Final weekend to experience IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE at Arkansas Rep

This weekend is your last chance to spend time with George Bailey, Mary, Violet, Clarence, and Mr. Potter as the Arkansas Repertory Theatre presents It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play. It runs through December 29.

Back by popular demand, this holiday classic returns to The Rep’s stage to close the 2019 season. (It was last on the Rep’s stage in 2008.)

Ring in the holidays with an entertaining spin on a familiar holiday favorite. Set in a 1940s radio station on Christmas Eve, enjoy a live radio version of Frank Capra’s classic 1946 film as the actors on stage transform into dozens of characters from Bedford Falls. Faced with the threat of scandal and financial ruin, George Bailey experiences a crisis of faith and wishes he had never been born. Divine intervention arrives in the form of Clarence (Angel Second Class), who is on a mission to restore George’s will to live… and earn his own wings in the process. Every life impacts countless others, whether we know it or not.

The production is directed by Giovanna Sardelli (whose most recent Arkansas Rep production was The School for Lies). The design team includes Jo Winiarski (set), Sarah Nietfeld (costumes), Jamie Roderick (lighting), and Jane Shaw (sound). The cast includes the return of Larry Daggett and Patrick Halley along with Alan Dronek, Larissa Klinger and Mary Murphy making their Arkansas Rep debuts.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – A Live Radio Play opens tonight as Arkansas Rep’s final show of 2019

George Bailey, Clarence, and Mr. Potter all make an appearance as the Arkansas Repertory Theatre presents It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play.

After two days of previews, the production opens tonight (December 6) and runs through December 29.

Back by popular demand, this holiday classic returns to The Rep’s stage to close the 2019 season. (It was last on the Rep’s stage in 2008.)

Ring in the holidays with an entertaining spin on a familiar holiday favorite. Set in a 1940s radio station on Christmas Eve, enjoy a live radio version of Frank Capra’s classic 1946 film as the actors on stage transform into dozens of characters from Bedford Falls. Faced with the threat of scandal and financial ruin, George Bailey experiences a crisis of faith and wishes he had never been born. Divine intervention arrives in the form of Clarence (Angel Second Class), who is on a mission to restore George’s will to live… and earn his own wings in the process. Every life impacts countless others, whether we know it or not.

The production is directed by Giovanna Sardelli (whose most recent Arkansas Rep production was The School for Lies). The design team includes Jo Winiarski (set), Sarah Nietfeld (costumes), Jamie Roderick (lighting), and Jane Shaw (sound). The cast includes the return of Larry Daggett and Patrick Halley along with Alan Dronek, Larissa Klinger and Mary Murphy making their Arkansas Rep debuts.

 

Today at noon – Arkansas Rep production of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is Clinton School topic

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s holiday play – It’s a Wonderful Life is the topic of today’s Clinton School program. It will take place at 12 noon in Sturgis Hall.

Ring in the holidays with an entertaining spin on a familiar holiday favorite. Set in a 1940s radio station on Christmas Eve, enjoy a live radio version of Frank Capra’s classic 1946 film as the actors on stage transform into dozens of characters from Bedford Falls.

Faced with the threat of scandal and financial ruin, George Bailey experiences a crisis of faith and wishes he had never been born. Divine intervention arrives in the form of Clarence (Angel Second Class), who is on a mission to restore George’s will to live and earn his own wings in the process. Every life impacts countless others, whether we know it or not.

Join the Clinton School for a discussion with the cast and crew.

All Clinton School Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. Reserve your seats by emailing publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or by calling (501) 683-5239.

Artober – Theatre. Arkansas Repertory Theatre experiences a reprise.

October is Arts and Humanities Month nationally and in Little Rock. Americans for the Arts has identified a different arts topic to be posted for each day in the month. The penultimate feature is Theatre.

At the age of four, my parents took me to the theatre. It was a production of Oliver! A year or two after that, I went to a play produced by the Arkansas Philharmonic Theatre in Hillcrest. (Neither of my parents can remember the title of that production.)

It was this theatre that gave rise, in 1976, to the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  Cliff Fannin Baker was the founder.  He had first come to Arkansas in the 1960s to work with the theatre program of Arkansas Arts Center School of Art and Theatre. Once that disbanded in 1968, Baker continued to direct theatrical productions for a variety of community and education theatres throughout the state.

Opening on November 11, 1976, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre was Arkansas’ first non-profit professional theatre. It was housed in an old Methodist church building next to MacArthur Park.  Occasionally it would present performances in other spaces including the UA Little Rock theatre or the Arkansas Arts Center theatre.  By the mid 1980s, the Rep was outgrowing its original location.

In 1988, Arkansas Rep moved to Main Street and served as an anchor for a downtown redevelopment project.  While that project may not have taken hold, the Rep did.  Cliff continued to lead it for over a decade on Main Street until his retirement in 1999.  He was succeeded by Bob Hupp, who came to the Rep from Off Broadway’s Jean Cocteau Theatre.

Hupp led the theatre until 2016.  During that time, he also oversaw a refurbishment and renovation of the Rep’s facility on Main Street.  When he left to take over Syracuse Stage in 2016, Baker returned to the Rep to be the Interim Artistic Director.  A few months later, John Miller-Stephany from the Guthrie Theatre came to Arkansas Rep.

By 2018, Arkansas Rep was facing a mounting financial crisis brought on by lagging donations, weakened ticket sales, increasing production costs, and debt related to real estate the theatre owned.  In April 2018, the Rep suspended operations and most of the staff were laid off.

Baker returned again to be an artistic advisor during this period. He worked with two long-time Rep board members who were serving as volunteer staff: Bill Rector and Ruth Shepherd. The community rallied to “Save the Rep” and responded to some challenge matching gifts offered by the Windgate Foundation. In addition, the Rep was able to restructure the debt.

As Baker was starting to consider shows for a rejuvenated Rep, he died while in New York in September 2018.  The Rep pushed forward and announced four shows for the Rep’s “REPrise” season during calendar year 2019.  In January 2019, it was announced that former Rep actor and Tony winning producer Will Trice was coming back to his hometown to assume the role of Executive Artistic Director.

As the Rep is winding down the season of the four shows announced in November 2018, Trice has announced three new shows for the spring and summer of 2020. In September 2020, the Rep will return to the traditional autumn through summer season schedule.

While F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed that “there are no second acts in American lives,” thankfully that does not apply to the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. It is currently in Scene 1 of the Second Act.  Let us hope this act has many many more scenes.