Advertisement

Theaters debut some shows, send others packing

Bookmark this
26 December, 2018 By Becca Martin-Brown
Arkansas Public Theatre

Arkansas Public Theatre

When a theater snob from the big city says "world premiere," it's a safe bet that "Northwest Arkansas" isn't anywhere in the same sentence.

But he'd be wrong -- in ways even people who live in Northwest Arkansas might not realize.

In point of fact, this region has been launching new scripts since Kent R. Brown founded the Mount Sequoyah New Play Retreat in 1985. At the same time, he was busy debuting his own scripts, among them "Valentines and Killer Chili," "Dancing the Box Step" and "Welcome to Four Way: The Town That Time Forgot."

Mark Landon Smith, executive director of Arts Live Theatre, has been creating adaptations for the Fayetteville children's company as far back as "The Pirate Show" in 2007 -- a total of nine so far -- but he's also the author of 10 scripts published by Baker's Plays/Samuel French and Steele Spring Publishing, Drama Source and Contemporary Drama Service, including three foreign translations, an Off-Broadway production, a film adaptation and numerous productions throughout the world.

And at TheatreSquared, "celebrating, fostering and launching new work is in our very DNA," says Bob Ford, artistic director of the region's only professional theater company and one of its founders. "Right off the bat, in our second season [2006], we premiered a new play called 'My Father's War,' [written by Ford] which then popped up in theaters around the country and in Europe. Since then we've produced 10 more world premieres of new plays and adaptations, and in April we'll be producing the 11th annual Arkansas New Play Festival, a virtual hatchery of new work for the American stage."

Surprisingly, perhaps, it was a non-professional company that scored headlines beyond the region in 2018. "Things to Do in Munich," a new play by Oren Safdie, had its world premiere Nov. 2 at Arkansas Public Theatre in Rogers, getting national attention from Broadway World and The Jerusalem Post.

"I'm excited for APT to be out there and mentioned in those publications," Ed McClure, director of the play and one of the founders of APT, said at the time. "And I'm happy for Oren. For the last 20 years, I've been going to New York and seeing shows, and it mystifies me that his work is not done more than it is. I find his scripts to be as compelling as many, many things I've seen."

But it wasn't the first new work on the APT stage. The community theater company debuted Safdie's "Checks and Balances" in November 2012, along with two adaptations by McClure, "Christmas Carol Today" and "#achristmascarol," in 2012 and 2015, respectively.

"The mission of APT is to produce classic, cutting edge and fresh-from-Broadway productions enhancing the arts community in Northwest Arkansas," McClure says. "'Munich' fits our mission because our mission extends what typical community theater is and does. 'Munich' validates our mission.

"For actors, it is the chance of a lifetime to get to originate a role, to play a part that no one else has ever done and do it without any preconceived ideas about what that character looks like, sounds like or acts like," he goes on. "For audiences, it's a chance to be part of history, right? You are seeing something that no one else has ever seen."

APT will offer the first non-professional production of "Stupid Kid" by Sharr White in March.

"Any chance we can make a connection with a great playwright, we will -- if they are willing and the script is worthy," McClure says.

"We love the risk and the excitement of being the first theater in the world to put on a new play," agrees Ford of T2, "and we feel an urgent need to be a part of the national conversation, a strong voice for our region. We couldn't be more pleased to see so much new work being launched in Northwest Arkansas."


FYI

Region Launches

National Tours

Premiering new works isn’t the region’s only claim to theatrical fame. Both the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville and the Alma Performing Arts Center in the River Valley have been the home base for new shows getting ready to go on tour since WAC launched “A Chorus Line” in the fall of 1997.

Since opening in 1990, the WAC total is up to 10, counting “The Lightning Thief,” coming in January 2019, and “Falsettos” in February 2019. The Alma PAC, now in its 16th year, boasts at least five, including most recently “The Wizard of Oz” in October.

“For us, the experience is invaluable and very satisfying,” says Teresa Schlabach, executive director of the Alma PAC. “Our students are able to work with the companies and have a professional experience working with Broadway tours. To be able to help these professional actors, actresses, audio, lighting and technical engineers get their shows ready for the road is fantastic.”

“Our mission is to bring world-class arts experiences to our region, and hosting technical rehearsals and launching national tours does just that,” adds WAC spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson. “Not only does this allow our patrons to see the first performances of a tour, usually direct from New York, but … on some level, that means that we’ve had an impact on communities across the country because of the role that we’ve played in each of these tours.”


Advertisement

Recent Articles

Arkansas firm buys Branson duck boats

Arkansas firm buys Branson duck boats

in Community News

The scion of a local family that has operated duck boats in Hot Springs since 1992 has acquired boats bearing the logo of the Branson, Mo., operator involved in last summer's fatal duck boat sinking.

May 6, 2019 By David Showers

Chalk joins mediums of choice in Eureka Springs

Chalk joins mediums of choice in Eureka Springs

in Community News

Sandy Royce Martin, chairwoman of the Eureka Springs Arts Council, says that adding the Chalk Art Festival -- running May 15-18 this year -- to the venerated May Festival of the Arts lineup was a matter of popular demand.

May 6, 2019 By Lara Hightower

May Festival of the Arts blends new with tried and true

May Festival of the Arts blends new with tried and true

in Community News, Event News

May Festival of the Arts is a tradition among locals, regionals and repeat visitors. Over the past several years, it has also become an international attraction for Eureka Springs.

April 29, 2019 By Becca Martin-Brown

Family-owned and neighborly: Acapulco is Springdale's authentic Mexican restaurant

Family-owned and neighborly: Acapulco is Springdale's authentic Mexican restaurant

in Food & Drink News

The restaurant has been open for over a decade on East Robinson Avenue in Springdale, and Ruben Almazan has kept it a family business, with his wife and their two sets of twins all pitching in to keep it running smoothly.

April 30, 2019 By Best of Northwest Arkansas

Must Read Articles

LIVE! in NWA

LIVE! in NWA

in Entertainment News, Event News

See our live music calendar for Nov 12-17 in NWA.

November 12, 2018 By Best of Northwest Arkansas

Arkansas making its name in the movies

Arkansas making its name in the movies

in Entertainment News

"We found Bentonville to be full of wonderful people who greeted our production with open arms, anxious to help us in any way possible."

December 27, 2018 By Lara Jo Hightower

Big Band Brings Best Of Both Worlds Together

Big Band Brings Best Of Both Worlds Together

in Community News, Event News

The annual Valentine's Day Dance at Riordan Hall in Bella Vista will feature a brand new band this year, but longtime fans will be able to spot some familiar faces.

January 22, 2019 By Lynn Atkins