As Jennifer Wilson-Harvey and Jack Harvey finalize details for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s Saints and Sinners gala, they reflect on the value of the performing arts in their own lives and the lives of countless Arkansans.
By Barrett Gay | Photography by Caleb Shane | Hair by Ellis Martin with Fringe Benefits Salon | Makeup by Augusta Andrews with B. Barnett | Shot on location at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre
For El Dorado native Jennifer Wilson-Harvey, managing partner at Wilson & Associates, theatre is an unparalleled cultural experience — one that she’s treasured for decades. “It’s different from going to a movie. I love my movies and my bucket of popcorn, but there’s nothing like watching the actors perform their craft live and getting lost in it,” she explains. Jennifer and her husband Jack Harvey, founder of Enterprise Financial Group, are captivated by stage productions, and iconic Broadway shows are a must-see priority during their trips to New York City. “We’ll go for two days and see four plays,” Jack says.
Jennifer has supported the Arkansas Repertory Theatre for more than three decades, since its early days. As a devoted patron, she served a term with the board of directors from 2009-2012, and her commitment to The Rep remains unwavering. Jennifer emphasizes the theatre’s local appeal, “It is produced for us, here, by us.” This year, she and Jack will welcome friends to The Rep’s prestigious Saints and Sinners gala. “Jennifer and Jack are dear friends to The Rep,” notes Producing Artistic Director John Miller-Stephany. “They attend all The Rep productions and events – and usually bring family and friends along with them. They make a wonderful team, and their dedication and energy level are truly amazing!”
As the state’s largest nonprofit resident theatre company, The Rep brings in an impressive 70,000 attendees each year, but ticket sales only account for approximately 50 percent of production costs. The Rep depends on fundraisers such as Saints and Sinners for necessary support to continue its unrivaled programming, which includes educational opportunities for young Arkansans through various camps, classes and workshops. Under the direction of the theatre’s professional faculty, students develop skills in improvisation, a cappella, choreography, character development and more. “The Rep reaches 7,500 students annually,” Jack explains. Last summer alone, more than 150 students participated in the acting and musical theatre training programs.
Jack also recognizes The Rep’s role as an artistic institution in the Capital City. “It’s wonderful economically. A theatre is a cultural asset that grounds an area of the city, which this does on our Main Street,” he says. Notably, The Rep is the only League of Resident Theatres member within a 300-mile radius. As the largest professional theatre association in the United States, LORT promotes the welfare of resident theatres throughout the country.
Celebrating more than 30 years of success, Saints and Sinners features a unique and interactive auction item — guests have the exciting opportunity to win a minor role in the new season. Though she stresses she is not an actress, Jennifer has enjoyed her own moments in the spotlight — she purchased a role in a showing of two of The Rep’s productions, Evita and To Kill a Mockingbird, at the gala. “That was so fun — it was frightening, though,” she recalls.
At dinner, guests will be delighted with a short performance created by The Rep’s Production Manager Rafael Castanera. “The theme this year is Believe,” John notes. “The entertainment for Saints and Sinners will invite guests to remember the power of a child’s imagination and celebrate the theatre’s ability to reconnect adults with that sense of wonder and possibility.” Jennifer adds, “This is an original work, written, directed and produced right here. This is the only night you will see it, and it is going to be spectacular.”
As she and Jack make final plans for Saints and Sinners, Jennifer best explains the reason for their continued level of dedication, “I just love live theater, there is nothing like it.”