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Arkansas Repertory Theatre. (Photo by Peter James Zielinski)

Arkansas Rep to Suspend Operations

The state’s largest theatre has cancelled the remainder of its season, citing financial troubles.

LITTLE ROCK, ARK.: Arkansas Repertory Theatre has suspended current operations, effective immediately. The theatre will not present God of Carnage, the final production slated for the 2017-18 season. The board is evaluating the possible future of the company, including fundraising efforts to save the theatre.

“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,” said board chair Brian Bush in a statement. “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 tremendous asset to our city. Closing the Rep will have a devastating impact on the redevelopment of Main Street and the creative corridor.”

Arkansas Rep has a budget of $4 million and is the largest theatre in the state. On May 8, producing artistic director John Miller-Stephany will step down from his role along with a majority of the staff members; Miller-Stephany has led the theatre since 2016.

“I am tremendously grateful for the opportunities afforded me—and for the personal support that I have received—during these past 18 months,” said Miller-Stephany in a statement. “My hope is that the Rep will survive the current crisis in some form. However, I sadly do not see a place for myself in the reimagined Rep.”

A few staffers will stay on to conduct the Rep’s summer education program, after which the theatre will suspend all operations on Aug. 3. Board chair-elect Ruth Shepherd is leading a committee of board members to fundraise for the Rep.

“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 in a statement. “Continuing to produce at the level in which Arkansas audiences have come to expect from the Rep would have put us more in debt.” But the curtain has not yet closed on the theatre, according to Shepard. “I think this community loves the Rep and understands the value of having a professional theatre that produces work here for Arkansans. Therefore, I hope that everyone who cares will step up and write a check and offer to help reimagine what the Rep can be in our community and state.”

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