by Max Brantley
(Here's our story this week about the renovation.)
I was fortunate to join the crowd tonight for the grand reopening of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, refurbished after a major capital campaign. The audience included the 300 or so who gave $1,000 or more ($1 miillion on the high end) for the project.
County Judge Buddy Villines got to ham up some lines from Shakespeare, given some stage time for the county's contribution of road and bridge fund money to sidewalk repair. Gov. Mike Beebe, with a touching tribute to his wife Ginger for dragging him to Rep productions, lauded what the Rep brings to Main Street Little Rock. (The state also contributed to the campaign.) Chip and Cindy Murphy and Warren and Harriet Stephens were the big-letter donors on the plaque in the lobby. Some mighty big names were missing from the honor roll, I'd note, but I'll let you look through the list on your next visit and notice the penny-pinchers on your own.
Mayor Mark Stodola was otherwise engaged tonight, I guess. His primary interest is at the other end of Main Street, at LR Chamber hq, after all. The city didn't turn up as a major donor to this project. It undoubtedly would beg poverty. Perhaps, in the future, rolling in new tax dough, that will change.
The Rep brought in headliners from past hit productions — "Gypsy," "Dream Girls." "Joseph ...," "Les Miz," etc., for a quick round of belt-em-out hits. The cast of the coming Johnny Cash jukebox, "Ring of Fire," also sang some tunes. That show is going to be good.
This place is a treasure. It draws huge crowds from all over the state. It looks so much better. It adds to Little Rock immeasurably. You should go. And it's still possible to give. There's always more to be done, though, for now, the restrooms are dramatically improved.