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Downtown Little Rock's Arkansas Repertory Theatre suspends operations

By Rachel Herzog

This article was originally published April 24, 2018 at 4:09 p.m. Updated April 24, 2018 at 6:25 p.m.

file-people-line-up-around-the-block-in-front-of-the-rep-in-downtown-little-rock-for-the-theaters-pay-what-you-can-night-for-the-production-of-the-wiz-in-2012

FILE — People line up around the block in front of The Rep in downtown Little Rock for the theater's "Pay What You Can Night" for the production of "The Wiz" in 2012.


The Arkansas Repertory Theatre in downtown Little Rock has suspended its operations amid financial difficulties, it announced on Tuesday afternoon.

The theater's Board of Directors said in a news release that the final production of the 2017-18 season, "God of Carnage," will not be completed.

"The inability to reach its projected goals for charitable giving and ticket sales, and the change in the theatre landscape in Little Rock have created a perfect financial storm for The Rep," Board Chair Brian Bush said. "The Rep's ticket sales have been on a downhill slope for several years. Our community is on the verge of losing an amazing arts organization and a tremendous asset to our city."

In a separate letter to supporters, Bush and Board Chair-Elect Ruth Shepherd wrote that The Rep faced "significant cash flow problems" and that recent years "have been particularly difficult."

"We've experienced steadily declining ticket sales, capital needs on our buildings, and increasing competition for entertainment dollars," they wrote.

The letter closed with a plea for donations, noting the theater needs "$750,000 immediately" in addition to a "capital needs campaign to begin to build a future."

Bush said closing The Rep will have a "devastating" impact on the redevelopment of Little Rock's Main Street.

The Rep's producing artistic director, John Miller-Stephany, is stepping down May 8, along with most other staff, according to the release. The theatre said it will suspend all operations upon completion of its Education at the Rep summer program on Aug. 3.

The future of the theater is under board evaluation. Shepherd will lead a committee to "fundraise for and conceptualize a reimagined Arkansas Repertory Theatre," the news release said.

“It was devastating to vote to suspend operations and cancel the final show of our season, but we just don’t have the money right now,” Shepherd said. “Continuing to produce at the level in which Arkansas audiences have come to expect from The Rep would have put us more in debt."

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Comments on: Downtown Little Rock's Arkansas Repertory Theatre suspends operations

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susanc52 says... April 24, 2018 at 4:25 p.m.

For years I felt that Arkansas was a vast wasteland for the Arts. I actually wanted to make a career of bringing great theatre to Arkansas. The Rep filled that void in so many ways. I had great hopes that my fellow Arkansans would see the need for fine Arts programs that broadened the mine and enriched the soul. I know that there are other community theatre groups and the traveling shows are still coming to the remodeled Robinson Auditorium, but the wealth of performances that will be missed because of the demise of The Rep will haunt those who love the arts in Arkansas at large and Central Arkansas particularly. I hope and pray that someone with money and good sense will prevail in helping this organization continue the fine work that has been years in the making. I'm Jim Yoder posting on my friend Susan's account.

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neilnelson says... April 24, 2018 at 4:35 p.m.

This is a sad day for Arkansas. If you would have sold guns you could have made enough money in one day to fund for a year.

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obbie says... April 24, 2018 at 4:41 p.m.

For shame, LR. Support the Rep.

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DEE672 says... April 24, 2018 at 4:49 p.m.

This closing makes me so sad. I'm sorry we are living in the age of slob culture. You fill in the examples; it's not hard.

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hogfan2012 says... April 24, 2018 at 5:10 p.m.

This is sad. The events at Robinson are nice but very pricey - this gave another affordable option to theatre lovers that couldn't afford $500-$600 for one season ticket at Robinson. I too hope that some benefactor will step forward and help the Rep out.

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asti306 says... April 24, 2018 at 5:12 p.m.

This is such sad news!

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MrMars says... April 24, 2018 at 5:32 p.m.

With the condescending attitudes like the ones above, no wonder no one wanted to be a part of your "fine art culture" some of you are really fool of yourselves, take a look in a mirror sometimes and see where the problem really lie.. You want to force all forms of media to be more diverse, then leave them out to dry when they do what you tell them, then they die. For being the "anti-conformist" party, you sure do want a lot of people to conform to your ways of thinking but not help pay for it.

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hah406 says... April 24, 2018 at 5:45 p.m.

Why is this the first we are hearing of a funding problem? I go to a couple of Rep shows a year, and if I had known there was a funding problem, I would have happily made an additional donation!!! If you will let us know how, I bet we the community will step up and save the Rep. #SaveTheRepLR

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MM03 says... April 24, 2018 at 5:47 p.m.

Unfortunate but it is reality. LR is a small market for such a fine institution as the Rep. This is happening all over the country, not just here. Part of the bigger problem is that folks work a lot and do not have the leisure time for this sort of culture. Maybe even a larger cause is that there are so many non-profits asking for funds, it is overwhelming. From schools of all levels, to every health issue in the world (seems like every time someone dies, the family starts some sort of cause...what happened to just moving on?), to conservation efforts, to charities trying to help the downtrodden, to cultural non-profits like this, Ark Arts Center, et al. Only so much to go around. It is not an endless supply of funds, particularly in a small market.

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Razrbak says... April 24, 2018 at 5:57 p.m.

The east end of Main Street is losing businesses every month. Narrowing Main Street from four to two lanes is killing business all along the street. No easy inexpensive public parking is a recipe for disaster. The city of learned nothing from the failed Metrocentre mall and closed main Street from the 70's and 80's. #TimeForChange #CleanOutLRCityHall

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