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Out of cash: The Rep in downtown Little Rock suspends operations, cancels production

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was originally published April 25, 2018 at 4:30 a.m. Updated April 25, 2018 at 2:35 p.m.

the-arkansas-repertory-theatre-at-601-main-st-in-little-rock-has-seen-declines-in-ticket-sales-contributions-and-grants-and-lacks-the-cash-to-finish-its-current-season-its-board-chairman-says

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre at 601 Main St. in Little Rock has seen declines in ticket sales, contributions and grants, and lacks the cash to finish its current season, its board chairman says.

A stage crew strikes the set of the Christmas play The Gift of the Magi on Dec. 27 after the play’s run at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in downtown ...

Cliff Baker is shown in this photo.

Brian Bush is shown in this file photo.

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre's board of directors announced Tuesday that it will "suspend current operations," effective immediately, including canceling the final production of the Rep's 2017-18 season, and cease planning for 2018-19.

A stage crew strikes the set of the Christmas play The Gift of the Magi on Dec. 27 after the play’s run at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in downtown ...

Cliff Baker is shown in this photo.

Brian Bush is shown in this file photo.

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Print Headline: Out of cash; the shows can't go on, Rep says

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Comments on: Out of cash: The Rep in downtown Little Rock suspends operations, cancels production

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Asiseeit says... April 25, 2018 at 6:18 a.m.

A couple of clarifications to the article: In 1976, the Rep was founded as the Rep in the old church next to MacArthur Park. The Arkansas Philharmonic on Kavanaugh was a separate organization and prior to 1976. Also, the Rep was in the old church for a dozen years (1976 to 1988) prior to moving to Main Street.

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RBear says... April 25, 2018 at 7:10 a.m.

This is both sad and troubling. The Rep has provided great entertainment for Little Rock and was to be an anchor for the Creative Corridor that is evolving. Dinner and the theater after would become a normal for those heading downtown. Now, the impetus for such a trip is gone. But, my first question is why are we just hearing about this now as the doors close? It seems there really wasn't a call to action with the board to help rally support in the community.
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Death bed pleas are not the best to make as some like myself might want to see what sort of sustainability plan the Rep might have to make sure we aren't constantly being called to the ER every season. I'm ready to pitch in and help financially, but I want to see what plan the Rep has other than bake sales and car washes.
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For one thing, it seems the Rep has a substantial annual expense in how it recruits and funds actors. First class talent is great if you have a strong subscription base or endowment to fund that talent. Are we really sure the Central Arkansas area doesn't have some of that talent locally?
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But this also should be a question regarding other arts organizations in Central Arkansas. Little Rock has been slowly sliding in quality of life, primarily from a lack of true leadership to help grow the city. I kind of wonder if Stodola even cares if the Rep folds. Maybe this is yet another canary in the coal mine signaling bigger problems in Little Rock.

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Cong says... April 25, 2018 at 8:15 a.m.

Good points, RBear. Seems the local blue-bloods, and politicians (if they really care), might ought to step up and show some support for this important cultural institution. The main street upgrade project seems(ed) like a good plan. Losing the rep will be a blow to that, and this town in general.

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jmg1232 says... April 25, 2018 at 8:23 a.m.

No surprise. The Rep has been hurt by constant construction and street closure issues on Main Street.

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ketchupmustard says... April 25, 2018 at 8:43 a.m.

This is just disheartening. As RBear pointed out, this is a symptom of a much larger issue.

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DoubleBlind says... April 25, 2018 at 8:43 a.m.

What a needlessly dramatic and unprofessional way to manage change. A $1million deficit doesn’t sneak up on an organization; they must have seen this coming. Sounds like too much reliance on donations and too little thought re how to drive butts to seats. They’ve got to unload some of the properties they own, which are supposedly valued at over $6million. Hopefully there are committee members with actual for-profit business experience and not just non-profit types like Shepherd.

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Quackenfuss says... April 25, 2018 at 8:56 a.m.

Sad news, but honestly, I am amazed that the Rep has held out this long. Downtown Little Rock is and has been dead for at least 30 years. This is less a matter of the Rep helping to save downtown than it is of downtown drowning another victim. The Rep needs to look west if it wants to find broad grassroots financial support. It is certainly worthy of saving, and I will help, but everyone needs to face the fundamental fact that downtown Little Rock is a relic of our past. We might have improved its viability had the various government agencies committed years ago to a true mass transit rail system. True light rail that would have linked the old city, centered on Main Street and the new one centered to the west, along with northern and southwestern areas, would have provided the bloodstream to nourish growth everywhere. Instead, we built an amusement park grade trolley ride. Almost every city in the country that has kept itself alive has connected all parts via urban rail. That being said, sometimes there just isn't enough money to do everything.

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MM03 says... April 25, 2018 at 9:17 a.m.

Rbear and others agreeing with him, take a chill pill. Failure of the Rep is the Rep's fault and no one else's. Not a sign of anything about LR other than it is a small capital city. 200,000 is not a big city. Not small but smaller rather than larger relative to rest of the country. LR is great place to live and work and is still growing population annually. No city is perfect or will ever be so but in the 200,000 pop category, LR is about as good as it gets...Rep or no Rep.

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DoubleBlind says... April 25, 2018 at 10:22 a.m.

MM - While I (mostly) agree with you, others make valid points that downtown ‘revitalization’ has been underwhelming for a variety of reasons. These are not root causes of the Rep’s pearl-clutching demise, but they have contributed. LR leadership and businesses behave as if LR were London - and price accordingly. Have you checked the price of an apartment along Main St.? Eye wateringly absent any actual comprehension that the AR River is NOT the Thames. Or the price of an entree at some restaurants? I recall a $32 walleye somewhere. We need to get a firm grip.

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hurricane46 says... April 25, 2018 at 10:55 a.m.

Alice Walton likes the arts, let her write them a check for a million dollars. That will still leave her with a little over 38 billion, LOL.

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