An eager crowd filed into University of Central Arkansas President Houston Davis’s house for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s 2019 Season Reveal Party and art show fundraiser on Thursday.
“I am so proud to live in a place that really embraces a Shakespeare festival like you [all] have,” AST Executive Director Mary Ruth Marotte said, addressing the crowd of donors and guests. “So many of the people here have really done that from the very first day.”
Davis said the theatre is something that is special to both he and his wife, Jenny, an aspect to the area that initially drew them in when considering taking the new position at the university.
To guests, he made note of how a lot of what AST does and is able to do is because of their support and love for the company year after year.
“You are a part of something very important,” Davis said. “You are a part of making the arts a priority, of making Conway and central Arkansas a very special place to live.”
As everyone was gathered together, Rebekah Scallet, producing artistic director, announced the upcoming shows in a unique way.
“I am so excited to stand here and share the news about what we have coming for the summer of 2019,” she said. “Tonight, we’re going to do the reveal a little bit differently. Instead of just announcing the season, it’s going to be interactive.”
Scallet then introduced four volunteer actors from prior productions — Michael Goodbar Will Stotts, Emily Wold and Chris Fritzges — and said each was going to perform a bit from an upcoming play and then guests would be allowed to guess the production.
She said the first outdoor show, back on the lawn of McAlister Hall on campus, was the season’s comedy, “The Comedy of Errors,” performed by Goodbar.
“It is our 13th season, this coming summer, which is often considered unlucky, the No. 13, so to counteract that we’re doing a season that’s all about fate and chance,” Scallet said.
Next up was Stotts, who sang a couple lines from the Broadway musical, “Guys and Dolls,” sending the room into chorus.
Third was Wold who performed a bit from, “Macbeth,” and Fritzges, who took on this season’s family and touring show, “Romeo and Juliet.”
“It’ll be a change for us this year with our family Shakespeare,” Scallet said. “It’s the first time we’ll be doing a tragedy but I’m really excited about that because it’s such a wonderful show.”
She said it will showcase comedy, romance and music while also covering real human emotions that everyone will be able to connect to.
The Log Cabin Democrat asked Scallet, who has been with AST for eight years, what she was most looking forward to.
“They’re four plays that are fantastic and I am particularly excited about, ‘Guys and Dolls,’ which, I think, is such a fun musical and so beloved,” she said. “So, I think getting to do that but put our own unique AST spin on it will be a lot of fun.”
Scallet said she is grateful to be a part of the company and the community that has formed around it.
“I feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of this family that we have here,” she said. “It’s a wonderful group. Everyone that comes together, it’s such a special community and family of people that make AST happen.”
Scallet made note of additional company announcements including the “sizable grant” they recently received from the Sturgis Area Community Foundation, which allowed them to upgrade their lighting equipment outside.
“This is a huge thing for us,” she said. “[We will] really be able to invest in making those outdoor shows as special and as wonderful as we can.”
Scallet also spoke about the significance of the traveling show, “Much Ado About Nothing,” which she said has grown over the years; she also noted that due to funds provided through Toad Suck Daze in Conway, the group was able to perform at every school in Faulkner County and plan to extend that to Monticello and Leslie, Arkansas.
“[That will] really help us fulfill our mission of bringing Shakespeare and making Shakespeare accessible to everyone in our state so that’s been a really huge thing for us and we’re really excited about that as well,” she said.
Scallet said tickets for the season, which will go from June 7-July 7, are set to go on sale April 15.
“Don’t leave it up to chance, make your plans now to join us for this serendipitous season,” Scallet said in a reveal video on Facebook.
During the evening, Marotte also revealed the hosts for the 2019 Bard Ball, Conway’s Lori Quinn and Brad Lacy.