Unmasking the 2015 Season

Join in the celebration at our annual Fall Membership Party on October 23 at 6:30.

 

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

"Every member of the cast is extraordinary...brings out the best in one of Shakespeare's earliest plays." —The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

 

The Comedy of Errors

"...A great success!... A packed-house audience was delighted by the twists and turns of this tale of mistaken identity." —The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute

 

Hamlet

"I was...completely blown away....I have read Shakespeare most of my life but nothing compares to seeing it acted on the stage." —Sharon K., audience member of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre 2014 season

 

Pippin

"...amazing performance. The show was perfectly cast and simply outstanding! Bravo!"--Michelle C., 2014 AST Audience Member

 

JOSH RICE

Master of Ceremonies

Josh got his start with the Bard as an intern at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London back in 2002.  Josh has been a part of AST since 2008.  Favorite roles include the Dromio twins in Comedy of Errors, Trinculo in The Tempest, and Carmen Ghia in The Producers.  For the past two seasons, Josh was also the playwright/producer/director/peformer of the 3-person version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and an orginal adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.   (more…)

Bob Kuhn’s renderings for AST’s 2010 performance of Dracula can be found below. The originals will be up for auction at Bard Ball 2011: Arkansas Artists Pay Tribute to the Bard Friday, February 18th at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas. Proceeds from the event benefit Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. (more…)

Are you ready for your close-up?

Among the many things that make me weird, near the top of the list has to be the fact that I love auditions. Auditions are the most compressed, highest-stress part of the craft of acting. I love auditioning as an actor, I love coaching actors to audition, and I love being a casting director more than almost anything in theatre. I love the unique energy of auditions, I love getting to know new actors, and I love imagining the possibilities of the upcoming show.

In just a few days, the directors of the 2011 Arkansas Shakespeare Festival will be watching scores of actors audition for us. Different directors are looking for different things from actors, so I can only speak for myself. But here are a handful of things I think every actor should know before they audition. It comes down to two major principles:

Control the things you can control.

Completely and totally let go of the things you cannot control.

Be yourself.

The message of your audition shouldn’t be “I am the best Juliet you will ever see,” it should be “I am the best me you will ever see.” I will either see you as Juliet or I won’t. Sorry about that. Typecasting is both a necessary evil and a powerful tool, and either way you will never make it go away. So don’t worry about it.

Choose monologue and song material that allows the amazingness of you to shine, rather than something that projects which role in the show you want. I don’t want to see you as Juliet, I want to meet you. You can show me Juliet at callbacks. From your slate through your “thank you,” the central message of your audition should be “Hi. This is me. I am very glad to be here. And I will be awesome to work with.”

A related anecdote, though not one applicable to all situations: I once auditioned an actor for Julius Caesar. He came in with an incredibly intense look on his face, performed an incredibly intense monologue from Hamlet, and he was so scary that I almost didn’t call him back. I had just done a show with an actor who was had displayed some borderline psychopathic behaviors behind the scenes, and I was half-convinced that this auditioner was going to be crazy trouble. My artistic director shared my concerns, but after some discussion we called him back with much hesitation. He turned out to be a delightful human being and a fine actor; he was cast as our Antony. But the fact that he was projecting the image of a tragic hero at his audition rather than projecting any of the image of himself nearly sabotaged his audition.

Be awesome.

Believe me when I tell you this: we want you to be amazing. Every single person who auditions for me I want to be exactly what I need. We’re on your side. You are entering a friendly environment. In a related item:

Don’t make assumptions based on my behavior.

It is a very long day for casting directors, and just because we’re sitting doesn’t make it less exhausting. I may not look at you much. I may not smile. I may not laugh. I am probably focused on taking notes or imagining what to read you as in callbacks.

Don’t look at me.

Once your slate (which is totally appropriate to direct at me) is over, find a spot on the back wall of the theatre and look at that. Looking at me does two bad things for you, 1) it makes me sympathetically want to look back, which makes me take fewer notes, resulting in my having a harder time remembering you in seven hours when the directors are all discussing you, and 2) if I do take notes, it distracts you and makes you wonder what I’m writing and why I’m writing it.

Don’t apologize for anything.

If you mess up, just fix it and move on. If you have a frog in your throat, work around it and move on. Actors who make excuses in auditions project as actors who will make excuses in rehearsal and performance.

Dress appropriately.

No words on your clothes, no holes in your clothes, no distracting logos, no inappropriately exposed skin, no outlandish hairstyles, no enormous jewelry, no six-inch heels. Your clothing should draw attention to you, not away from you. Wear practical shoes, and avoid noisy heels that will drown out your voice. Get your hair out of your face.

Fill the space with your voice.

If I think you can’t project enough to be heard in a large theater, I will not cast you in a production in a large theater.

Take direction.

If I give you adjustments, do what I told you to do. If it doesn’t fit in with your image of the character, convince yourself it does. Ability to take direction is one of the most vital things directors are looking for.

Go too far.

If I give you adjustments, take them as far as is possible while still remaining in the realm of plausibility. One of my mentors was fond of the phrase, “Extend to the logical absurdity.” Show me that you will make bold choices. It is MUCH easier for a director to tell an actor to pull it back than it is for us to pull bigger choices out of you. 

Respond to your scene partners.

Show me that you can actually, you know, act. Lots of people can recite lines in an interesting fashion; it’s your ability to be changed by another person, and to change them back, that makes you an actor instead of just a reciter of memorized lines. Sometimes your scene partner is a block of wood, sometimes they’re a stage hog, and sometimes they smell like salty garbage. Take what they give you, respond in the world of the character, and trust that if YOU can see that your scene partner is a dud that we can see it far more clearly than you can.

Play with me.

Have fun, even if what we’re doing isn’t. Show me that you will be pleasant to work with. I will cast a less talented nice person over a surly genius any day of the week. I can coach up acting; I can’t coach up jerk.

Over-prepare.

Remember this as a rule: The adrenaline of auditioning plus your nervousness will erase 25-50% of your preparation. That means you need to rehearse, memorize and prepare 125-150% as much for an audition as you think you need to.

You need to know your lines cold. You need to NOT have just memorized your monologue the night before or (shudder) in the car on the way. ESPECIALLY if it’s Shakespeare. I’ve probably directed, acted in, produced, or composed music for the show you’re doing a piece from.I know your monologue as well as you do.

When you blow your lines, I will know. When you are improvising your blocking, I will know. When you don’t know what your character’s goals, obstacles or tactics are, I will know. When you don’t know what the scene or the play are about, I will know. And you will not be called back.

Preparation: it’s the number one thing you can do to improve your chances of being cast, and the number one thing actors fail at the most. I can not stress this enough: I can tell the difference between a talented unprepared actor and a less-talented actor who really worked on their audition. And I WILL PICK THE HARD WORKER EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

My not casting you often has nothing whatsoever to do with you.

Often, I’m looking for fit, for chemistry, for a certain height, build, or hair color, ethnicity, gender, or for any number of characteristics over which you have no control. My not casting you is in no way a judgment of your character, your future, or even your talent. Honestly, you may look like an ex-girlfriend I had a bad breakup with; I may be rejecting you for reasons of which I’m not even aware. It is not personal. Get back on the horse and audition again. By all means, audition for me again.

And finally, Shake it off.

Actors have to be like NFL cornerbacks. Sometimes you get burned, and you have to forget it and move on to the next play with your maximum professionalism. You can’t worry over the could-have-beens; just don’t do again the things you did wrong.

I look forward to seeing a bunch of actors on Saturday in Conway, Arkansas. I sincerely hope that every one of you amazes me, and I hope you make our casting decisions impossible.

Be your most awesome you! I can’t wait to see it.

We are seeking to hire approximately 16-20 interns to work in the following capacities:

  • Acting (8 interns, 2m and 2f)
  • Stage Management (2 interns)
  • Scene Shop (3 interns)
  • Costume Shop (4 Interns)

INTERVIEW

By Jessica Hodges

To show thanks for recent donations to the Arkansas Shakespeare Theater, a group of Hendrix students gave a ghost tour of downtown Conway. The patrons of AST were met at a local restaurant shortly after dark and led down the nearby, winding streets. (more…)


SEEING RED

NEW WORKS BY ARKANSAS ARTISTS

AN ART EVENT BENEFITING LOCAL CHARITIES

ARTIST RECEPTION

Friday, December 3, 7pm – 9m

adults only please

You’re invited to a special artist reception and gallery show at the home of Brandi and Kristian Andersen. Come enjoy some holiday cheer, take home some fabulous art, and support three wonderful non-profits.

FEATURING WORK BY
Nina Ruth Baker, Don Bingham, Maura Crumpton, Katrina Dolislager, Kevin Hale, Gene Hatfield, Phillip Huddleston, Lance Johnston, Heather Mainord, Chris Masingill, and Lauren Roark.

A PERCENTAGE OF ALL SALES FROM THE EVENING TO BENEFIT
Arkansas Shakespeare Theater, City of Hope, and Young Life

CONTACT

Brandi Andersen

501.329.6666 | brandi@poplab.com

Map |  Download the invitation |  RSVP on Facebook

Auditions for the 2011 summer festival are currently full.
Internship opportunities are still available.

Auditions will be held for all actors on Saturday, Feb. 5 at the Reynolds Performance Hall at UCA in Conway for roles in the AST 2011 Summer Festival.  Actors will be seen from 9am-8pm on the 5th and are asked to email chiorim@lemoyne.edu after January 3 to schedule their appointment. All applicants need to please read THIS FORM before scheduling their audition.  All positions offered by AST are paying positions, subject to negotiation.  All actors are encouraged bring a headshot/resume and to view our website at www.arkshakes.com for more information prior to scheduling their interview.

AST’s fifth-annual season will feature a repertory of 4 shows: “Othello”, “As You Like It”, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”  Actors may be cast in one or two (but not three) productions.  The first rehearsal will be May 23rd, rehearsing 6 days a week.  The Festival has performances running June 16th-July 2.  Child and young adult actors will be encouraged to audition for the Childrens Choir in Joseph at a later date, TBA.

Actors auditioning for AST are asked to prepare 1 monologue (of any genre or type) and 16 bars of a song from any musical (song required only if interested in auditioning for “Joseph.”).  An accompanist will be provided, but the actor must bring their own sheet music.  The length of the audition may not exceed 3 minutes.  If called-back for an acting, singing, or dance call, the actor will be seen within the next 90 minutes and then released. Actors called-back for “Joseph” may be asked to dance, so please bring the proper attire.  Actors auditioning should please factor this callback into their schedule, and plan on being at the Reynolds Performance Hall for no more than 2 hours. Actors should please bring a current headshot/resume.

The AST Festival is also seeking hard-working, qualified applicants to work in a number of technical capacities, including: stage management, assistant stage management, costume/wardrobe crew, set construction, sound, and lights.  Production Interns will be paid a flat fee for their 7 weeks of work.  Free housing will be offered on campus for those requiring it.  Internships are open for currently-enrolled or recently-graduated college students.

Interviews for production internships will be held from 11am-1pm on Sat. Feb. 5th at the Reynolds Performance Hall and will last no more than 10 minutes and are available on a drop-in basis during that time, with no appointment necessary.  Applicants are encouraged to bring a resume and/or portfolio of their work.  Production internship applicants are also welcome to audition for acting roles.

Auditions for the 2011 summer festival are currently full.
Internship opportunities are still available.

What an incredible honor it is to be asked to return to Conway in 2011.

I had not even been home a full month from last summer’s amazing Arkansas Shakespeare experience (Shakespearience?) when my phone rang, Matt Chiorini on the other end. And here’s a little inside baseball, a look into how things like contracts and seasons get put together. He asked me if I was interested in returning for a second summer as a director, composer and associate artist, and then asked for my thoughts on what kind of play I might like to direct.

Now let me tell you that this doesn’t happen a lot, a hired director being asked to give input on potential scripts. It’s quite flattering, an honor really, and a huge responsibility. I’ve been on the staff of a Shakespeare company before, so I’ve been part of the process of putting seasons together. I knew that whatever decision we made, it would have to be in the context of the rest of the summer, and it would have to be the best possible choice for the company first.

That said, I wasn’t about to ignore the opportunity to have a say in the matter. If Matt’s going to ask what I want to do, I’m going to tell him. My mind flashed back to my recent directing history:

  • The Comedy of Errors, Summer 2010. Bigger faster funnier!
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Summer 2009. Bigger faster funnier with fairies! Award-winning five-actor ensemble cast!
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Spring 2009. Indoor first draft of bigger faster funnier with fairies!
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, December 2008. Staged reading that planted the seeds for the above bigger faster funniers.
  • As You Like It, Summer 2008. Big cast re-mount of hit Spring production; 15 actors’ worth of bigger faster funnier!
  • As You Like It, Spring 2008. Five-actor production, boys playing girls and girls playing boys and a girl playing a boy playing a girl. Award-nominated bigger faster funnier!
  • Doctor Faustus, Spring 2007.

Yes, I had to go all the way back to 2007 to find the last time I had directed a serious play. And in all fairness, it was a two-actor reduction of Faustus featuring (you guessed it) a surprising amount of bigger faster funnier. In fact, it genuinely may have been the funniest production of Doctor Faustus ever staged, and I realize that isn’t saying much. In fact, I have to go all the way back to 2006, when I helmed a five-actor Othello for Richmond Shakespeare, my first directing gig for that company, to find a production I’ve put together with an entirely serious intended effect.

So my answer to Matt was, “Well, Matt, I’m kind of comedied out right now. I’m feeling pretty pigeonholed as an artist, and I want to make sure my resume isn’t getting too one-dimensional. What does the 2011 season look like so far? Do you have any plays in mind?”

Matt said, “Well, we keep almost doing As You Like It. It seems like that play is the runner-up for the comedy slot every year. It’s a lovely play for the Natural State, with all the action in the Forest of Arden. And I think you’d be a really good fit with that script, especially coming off of Comedy.

I thought for a second. “You know what, Matt? I can do some drama in Richmond between now and then. Let’s do it. Let’s do As You Like It.

Here’s why it was so easy for me say yes to this script: I think As You Like It is to Shakespeare’s comedy what Hamlet is to tragedy. Not only do I think it’s his best comedy, I think it’s his best comedy by a mile. It’s a huge cast of memorable characters, a delight for audiences to enjoy and a feast for actors to sink their teeth into. It’s two pairs of brothers, their relationships broken by jealousy. It’s two women, closer than sisters, bound together in deception in a strange land. It’s two awkward country boys who can’t help but love two awkward country girls even in the face of all rejection. It’s dueling clowns, one mean-spirited and one melancholy. It’s love and romance and country-mouse-versus-city-mouse and music and family and redemption. It’s “All the world’s a stage.” And it’s a girl disguised as a boy pretending to be a girl who actually happens to be herself.

This is my favorite comedy written by anybody, ever, featuring my favorite cast of characters in all of world theatre.

In the meantime, I’m here in my home city of Richmond, Virginia, beginning to work on This Beautiful City with the Richmond Triangle Players, my first acting gig since 2008′s Amadeus. I’m going to be directing a staged reading of Eliza Anderson’s The Water Principle at a theatre to be announced, and Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg is looking to produce my play Awake in Pennsylvania in March. And I’m beginning to put together a program for artists with mental health issues in conjunction with the Firehouse Theatre Project‘s production of Something Intangible. I figure that’s more than enough drama to satisfy my limited need for seriousness between now and May. If you are so inclined, you can keep up with my local doings, as well as some truly awful NFL picks, on my own blog, Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express.

I can’t wait to be able to delight you, fair readers, with word of which wonderful actors will be playing these amazing roles. And as the months go by I’m going to continue to write about the preparation, the foundational ideas, and the process of this show, on which I’ve already begun working. I’ve already begun to talk music with Matt and costumes with Shauna Meador, who has instantly become one of my favorite artists to collaborate with ever. I know this much already: it can’t help but look and sound gorgeous.

The 2011 Arkansas Shakespearience is already beginning!

Hello and welcome to my first Blog entry. I’m a social media luddite, and am even sometimes suspicious of email as a communicant. I’m the last person under 80 in North America to not have a facebook page (the whole thing creeps me out), but I think this blog (on the fantastic new website!) is a great opportunity for me to share my input to anyone listening. And, in the end, isn’t everyone dying to know what I’m thinking?

So let’s start with staff changes. First off, I’m thrilled Mary Ruth and company are taking over the management of the festival. I was getting burned out/cynical and beginning to say no to new ideas rather than see first if they work, which is generally a bad idea for someone in charge of a theatre. I had also begun to have the very humbling feeling that AST had gone as far as I was able to take it. I’m thrilled with how far it’s coming, especially given the up hill battle it has faced from the get-go, but when I could only start to see the things we didn’t have yet or couldn’t do yet, I knew it was time for someone else to pick up the ball. I love this company and want to see it become that big festival I’d always known it could, I had just run out of the necessary steam to do it. I’m excited to still be involved and know that new management will keep it moving forward.

The season

Every year, we try to choose a season that offers something to everyone-no easy task. We start with 2 Shakespeares and go from there. Which plays feel pertinent or “ready” for us to look at? Which ones feel like the appropriate response to plays we’ve done in the past? Which of our artists would we like to feature? Which plays do we think can be satisfying artistically on our end of things, but also something that we think our audience will appreciate and continue to drive from out of town to see? We weigh the merits of a lot of different titles and in the end choose 2 Shakespeare plays that we feel our audience would like to see, our artists will be eager to tackle, and that our resources can handle.

Working in repertory means that there has to be a balance in the scale of shows we can do as well as the content. We can’t take on three “big” shows every year, nor do we want to unnecessarily scale back a show that requires a certain amount of spectacle. Yes, any Shakespeare show can work in a black box theatre with a $50 budget, but the audiences that come to the outstanding Reynolds Performance Hall see some spectacular shows and so have high expectations of what they spend their entertainment dollars on. There are alot of these considerations we juggle, and there have been missteps, but along the way I’m very proud to say that we continue to create seasons that hopefully address all of the above and balance each other out while showing off the folks we’ve got.

As You Like It

This was the first show I chose for our 2011 season. It’s one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and I’ve wanted to do it since our second year. It has always seemed to me a quintessentially Arkansan play: alternately witty and silly, great for kids, combining lofty poetry with folksy fun, and infused with music and a love of the outdoors. In other words, a perfect fit for the Natural State. I’d even begun to think of it as ArkansAs You Like It. Great show for our company of comic actors (including a perfect leading role for audience favorite Marin Miller) and a great opportunity to get back director and composer Andrew Hamm, who did such a first-rate job on 2010′s Comedy Of Errors, and who’s work I’m sure will be a staple at AST for years to come. This one was a no-brainer.

Othello

Next decision became about the tragedy to pick for balance. We had done Henry V last year, so knew we’d be leaning towards a tragedy rather than a history and wanted to do one of the bigger titles (I don’t think our audience is clamboring for Timon of Athens yet. I’d really wanted to do Merchant of Venice, which, though technically a comedy, is rather dark in places. I see it now as maybe being a little too problematic as a contrast to AYLI, so maybe not this year (but I’ve got alot of great ideas for it!) As far as the big tragedies, we’re then left with the remaining big 4: Hamlet, Lear, Julius Caesar, and Othello. The Rep was doing Hamlet this year, so that’s out. Lear has an epic quality that I’d love to get on our stage, but it’s hard to minimize in consideration of the needs of other shows. Plus, I’d fear that it would need more rehearsal then we’d have time for. Julius Caesar I really liked and did some research on the Orson Welles production of it, but it just felt wrung out. Are there any surprises left in that show for the audience or for the artists? Is there anything that needs to be said with that show right here and now? Couldn’t get excited about it. Which left Othello. We have an abundance of actors who can ably play the various officers, and many actresses at our disposal for the complex and interesting female roles. This show could create a stylistic contrast to the folksiness of the forest in As You Like It, moving instead to the battlefield and the board room in a very slick and sleek politically-charged Othello. The opportunity also to lure back David Alford, who had done a fantastic job onstage and off with 2008′s The Tempest was irresistible, and with Mr. Alford we’re guaranteed a first-rate production and a mesmerizing Iago. Can’t wait to see this show and I’m hoping a small role opens up that I can jump into. Maybe if someone breaks a leg in a dress rehearsal….

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

The last big show for the season was tricky, as it always is. With the third show, we always struggle to offer a title that is unabashedly commercial, but that we still feel we have the people and resources for, and a show that we can be proud of. Dennis Courtney’s outstanding “Producers” of 2009 remains, for me, one of our big artistic triumphs. The attendance wasn’t what we’d expected, but we wanted to work with him again on a project that would share the amazing work he does on stage with a wider audience. Make no mistake, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is cheesy. It ain’t King Lear. To be fair, it doesn’t pretend to be. But I just couldn’t shake the notion that it was too “lowbrow” for us. In my terrifically snobby way, I wasn’t sure it was something classy enough to be a part of our AST season, and then I showed my kids some clips on Youtube. They loved it. An hour later, they could sing all the songs. 2 hours later, they had staged their own production in our living room using lego’s, laundry, a plastic tamborine, and a cast of 2. By the end of the summer, we’d heard it so many times on car trips that we had to “accidentally” lose the CD. And the DVD. And daddy’s computer “didn’t work on Joseph anymore.” Parents, you know what I’m talking about. With each of our Shakespeare shows, I’ve sought to create something intellecutually engaging but also lots of fun. Yes, I’m an idealist and I want to inspire our audience with great works of art. But I’m also unabashedly an entertainer, and I want our audiences to have a good time or theatre can become stale and condescending. Joseph seemed to me to be a great opportunity to throw whatever artistry we have towards a common goal: give the audience a good time. With Dennis onboard and audience-favorite Chris Crawford as Joseph, I’ve no doubt that they will.

So that’s it. It sounds easy, but believe me, the above discussion took several months, and I’m still not sure we made the right call. But who knows? Theatre is a gutsy medium, and tends to favor the bold. It’s a huge risk to put out the money on a project with no guarantees of anyone coming. With ticket sales making up only a third of our income, it’s another huge risk to assume that businesses, foundations, and individuals will continue to sponsor our efforts with their contributions. It’s the hugest risk of all to commit to a title and then scramble to put together the right people, the right materials, and the right schedule, all to deliver a years-worth of work ontime and under-budget come opening night. But these risks are what make it all worthwhile and what makes a theatre experience an exciting one for us and our audience. There’s a safety on your couch at home flipping channels or in a movie megaplex. There’s a set of expectations, and these medium require very little from you. Theatre is dangerous, risky, exhilirating, and above all, requires your attention. When you sit in that theatre and the lights dim, you have no idea what you’re going to get, and that’s the way I like my entertainment dollar spent. That’s the kind of experience I’ve been thrilled to offer at the helm of AST for the past 4 seasons, and that’s the kind of experience I’m still eager to be a part of in whatever capacity I can for years to come. Thank you for your support of AST. We’ll see you at the show!

Welcome to the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, going into its fifth season of artistic excellence, educational opportunity and community outreach in Central Arkansas.  Your support over the years has made all the difference as we continue to grow and offer outstanding theatre to families all over our region.  Look around our new website and learn more about the company that the Oxford American described as “excellence”.

After four years as founding producing artistic director of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Matt Chiorini has moved away, but he’s not really gone.

Chiorini moved to Syracuse, N.Y., over the summer to take a position as assistant professor of theatre at Le Moyne College, a small Jesuit school. But he will return to Conway, at least for a year, as artistic director of AST in 2011.

Mary Ruth Marotte, assistant professor of English at UCA, has taken on Chiorini’s development and marketing duties in her new role as executive director.

“This upcoming year, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre will have two very strong leaders at the helm,” said Dr. Rollin Potter, dean of UCA’s College of Fine Arts and Communication. “On the artistic side, Matt Chiorini returns with all of the talent and energy that has moved AST into a true level of excellence. In Dr. Marotte, we have a visionary executive who will bring AST’s strategic plans in development and promotion to fruition.  This is the best of all worlds.”

As artistic director, Chiorini will be responsible for the shows, schedule and hiring of artists.

He said it was difficult to leave AST.

“Though I feel a very real sense of ownership over it, I also have been feeling lately that it’s gone about as far as I’m able to take it,” Chiorini said. “I’ve worked hard to get it up and running and at a high level very quickly, and now it’s ready for new energy and some fresh leadership and ideas.”

After the 2010 season, he spent the rest of the summer seeing Shakespeare productions at other festivals.

“For a small town in Arkansas, we’ve got one of the better festivals around,” he said. “I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished and hope to stay involved in the future.”

He said several people approached Marotte about stepping into his role after he announced he was leaving.

“She asked me what I thought about it, and I thought it would be a great idea, but she’d probably still need someone to choose the season and the artists and run the artistic operations of the festival — all the things that I most enjoyed doing anyway,” he said. “We ran the idea by Dean Potter, who had just begun a search for a full-time replacement, and this seemed like a good interim solution while they search for the next leader of AST.”

Chiorini said Marotte had been “a big engine behind the scenes for years.”

“A lot of our success is due to her tenacity and resourcefulness,” he said. “She cares about this company and what it does for our region and from the beginning has put her weight behind it. She has connections all over Conway and in Little Rock, and I have no doubt that she will work tirelessly to continue our momentum.

“Whoever takes over as the artistic director will be lucky to have her handling the development and fundraising in the future.”

Marotte, a native Arkansan, grew up in Little Rock and graduated from Central High School and Hendrix College. She earned a Master’s degree in English from UCA and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Tennessee. After spending several years in Tennessee and Palo Alto, Calif., she returned to Arkansas five years ago and has been involved with AST since its inception.

“As soon as I heard that UCA had hired someone to start a Shakespeare Theatre in Conway, I wanted to meet that person,” she said. “I had been to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival several times, had visited Stratford, and was thrilled with what such a festival might bring to Conway.

“What I found in Matt was an energetic, magnetic personality intent on bringing fine professional theatre to Conway.”

Chorini asked her to serve on the AST board, and since then she’s been involved in every aspect of the festival, particularly special events and the membership campaign.

“Though my role has clearly changed as I’ve taken on the executive duties of AST, my role has always been to promote the festival in the region,” Marotte said. “I probably don’t have any conversation in which AST doesn’t find a way in, both because of my passion for the theatre and because of the way I see AST fitting into a sort of cultural renaissance happening in Conway.

“We are a community poised to become a center for arts and culture in the region, without a doubt.”

She said she and Chiorini communicated by phone and e-mail daily.

“He’s a friend, and that helps, but we are equally desirous that this festival continue to grow and thrive,” she said. “I trust completely Matt’s artistic acumen, and he trusts my instincts when it comes to tactical strategy. That mutual trust, I believe, is critical and will ensure success.

“This dual role is necessary, simply because there is so much work to be done.”

She echoes Chiorini’s vision of AST as a cultural and artistic destination that comes to define Conway in the same way the American Shakespeare Center defines Staunton, Va.

“It makes good sense, really, that AST happens here in Conway — in a university town that has a population that has come to expect excellence in the performing arts,” she said. “With artistic renewal comes economic stimulation. AST will play a large role in making that happen for Conway.”

For more information about the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, visit www.arkshakes.com.

Arkansas Times

by Bernard Reed

There are a lot of things to like about Shakespeare, not least of which is the flexibility of his plays. The Arkansas Shakespeare Festival’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” has certainly taken advantage of this flexibility to come up with a loudly colorful and goofily anachronistic show.

“The Comedy of Errors” is one of Shakespeare’s first plays and has long been considered by scholars to lack academic depth — a quality that any tired English student might find very appealing. It tells the story of Antipholus of Syracuse and his slave, Dromeo, arriving in Ephesus, the former looking for his long lost brother; the brother turns out to be an identical twin, also named Antipholus, who is accompanied by his own servant, the identical twin of Dromeo. The presence of these two pairs of twins results in a cavalcade of humorous mishaps, replete with mistaken identities and a full serving of slapstick gags.

Which is one of the production’s strong points, at least for those who like slapstick: There’s a lot of theatrically cartoonish beating-up of Dromeo, the show’s punching bag, who flops about on stage as though he was made of rubber (as though they were made of rubber, that is). That’s another part of this show that’s executed very cleverly — rather than use separate actors for each twin, requiring greater suspension of disbelief from the audience, there’s only one actor for both Antipholuses and both Dromeos. The problem of the twins confronting each other in the final scene is craftily resolved in a gag that stays in line with the wackiness of the rest of the show.

And wacky it certainly is. The costumes, in bright colors, don’t adhere to any particular setting or period, and the cast is followed around by a pair of bouncing minstrels who act as a kind of vaudevillian chorus. One feature that might annoy some is the lack of any theme to the setting — Ephesus has been updated to a vaguely Southern small town in the early 20th century, but the characters seem to exist in some indefinable Shakespearean ether, conforming more to quirky caricatures than the demands of their setting. But Shakespeare is flexible, after all, and this is a play about the farcical committing of errors.

It’s an amusing bit of Shakespeare, to be sure, and if you want to expose your kids to the bard but don’t think that “Henry V,” the Festival’s other option, is quite the right entry point to his oeuvre, “The Comedy of Errors” will work just fine. It shows again June 26 at 7 p.m. and July 3 at 2 p.m.

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