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story.lead_photo.caption Steve Broadnax III, a Little Rock native and former faculty member at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, directs Native Gardens at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Native Gardens represents a homecoming for director Steve Broadnax III.

Broadnax, a Little Rock native, knows the the Arkansas Repertory Theatre well. He was part of the cast of Dreamgirls during the 2004-05 season.

His highly successful Hip Hop Project, which he created in 2004 while teaching and heading up the theater program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, played for a week at the Rep in July and August 2005 after becoming a regional winner in the 37th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and selling out several performances at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater in Washington. (The show also had a performance in Seattle and an encore performance in late August 2005 at Little Rock's Robinson Center.)

"It's awesome to be home, to come back and work again at the Rep in this capacity," Broadnax says.

"To walk through that building, to see the picture upstairs of [late Rep founder] Cliff Baker — it just warmed my heart. I am so excited to be part of the resurrection of the theater that raised me."

[RELATED: Native Gardens at the Rep is a light-hearted look at borders, race and privilege]

Broadnax says he received a couple of other offers for Rep productions, including acting roles in Fences and A Soldier's Play, "but I had already moved." He says former Rep producing artistic director Bob Hupp, now at Syracuse Stage, a theater in Syracuse, N.Y., recommended him for the Native Gardens directing job.

Broadnax teaches and heads the theater program at his alma mater, Penn State University, where Native Gardens cast member Gabriel Pena was a student (but never appeared in any of Broadnax's productions).

He notes that the play roundly digs into "our political and social culture," and takes on issues that are currently "at the forefront of our national debate."

"I watch the news, and I think, 'Did she write this yesterday?'" he says. (Well, she didn't exactly write it yesterday, but Broadnax notes there have been some recent script revisions, including some line changes, to reflect some political points.)

"I want it to create hope and spur folks to engage in conversation, to promote kindness with everybody."

Eric E. Harrison

Style on 04/16/2019

Print Headline: Director comes 'home' to helm Gardens

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