Rose Pearson and Bill Newberry at Circle Theatre

Rose Pearson, 1947-2016

The co-founder of Fort Worth's Circle Theatre, a longtime champion of new plays, has died.

published Friday, August 19, 2016
1 comment

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
Rose Pearson and Bill Newberry at Circle Theatre


Fort Worth — Rose Pearson, Executive Director of Circle Theatre, which she founded with her husband Bill Newberry in 1981, has died after a long battle with cancer. She was 69.

You can read Mark Lowry's full obituary in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, here.

Circle Theatre, now in its 35th season, opens Lauren Gunderson’s The Taming, a reaction to The Taming of the Shrew, this weekend. Gunderson was one of the playwrights championed by Circle, which has become known for producing the much-needed second, third or fourth productions of new plays by such writers as Bruce Graham, Tom Dudzick and Michael Hollinger, all represented in the current season.

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
Rose Pearson and Bill Newberry

“She was committed to new plays and playwrights and intimate experiences between actors and audiences,” said Harry Parker, chair of the theater department at Texas Christian University, who has directed many shows at Circle since he moved back to Fort Worth 13 years ago.

Pearson was born May 22, 1947 in Canyon, Texas. She majored in Portuguese at the University of Texas and wanted to live in Brazil. She loved theater and moved to Fort Worth, where she became involved with Bill Garber's Fort Worth Community Theatre (later called Fort Worth Theatre, now defunct). She met Newberry performing in A Streetcar Named Desire; she was Blanche, he was Mitch.

On the heels of other theaters that sprung up from artists working at Fort Worth Community Theatre and Casa Mañana—Hip Pocket Theatre in 1977, Stage West in 1979, and Jubilee Theatre in 1981—Pearson and Newberry started Circle Theatre, performing in the back room at the Mexican restaurant La Hacienda on Bluebonnet Circle, just south of Texas Christian University. A few years later Circle moved into a bigger space on Magnolia Avenue a few years later. The goal was to focus on under-produced and new plays, and lesser-known works by established playwrights, including David Mamet’s A Life in the Theatre, Israel Horowitz’s The Primary English Class and Tennessee Williams' Period of Adjustment.

In 1994, Circle moved into its current home in a basement space in Sundance Square, where it operates with about a half-a-million-dollar annual budget and mounts five productions a year as an Actor’s Equity Association Small Professional Theatre. It’s one of about 10 North Texas theaters working under an SPT contract. In 2009, there were renovations to the lobby and the 125-seat theater.

Dana Schultes, who now runs Stage West, has worked at Circle throughout her career.

"Rose was both a strong woman I could always look up to as a leader in the local theater community as well as an instant colleague that would reach out to me from time to time for production/producer chats," Shultes said. "Without a doubt, you always knew when you went to a Circle Theatre production that Rose Pearson had put her stamp of approval on all aspects of the play. Rose leaves an extraordinary legacy for the theater community and the great community at large. She is added to the list of recently passed DFW Theatre founders who whe will always remember for laying the building blocks for great North Texas theater. Tonight [Friday, Aug. 19] at 7:45 p.m., Stage West will dim our marquee in memoriam of Rose Pearson."

“She never stopped working and was a go-getter,” Tim Long said. “She made me a better person. She made everyone around her better because she was always on the top of her game.”

Long said that the theater will continue, and that there will be an announcement of the new staff structure forthcoming. It’s something they’ve been preparing for.

Funeral services have not been announced yet. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Circle Theatre in Rose’s name. There will be a celebration of her life in the coming months at the theater. We'll add the details as we get them.

Please include your memories of Pearson in the comments (click the comments icon in the floating menu at bottom left of your screen). Thanks For Reading


Ava (Graham) Eadie writes:
Sunday, September 4 at 12:11PM

It has been a very long time for Circle Theatre and me. I was just googling some things in Fort Worth Theatre and fell upon the announcement about Rose. My last time to be involved with Rose and Circle Theatre was an Encore Performance of "Talking With" which we performed above the Reata restaurant decades ago. But I want to say that Rose was a Consummate Theatre Professional. I admired and respected her poise and demeanor which was so consistent when she was directing and encouraging her talent. She was a graceful Lady. She truly created a Legacy in her commitment to quality theatre production in Fort Worth.

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Rose Pearson, 1947-2016
The co-founder of Fort Worth's Circle Theatre, a longtime champion of new plays, has died.
by Mark Lowry

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