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.

All About Annual Giving from Annual Giving Officer Leighanne Alford

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Be our Buddy and donate to our end-of-year I’m a Buddy giving campaign!

What is Annual Giving? How is it different from, say, my ticket purchases?

I’m so glad you asked!

Annual giving plays a vital role in all non-profits – not just the arts but higher education, basic needs, zoos, you name it. Annual Giving campaigns are the staple of a vibrant and growing fundraising program. Did you know that “charitable organizations in the US…fund raise more successfully when they have in place a formal, annual fundraising drive?” (Advancing Philanthropy Magazine, Fall 2014, pg 13). The Arkansas Repertory Theatre could receive multiple sponsorships of shows each season – BUT, without those unrestricted donations, without YOUR annual gifts, there would be no place for us to show you such amazing productions.

When you purchase tickets to one of The Rep’s productions, you are helping make that play or musical happen. When you choose to make an annual gift to The Rep, you are keeping The Rep’s doors open for all to experience. Annual giving is great because it goes to pay for the greatest need at that particular time. Your annual gifts keep our lights on. Your annual gifts help pay the water bill. Your annual gifts keep our elevators maintained and working.

When you choose to be engaged with The Rep, not only as a subscriber but as one of our supporting Members through your annual gift, you ensure our sustainability and legacy. When you become one of our members, there are opportunities for behind-the-scenes fun, tours and members-only event invitations. Of course you also get the “warm and fuzzy” feel-good feeling for helping out one of your favorite organizations!

If you would like to make a donation or learn more about the benefits of our annual giving Member Program, just give Leighanne Alford a shout or email – 501.378.0445 x211 or lalford@therep.org.

Donate here!

Take a Leading Role: Benefits of Becoming a Member!

7163560187_e6600c6339_zIf you enjoy all of the professional productions that grace the stage of Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the state’s largest non-profit theatre, and want to continue to make a difference in the lives of young artists, then consider taking a leading role and becoming a member of The Rep.

In addition to encouraging downtown economic development and revitalization, members receive a wide range of benefits, depending on their levels. Here is an outline of benefits you can take advantage of just by becoming a member:

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There are circle levels for those who donate at a higher level, as well. Here is a look at upper levels and included benefits:

Circle levels

Get more information on benefits here and donate online here!

Connecting and Being a Part of The Rep

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Some of my best family memories are when we watched the old movies and musicals on TV. We absolutely had to watch Singing in the Rain, Roman Holiday, or An American in Paris any time it was on TV – no DVR to watch it later, just lucky chance if we saw it listed in the TV Guide.

Practically everything in our house came to a standstill so the girls could curl up on the bed to talk about Audrey Hepburn’s beauty or how they filmed Gene’s dance in the pouring rain. I wanted to swim like Ester Williams and dance like Leslie Caron and we laughed every time at Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot like it was the first time we saw it. When Gene Kelly said, “And I’ll tell you why: I’m a painter, and all my life that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” I would always silently substitute dancer for painter and cross my fingers for the wish.

What I saw on TV, made me work harder in ballet class so that one day I could be on the big stage. I was glued to the TV or the actors when we saw live theatre. Still to this day, I need to arrive at the theatre early to look over the entire program. The show really starts for me when I read each bio and once again start to feel connected to the stage as I wait for the magic to unfold from behind the curtain. Even during football season, I love the pre-game and halftime shows as much as the thrill of the game. Recently, I sat next to a friend during the opening week of Pal Joey. She was mesmerized from the first song to the last – the singing and dancing in the first scene caught her and she was on that stage till the finale. She later wrote me, “….the first time I ever auditioned for a musical, I was 10 years old. Being in musical theatre really was my dream job! If only I could have put it into words back then to make it happen!” During this show, she reconnected to those wonderful childhood memories too! Having known her many years, I was genuinely touched to find out she loved musical theatre too.Audrey_Hepburn_and_Gregory_Peck_on_Vespa_in_Roman_Holiday_trailer

Becoming a Member of The Rep is the best way to reconnect to those sweet memories. We join a group with hopes of benefiting from the interaction we will have with other Members and to learn more about the art form. Joining with others who support The Rep means I am part of the collective support for vital programs that are not covered by ticket sales alone. When I am sitting in the theatre, I connect to the actors and occasionally interact with those next to me. As a Member, I can deepen that relationship by attending social events and behind the scenes theatre experiences. I find many Members are eager to share their own favorite musical or play that sparked the first of many good memories. As with my friend, it is fun to find out who was also watching and secretly hoping to be like Gene Kelly or Audrey Hepburn.

Connect to The Rep – you will enjoy the memories! I would love to hear about your favorite or the first time you saw live theatre.

Members Event – Wednesday, October 16th

RED Hot Flights with Donnie Ferneau

Wednesday, October 16 @ 6:00 pm at Cellar 220 long red wine

Members are invited to learn more about RED, Mark Rothko, and red wine before the opening of The Rep’s production. Join us at the new Cellar 220 restaurant for a fun evening with Chef Donnie Ferneau, Sommelier Jeff Yant, and Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp. Explore flights of red wine paired with small plates designed by Chef Donnie Ferneau. Hear Director’s notes from Bob Hupp to get the inside story before you see RED!

Cellar 220, 220 West 6th Street, Little Rock

$35.00 per person, limited seating, RSVP to Membership

Learn more about RED at The Rep