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Actors Theatre Director says performing arts industry 'has been transformed' since 2020

Many have said a creative renaissance emerged out of the wake of the pandemic and civil unrest.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — “All the world is a stage" is a phrase dating back to Shakespeare's time, but it’s one Robert Barry Fleming refers to often. 

In the creation of art and theatre, every part of our world drives it. It’s a mentality woven into the culture of Actors Theatre of Louisville.

The pandemic and civil unrest of 2020 took a painful toll on many. But, art is often created in the depth of struggle and pain, and Barry Fleming knows it.

“That fluidity, and that dynamic was, I think, life-changing for me personally and for most of us. Our industry has been transformed,” he said.

Robert Barry Fleming is the Executive Artistic Director of Actors Theatre of Louisville, where inclusivity has been central to its mission since its early days in the 1960s.

Barry Fleming says that effort tends to be built from grass roots, community-oriented work.

“You will see a lot of combinations of New York, LA, Chicago actors with local extraordinary talent behind the scenes offering work that is relevant and resonate for our community specifically,” he said.

Barry Fleming's deep understanding of having a community-first mindset started growing up in Frankfort. His parents spent decades working at Kentucky State University and the University of Kentucky.

Barry Fleming says his parents, who were both brilliant professors, were a great resource to him.

“They were life learners, and so what they were understanding about the world, and how they were engaging in the world and the challenges that they encountered and how they navigated them were just total gifts,” he said.

 After working on stages and at universities and theaters around the country, Barry Fleming has come home to Kentucky to continue the legacy of service his parents started.

“We are surrounded by brilliant people every single day, sharing their stories, and being able to find a way to say, that story sounds a lot like this story, and that story, that’s the biggest gift in understanding how connected we really are,” he said.

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