Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre announces seventh season lineup

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s seventh season of entertaining and thought-provoking summer theatre in repertory will run June 6-30 at multiple venues: the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall on the University of Central Arkansas campus and The Village at Hendrix, both in Conway, as well as outdoors in the Argenta Arts District in North Little Rock.

The season will include “Much Ado About Nothing,” “King Lear,” “Oliver!” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” adapted for a young audience.

“Actors, designers and crew will arrive in Conway on May 12 and begin the exciting process of creating the four shows we’ll produce in multiple venues in Central Arkansas,” said Dr. Mary Ruth Marotte, AST’s executive director. “We will open “Much Ado About Nothing” at The Village at Hendrix on June 6 and then move this production to the Argenta Arts District in North Little Rock for performances on June 21 and 22.

With “pay-what-you-can performances” at these two outdoor venues, AST officials hope that theater-goers in Arkansas and around the region will embrace AST as reflection of the cultural and artistic growth that is currently under way in the state.

“Our outdoor venue at The Village has drawn huge crowds the last two years, and we look forward to bringing our professional theatre to a wider audience with the addition of an outdoor venue in Argenta.” Marotte said.

The remaining productions will be performed at Reynolds Performance Hall on the UCA campus, home to AST.

“Every summer we have artists converge on Conway from across our country to create great productions in an extremely short period of time, and all of us really become a family,” said Producing Artistic Director Rebekah Scallet.“It is therefore fitting that our theme for this summer is ‘family.’

“The importance of family runs through all of the productions this year, from the obvious connections in King Lear (the story of a father who abdicates power to his daughters only to find the ties that bind are not as strong as he thought) and Oliver! (following an orphan’s search to find ‘love’ and a family) to the not so obvious in Much Ado, which also has an orphan at its center — Beatrice. Having just started a family myself with the birth of my son in September, this is definitely a topic that finds resonance with me, as I trust it will with our audiences this summer.”

Chicago-based actor Ron Thomas and Little Rock-based actress Heather Dupree, who both starred in last summer’s Twelfth Night, will take on the roles of sparring lovers Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Other productions this summer include King Lear (starring veteran Shakespearean actor Henson Keys as Lear) and directed by Scallet; a children’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, dubbed “Bottom’s Dream,” directed by AST’s beloved actor and director Josh Rice; and the family-friendly musical Oliver!, directed by DJ Salisbury and featuring New York-based actor Warren Kelly as Fagin and marking the premiere of Simon Marotte of Conway in the title role.

All productions except Much Ado will be performed in Reynolds Performance Hall. The season will close June 30 with a matinee performance of King Lear in Reynolds. Subscriptions for the season are on sale; single tickets for any show may be purchased online at www.arkshakes.com or by phone at the Reynolds box office at 866-810-0012.

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