31 Days of Arkansas Rep: 1999’s AS BEES IN HONEY DROWN

A comedy about truth and trust, deception and decisions, Douglas Carter Beane’s As Bees in Honey Drown marked the first production of the 1999-2000 season for Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  It also signified the transition between Rep founder Cliff Fannin Baker and Bob Hupp as artistic director.

Baker directed this very dark comedy set in a sleek, modern late 1990s Manhattan. A fast-paced and almost cinematic feeling was abetted by Mike Nichols’ set design of rotating panels.

The cast was led by Jonna McElrath (who had appeared in Angels in America and other productions at the Rep) and John Houfe (Rep’s The Three Musketeers).  Mark Waterman, Angie Gilbert and Lakeetra Gilbert were also in the cast.

Baker would booked his post-Artistic Director career at the Rep with Douglas Carter Beane projects. While his first show post-retirement was As Bees in Honey Drown, his final was Sister Act which featured a revised libretto by Beane.

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31 Days of Arkansas Rep: OVATION! in 1999

Upon his retirement (the first time) from Arkansas Rep, founder and artistic director Cliff Fannin Baker was feted with a special performance celebrating his career with the Rep.  The entire evening was called “Ovation!” and included a pre-performance reception, a special revue celebrating Cliff’s career, and a performance of As Bees in Honey Drown, which Cliff directed.

Ruth Shepherd and Helen Buchanan co-chaired the evening, which took place on September 21, 1999.  Jana Beard was involved in the conception and direction of the performance.

The program started with a welcome from Mimi Dortch, the first Rep Board chair; Bill Rector, a former Rep Board chair who had been instrumental in the move to the Rep’s Main Street location; and Carol Corley, who was the 1999-2000 Rep Board chair.

The performers included Michael Davis, Don Bolinger, Shannon Farmer, Vivian Morrison Norman, Candyce Hinkle, Debbie Rawn, Jana Beard, Debbie Weber, Mary Twedt Cantrell, Mark Johnson, Judy Blue., Jean Lind, and Phyllis Blumenfeld.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a videotaped message that was played and followed by a video which highlighted Cliff’s career.  Lt. Governor Winthrop Rockefeller presented Cliff with the 1999 Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Also that evening, longtime Rep staffers Lynn Frazier and Guy Couch were presented with Cliff Fanning Baker Awards for extraordinary service to the Rep.

After a brief intermission, the evening continued with As Bees in Honey Drown. The show was directed by Cliff and was the final show of the Cliff Fannin Baker era (Part I).