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Kitty Roberts, Tulsa Theatre Champion, 1944-2020

As co-founder and managing artistic director of the city’s American Theatre Company, she touched countless lives over five decades.

Kitty Roberts, for decades a major figure in Oklahoma theatre, died on April 17. She was 76.

Born in Indianapolis in 1944, Kitty attended St. Anthony Grade School, St. Agnes Academy, and Bishop McGuiness High School in Oklahoma City. In 1968 she graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in journalism and theatre. After college, she worked as a radio newswoman, then broke ground as a woman in management when she was named news and operations director for KMOD & KXXO Radio.

It was while she was working in radio that she and some fellow actors joined together to create the Living Arts Theater, which would later become the American Theatre Company.

Kitty’s passion drove her to become the driving force of live theatre in Tulsa, as she touched and influenced many lives over her 50 years of dedication as an actor and director. She fostered cultural change, pioneered arts education outreach, and broke new ground for women in leadership roles in the arts. As American Theatre Company’s managing artistic director, she was responsible for the production of more than 300 shows, directing and appearing in 21.

Kitty was a member of Theatre Communications Group, and served on the Oklahoma Arts Council Theatre Advisory Panel and as a theatre evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts. She was named one of the three outstanding women in Oklahoma in 1979 by Women in Communications and recognized as special assistant to the Governor in 1987. She was the sole Tulsa honoree of the 2009 Governor’s Arts Award presented by the OAC, and recipient of the Pinnacle Award in the Arts in 1992 for the many years she served on the OAC Theatre Advisory Panel. She served on the Tulsa Performing Art Center board of trustees, and in 2013 received the Mary Kay Place Award for Theatre Excellence.

She was preceded in death by her parents Harold and Martha and brothers Daniel and James Roberts. Survivors include brothers Tom (Yuki) Roberts and John (Debbie) Roberts, Linda Roberts, Nephews Christopher Roberts, Ryan (Chelsy) Roberts and their children, Sean (Erin) Roberts, Stephen (Maddie) Spence and nieces Jessica Spence and Morgan Roberts.

Kitty’s family would like to thank all of those who cared for her near the end of her life.  A private family ceremony will be held now, and a gathering to celebrate her life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to support Kitty’s life’s work, the American Theatre Company at 308 S. Lansing Ave. Tulsa, Ok. 74123 with contributions in her name.

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