Arkansas Repertory Theatre
The Arkansas Repertory Theatre (commonly called “the Rep”) was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County) by Cliff Baker in 1976 and is the state’s largest nonprofit and professional theater company. The Rep’s mission is to “create a diverse body of theatrical work of the highest artistic standards. With a focus on dramatic storytelling that illuminates the human journey, the Rep entertains, engages, and enriches local and regional audiences of all ages and backgrounds.”
The Rep first opened in the former Hunter Memorial Methodist Church at East 11thand McAlmont Streets. Its first play, The Threepenny Opera, was performed in November 1976. Approximately ten years after its founding, a major fundraising campaign was initiated in order to secure an almost $2 million loan to purchase and renovate the Galloway Building at 601 Main Street. Work began in the spring of 1987 and was completed the next year. The historic building was renovated again in 2012 and remains the home of the Rep in the twenty-first century.
The Rep stages as many as ten productions annually, employing award-winning actors and crew members from all over the country, in addition to local talent. The Rep also stages performances at events such as the Arkansas Coalition against Domestic Violence benefit, as well as raising money through performances and silent auctions for scholarships and charities.
The Rep produces at least one children’s play a season, in addition to its annual Summer Musical Theatre Intensive program, which allows teenagers and young adults to gain experience working in a professional theater. The Rep also partners with TheatreSquared, a professional theater company in Fayetteville (Washington County). This partnership produces several plays through the annual Arkansas New Play Festival, which helps new or lesser-known playwrights gain exposure.
In addition to ticket sales, the Rep operates through grants from programs such as Arts Midwest, as well as through fundraisers, donations, and other non-performance events. The Rep has two stages: a main stage, which has the capacity to seat up to 385 people, and a smaller, more intimate black box theater, which seats ninety-nine people. With all of its productions and programs combined, the Rep has an annual audience of more than 70,000.
The Rep has supported and participated in several projects to make downtown Little Rock a safer, cleaner, and more arts-centered community, including the Arts Our Town project that began in Little Rock in 2011, which is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Rep is one of only three Arkansas theater companies that are under a letter of agreement with Actors’ Equity, which is a major labor union for actors and theater companies across the United States. The Rep is also a member of the League of Resident Theatres.
On April 24, 2018, the Rep announced that it was suspending operations, due to low ticket sales and charitable giving, until it could develop a model for sustainable operations. In November, the Rep announced its 2019 season. In January 2019, the Rep announced that Tony Award–winning Broadway producer Will Trice, a native of Little Rock, would be taking over as executive artistic director. However, despite a successful renewal of the Rep’s operations, on March 30, 2020, the theater announced that it would be suspending all operations due to the financial hit from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic. The following May, the Rep announced its return, starting with a series of outdoor performances starting in July, including Marie & Rosetta, a play about Arkansas native Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
For additional information:
Arkansas Repertory Theatre. http://www.therep.org/ (accessed October 27, 2021).
Harrison, Eric E. “The Rep, TheatreSquared Present New Play Festival.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 13, 2012, p. 3E.
———. “Rep’s Final Curtain? Not Yet, Venue Says.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 29, 2018, pp. 1A, 13A.
———. “Rep’s Resurrection.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 25, 2018, pp. 1E, 6E.
Hill, Jack W. “Rep’s Young Artists Commence Singin’ on a Star.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 25, 2012, p. 5E.
Lewis, Bill. “Recognition of Repertory Theatre Is Young Director’s Ultimate Goal.” Arkansas Gazette, December 10, 1976, p. 36A.
———. “Repertory Theatre Busy Preparing for Its Opening.” Arkansas Gazette, November 10, 1976, p. 15A.
Nelson, Rex. “Main Street’s Tipping Point.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 9, 2012, p. 9B.
University of Central Arkansas
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