Rick Orr, founder of the Celebration Company at the Station Theatre in Urbana, has announced that he will be stepping down from his roles as Artistic Director and board member. In his 50 years serving the theater, Orr has directed over 120 productions.
The Station Theatre was first built in 1923 as a passenger station for the Big Four railroad. The station was closed in 1956 and soon became the Depot Theatre. Orr, a student at the time, worked in the theater as a director. He bought the building in 1972 after the owner of the building approached him, impressed with his production of Jacques Brel, which stood out from the theater’s usual choices of Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett. Orr went on to found the Celebration Company, in honor of a former professor’s saying that theater should always be a celebration. The company’s first show was The Fantasticks, which was a controversial and experimental show at the time. Orr sought to always pick challenging, cutting-edge, and timely material for his audiences. In a 2011 interview, he said that he wanted to bring playwrights such as Sam Shepard and David Mamet to the community because they weren’t well known.
In a press release, the Station Theatre said that “Rick’s legacy, vision, and extraordinary commitment will have a lasting impact on the community and future of the company.” The theatre went on to say that it looks forward to starting its next chapter by “broadening our company, our audience, our theatrical offerings, and to welcome back familiar faces,” as well as taking steps to “better represent and serve our diverse community.” Currently, the company is assessing the situation with COVID-19 to resume live performances. Recently, they have experimented with virtual productions through Zoom so that the show can still go on.