Guest blog by April Fatula on behalf of UCA
The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre Festival at the University of Central Arkansas is halfway through its season, but two of the Bard’s most famous works are still to be performed – with Julius Caesar opening this weekend.
“We opened our second show, The Music Man, to a sold-out crowd who absolutely loved it,” said AST executive director Mary Ruth Marotte. “So far it seems to be a very successful festival, with large groups and enthusiastic audiences.”
AST opened its 11th season June 9 with Love’s Labour’s Lost. Directed by AST Producing Artistic Director Rebekah Scallet, Love’s Labour’s Lost is presented outside on the lawn at UCA.
On June 23, AST will open the acclaimed tragedy Julius Caesar, the famous retelling of the infamous leader’s assassination and its aftermath. Both The Music Man and Julius Caesar are performed in UCA’s Reynolds Performance Hall with the same intimate on-stage seating arrangement that has become a hallmark of the company’s work. Robert Ramirez, head of the acting program at the University of Texas at Austin, will make his AST debut directing Julius Caesar.
The Taming of the Shrew, a one-hour adaptation of Shakespeare’s epic battle of words, will have a limited run at Reynolds Performance Hall beginning June 29, in addition to touring throughout the state. This show is also AST’s family Shakespeare production for 2017.
“This will be our sixth year touring around Arkansas,” Marotte said. “We started with shows in Argenta in North Little Rock and expanded the next year to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. Now we have almost a dozen touring locations all over the state.”
Marotte reaches out to various individuals instrumental in furthering the arts in their communities to select these venues. “We have made great connections over the years, and we are happy to say we are adding a show in Jonesboro this year,” she said.
Chad Bradford, the director of The Taming of the Shrew, decided he wanted to explore the relationship between Petruchio and Kate with a 21st-century audience in mind. “I think that Shrew is a love story,” he said. “It’s funny, provocative and challenging, all at the same time. Like all of Shakespeare’s work, it was written in a particular time with a particular audience in mind. The mores and expectations of an Elizabethan audience were very similar, and in some instances, very different than ours. Our task is to bravely confront the differences in our own contemporary expectations with the social norms of the Elizabethan era. In our version, that means embracing the broad characters and physical comedy, and emphasizing the idea of surrender versus submission.”
AST makes its home on the campus of UCA and is housed in the College of Fine Arts and Communication. This professional company brings respected and experienced Shakespearean actors to Arkansas for each season, producing vibrant, engaging, lively and provocative performances for all Arkansans. It is also a major educational force in the state.
To view the complete schedule, purchase tickets and obtain more information, visit www.arkshakes.com/.
Photos courtesy of Kristen Spickard