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.

Tonight’s the Night! Tony winner Victoria Clark headlines Ovation! at Arkansas Rep

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeupThe Arkansas Repertory Theatre is hosting “Ovation, An Encore Event” on Friday, Oct. 25. The evening celebrates the theatre’s supporters with dinner and a special performance by Tony Award-winner, Victoria Clark.

Ovation gives guests a behind-the-scenes look at the Rep, including props and costumes from previous shows and a seated dinner in one of the rehearsal spaces. Ruth Shepherd and Bill Rector, co-chairs of the event, bring their excitement from decades of volunteering with the theatre and are thrilled to share the space with attendees.

“Because we are hosting Ovation here at the Rep, it will have all the intimacy of a private party with all the pizzazz of a night on the town,” said Shepherd. “Suggested attire is ‘what makes you feel good,’ so put on some feathers or sequins and come on down.”

Victoria Clark earned a Tony Award for Leading Actress in a Musical (The Light in the Piazza) and three additional Tony Award nominations. She has performed in 12 Broadway plays and musicals, several off-Broadway productions, and many well-known films and television shows.

“I can’t wait for this night to get here,” said Will Trice, Executive Artistic Director of the Rep. “It will be a true celebration of what The Rep is all about, with incredible music from one of the most renown performers in the country.”

Tickets range from $200 to $1000, giving guests the option to pick their price point and perks. To purchase tickets, contact Kimberly Miller at kmiller@therep.org or call (501) 378-0445 x 203

Still time to join Arkansas Rep for Ovation starring Tony winner Victoria Clark

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeupMillion Dollar Quartet may have closed yesterday, but there is still an electric performance coming up at Arkansas Rep in October.

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre is hosting “Ovation, An Encore Event” on Friday, Oct. 25. The evening celebrates the theatre’s supporters with dinner and a special performance by Tony Award-winner, Victoria Clark.

Ovation gives guests a behind-the-scenes look at the Rep, including props and costumes from previous shows and a seated dinner in one of the rehearsal spaces. Ruth Shepherd and Bill Rector, co-chairs of the event, bring their excitement from decades of volunteering with the theatre and are thrilled to share the space with attendees.

“Because we are hosting Ovation here at the Rep, it will have all the intimacy of a private party with all the pizzazz of a night on the town,” said Shepherd. “Suggested attire is ‘what makes you feel good,’ so put on some feathers or sequins and come on down.”

Victoria Clark earned a Tony Award for Leading Actress in a Musical (The Light in the Piazza) and three additional Tony Award nominations. She has performed in 12 Broadway plays and musicals, several off-Broadway productions, and many well-known films and television shows.

“I can’t wait for this night to get here,” said Will Trice, Executive Artistic Director of the Rep. “It will be a true celebration of what The Rep is all about, with incredible music from one of the most renown performers in the country.”

Tickets range from $200 to $1000, giving guests the option to pick their price point and perks. To purchase tickets, contact Kimberly Miller at kmiller@therep.org or call (501) 378-0445 x 203

Little Rock and VIRGINIA WOOLF

On October 13, 1962, Edward Albee’s first Broadway play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened on Broadway.

Though not in the original cast, Little Rock native Ben Piazza had participated in early readings of the play.  In fact the first time the script was ever read through aloud it was by Albee, Piazza, and producers Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder.

After original cast member George Grizzard left the show due to another commitment, Piazza joined the cast in February 1963.  He remained in the production throughout the rest of the run. Piazza holds the record of most performances of any Edward Albee play on Broadway.

The play was selected by the Pulitzer jury for drama to receive the prize in 1963. But because the award criteria still contained language about “moral example” the final committee rejected the choice and no play was recognized that year. The public hue and cry over the decision served to shake up the criteria for future play selection. Albee would receive the Pulitzer for A Delicate Balance, Seascape and Three Tall Women.

The New York Drama Critics Circle recognized the play as Best Play. It also won Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Producer of a Play (Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder), Actor in a Play (Hill), Actress in a Play (Hagen) and Director of a Play (Alan Schneider). Dillon, who received a Tony nomination for Featured Actress in a Play, received a Theatre World Award for her performance.

During the run of Virginia Woolf, Piazza was writing a novel called The Exact and Very Strange Truth. This would be a fictionalized account of his boyhood in Little Rock. Whenever he would stop writing on it, he would put the manuscript in the freezer of his refrigerator to keep it safe.

Piazza would go on to appear in several other Albee plays both on and off Broadway. He would direct and appear in other productions of Virginia Woolf? throughout the country.

Fifty years to the day after Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? first opened on Broadway, the production’s third revival opened. It starred Tracy Letts, Amy Morton, Carrie Coon and Madison Dirks.  It was directed by Pam MacKinnon.  Nominated for five Tony Awards, it won three: Best Revival of a Play, Actor in a Play (Letts) and Direction (MacKinnon).

One of the producers on stage accepting the Best Revival Tony was Little Rock native Will Trice. Like Piazza, he was a graduate of Little Rock Central High School. Now Trice is the Executive Artistic Director of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Final Days to see MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at Arkansas Rep

Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production of Million Dollar Quartet will wrap up its extended this Sunday, October 13. Tickets are available online at TheRep.org or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

Million Dollar Quartet, a Tony Award-winning smash hit Broadway musical, is the current production in The Rep’s 2019 Season.

Based on the book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, Million Dollar Quartet chronicles the epic 1956 recording session of young rock ‘n roll stars Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

“It’s more than just a jukebox musical,” said Director Hunter Foster. “It’s a dramatic play. But, the music is still the star and by the end people are usually dancing in the aisles.”

Showcased hit songs include “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “Walk the Line,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Hound Dog,” and more.

“All the music that audiences will hear is actually being played by the actors,” Foster said. “Most audiences can’t believe they are playing because they are so good! We’re bringing some of the best actor/musicians in the country to Arkansas.”

The Arkansas Rep cast includes Trent Rowland (Elvis Presley), Bill Scott Sheets (Johnny Cash), Skye Scott (Carl Perkins), Brandyn Day (Jerry Lee Lewis), Karack Osborn (Sam Phillips), Alyssa Gardner (Dyanne), Brian Wolverton (Jay Perkins) and David W. Lincoln (W.S. “Fluke” Holland).

The design and creative team includes Lauren T. Roark, costume designer; Erin Reed, associate costume designer; Adam Koch, set designer; Steven Royal, associate set designer; James Barry, music supervisor; Kirk Bookman, original lighting designer; Steve O’Shea, lighting designer; and Luke Mitchell, sound designer. The stage manager is Colin JB and Merit Glover is the assistant stage manager.

Tickets start at $20. Discounts are available for full-time students, season subscribers, seniors and military personnel. For complete information, visit TheRep.org.

Tickets
May be purchased online at TheRep.org, by phone at (501) 378-0405 or by visiting the Box Office at 601 Main Street in Little Rock. Performances run now through Oct. 13.