Arkansas Repertory Theater to resume live productions with diverse 21-22 season
Charlie Brown, Julia Sugarbaker and Little Red Riding Hood will take the main stage at the Arkansas Repertory Theater as he returns to live productions, December 2-23 with “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.
Eric Schaeffer adapted the show for the stage of the 1965 classic animated television special, with credits from Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, director Bill Melendez, and executive producer Lee Mendelson.
At the helm will be Anna Kimmell, former Director of Education at Rep, now Director of Education at Flat Rock Playhouse at her alma mater, Elon University, in Asheville, NC
“I am delighted that Anna is coming back to direct,” said Will Trice, executive art director of the representative.
Anna Kimmell, former director of education at the Arkansas Repertory Theater, returns to direct “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to kick off the theater’s 2020-21 season. (Democrat-Gazette file photo)
He cites Kimmell’s existing relationships with the children of the area and particularly praises the production of the summer 2019 representative of “Willy Wonka Jr”, which he calls one of the best things he has seen since his return. in Little Rock the same summer. (Trice semi-retired from a career as a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer to come “home” to Arkansas.)
Like “Willy Wonka Jr.”, the cast of “Charlie Brown” will be made up of young people between the ages of 12 and 18. Auditions are scheduled for September 7-8.
[RELATED: Rep seeking youngsters for ‘Charlie Brown’ show]
The show has the potential to “appeal to people of all ages in many ways,” Trice said. The score by composer Vince Guaraldi is “one of the best jazz music of all time, not even youthful at all”. The short one-act show will use a live band.
And for the weekend performances, he plans to surround the show with a carnival of building-wide activity, with pre- and post-shows, food, and vendors all rooted in the show.
The production will be on stage Thursday and Friday evenings and throughout the weekend with several shows each weekend day and the four days leading up to Christmas Eve. General admission tickets will be $ 30, $ 15 for youth under 18.
Will Trice announces the January-July 2020 “mini-season” of the Arkansas Repertory Theater in the theater bar. (Democratic Gazette file photo / Eric E. Harrison)
Spring season at Rep, 601 Main St., Little Rock:
◼️ January 18-Feb. 6: “Designing Women” by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, co-creator of the hit television series of the same name. It will receive its pandemic-delayed world premiere in October at TheatreSquared in Fayetteville and then in Little Rock in January.
The play, which the rep classifies as PG-13 for adult themes and language, brings Julia, Suzanne, Mary Jo and Charlene “into our present age,” Trice says.
Thanks to Bloodworth-Thomason’s theatrical set-up, the characters will be roughly the same age they were in the TV series, but “like they exist now”, or especially in the spring of 2020, “amid the hype. initial covid, but before election. ” For the most part, the same cast will come from Fayetteville, although some replacements may be necessary, says Trice.
The Bloodworth-Thomason script, still in development, “made me laugh out loud. She did a great job.”
◼️ From March 1 to 20: “School Girls: Or, The African Mean Girls Play” by Jocelyn Bioh. Reigning “queen bee” at Ghana’s most exclusive boarding school aims for Miss Global Universe pageant until new transfer student from America with undeniable talent and beauty captures pageant recruiter’s attention . TheatreSquared aired her production of the show (rated PG-13 for themes and adult language) in February and March, but Trice says the production did not specifically affect her choice of the play off Broadway.
“This is done in all the major regional theaters in the country,” he says. “It’s taken the American theater by storm. It’s a big girl play, focusing in a really fun way on a range of topics that are so powerful.”
They will launch six girls (not, says Trice, real teenage girls but young women who will play teenage girls) and two adult women.
◼️ April 19-May 22: “Into the Woods” – music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine – focusing on fairy-tale characters (including a childless baker and his wife, Cinderella and her in-laws , Jack and his beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf) for whom, come the second act, always after is not so happy. Trice says he’s thrilled to bring in “very talented” New York set designer and costume designer, An-Lin Dauber.
Trice says he expects Minneapolis-based director Addie Gorlin-Han to be able to pick “as many locals as possible” from the dozen lead roles, though the representative’s contract with Actors Equity will necessarily limit the amount of time. options.
Trice says he’s currently in negotiations with the union as the representative’s existing deal expires, seeking “a little more flexibility” in the casting. The current contract requires 11 equity contracts per production before the rep can hire non-union actors.
“The physical size of the house is what drives this negotiation,” but “we’ll see what kind of creative thinking” can be worked out, he says.
The representative evaluates the PG show for adult themes.
Season ticket information will be available online at TheRep.org and by calling (501) 378-0405.
The current production of “Primating,” a world-premiered romantic comedy by Jennifer Vanderbes, will run through August 29 in the semi-outdoor Civitan Pavilion at the Little Rock Zoo. The pandemic protection protocols involved increased airflow, limited capacity and two performances for which the representative required all audiences to wear masks. All of the representative’s employees and guest artists have been vaccinated, Trice says. “It was obvious.”
And the rep is finalizing a three-performance collaboration with Little Rock Parks & Recreation with a free semi-scenic outdoor concert of “The Fantasticks” (music by Harvey Schmidt, book and lyrics by Tom Jones), 4 p.m. on October 3 at Little Rock Murray Park. (Representative clients will have the chance to hear the performance on October 2 at a fundraising gala in the garden at Chateau Saint-Cloud in Little Rock West.)
“I do this one myself,” says Trice, with a cast of “mostly local artists”.
The space is in a “pretty little glade” near the dog park, he adds, and with patrons on blankets or on chairs and a piano in the grass, it will be “a pastoral evening of very good music “.
Trice says the representative, between a financial crisis that nearly killed him – forcing a total suspension of operations in April 2018 – and the pandemic, is currently on a fairly solid financial footing.
“At the start of this season, I feel as confident about our finances as I have been since I started,” he said.
“Of course, we still don’t know, in the long term, what the impact of covid will be on our industry.” The survival of the theater in general and this theater in particular, he says, “requires that everyone get on board, come to the shows and support us.” A lot of people have lost their jobs in the past year and left the industry.
“It has always been difficult to make the theater work financially,” he adds. “You cannot bear the weight of [a] fundamental crisis like a pandemic. “
While he is currently well positioned to resume operations, he said, “we will only be able to continue if the community comes out. To preserve the theater, you actually have to attend.”