In Memoriam

Fort Worth's Circle Theatre co-founder Bill Newberry passes away at 67

Fort Worth's Circle Theatre co-founder Bill Newberry passes away at 67

Rose Pearson and Bill Newberry of Circle Theatre
Circle Theatre co-founders Rose Pearson and Bill Newberry. Photo by Robert Hart/TheaterJones
Circle Theatre's Tim Long, Matthew Gray, and Bill Newberry
Executive director Tim Long, artistic director Matthew Gray, and Newberry. Photo by TayStan Photography
Rose Pearson and Bill Newberry of Circle Theatre
Circle Theatre's Tim Long, Matthew Gray, and Bill Newberry

Bill Newberry, the co-founder and former executive director of Circle Theatre, recently passed away at the age of 67. TheaterJones reports that Newberry died at his home in New Orleans.

Newberry and his wife, Rose Pearson, who died of cancer in 2016, founded the Fort Worth theater in 1981. It originally opened on Bluebonnet Circle, then later moved to Magnolia Avenue before reaching its current home in Sundance Square. The couple received the Elston Brooks Lifetime Achievement Award from the Live Theatre League of Tarrant County in 2004.

Among Newberry's credits at Circle, he designed more than 100 sets, appeared onstage in more than 30 productions, and served as technical director and stage manager many times over. In addition, he handled all financials and accounting for the theater. He also served as an Actors' Equity Paymaster for union talent working throughout the state of Texas.

At the end of 2017, Newberry retired and passed the torch to former managing director Tim Long. Circle also hired Matthew Gray in 2018 as its first-ever artistic director.

Born in Houston, Newberry studied at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and became active in the local theater scene. In a 1978 production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire at Fort Worth Community Theatre (which later became Fort Worth Theatre and is now defunct), he met Pearson, who was playing Blanche, and they fell in love and decided to start a theater.

According to TJ, Newberry's son Michael said his father had recently seen a doctor and received a clean bill of health. Newberry moved into an apartment at Michael's new home in New Orleans shortly after retiring at Circle Theatre.

"We had seen him two hours prior and when he wouldn't answer his phone, we let ourselves into his apartment and found him passed," Michael Newberry told TJ. "He was not complaining about anything and we had plans to go to a Mardi Gras parade later in the day."

A celebration of Newberry's life will take place at on March 12 at Circle Theatre, a come-and-go event from 5-8 pm. It's open to family and friends, and in lieu of flowers the Newberry family requests donations be made to Circle under the Rose Pearson and Bill Newberry Legacy Fund.

As part of its 38th season, Circle Theatre is currently presenting Thornton Wilder's Our Town through March 9.