Rep on Fire in September with New Season, New Theatre

Arkansas Repertory Theatre is on fire this September with the LORT premiere of Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash in a newly renovated and updated facility.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre ended its capital campaign on January 31, having exceeded its goal of $5.4 million and securing a $600,000 Challenge Grant from The Kresge Foundation. Now the theatre is slated to reopen in September with a newly renovated facility at 601 Main Street.

The first performance in the new theatre will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14 with the Grand Reopening Gala Preview of Ring of Fire. A red carpet reception will be held at 6 p.m. in the lobby prior to the performance in the newly renovated theatre space, where patrons will be the very first audience to attend a performance in the brand new theatre seats. Tickets to the Ring of Fire Gala Preview are $100, with proceeds from the gala going toward the establishment of a maintenance fund for ongoing upkeep for the facility.

The current phase of renovations addresses all public spaces, including the lobby, expanded rest rooms and updating of The Rep’s private party room, Club Mezz, which will be renamed “Foster’s at The Rep” in honor of Vince Foster, former chairman of The Rep Board of Trustees.

This phase also provides for the renovation of the theatre itself, which will get upgrades to lighting, sound and technology, adjusted sight lines and all new theatre seating. The new facility will also include the addition of approximately 30 seats. The auditorium will be named in honor of Cindy Murphy.

Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash is a collection of Mr. Cash’s enormous catalog and variety of songs. It is the only theatrical show he ever gave his approval for and endorsed, says director Jason Edwards. William Meade and Richard Maltby, Jr.’s concept was never to have someone impersonate Mr. Cash, but rather to get underneath his image and present what he was trying to say in his lyrics.

Creator Richard Maltby, Jr. describes the production as a journey of a man in search of his own soul, which is what emerges when you consider all the details of Cash’s life together. That seemed to be a worthy story to put on stage – and one that could be told entirely in songs.

While the production does not dramatize Johnny Cash’s life, by the end of the show the audience will feel that they have spent the evening in the presence of an extraordinary and real man, says Maltby. The details are there for those who choose to find them, but within these songs are glimpses of the world Cash lived in – of home, and family, and the land; of hard work and adversity; of faith and love and compassion for people who are down on their luck. These are songs full of love and feeling, wit and understanding, and like all country songs, they tell it like it is.

In many ways Johnny Cash wrote and sang about the lives we all lead, regardless of where we lead them, says Maltby. If, watching this show, you feel yourself being drawn back to your roots, it isn’t accidental – even if you’ve forgotten what those roots are.

Ring of Fire will kick off on Sept. 14 with a Grand Reopening Gala Preview, a public preview on Sept. 15, and preshow discussions about the life and music of Johnny Cash on Sept. 15 and Sept. 21 at 6:15 p.m. in the theatre. Ring of Fire opens on Sept. 16.

Ring of Fire will run from Sept. 14 – Oct. 9. Tickets are available at The Rep Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or online at tickets.therep.org.