Fifty cast members are gearing up for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s 2017 season.
Executive Director Mary Marotte said the AST will open its 11th season with "Love’s Labour’s Lost" June 9 on the lawn at the University of Central Arkansas.
"The witty romantic comedy features an epic battle of sexes as a group of young men who have sworn off women in favor of their studies find themselves falling in love," she said.
This season is full with more than 30 performances of the four productions chosen: "Love’s Labour’s Lost," "Julius Caesar," Meredith Willson’s "The Music Man" and "The Taming of the Shrew."
The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre was founded in 2006.
Its mission is to "entertain, engage and enrich the community" by creating both professional and accessible productions of Shakespeare’s work and others that promote involvement from the community and educational opportunities.
One of the aspects that make the theater group stand out, Marotte said, is the touring shows they offer.
"This year it’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ … [it] has really grown," she 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, and now we have almost a dozen stops."
The touring feature, she said, allows them to bring the shows to audiences that may not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience and see live theater, let alone Shakespearean works.
Marotte said people should take advantage of that quality and come out to enjoy the shows that are free — or rather audiences donate what they can — and open to the public.
"It’s the only professional Shakespeare festival in the state," she said. "It’s accessible and fun … a real source of local pride."
For AST, funds for production come from both corporate and individual sponsors.
"UCA is a huge supporter," Marotte said.
During the annual ArkansasGives donation day, AST received $16,179.84, sitting in the top 10 of the nonprofits in Faulkner County that received the most donations.
Marotte said as the season is coming up quickly, one of the parts she enjoys most is seeing the kids laugh and enjoy the plays. She said she is excited for what is about to start.
"When the new company arrives each year, I realize that all the hard work has paid off … the season is going to happen," she said.
Marotte said audiences attending the lawn shows are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic supplies to enjoy the show. She said Mosaique Bistro of Conway would also be selling food and drinks during the shows at UCA.
The shows are as follows:
• "Love’s Labour’s Lost" from June 9 to July 7 on the lawn at UCA.
• "Julius Caesar" June 23 to July 9 on-stage in Reynolds Performance Hall at UCA.
• Meredith Willson’s "The Music Man," directed and choreographed by Ann Cooley June 16 to July 8 on the stage in Reynolds Performance Hall at UCA.
• "The Taming of the Shrew," June 29 to July 9 on the stage in Reynolds Performance Hall.
Cast members will tour across the stage to produce "The Taming of the Shrew" at 6 p.m. June 20 and 21 at The Joint at in Argenta Arts District in North Little Rock, 7:30 p.m. June 24 at Winthrop Rockefeller Institute at Petit Jean Mountain, 7 p.m. June 28 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, 7 p.m. June 30 at the Hot Springs Farmer’s Market Pavilion, sponsored by the HSA Cultural Alliance, 6:30 p.m. July 3 as part of "Sparks in the Park" in East Side Park, Magnolia and 2 p.m. July 9 at Fowler Center at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
There are three ways to purchase tickets to the events: in person at Reynolds Performance Hall at UCA, by phone at 501-450-3265/866-810-0012 or online at tickets.uca.edu/arkansas-shakespeare.