Blog Archives

Fight for the throne: ‘Macbeth’ opens at The Rep

John David Pittman

Photo by John David Pittman

Something’s stirring inside The Rep.

And though it’s certainly due to the swelling excitement surrounding the company’s 40th season, right now, it’s probably the greed and paranoia of one 11th century Scot.

Centuries-old Shakespearean play Macbeth, directed by The Rep Producing Artistic Director Robert Hupp, opened Sept. 11, confidently mixing bloody revenge with a bit of spook.

From the first scene, Marianne Custer’s costume design and Robert Pickens’ wig design talents, complemented strategically by the stage’s stone-based set up, transport audience members back in time.

But the audience is also taken to a place more supernatural, more enchanted, more … ghouly. The three witches — played by Courtney Bennett, Heather Dupree and Joseph J. Menino — are androgynous in appearance, mystifying in voice. Their predictions kick-start Macbeth’s deadly quest to the throne, starting with the murder of King Duncan (Mitch Tebo) and eventually leading to the death of Banquo (Damian Thompson).

Macbeth (Michael Stewart Allen), drowning in guilt, begins to see things, ramble things and become increasingly removed from real-life situations. While his mind is plagued, he still has the throne to protect. Luckily, he’s got Lady Macbeth, one hell of an enabler, … Read more >

The Rep, Stone’s Throw to launch beer-naming contest



In honor of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s opening production for its 40th season, the theater company is partnering with Stone’s Throw Brewery to launch a Macbeth-inspired beer, the theater announced Aug. 12.

There’s just one little thing missing: a name.

Beginning Aug. 17, The Rep and Stone’s Throw will open the Macbeth Beer-Naming Contest, and they’re asking for your help. Need some inspiration? The beer will be a Scottish red ale, with the red paying tribute to the battles of Macbeth, and there will be a hint of rye for spice. “It’s a malty, full-bodied beer that is easy to drink,” the theater says in a news release.

Entries will be allowed until Aug. 21, and the top five names will be announced Aug. 24. From Aug. 24-26, voting will be open, with the winner being announced Aug. 27 at the brewery’s 402 E. Ninth St. location in Little Rock at 6:30 p.m.

A free growler and pair of tickets to Macbeth will be awarded to the person who submits the name that receives the most Facebook likes by the end of the voting period.

Submit entries here.

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth shows at The Rep from … Read more >

Review: Project Elan unplugs, then plugs you in

Photo by Stephen B. Thornton

Photo by Stephen B. Thornton

“Please, don’t let me block you,” threatens guitar-toting Maddie, the high-school-age girl who just doesn’t understand why her boyfriend, Nathan, can’t accept that checking into her favorite Starbucks location on Facebook is becoming way more important than actual human interaction with him.

After all, there’s a whole world out there to connect to through Instagram, Twitter and other forms of social media. But that’s exactly what the Arkansas Repertory Theatre doesn’t want you to do. At least for a couple of hours every night until May 16.

Project Elan, The Rep’s first original musical in its 40-year history, premiered May 5. Written by several of the company’s Summer Musical Theater Intensive (SMTI) program alumni and SMTI founder Nicole Capri, Project Elan is a culture-relevant musical that chronicles various struggles and characteristics of the millennial generation’s relationship with technology and signals the program’s 10th year.

Full of a cast of current and former SMTI participants, the musical follows six main story lines, a style inspired by the film Love Actually, Capri says, and represents various ages within the millennial generation from elementary school to 30s.

“I’ve been working with young people for over 25 … Read more >

Be Italian: Nine to premiere at Studio Theatre

Photo by Grant Dillion

Photo by Grant Dillion

With just 12 women and one man — played by both a child and adult — the story of Italian film director Guido Contini comes to life onstage when Nine: The Musical premieres Friday at The Studio Theatre.

As an adult, Contini struggles with forming a plot for his next production while balancing his romantic troubles, which stem from pivotal experiences in his childhood. As a boy, Contini attended a strict Catholic school with corporal punishment and scary nuns that left a traumatic effect, says James Norris, who plays Contini.

But near the school was a beach where a prostitute lived and taught young Contini about love, and he became consumed. The title relates to key moments in Contini’s life at age 9.

Throughout Nine, viewers are taken on a surrealistic journey where, like a Greek chorus, 12 women surround Contini and embody characters from his past and imagination — and even the imagination of other characters. The women include his wife, mother, muse, mistress, producer Liliane Le Fleur and more, and they also take on roles as reporters, fans, aunts and churchgoers.

Le Fleur, dressed in a fur coat, black gloves and flashy … Read more >

The Rep announces 2015-16 season

The Rep's Robert Hupp announces the theater's 2015-16 season.

The Rep’s Robert Hupp announces the theater’s 2015-16 season.

Arkansas Repertory Theater announced the lineup for its 2015-16 season this evening at a reception for Rep members, media and special guests. Producing artistic director Robert Hupp said that in honor of next season being the theater’s 40th anniversary, the productions for the next year have been specifically chosen to represent the best of what The Rep has to offer.

One highlight of the announcement was that Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame will direct the world premiere of the season’s closer, Windfall, in June.

See below for Sync’s live tweets from the announcement this evening.… Read more >

The Whipping Man makes you think, and that’s a really good thing

Michael A. Shepperd, Ryan Berry and Damian Thompson as Simon, Caleb and John in The Whipping Man. Photo courtesy of The Rep

Michael A. Shepperd, Ryan Berry and Damian Thompson as Simon, Caleb and John in The Whipping Man. Photo courtesy of The Rep

Almost a week removed from my experience viewing The Whipping Man (because that’s what it is, an experience) at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, I’m still trying to piece together my feelings about it. I’m still replaying scenes — some racing with dialogue, some tense in silence — as I try to work out questions left unanswered by the play that follows a Confederate Jewish soldier who waits with two former slaves for his family’s return.

In a pre-show interview several weeks ago, the actors said The Whipping Man would be a show about relationships. At its core, that’s what it is. It’s a reminder that despite our own notions about how different groups of people — black and white, young and old, religious and not — interact or should interact in theory, there’s really no compass for how those interactions will play out, neither now nor in the context of the play’s Civil War era. Wounded soldier Caleb and former slaves John and Simon (played by Ryan Barry, Damian Thompson and Michael A. Shepperd, respectively) challenge one another’s

Read more >

Quick Picks: Big Buck Classic + concerts, screenings, theater openings

Bill Krallman hangs a deer mount for a contest display at the Arkansas Big Buck Classic in 2011. The event is the largest deer hunting expo in the state. / Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo


Lunch with TED at Ron Robinson: Free screening, begins at noon. More info here.


Argenta Acoustic Music Series: Al Petteway at The Joint, $20, begins at 7:30 p.m.


The Magic Flute by Mozart at Albert Pike Masonic Center; 7 p.m. both days, $25 general admission


Screening of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark at Ron Robinson Theater, $5. Begins at 7 p.m. More info here.


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opens at Precipice Theatre: 7:30 p.m., tickets are $14 for adults (show continues on weekends through Feb. 1)


Opening night of The Whipping Man at The Rep; curtain is at 8 p.m., and show dates continue through Feb. 8.


Opening of Rumpelstiltskin at Arkansas Arts Center. Show runs through Feb. 8, and tickets are $12.50 for adults and children.


Big Buck Classic at the Arkansas State Fair Complex, featuring a  Chili Cook-off at Barton Coliseum from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.… Read more >

Quick Picks: New Year’s Eve parties, last chance to see Elf and Chihuly

Dale Chihuly's Reeds installation at the Clinton Presidential Library in May 2014.  Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MELISSA SUE GERRITS

Dale Chihuly’s Reeds installation at the Clinton Presidential Library in May 2014. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MELISSA SUE GERRITS

Top events this week in central Arkansas: 


Last chance to see the musical production of Elf at Arkansas Repertory Theatre. All shows are sold out, but 10 standing-room only bar-stool seats are available an hour before the performance for $40 each.


This is the final week of the Chihuly exhibit at the Clinton Presidential Center. Regular admission is $7 for adults.

Read about other exhibit and show closings this weekend hereRead more >

An interview with the cast of Elf

Photo submitted by The Rep

Photo submitted by The Rep

Elf continues through Jan. 4 at Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Read our preview of the show here and our review here. Visit for ticket and showtime information.

On the best part of being in a Christmas musical:

“It’s always great to do a Christmas show because it’s full of fun and joy, it’s a great time of year and people are coming to the show to be excited … I think the biggest thing that’s exciting to me is it’s a fun time of year and it’s a fun show, so people come with a lot of joy.”

— David Hess (Walter Hobbs)

On the musical qualities of this production:

“It has a contemporary kind of pop sort of tuneful catchiness, but the orchestrations are a real throwback — it’s what excited our musical director for sure because he loves that old-school sound. [The music] also creates opportunities for the story to be a little different, in terms of the way these people who wrote the adaptation choose to use music to forward the story. It changes relationships and dynamics. All of this stuff you want to see from the movie is in there, … Read more >

Wait Until Dark a smart, suspense-filled thriller


Truth be told, I’m not such a fan of scary anything. Movies, stories, TV shows, nothing. But I’ve never considered what it’d be like to be scared from the stage, so when I heard about The Rep’s most recent production, Wait Until Dark, my curiosity got the better of my nerves.

I say this to tempt the other scaredy-cats out there to get it together and give Wait Until Dark a chance. The chills come from suspense and intrigue more than a pop-out-and-say-boo kind of scare.

I won’t give away too much plot-wise, but the story centers around a woman named Susy (Amy Hutchins) and three con men who want a doll from her — a doll filled with heroin, naturally. Susy lost her sight in an accident a year prior, and her husband is gone most of the play, which takes place more or less within the span of 24 hours in Susy’s apartment. With the help of her neighbor, Gloria, a surly but loyal 8- or 9-year-old, Susy holds her own despite her blindness, which causes most people to underestimate her.… Read more >

Hockadoo! Memphis is maybe The Rep’s best yet

Photo by Stephen Thornton for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre

Photo by Stephen Thornton for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre

There’s a laundry list of reasons you should see Memphis, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s opening show of its 2014-15 season: the musical won four Tonys, including Best Musical, in 2010. Music and lyrics are by David Bryan, keyboardist for Bon Jovi (!). The Little Rock cast boasts incredible talent assembled from all of the country.

But with the musical’s setting in Memphis, Tennessee, less than a two-hour drive from Little Rock, much of the show’s music, lyrics and themes will hit closer to home for Arkansas audiences than those who have never been to Beale. To sit in the audience at The Rep’s Memphis is to witness a show about an old friend, or a relative you once met. Sure, he has a shady past and some truly deplorable habits, but man, could he sing!

Memphis delves into the role music played in racial divisions in the 1950s Bible Belt. One Huey Calhoun (Brent DiRoma), a lovable dope who can’t get enough of “that underground sound” despite his bigoted mother’s better judgement, is an unlikely hero. He and his mother are poor, and without an education or conventional work ethic, … Read more >

Get your fill of performing arts this weekend

Feeling like you haven’t seen enough onstage this summer? How about you take the rest of the week to catch up — after all, this is your last chance for several of these performances, including those by the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, The Rep and Armadillo Rodeo.

Follow links to find out more about each performance.

Garrett Whitehead (left) as Pippin and Evan Tyrone Martin as Leading Player

Garrett Whitehead (left) as Pippin and Evan Tyrone Martin as Leading Player in Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s Pippin

Read more >

The Rep season ends on a high note with Compleat Wrks

Patrick Halley in The Rep's Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged).

Patrick Halley in The Rep’s Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged).

To be (or not to be) a fan of Shakespeare is not a requirement of enjoying the current show at The Rep.

See what I did there?

Plays on words and themes from Shakespeare’s 38-play repertoire are the focus of Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), which opened last week at The Rep. As a fan of The Bard, I’ve been looking forward to this show since The Rep’s season line-up was announced last year. But my date to the show admitted she’d never had the least bit of interest in Shakespeare, having zoned out during much of high school English, so she wasn’t sure she would catch many of the jokes.

But with our knowledge of the writer and poet at different ends of the spectrum, it’s safe to say we loved the show equally (we both complained of sore cheeks from laughing by intermission). The humor is a brilliant mix of choreographed and improvised, high-brow and slap-stick, inside jokes, rapping, puppet shows, audience participation, bathroom humor, all of the above. I’m a big fan of silly and surprising, and I felt constantly on my toes during … Read more >

Succinct Shakespeare: Compleat Wrks opens at The Rep

This Scene was originally published in the June 4, 2014, issue of Sync.

Avery Clark is one of three cast members in The Rep's Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged).

Avery Clark is one of three cast members in The Rep’s Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged).

If you’re looking for a crash course in William Shakespeare, you could sit down and read through the poet and playwright’s complete works — some 38 plays — or you could witness bits and pieces from the entirety of his canon in a quick trip to the Arkansas Repertory Theatre sometime this month.

The Rep’s final production of the 2013-14 season is The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), which parodies the best of the Bard of Avon while staying true to many of the themes and characters of the original plays.

So: Can you really fit 38 plays into one two-hour performance?… Read more >

Hilarious Second City cast here through Saturday

Photo by Todd Rosenberg // Sarah Shook and Adam Peacock are two of six Second City cast members at The Rep.

Photo by Todd Rosenberg // Sarah Shook and Adam Peacock are two of six Second City cast members at The Rep.

The Second City is part sketch comedy, part improvisation and all hysterically funny. The Chicago-based comedy troupe opened at The Rep last week and wraps up on Sunday, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you have this weekend to see live some actors who may end up being some of the biggest stars in comedy. The Second City is to the comedy world what the Mickey Mouse Club was to ’90s/2000 pop: the training ground for those who are going to make it.… Read more >

Syd Hayman is a beauty, entertainment and pop culture fanatic who enjoys trying different metro restaurants that satisfy picky eaters. Tweet her at @TheSydRichi.