$1M Raised, The Rep Aims for New Productions in 2019

by Sarah Campbell-Miller  on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 10:09 am   3 min read

Ruth Shepherd

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre plans to resume productions after the first of the year now that it has a new budget and raised enough money to pay off debt.

The Rep, which suspended operations in April amid a decline in contributions and ticket sales, announced Wednesday its 2018-19 slate of officers and named seven new members to its 29-member board of directors.

Ruth Shepherd, who retired in 2016 as executive director of Just Communities of Arkansas, is the new board chair. She said the professional theater company is on better financial footing thanks to $500,000 in "mostly small donations" and another $500,000 in matching funds provided by the Windgate Charitable Foundation of Siloam Springs. 

More than 1,000 people in nearly 30 states have made donations to the Rep, Shepherd said.

"We're feeling very buoyed right now by what's been going on," she said. "We've hit every mark we said we had to hit."

The $1 million is enough for the organization to pay off debt and operate through Dec. 31 without more revenue or expenses and with a budget that the board has approved, Shepherd said. She said The Rep's productions will resume after the first of the year and promised that more details would be announced mid-September.

In the meantime, the theater is continuing to collect donations, rehiring or hiring staff and renting its space out as a venue for events, she said.

"I think the most difficult and bravest decision that our board ever made was when we voted to go dark in April, because it was excruciatingly difficult to do that," she said. 

But the move gave the theater an opportunity that most 40-year-old organizations don't get — an opportunity to thoroughly examine its operations. 

"Things are just taken for granted … We've been able to ask 'why' about so many things, and that's a really healthy exercise for all of us to go through," she said. "So I think, in the long run, we're going to be a much stronger theater. We're leading right now with fiscal responsibility, but we haven't given up our absolute dedication to being the best, in terms of artistic quality and artistic choices."

Other board officers for 2018-19 are Chuck Cliett, vice chair; Abtin Mehdizadegan, secretary; and Michelle Mann, treasurer. 

Cliett is a partner at Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard of Little Rock, and Mehdizadegan is an attorney with Cross Gunter Witherspoon & Galchus of Little Rock. Mann is tax senior manager with HoganTaylor Accountants & Consultants of Little Rock.

New additions to the board, who were elected to three-year terms, are:

  • Randall Bynum of Little Rock, a managing partner at Dover Dixon Horne PLLC who focuses on the energy, utilities, telecom, insurance and medical marijuana practice areas.
  • Laura Martin of Little Rock, community relations coordinator for the Little Rock Police Department and south central regional educational advancement coordinator for Alpha Kappa Sorority Inc.
  • Lori Maxwell of Sherwood, a founding partner of Maxwell Certified Public Accountants in Sherwood, CFO of Pool Fisheries in Lonoke and co-owner of O'Hara Automotive in North Little Rock.
  • Dr. Sharon Meador of Little Rock, a physician with ARcare in Conway.
  • Lanny Nickell of North Little Rock, vice president of engineering at Southwest Power Pool.
  • B.J. Walker of Little Rock, a member of the Rose Law Firm who specializes in complex civil litigation and has chaired the firm's litigation practice group since 2013. He is also a past president of the Pulaski County Bar Association.
  • Herman Williams of Little Rock, director of legislative affairs for ARcare and co-executive director and vice president of networks for the Arkansas Family Health Foundation. He previously served as community affairs director and senior advisor to former Gov. Mike Beebe and is a retired Army veteran.

Also joining the board for a limited one-year term as incoming chair of Stagehands, the theater's auxiliary volunteer organization, will be Barbara Harpool, a tax accountant at P. Andrew Carpenter C.P.A. of Little Rock.



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