Whipping Man Wednesday: All About the Cast

THEREP_THE WHIPPINGMAN (no credits)-page-001With The Whipping Man taking the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage, we are penning a new short series called “Whipping Man Wednesday” every Wednesday throughout its run.

This week, we are taking a look at the incredible actors taking center stage in the show and where you may have seen them before their performances here.

Here they are:

Ryan Barry* (Caleb DeLeon)

After appearing in last year’s production of Clybourne Park here at The Rep, he has been in several Off-Broadway productions, including In the Summer Pavilion, The Last Seder, Treasure Island (Irondale), As Wide As I Can See and The Temp. Regionally, he has been in Travesties w/ Sam Waterston (Long Wharf); Lights Rise On Grace RyanBarryWhippingManHeadshot(*upcoming world
premiere Wooly Mammoth); Red (Merrimack Repertory Theatre);
Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Shakespeare and Company); Janice
Underwater (Premiere Stages); and American Buffalo and The Winter’s
Tale (Elm Shakespeare Company).  Watch CBS’ “Blue Bloods”? He had a role in the crime drama, along with “Manhattan Love Story” (ABC), “Unforgettable” (CBS) and “Hunting Season” (LOGO). Film-wise, he has been in “The Moor”, “In The Summer Pavilion” and “All Those Sunflowers”. Commercially, Ryan is the voice of several
major national brands.

DamianThompsonWhippingManHeadshotDamian Thompson* (John)

Damian is making his debut here at The Rep for The Whipping Man! Before starring in the current production, he has appeared Off-Broadway in The Anthem, Around the World in 80 Days, By The Dawn’s Early Light and Mad Woman
of Chaillot. Regionally, he has been featured in Fly (Ford’s Theatre); The Brother/Sister Plays (Portland Playhouse); Where I Come From (Kentucky Repertory); Merchant Of Venice, Twelfth Night and As You Like It (Colorado
Shakespeare); A Midsummer’s Night Dream (Pennsylvania Shakespeare); and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Acorn Theatre). You might have also seen in him the movie “English Vinglish” or on TV in “The Player,” “Story of A Gun,” among others.

MichaelShepperdWhippingManHeadshot

Michael A. Shepperd* (Simon)
Currently the Co-Artistic Director
of Los Angeles’ multiple award-winning Celebration Theatre, his
producing, directing, and acting credits include: The Color Purple,
Four, The Women of Brewster Place, Take Me Out, Coffee Will Make You
Black, [title of show] and numerous others in his nine-year career at the theatre. He has also been on Broadway/Off-Broadway/National Tours, including:
Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan (Starkey); Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey Two);
Caroline, or Change (Bus/Dryer); 5 Guys named Moe (Big Moe); and
Choir Boy (Headmaster).

Get your tickets now for this thought-provoking drama. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405. Also check out the full lineup of engagement events for the show here. We hope to see you here!

Saints & Sinners: How to Use Online Bidding System BidPal

SSlogoHiResArkansas Repertory Theatre’s biggest event of the year, Saints & Sinners, is almost here!

In addition to magical entertainment that will take over the Statehouse Convention Center on Saturday, Jan .31, funds will be raised for The Rep through silent, super silent and live auctions.

For the silent and super silent, we are utilizing the easy online bidding system, BidPal, for patrons. With the site live now, head over to the BidPal page NOW and start your bidding! Here are some common questions about getting started:

How do I find items?

You can find items by pressing one of the four BLUE buttons on the Main Menu:

  • Enter Item Number
  • View All Items
  • View Categories
  • Items with No Bids

How do I bid on an item?Devices

You can bid from anywhere, any time! Find the item you are interested in by pressing one of the four BLUE buttons listed above. Find the item and press “Submit Bid.”

Where are the items I bid on?

The items you bid on are listed “View My Items.” The icons are as follows:

  • Checkmark: You are the high bidder
  • Exclamation Point: You have been outbid
  • X: Item has been sold

Can BidPal automatically bid for me?

Once you have submitted a bid, you will be prompted to enter a max bid. Upon doing so, BidPal will automatically bid on your behalf, by increment, whenever you are outbid, to your max bid amount. NOTE: ONLY THE CURRENT HIGH BIDDERR CAN ENTER A MAX BID.

Was I outbid?

If you see a flashing OUTBID message, tap it or press “View My Items” to see what you were outbid on!

Here is some more information about the silent auction at Saints & Sinners:

  • At the event, the silent auction will begin at 6 p.m. and will close by 8:30 p.m. All items in the silent auction have an item number affixed or nearby. Enter the item number into your smartphone to bid on the item. Each incremental bid amount is displayed on BidPal and constitutes a valid bid.
  • An announcement will be made at the time the auction closes. At closing, the highest bid that meets the minimum-increase rule constitutes the winning bid. Payments may be made immediately through BidPal using Discover card or paid for at the cashier’s table starting at 9 p.m. Payments can be made using check, Visa, MasterCard or American Express.
  • Items may be claimed once payment is complete. Pickup of silent auction items closes during live auction and will reopen once the live auction is completed.
  • All items must be taken home on the night of the auction unless other arrangements have been made with The Rep.

Questions before the event? Call Ronda Lewis at (501) 378-0445 ext. 203! For help during the event on Saturday, Jan. 31, volunteers will be on hand to answer questions.

Get more information and purchase your tickets to Saints & Sinners by clicking here.

Whipping Man Wednesday: Q&A with Director Gilbert McCauley

With The Whipping Man taking the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage, starting today, we are penning a new short series called “Whipping Man Wednesday” every Wednesday throughout its run.
Director Gilbert McCauley at the Clinton School Panel Discussion for Gee's Bend during the 2012-2013 MainStage Season.

Director Gilbert McCauley, from left, at the Clinton School Panel Discussion for Gee’s Bend during the 2012-2013 MainStage Season.

Our Dramaturg Robert Neblett had a chance to talk with Director Gilbert McCauley, an associate professor in the Department of Theater at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is returning to The Rep after directing several plays, including The Piano Lesson, A Soldier’s Play, Fences, Frost/Nixon, Looking Over the President’s Shoulder and Gee’s Bend.

Read on to see what he had to say about The Whipping Man, his process as a director and more!

Q: As a director, what attracts you to a play like The Whipping Man?
A: I like the subject matter. The Civil War changed the United States as a whole as well as future generations of the people in those United States. 
Q: What is its central message, if you were to pare it down to just one?
A: Im not sure I can.  But it has to do the understanding that freedom is not something that is given to us, it its something we must constantly strive to realize and maintain.
Q: Does this play have a personal relevance for you?
A: I think that for me personally, at this phase of my life, the notion of freedom is tied up with the notion realizing the fullness of who I am and recognizing the things that get in the way of that. And even more importantly, doing something about it.
Q: How would you describe the role of the director in the contemporary American theatre?
A: Every director goes about it in their own way, but I think the role has to do with establishing a creative environment that brings out the best in the all of the artists involved to make the work as significant and powerful as possible for the audience or community that experiences it.
Q: How do you prepare to approach the process of directing a play like this? What do you bring with you to the first rehearsal in terms of historical research and goals for the staging and building actor/character relationships?

Ryan Barry as Caleb DeLeon in The Whipping Man. Photo by John David Pittman.

Ryan Barry as Caleb DeLeon in The Whipping Man. Photo by John David Pittman.

A: For this production it was most important for me to feel I had a good grip on the historical research to understand more clearly the world of the play. I shared a good deal of what I had found with the actors when we started but I also made it clear that the exploration would be ongoing and that the purpose of the research was to illuminate the world of the play, their characters and what was going on between them. 

Q: Can you describe your collaborative process of working with the designers in preparation for this production?

A: It mostly consisted of sharing ideas and images with each other and having really focused conversations about the action of the play and how what we understood collectively could be communicated through things like, the set, costume, and lights, etc.

Q: This is a very intimate drama, with only three characters onstage in deeply emotionally charged situations. As a director, how do you approach the rehearsal process with the actors differently than you might with a larger production? 

A: I like for everyone in the rehearsal room to do personal source work on the issues explored in the play (i.e., whipping, slavery and freedom).  With a small cast like this it allows us to go deeper and find richer connections to the work.

Q: With the current state of race relations in the country, in the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, how do you feel the themes of The Whipping Man resonate with audiences in 2015? 

A: I think audiences will recognize parallels between he brutality and inhumanity that it took to keep people in their place during slavery (which the character of the whipping man represents) and present day methods used to control and punish people of color, especially African-Americans.

Q: How do you think this drama will speak specifically to Little Rock audiences?

A: Because Arkansas was so divided in its opinions about the Civil War and because of Little Rocks importance in the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, I think the play will a lot of resonance for audiences here.

Q: What do you hope area students will take from the experience of seeing The Whipping Man?

A: The importance of asking the difficult questions and having the fierce conversations that it takes to fully realize ourselves and live productively with others.

Q: The plays action centers upon reversals of fortune for each of the characters, often in surprising ways that unveil deep, dark secrets. How do these changes of identity illuminate the play and inform the way the characters interact with one another, to push the drama forward?

A: In the play the reversals of fortune also have to do with the reversal of power.  When the power dynamics of a relationship change it usually takes time for those involved to fully understand and adjust to the change, as well figure out new possibilities the change has opened up.  I think that is very true for The Whipping Man.

Q: Jewish identity and ritual lie at the heart of the play. Many of the audience members in central Arkansas may not be familiar with the traditions surrounding Passover and the Seder. Is this an obstacle in understanding the culture of the play and its characters? If so, is there a way to overcome such an obstacle in the staging of the drama? 

A: Because the Seder that is performed in the play is traditionally meant to be an interactive celebration of freedom, and because it is explained as such in the play, I think audiences will be drawn into the play and the ritual itself even more. 

Q: The use of music has been integral to the struggle for Civil Rights in America, from the Civil War through the 50s and 60s, to the present. In the midst of the Passover Seder scene, rather than reciting/singing in Hebrew, the character of Simon sings the classic Negro (Christian) spiritual, Go Down, Moses. How does this cross-cultural insertion inform that key moment of the play?

A: I think it points out a deeply held value for liberation and the constant struggle to maintain it that both cultures share. In fact, in our research we discovered that the songs use in Civil War in many ways mirrors its use in our play. The son also began to show up in some versions of the Passover Haggadah (the Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder) as early as 1941.

Q: Do you think audiences will be surprised to learn not only of the Jewish slave-owners in the South during the Civil War, but also the appropriated Jewish identity of the slave characters? How does this play expand our knowledge and challenge our assumptions of Civil War narratives, particularly in the South? 

A: Some audience will be surprised to know that Jews owned slaves during that time. And, while the notion that the enslaved took on the values and religion of their owners may not be a novel one, seeing that assimilation through a different lens may expand audiences understanding of slaverys impact on the lives of the enslaved.

Q: What is unique about working with the Arkansas Rep on a production like The Whipping Man?

A: The artistic leadership and the production team at The Rep are really committed to artistic excellence and it shows in the attention to detail and how things are presented.  That is extremely important when you are dealing with a text that has the historical, cross-cultural, theatrical and creative demands that this one does. 

Pulled from The Whipping Man study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

Get your tickets now for this thought-provoking drama. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405. Also check out the full lineup of engagement events for the show here. We hope to see you here!

Whipping Man Wednesday: An Introduction

With The Whipping Man about to take the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage, starting Jan. 23, we are penning a new short series called “Whipping Man Wednesday” every Wednesday throughout its run.

To start our series– with the help of our dramaturg, Robert Neblett– we will take a look back at the history, synopsis and rundown of this widely produced play written by playwright Matthew Lopez.

Matthew Lopez

Matthew Lopez

History

Lopez says that The Whipping Man began as a 20-minute one-act play called “The Soldier and the Slave” many years ago. Once it developed into a full-length drama, it received its world premiere at Luna Stage in Montclair, NJ, in 2006. Since then, it has had major productions around the country, including an acclaimed West Coast premiere at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 2010 and an Off-Broadway production at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2011 starring André Braugher.

The play won the 2011 John Gassner New Play Award from the NY Outer Critics Circle, as well as several 2011 Lucille Lortel Awards and nominations and a 2011 Obie Award for Braugher’s performance.

Check out this video interview with Lopez about the show on Onstage here.

Michael A. Shepperd as Simon. Photo by John David Pittman.

Michael A. Shepperd as Simon. Photo by John David Pittman.

Characters

Caleb DeLeon (played by Ryan Barry*): 20s, the only son of the DeLeon family of Richmond, Virginia

Simon (played by Michael A. Shepperd*): 50s, former slave in the DeLeon home

John (played by Damian Thompson): 20s, former slave in the DeLeon home

Synopsis

On Passover, 1865, the Civil War has just ended and the annual celebration of freedom from bondage is being observed in Jewish homes across the country. One of these homes sits in ruins. As Jewish confederate officer Caleb DeLeon returns from the war, badly wounded, to find his family missing and only two former slaves remaining, Simon and John, the two men are forced to care for him.

As Caleb, Simon and John wait for the family’s return, they wrestle with their shared past as master and slave, digging up long-buried family secrets as well as new ones. With Passover upon them, the three men unite to celebrate the holiday, even as they struggle to comprehend their new relationships at a crossroads of personal and national history and to come to terms with the sordid legacies of slavery and war that threaten each of their future freedoms.

Pulled from Elf study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

Get your tickets now for this thought-provoking drama. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

Engage with Us: The Whipping Man

THEREP_THE WHIPPINGMAN (no credits)-page-001Now that our holiday musical is over, we are gearing up for our next production, The Whipping Man, taking The Rep stage from Jan. 23-Feb. 8.

A tale of faith in a time of war, the drama is set during Passover 1865. The Civil War has just ended and the annual celebration of freedom from bondage is being observed in Jewish homes across the country. One of these homes sits in ruins. As Jewish confederate officer Caleb DeLeon returns from the war, badly wounded, to find his family missing and only two former slaves remaining, Simon and John, the two men are forced to care for him.

In addition to seeing this thought-provoking drama, there are plenty of ways to engage with us about the content of the show. For The Whipping Man, the National Endowment for the Arts recommended The Rep for a $10,000 grant to support the production and to collaborate with community partners on related audience engagement activities.

Here is a rundown of the community engagement events the public can take part in:

PRESHOW DIRECTOR TALKS
Wednesday, January 21 and Thursday, January 22 | 6:15 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.
A preshow talk will take place on the set of The Whipping Man with Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp and members of the creative team.

CLINTON SCHOOL OF PUBLIC SERVICE Distinguished Speaker Series
Thursday, January 22 | 12 – 1 p.m.
Clinton School of Public Service, 1200 President Clinton Avenue, Little Rock

Join Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp as he hosts the cast from The Rep’s production of The Whipping Man for a panel discussion on this post-Civil War drama.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre works in partnership with the Clinton School of Public Service to participate in their Distinguished Speaker Series, hosting educational panel discussions on various Rep productions. The panel discussions are led by Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp and include insights from guest directors, actors and Bob himself on bringing compelling stories to The Rep stage. Call the Clinton School at (501) 683-5239 for reservations.

OPENING NIGHT
Friday, January 23 | 8 p.m.
Opening Night for The Whipping Man will include a post-show reception with the cast immediately following the show. Complimentary champagne and light hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

The World Turned Upside Down: The South at the End
Member Night with Dr. Carl Moneyhon

Monday, January 26 | 5:30 p.m.
Dr. Carl Moneyhon, a Civil War expert with the UALR History Department, will discuss historical content relative to this production. Admission for members is free, while non-members are $10. Call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to reserve your spot!

Talk-Back Series
Thursday, January 29 and Thursday, February 5 | 9:30 p.m.
Post-show discussions that explore the themes present in this production.

It’s in the Bag: Lunch ‘n Learn Series at Mosaic Templars
Tuesday, February 3 | 11:30 a.m.
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, 501 W. 9th St., Little Rock
The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center’s quarterly lunchtime series will be a panel discussion, moderated by Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp, featuring The Whipping Man cast, alongside Jim Pfeifer, AIA.  After the discussion, tour MTCC’s new exhibit, “Freedom! Oh, Freedom! Arkansas’ People of African Descent and the Civil War: 1861-1866.” Bring your lunch and drinks will be provided.

Live from Foster’s with Crossroads
Friday, February 6 | 6:30 p.m.
Get your evening started early with live pre-show music from Crossroads in Foster’s.

The After-Party
Saturday, February 7 | 10:30 p.m.
Stick around after the show for drinks and look for members of the cast to make an appearance at The Rep’s lounge Foster’s.

Purchase tickets to The Whipping Man by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or by visiting TheRep.org.

Get Ready for The Rep’s Biggest Event of the Year: 31st Annual Saints & Sinners

12295416835_f56809181b_zOn Jan. 31, Arkansas art aficionados will come together to celebrate the state’s largest non-profit professional theatre company, Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
The 31st Annual Arkansas Repertory Theatre Saints and Sinners Gala will be held at the Statehouse Convention Center Wally Allen Ballroom at 6 p.m. The 2015 gala will be emceed by KTHV Channel 11’s Craig O’Neill, and will feature special entertainment offering a glimpse of the magic The Rep produces throughout the year.
The gala is co-chaired by Marla Johnson and James Norris, both of Aristotle.
In addition to special entertainment, the evening will feature both a silent and live auction, 12295645564_0625e1982a_zdinner, and dancing. Tickets for the event are available starting at $400 per person. Table sales and sponsorship are also available.
“Saints and Sinners has the reputation of being the most fun black-tie gala of the year, and I honestly have to agree,” said James Norris, event co-chair.  “The Rep knows entertainment, so everything about the event is infused with theatricality and wonder.”
Funds raised at the gala will support the organization’s mission of creating a diverse body of theatrical work. A special education donation will be taken and fund The Rep’s educational programming, including its Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI) program and student matinees.
12295451364_4ef1f55494_z“The Rep is where we gather as a community to learn, share and celebrate what is important to us,” said Marla Johnson, event co-chair.  “The theatre means so much to so many of us. Without it as the long-time anchor, there would be no Main Street Revitalization; there would be no Creative Corridor. Without it, we would not be nearly as cool a city!”To purchase tickets to Saints and Sinners, contact Ronda Lewis at (501) 378-0445, ext. 203 or rlewis@therep.org.  Tickets can also be purchased online at www.therep.org.

Sweet Announcement: The Rep to Carry Loblolly Ice Cream Remainder of Season

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Sweet news!

Just when you thought Loblolly was disappearing from the freezers of The Rep when Elf closed last weekend, we have a pretty awesome announcement: we will be carrying the popular creamery’s ice creams for the remainder of the 2014-2015 MainStage Season.

That means for The Whipping Man, Mary Poppins and August: Osage County, you’ll be able to satisfy your sweet tooth with their incredible frozen treats!

For the first time ever, we partnered with Little Rock’s popular ice cream shop to create a special treat for patrons for the holiday musical Elf and because of its overwhelming response, we have decided to continue carrying their yummy ice creams.

For our upcoming drama The Whipping Man, which will run from Jan. 23-Feb. 8, patrons can expect a couple of Loblolly’s popular staples, while for Mary Poppins, fans can look forward to another limited edition flavor, just like Rep-permint Chunk for Elf!

Check back in February when we announce the special Mary Poppins flavor and the dates for our second naming contest.

Don’t miss your chance to get your sweet fix at The Rep through June and get your tickets to our upcoming production The Whipping Man online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.