way that reverberates really widely – I think that’s something that St. Louis can really benefit from," Bergstrom says. "I want people of different backgrounds coming to this theater and feeling a sense of welcome and invitation and like they want to talk to each other. Even have challenging conversations.”

Although Bergstrom was born and raised in Goleta, California, near Santa Barbara, their family is from Midland, Michigan, and they traveled back and forth between the West Coast and Midwest until joining the southern California theater scene in college. This gives Bergstrom a real appreciation for living in areas that are politically and socially mixed. Although they’re a long-time Tigers fan, Bergstrom is eager to catch a Cardinals game as well as to check out St. Louis City SC, the City Museum and all the parks and hiking areas in the region.

You might even catch Bergstrom in line at Ted Drewes enjoying their new favorite food group, frozen custard. If you do, be sure to say hello and offer a warm St. Louis welcome.