In the early days of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, it was commonly referred to by the shorthand of ART. Along the way, that branding went away and the more common The Rep or Arkansas Rep was adopted. Just as the Rep’s nickname changed, the location changed, and the way they hired actors changed (a move from a true repertory company into a different set of actors each show.)
As we have seen during the news of the past week, other things changed. The public’s perception of the value of the Rep seems to have changed. And not for the better. Last week’s announcement was a jolt of reality for many.
I bring this up because according to media reports, the Rep announced they have raised over $113,000 the week since they announced they were suspending operations. That is 15% of their publicly stated goal of $750,000 to pay bills and stabilize financial obligations.
In order to fully sustain, the Rep will need to raise more than $750,000. Estimates range between $1 million to $5 million depending on the timeframe being discussed.
But $113,000 in one week is a very good start for the Rep. Equally as important, the Rep’s announcement has started a whole host of community conversations about the value of the arts, in general, and the Rep specifically. People who probably have not thought about the Rep in a while are now thinking about it and talking about. People who think about the Rep a lot are continuing to think and talk about it.
Tuesday’s Rally for the Rep crystallized the outpouring of positive response. It brought people together to be civically and culturally engaged. It also raised some money. Likewise, it offered a catharsis for those who were still reeling from the news of the Rep’s situation. Organizers Skip Rutherford, Anna-Lee Pittman and Stacy Sells understood the need for folks to gather. They kept the mood upbeat by a combination of speakers and live music.
Last week, right after the news, feelings were so raw. It was a combination of shock and depression. Not only was Little Rock on the verge of losing its professional Equity theatre, but friends were losing jobs. Last week was “Shock” and “Pain” in the seven stages of grief. Thankfully the “Anger” and “Depression” stages seemed to have been bypassed by most.
The Rally was a crystallization of “The Upward Turn.” It is up to us as civically and culturally engaged individuals to make sure the process continues the Upward Turn and moves to Reconstruction and Hope.
Acceptance of the loss of the Rep is not an option. Not now, not in August, not Ever!