Arkansas Repertory Theatre
City: Little Rock
Category: Nonprofit Organization of the Year
The Great Recession hit the Arkansas Repertory Theatre hard. Although revenue had increased 11 percent in fiscal 2008-09 compared with the year earlier period, by 2009-10 the Rep saw an 8 percent revenue decline. But the nonprofit experienced a big bounce-back the next year, 2010-11, with revenue rising 13 percent.
And despite the bumpy income ride, the Rep raised more than $6 million that it used to completely renovate its facilities in downtown Little Rock.
With 30 employees and 500 volunteers, the Rep, founded in 1976, is Arkansas’ largest nonprofit professional theater company. It’s the only such theater within 300 miles of Little Rock and has produced more than 300 productions. Those include 40 world premieres.
Robert Hupp, the producing artistic director of the Rep, said that among the theater’s most popular productions had been “Les Miserables” and the recent “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
However, one of the Rep’s most impactful productions, one that received national attention, was the Legacy Project. In 2005, the Rep collaborated with Central High School and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to create a play, “It Happened in Little Rock,” about the school, the 1957 desegregation crisis and its legacy for the U.S.
“Sometimes the community conversations that happened after the performance lasted longer than the performance itself,” Hupp said of the play, which premiered in September 2007 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High. That production brought a lot of attention to the Rep in terms of “the theater being a place where ideas and issues can really be discussed and engaged,” he said.
“We operate both as a vibrant community resource and as a national resource,” Hupp said.