In April the Arkansas Rep announced it was immediately suspending operations. It cancelled the final production of the season and laid off much of its staff. The 2018-2019 season which had been announced only weeks earlier was also cancelled.
The financial woes were a result of lagging ticket sales and donations coupled with raising expenses and mounting debt. The Rep had four pieces of real estate which caused a financial strain on the organization.
Longtime Rep Board members Ruth Shepherd and Bill Rector stepped in as unpaid practically full-time staff members to help run the theatre. Rep founder Cliff Baker served as an artistic advisor.
A rally in early May, organized by Skip Rutherford, Stacy Sells, and others, not only raised some money for the Rep, but also rallied spirits. Later in May, the Windgate Foundation announced a challenge match program for the Rep.
The Rep Board also worked to shore up its finances by selling off one of its properties and consolidating the debt.
Throughout the summer, a skeleton crew on staff continued to work. The summer education programming continued which kept a literal sense of excitement going in the Rep’s facilities. (Kudos to Anna Fraley Kimmell and her merry band of cohorts!) By August, the Rep announced it had achieved some of its milestones and would be moving forward with announcing a 2019 season. In November 2018, the plans for the 2019 season were announced. More announcements about Rep staffing are forthcoming.
Just as the Rep was making headway, founder Cliff Baker fell ill and shortly thereafter died. There will be a separate entry about that later in this chronological countdown.