After an extraordinary 27-year journey of artistic leadership, Shreveport Little Theatre and Academy (SLT) bids farewell to its esteemed Managing and Artistic Director, Dr. Robert “Bobby” Darrow, who will retire at the conclusion of the current 102nd Season in April 2024. The announcement was made by board president Marianne Archibald, who acknowledged Dr. Darrow’s unparalleled dedication and contributions to SLT, spanning over half a century.
“Bobby’s dedication to SLT for over five decades is unparalleled,” Archibald stated. “He has achieved an incredible amount during his 27-year tenure as our Managing and Artistic Director, and his commitment to the theater is immeasurable. While we will miss his day-to-day leadership, we are thrilled that he has graciously offered to continue as a consultant and advisor to ensure the legacy he has built continues to thrive.”
Dr. Darrow’s connection with Shreveport Little Theatre began in 1973 when he worked backstage during the production of “Toys in the Attic” under the direction of Robert Buseick. His journey as an actor began at SLT in 1975 when he portrayed Prince Charming in “Snow White,” in the historic premiere stage production of a Walt Disney script.
In 1998, the theater faced financial challenges, with debts surpassing available funds. Dr. Darrow was invited by the board of directors to direct “Dearly Departed,” marking his first contribution as a director. Shortly thereafter, he assumed the role of Managing and Artistic Director. Under his steadfast leadership, SLT consistently delivered high-quality productions, breaking box office records and steadily increasing its membership and ticket sales over the ensuing decades. Throughout his tenure, SLT’s participants, including volunteer actors, board members, and patrons, increasingly mirrored the diverse community of northwest Louisiana.
In 2000, under Dr. Darrow’s guidance, the restoration of the original theater began with the expansion of the lobby and the addition of a courtyard. Fundraising efforts initiated in 2002 to rebuild the stage and backstage areas, which had been destroyed in a 1986 fire, saw success thanks to Dr. Darrow’s collaboration with Louisiana Senator Lydia P. Jackson and Representative Roy Burrell. The resulting $1,750,000 in State Capital Outlay Funding laid the foundation for a state-of-the-art, 15,200 square foot theater that opened on March 3, 2011. The inaugural production, Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” directed by Dr. Darrow, was met with critical acclaim.
As a grant writer during his tenure, Darrow secured over $1,200,000 in awards for the Shreveport Little Theatre and Academy.
Dr. Darrow’s legacy extends beyond directing, as he founded the Shreveport Little Theatre Academy for youth in 2008, which continues to thrive today. In 2012, he established a Community Outreach Program to collaborate with seniors and clients of neighborhood nonprofit social service agencies. In 2019, he initiated Improv Workshops and a play-reading series titled “New Voices.”
As a director, Dr. Darrow achieved notable success with productions such as “Steel Magnolias,” “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “Greater Tuna,” “A Tuna Christmas,” “Smoke on the Mountain,” “Sanders Family Christmas,” “The Sound of Music,” and “Always, Patsy Cline.”
In 2022, to commemorate SLT’s centennial, Dr. Darrow authored and published a pictorial history book, “Maker of Dreams,” featuring over 400 production photos spanning 100 years of live theater. He also played a pivotal role in producing a documentary film, “Maker of Dreams,” which premiered statewide on LPB in August 2023, chronicling SLT’s century-long journey.
A native of Shreveport, Dr. Darrow served as the student body president at C.E. Byrd High School. He earned his BA degree from Centenary College of Louisiana in 1981, his MA from LSUS in 2001, and his EdD in Leadership from LSUS in 2018. He boasts a diverse career, including a decade in corporate management, serving as CEO of several nonprofit organizations in Shreveport. Notably, with his physician, he established The Philadelphia Center in 1990, where he currently serves as the Executive Director Emeritus.
Dr. Darrow’s numerous accolades include the National Association of Christians and Jews’ “Unsung Hero Award” in 1996, the American Civil Liberties Union’s “Bill of Rights Award” for 1998-1999, the Community Foundation of North Louisiana’s 2008 “G. Scott Griffin Memorial Award,” The Philadelphia Center’s 2015 “Lifetime Achievement Award,” and The Times’ (Gannett’s) 2016 “Northwest Louisiana Prism Award.”
Dr. Darrow is also recognized for his community involvement, having served as a former board member of the Greater Shreveport Human Relations Commission and as an advocate for animal rights, co-founding the Krewe of Barkus and Meoux. He is the son of Jean Darrow and the late Bill Darrow, both former educators with Caddo Parish Schools.
Dr. Darrow’s retirement marks the end of an era, but his influence on SLT and the community’s cultural landscape will endure as a testament to his dedication, creativity, and unwavering commitment to the arts.