Member Q&A: Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp

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Bob Hupp

At the helm of Arkansas Repertory Theatre and its artistic vision is Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp.

In his sixteenth season, Hupp has directed such plays as Red, Death Of A Salesman, Henry V, To Kill a Mockingbird, The 39 Steps, Hamlet, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Les Misérables and last season’s Wait Until Dark and August: Osage County.

Just in time for The Rep’s landmark 40th Anniversary Season, Leighanne Alford, The Rep’s Member Concierge, had a chance to talk with Hupp about his transition from New York City to Little Rock, what he loves most about the Capital City, he how casts for shows, the process for selecting productions and more.

Here is what he had to say:

Q: Being originally from Delaware and spending most of your time in New York City and the Northeast, what made you decide to accept a job in Little Rock, Ark. and move down South?

A: Southern Delaware, where I grew up, is like Arkansas with beaches: rural, lots of chickens, soybeans and watermelons and very warm and welcoming people. We came here so that I could work in one place and not travel around so much. And we came here because it seemed like a good place to raise our kids, which proved to be abundantly true. There aren’t very many jobs in the United States like mine and the competition for these limited jobs is fierce, so I feel very fortunate to be here.

Q: What surprised you most about your move to Little Rock?

A: The wealth of cultural amenities and opportunities here. This is quite unusual for a city of our size.

Q: How many times do you read through a script for a production in which you’ll be directing? And, how many times does that script change throughout your process?

A: It depends on the script. For a contemporary play, like August Osage County, it doesn’t change at all. For Shakespeare, it might change considerably: I will make cuts to clarify and streamline the story and I might change the order of scenes as I did in Hamlet. With Shakespeare, I spend months with the text: researching different versions and interpretations, comparing differing ideas about punctuation, word usage etc. For a comedy like The 39 Steps, my work is more focused on the visual realization of the script and creating the staging and physical humor. But at the end of the day, it all gets thrown out the window when the actors arrive and bring their talent and insight to the equation.

Q: What is your formula or process for selecting productions and their sequence in a season?

A: There’s no one formula or method. I want our seasons to be eclectic and represent a broad range of great plays and musicals. I often want to include a classic, American or otherwise, because that’s my core interest. I also want to see and study new plays that I think will entertain and engage our audience.  For the musicals, we have to see what rights are available or about to become available. There’s lots of input from staff, guest directors and peers, too. I look at what other theatres are doing, as well. I travel to see work as much as I can. Ultimately it is a dynamic balance between art and finance. In a good season, the two sides of this scale are not mutually exclusive.

Q: How do you work with our Casting Associate Peter Mensky and the director of a show on selecting the best person for a role?

A: Peter’s work is central to the casting process. He handles all the logistics of casting, both locally and nationally, and he makes all of our employment offers, travel arrangements, etc. Peter sorts through the thousands of resumes we receive and makes recommendations to me and our guest directors. He is definitely my valued ally in the casting process. Peter and I go back to my days of teaching college, so we’ve developed a shorthand for communication and I trust his instincts and judgment.

Q: What is your favorite production you’ve directed at The Rep and why?

A: I don’t know. It’s usually the one I’ve most recently directed. I have great fondness for The Grapes of Wrath because it was the first play I directed in Little Rock, my first work with Mike Nichols and because it was such an epic American story.

Q: Do you have any superstitions or traditions for the shows you direct personally? (i.e. ‘lucky’ pair of socks on opening, a specific routine during tech or opening week?)

A: I’ve worn the same black hoodie for the start of tech rehearsals since the late ’80s. The shirt has some holes in it, and it’s not as loose as it once was, but that shirt and I are old friends.

Q: What is your favorite book in your office?

A: I have a lot of books in my office, mostly scripts. No real favorites, just the books I’ve collected over the years. Like anyone who’s worked in the same profession for a long time, I have photos and memorabilia in my office that mean a lot to me because I associate these things with the people I’ve worked with and care about.

Q: What is your favorite place to eat in Little Rock or favorite southern dish you’ve found since living here the past 16 years?

A: I can’t pick a favorite. There are so many! I am thrilled to see so many new restaurants opening on Main Street in close proximity to The Rep. Now you can walk to great places like Bruno’s and Samantha’s on a meal break or before a performance. That’s a game-changer for those of us who work the night shift.

 If you enjoy what you’ve seen on The Rep stage,  take the next step and join us as a Member. For more information on becoming a Member, call Member Concierge Leighanne Alford at (501) 378-0445, ext. 211, or visit lalford@therep.org.

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