KUAR on The Rep’s Renovation, Ring of Fire

Photography by Guy Galloway

Take a listen as Ron Breeding talks with Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp and Ring of Fire Director Jason Edwards on the recently completed Rep Renovations and the season opener Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash.

Or you can read the article here.






Jason Edwards on Johnny Cash

Jason Edwards starred on Broadway in Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash at the Barrymore Theatre, and is featured on the original cast recording produced by John Carter Cash. Jason is directing and starring in Ring of Fire at Arkansas Repertory Theatre Sept. 14 through Oct. 9. Photography by Cindy Momchilov.

Like many other singers and musicians who come from rural American places, young J.R. Cash learned to sing and play guitar from listening to old hymns.

When he first arrived at Sun Studios in Memphis as a young aspiring performer, his hopes were to land a record deal as a Gospel singer. After his first audition, Producer Sam Phillips told him that Gospel music wouldn’t sell records and to come back when he had written something that would. So he left and wrote “Cry, Cry, Cry” and “Hey Porter.”

He returned to Memphis and these two songs became his first recordings for Sun. Needless to say, the rest is history. Hundreds of hits followed, and also the birth of the rockabilly sound.

From a dirt-poor boy who grew up on a cotton farm to a rock’n’roll icon and country outlaw, underneath his image and fame as “The Man in Black” was a very patriotic American and a deeply spiritual Christian man. Throughout his life, he battled with demons and sang to angels, but he never lost sight of who he was or where he came from. He wrote and sang about what he knew and believed in—the things and people thatwere most important to him. To many, he was the voice of the forgotten and overlooked. Near the end of his life he recorded an album of Gospel songs his mother sang called “My Mother’s Hymn Book,” and of all his recordings he considered this his finest work.

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. William Meade and Richard Maltby, Jr.’s concept was never to have someone impersonate Mr. Cash, but to get underneath his image and present what he was trying to say in his lyrics. And to select performers who in some way might convey the essence of his southern style and roots.

It’s our pleasure to perform for you and celebrate some of the words and music of Mr. John R. Cash.

— Jason Edwards

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.