MRT Welcomes Robert Cornelius as New Young Company Director

MRT Welcomes Robert Cornelius as New Young Company Director

Esteemed Chicago educator, actor, writer, and singer Robert Cornelius will join the staff of Merrimack Repertory Theatre this summer to direct the MRT Young Company, a professional theatre training program for high school students.

The Young Company summer session runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for three weeks, July 15 to August 2, in downtown Lowell. The all-inclusive rate for the full program is $625. Scholarships are available; MRT guarantees access to the program for all young people. To register, call the Box Office at 978-654-4678 or visit

Cornelius said, "I am thrilled to be heading up the Young Company this year. I hope to inspire these young people to share their stories through the art that they create." He is working closely with former director William Rogers to ensure a smooth transition.

Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas said, "We are thrilled to welcome Robert Cornelius to our team. He's an extraordinary arts leader, teacher, and actor. I'm excited for our Young Company members to learn from him and the team of teaching artists that he put together."

A pillar of the Chicago theatre community for more than 30 years, Cornelius served 11 years as the Arts Education Director at the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater. Like the MRT Young Company, the program he created there combined elements of both performance and writing. Students learned how to access their emotions through first-person stories, slam poetry, and the texts of established playwrights. During his tenure, Cornelius and his staff of teaching artists worked with more than 10,000 students at 37 different high schools, developed long-term partnerships with teachers and students, and earned the Illinois Theatre Association's annual award for Outstanding Children's Program.

Today he serves as a teaching artist for the same Victory Gardens program while pursuing his career as an actor for the first time in many years. Recent credits includeLottery Day at the internationally acclaimed Goodman Theatre and this season's The Total Bent with Haven Theatre, in association with About Face Theatre, for which he was nominated for the prestigious 2019 Jefferson Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Performance.

The MRT Young Company program offers a unique opportunity for teens (entering grades 9-12) to write and perform their own stories. Students will work with professional theatre artists from around the country, develop their own voices with playwriting, and learn about acting, auditioning, performing improv, musical theatre, and more. Young Company continues to meet during the MRT season, offering a window into the fascinating work of professional theatre artists. Opportunities include rehearsal and tech observation, workshop attendance, and master classes and artist talks.

The 2019 MRT Young Company is supported in part by a grant from the Lowell Cultural Council (affiliate of Mass Cultural Council), Greater Lowell Community Foundation, Ramsey McCluskey Family Foundation, and United Way of Merrimack Valley.

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