Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre Raises Funds For Upcoming Season

Reynolds Performance Hall held the ninth annual ‘Bard Ball’ fundraiser for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre (AST) on Jan. 16.

UCA alumnus Steve Griffith paints at the Bard Ball.

Created in 2006, AST is Arkansas’s only professional Shakespeare Theatre and operates largely on donations and grants.

Rebekah Scallet, AST’s Producing Artistic Director, said that since the fundraiser’s inception, its proceeds have risen steadily every year to over $20,000 in 2015 and that this year’s goal was $40,000.

The event was hosted by third-year AST actor Rober Girard Anderson who directed the live auction in which seven items were up for bid, including a community painting that was created during the event.

UCA alumnus Steve Griffith convinced fundraiser attendees to help with the painting and sign the back.

There was also a silent auction, involving over 70 items.

Around $43,000 was raised, passing their goal and almost doubling last year’s amount raised. Funds raised from the Bard Ball traditionally go to fund production costs for the plays produced by AST every summer. These costs, according to Scallet typically include the salaries of 100 staff employed during the summer, costume and set design and actor fees.

Housing for staff and actors are partially funded by Hendrix while the facilities are supplied by UCA.

The remainder of the $350,000 budget not covered by the fundraiser is supported by individual donations from various departments around UCA, grants and individual donors.

This year will be the first year that Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre produces four different shows, including such shows as “Romeo and Juliet” as well as “West Side Story.”

Jordy Neill has been with AST for five years. According to him, “Twelfth Night” is Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s first production to be co-produced with an out of state theatre, Shake on the Lake, from New York.

Neill says that the show will begin in Arkansas at Reynold’s Performance Hall, after which it will go on tour in New York.

When the show returns to Arkansas it will travel the state in an effort to bring Shakespeare to small communities.

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre Director Mary Ruth Marotte said shows start June 7 and are performed until July 9.

The house band created a classy mood for the night as guests participated in silent and live auctions, in which $40,000 was raised.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 20, 2016 print edition of The Echo.

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