Rogers Little Theater, which has developed a reputation as a renowned community theater company, has a new name.
The new name, announced Tuesday (June 30) during a news conference, is Arkansas Public Theater at the Victory — a moniker to continue the theater’s upward mobility, said Brad Reed, who made the announcement.
“It’s a name that says it all,” Reed said to thunderous applause from some 70 sponsors and patrons who attended the news conference held inside the historic Victory Theater, the theater company’s home since 2008.
The new name is in time for the launch of the company’s 30th season which begins July 24 with a production of “Shrek the Musical.” Over the years, some 700 volunteers and 150 performers have been involved with productions of the theater company, Reed noted.
The Victory Theater was designed by noted Rogers architect A.O. Clarke and opened in December 1927. The theater served as a community gathering place and was renovated several times as a movie and vaudeville theater before closing its doors in the early 1970s, according to the website.
In 2008, with generous help from the Wal-Mart Foundation, contributions from civic-minded donors and the effort of tireless volunteers, the city of Rogers purchased the Victory Theater with an agreement that it would serve as the long-term home of the Rogers Little Theater. Support for the venture cam from the Walmart Foundation and civic-minded contributors.
Reed, who was introduced as the voice of theater, also announced that starting with 2015-16 all seating on the main level of the theater would be cabaret style. The move makes seats more affordable. Balcony seating remains unchanged.
Rogers Mayor Greg Hines, who just hours earlier heard the first presentation of the city’s new downtown master plan along with the city council, said the rebranding was a necessary part of doing business and that the theater would remain a key part of downtown Rogers as the provider of public arts.
Raymond Burns, president of the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce, also attended the announcement with Hines, and said the theater would remain an integral part of the downtown nightlife as more restaurants are developed.
As the news conference was winding down, a few blocks away, representatives of Gateway Planning, a Dallas-based city planning group, were unveiling the new master plan for the community as City Hall. Key recommendations in the master plan are a major rezoning of downtown properties to encourage more residential living; a transformation of alleys into lighted walkways for evening walks; and a transformation of the city park into a plaza for community events, featuring a portable stage that can accommodate different size performers from bands to symphonies.
The Rogers Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the new master plan at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday (July 7) at City Hall. The City Council is expected to vote on the plan on July 28.