AThe Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre group will open its fifth season on June 16, as "a family-friendly" summer festival.

Director Mary Ruth Marotte, of Conway, said that the company has made a "conscious effort" to make the productions a family affair.

Of its four plays, "Othello", she said, may be the one to consider saving for older family members.

"I think that children from 14 and 16 should be able to attend. It is the subject matter of the piece."

Adult situations and themes may prove less appropriate for children, though "As You Like It," she said, is an opportune time to introduce young children to Shakespeare.

"As You Like It" is the first of the four productions in the season, and it will debut at the Village at Hendrix's green space June 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Marotte said that an hour before the play, interactive activities for children will be available.

Opening "pre-shows" are scheduled for all showings at the Village at Hendrix and at the University of Central Arkansas Reynolds Performance Hall, and will feature local musicians and other talent.

"Local talent, music groups and comedy acts will open each show in Reynolds and at the green space. ‘As You Like It' Director Andrew Hamm will open the show at Hendrix with singing and dancing," said Marotte.

A production specifically designed for the kids is "The Tortoise and the Hare," and would be ideal for most age groups and especially those 12 years and younger, she said.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" will feature 20 local children in its cast.

"It's one of the great musicals of our time," said Marotte. "It is so great. It is, actually - you can't stop singing it."

The season ends July 3, with productions at a new venue for the theatre group, the Argenta Community Theatre in North Little Rock.

A schedule and ticket information is available at www.arkshakes.com.

Look to Thursday's Go & Do page for more on the actors of AST.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)