The Rep plans to lease 6,700 square feet on the ground floor of the building and on the second story of its annex, located between it and the old M.M. Cohn building. Hupp said The Rep has raised from private donors $269,000 toward its goal of $400,000 to outfit the space — a black box studio, dressing rooms, three classrooms, a box office and other office space — with moveable fixtures like lights and a sound system. The Rep will use the space to conduct theater classes for children 10 and up all year round. The black box theater — which will be available to the public as well as serve as studio space for the school — will be off the entrance lobby on the ground floor and stairs will lead to three classrooms on the upper floor of the annex building between the Arkansas Building and the M.M. Cohn Building.
The Rep's director of education, Nicole Capri, who heads the theater's vaunted Summer Musical Theatre Intensive, will develop all new programming for the new space.
A veneer on the exterior of the Arkansas building will be removed to expose four granite columns that have been covered up for decades; awnings and cast iron details will be added. The front glass windows will be 17 feet high. Ballet Arkansas, which has signed a letter of intent to occupy space adjacent to the Rep's in the Arkansas building, says the glass front will allow passersby to watch the dancers rehearse their performances.
The Arkansas Symphony has signed a lease for the space on the ground the annex and the M.M. Cohn Building.
The Rep has until Aug. 15, its deadline to sign the lease, to raise the remaining $131,000. It raised nearly $300,000 in two months, so Hupp is confident it will meet the deadline. He said it's been an easy sell, thanks to the passion of families whose youth have participated in Rep programs and "seen what the program has done for their kids."
The Rep ran a traveling theater program that visited junior and senior high schools for two decades but a tough economy and the theater's focus on raising money for the renovation of the Rep — a $6 million endeavor completed in 2011 — ended the program.
Hupp said the theater has been discussing year-round programming for six or seven years; it began looking for space three years ago and found the Arkansas building "ideally suited to our needs." The non-profit has done due diligence "to make sure it's a smart move financially," and has developed a "very conservative" budget that anticipates serving 135 youth over a year's time.