43 years ago, Arkansas Rep opened first show: THE THREEPENNY OPERA

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.

42 Years of Arkansas Rep

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.

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: THE THREEPENNY OPERA

October is Arts and Humanities Month.  This year, each day a different past Arkansas Repertory Theatre production will be featured.  This is, in part, a tribute to the late Cliff Baker, and also a countdown to the Rep’s re-emergence.

Up first, is the first Arkansas Repertory Theatre production: 1976’s THE THREEPENNY OPERA.

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.

Little Rock Look Back: Arkansas Rep’s First Show

rep-firstOn 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.

 

Shark Week Special: Mack the Knife at Arkansas Rep

1976 Gazette photo by Steve Keesee

1976 Gazette photo of Cliff Baker by Steve Keesee

In honor of Shark Week and the upcoming 40th anniversary season at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, a quick look back at the Rep’s first production.

In November 1976, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s debut production was the Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht musical The Threepenny Opera.  In the Marc Blitzstein translation, the opening song begins with these appropriate-for-Shark Week lyrics:

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white;
Just a jack-knife has Macheath, dear,
And he keeps it out of sight!

When the shark bites with his teeth, dear,
Scarlet billows start to spread;
Fancy gloves, though, wears Macheath, dear,
So there’s not a trace of red!

Often called “Mack the Knife” the song’s title is officially “Moritat” which translates to “Deadly Deed.”  In the original Arkansas Rep production, the song was sung about the Rep’s founder and artistic director Cliff Baker who played Macheath.  He also directed this production.  Others in the cast included Herb Rule, Jean Lind, Theresa Quick, Connie Gordon and Guy Couch.

In his review in the Arkansas Gazette, Bill Lewis called the production “memorable” and that it achieved the intentions of the authors.  He praised the cast, the designers and orchestra as well as Baker’s directing.   All in all, it was an auspicious beginning which has prepared the Rep well.

Interestingly, the Rep’s 40th season starts with another blood-thirsty Mack. This one, Mackers or the Thane of Cawdor, headlines Shakespeare’s Scottish Play. This Mac spends a lot of time on the heath, so it seems a very appropriate way to pay homage to the inaugural Rep production. The Rep’s 40th season kicks off on September 11.

Last Chance in Osage County this weekend

THEREP_AUGUST (no credits)-page-001Before it was a movie, Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County was a Pulitzer and Tony winning play.  Running for over 600 performances on Broadway, it first enraptured audiences in Chicago.  Now, Little Rock audiences have the chance to laugh, cringe, be surprised and nod knowingly as the Weston family gathers to comfort and confront each other.

Directed by Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp, August: Osage County runs through June 21.

When the patriarch of the Weston clan disappears one hot summer night, the family reunites at the Oklahoma homestead, where long-held secrets are unflinchingly and uproariously revealed, dramatizing three generations of unfulfilled dreams and leaving each family member changed forever.

Rep founder Cliff Baker, who starred in the Rep’s first production of The Threepenny Opera returns to the stage as an actor to portray the mysterious patriarch of the Weston clan.  Joining him are Susanne Marley as matriarch Violet and LeeAnne Hutchison, Kathy McCafferty and Brenny Rabine as their three daughters.  Marc Carver, Michael McKenzie,  Mary Katelin Ward, Natalie Canerday, Richard Waddingham, Michael Patrick Kane, Grant Neale and Cassandra Seidenfeld play others who are drawn into the family drama.

The design team includes Mike Nichols (set), Marianne Custer (costumes), Yael Lubetzky (lighting), Allan Branson (sound) and Lynda J. Kwallek (props).  Other members of the creative team include fight director D. C. Wright (and there is plenty of physical sparring in addition to the verbal sparring) and dialect coach Stacy Pendergraft.

Prize winning AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY now on stage at Arkansas Rep

August Osage CastoBefore it was a movie, Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County was a Pulitzer and Tony winning play.  Running for over 600 performances on Broadway, it first enraptured audiences in Chicago.  Now, Little Rock audiences have the chance to laugh, cringe, be surprised and nod knowingly as the Weston family gathers to comfort and confront each other.

Directed by Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp, August: Osage County opens tonight and runs through June 21.

When the patriarch of the Weston clan disappears one hot summer night, the family reunites at the Oklahoma homestead, where long-held secrets are unflinchingly and uproariously revealed, dramatizing three generations of unfulfilled dreams and leaving each family member changed forever.

Rep founder Cliff Baker, who starred in the Rep’s first production of The Threepenny Opera returns to the stage as an actor to portray the mysterious patriarch of the Weston clan.  Joining him are Susanne Marley as matriarch Violet and LeeAnne Hutchison, Kathy McCafferty and Brenny Rabine as their three daughters.  Marc Carver, Michael McKenzie,  and Mary Katelin Ward are family members of the three daughters.  Natalie Canerday, Richard Waddingham and Michael Patrick Kane play another branch of the family. Grant Neale and Cassandra Seidenfeld play two other residents of Osage County who are drawn into the family drama.

The design team includes Mike Nichols (set), Marianne Custer (costumes), Yael Lubetzky (lighting), Allan Branson (sound) and Lynda J. Kwallek (props).  Other members of the creative team include fight director D. C. Wright (and there is plenty of physical sparring in addition to the verbal sparring) and dialect coach Stacy Pendergraft.

Go see the show and decide for yourself “who’s in charge” of this family.