Whipping Man Wednesday: Historical Background

THEREP_THE WHIPPINGMAN (no credits)-page-001With The Whipping Man in its last week on the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage, we have short series called “Whipping Man Wednesday” every Wednesday throughout its run.

In closing, we are taking a look at the historical background of the show to better understand this thought-provoking story! For our study guide (available here!), Dramaturg Robert Neblett took a look at the context of the show and we thought it would be fitting to share it for our last post of the series.

Historical Background

The Whipping Man takes place in mid-April, 1865. This is a time of great potential and
even greater tension. The American Civil War has come to an abrupt end with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union military leader Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. On April 14 of that same year, President Lincoln is assassinated. While the War is over and Southern slaves have been legally emancipated, a long period known as the Reconstruction is about to begin in the United States, which will seek to unify the citizens and borders of a broken country. Prejudices, anger, and abuse remain, and corruption abounds during the period between 1863 and 1877.
Jewish Southerners and Jewish SlavesCivil War Jews
Historically, Jews accounted for only 1.25 percent of all slaveowners in the American South in the period leading up to the Civil War. Jewish Southerners seemed to possess many of the same attitudes toward slave ownership as their Gentile neighbors, but because the Jewish landowners did not possess the wealth of their Christian fellows, they were less likely to own and operate plantation estates, as the DeLeon family in The Whipping Man demonstrates.
The Civil War and Reconstruction in Arkansas
In the years leading up to the beginning of the American Civil War, the state of Arkansas
was resistant to the idea of secession, until April 1861 when President Lincoln called upon
the Unionist-allied state to supply military aid against Confederate troops in South Carolina. The state’s response was clear and secede from the Union in May 1861 with a 69-1
vote.
Union Occupation Little RockIn 1863, Union forces attacked several garrisons throughout the state, including the defenders of Arkansas Post, where almost 5,000 Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner as a result of their loss. Throughout the rest of the year, Union troops pushed the Confederate presence farther and farther south in the state, and in September 1863, Little Rock fell to Union control. In March 1864, Union forces suffered a defeat during the Red River Expedition and were forced back to Little Rock. By the end of the War, more than 10,000 Arkansans lost their lives, regardless of color or political affiliation.

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

Get your tickets now for this thought-provoking drama, running through Sunday, Feb. 8. 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!

Closing Week of The Whipping Man: Engage with Us!

Ryan Barry as Caleb (from left), Damian Thompson and Michael A. Shepperd. Photo by Stephen Thornton.

Ryan Barry as Caleb (from left), Damian Thompson and Michael A. Shepperd. Photo by Stephen Thornton.

Can you believe it? It’s the last week of our latest production, The Whipping Man!

An extraordinary tale of loyalty, deceit and deliverance, The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez opened off-Broadway in 2011 to critical acclaim, winning the 2011 John Gassner New Play Award from the NY Outer Critics Circle and becoming one of the most produced plays in the country.

It’s a week definitely not to be missed here at Arkansas Repertory Theatre (and the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center)– there are special engagement and standing surround events almost every night this week.

Here is what you can take part in:

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. Free!

Girls Night Out with The Design Group
Tuesday, Feb. 3 | 5 p.m.
Sponsored by The Design Group, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Brown Sugar Bake Shop and Arkansas Black Hall of Fame
Mix and mingle in The Rep lobby with yummy treats and fabulous shopping from 5 – 7 p.m. and enjoy a special talk-back discussion immediately following the performance. Post-show discussion moderated by Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp, featuring the cast of The Whipping Man and Lottie Shackelford, former Mayor of Little Rock. The special Girls Night Out event is free and open to the public. Tickets to the performance are $35. Call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to get your tickets!

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

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. Free!

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. Free!

Get your tickets now for this thought-provoking drama. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405. Learn more about this incredible play with our study guide here. We hope to see you here!

Sign Interpreter Night for The Whipping Man Wednesday

IKcjgzqMcqn an effort to make Arkansas Repertory Theatre more accessible, we have a Sign Interpreter section for the deaf on the third Wednesday of every production run through the season.

Raphael James, an instructor in the Interpreter Education program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, will be positioned in front of the new section, located on the First Mezzanine. He will sign directly for those who need his services.

We are gearing up for our next sign interpretation night, which will be the The Whipping Man performance at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4. There are still seats available! Any open seats in the section will be released to the public at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, so get your seats now!

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Here are the dates for the remainder of the season:

  • Mary Poppins: Wednesday, March 18, 2015
  • August: Osage County: Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Contact the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to reserve your seat at our upcoming interpreter nights and get more details at www.therep.org/attend.

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!

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.

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.