On November 11, 1976, the curtain went up on the first Arkansas Repertory Theatre production. It was the Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht musical The Threepenny Opera. Rep founder Cliff Baker directed the show and played the leading role of Macheath aka Mack the Knife.
Others in the cast included local attorney Herb Rule, Jean Lind, Theresa Glasscock, Connie Gordon and Guy Couch. Byl Harriell was the technical director and production designer while Donia Crofton was the costume designer.
The production took place in the Rep’s home which was the converted former home of Hunter United Methodist Church on the eastern edge of MacArthur Park. (Harriell’s business Bylites is now in that location.)
Baker had previously worked at the Arkansas Arts Center theatre when it was attached to a degree granting MFA program. He had also directed shows in other parts of Arkansas. He returned to Little Rock and founded the Arkansas Philharmonic Theatre which performed in Hillcrest. The Arkansas Repertory Theatre was a step forward with the establishment of a professional repertory company.
The first season of the Rep would include Company, Suddenly Last Summer, Marat/Sade, and Stop the World–I Want to Get Off. Season tickets for a total of seven shows were $30.
Baker served as Artistic Director of Arkansas Rep from 1976 until 1999. Earlier this year, he stepped in as Interim Artistic Director between the tenures of Bob Hupp and John Miller-Stephany. He is currently preparing to direct Sister Act for the Rep in January 2017.