The Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s Board of Directors has decided to indefinitely suspend all programming activities at the Little Rock venue, including productions, events, and educational offerings, effective immediately. The board cited the significant negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak as one of the determining factors.
“COVID-19 has had a significant, negative impact on The Rep’s two sources of income: ticket sales and donations,” said Ruth Shepherd, chair of The Rep board.
The widespread economic uncertainty associated with the pandemic added another layer of financial volatility to an organization that was already vulnerable, the group said.
“Professional, non-profit theatres like The Rep are being hit especially hard by the fallout from this virus outbreak,” said Executive Artistic Director Will Trice. “We’re one of many local, small businesses who’ve been forced to shut their doors. Without public gatherings, we can’t create nor sell tickets to our shows.
“We’re also a non-profit organization that is even more dependent on donations from corporations and individual supporters, who are themselves affected by the stalled economy and volatility in the stock market. This double whammy is causing theatres across the country to lay off employees or suspend operations. While some theatres have endowments or other back-stops to rely on, The Rep is only just beginning to get back on its feet and we simply don’t have the resources to weather this storm and fully rebound in the near-term.”
The suspension will mean the cancellation of the upcoming production of Bye Bye Birdie, all summer education programs, and the 2020-21 season that would have begun in September.
“The Rep Board will use this time to strategically plan for reopening The Rep, as conditions permit, under a sustainable business model. With that, we are actively assessing what this suspension of operations means for our staff.” said Shepherd.
Patrons who have purchased tickets for any cancelled events or programs may receive a refund or may transfer the associated cost to a tax-deductible donation to The Rep.
“To all those supporters who have donated in the past couple of weeks, thank you. Your support has made it possible for our staff members to keep their jobs as long as they have.” Trice said. The Rep’s ability to sustain its ongoing limited operation and eventual return to regular programming depends on continued community support during these uncertain times. All gifts (including prior ticket or event sales designated as contributions) will be used to sustain any ongoing staff members and meet ongoing fixed expenses like utilities.
Trice added, “While we are discouraged by these short-term consequences, we are not giving up on our mission. Central Arkansas deserves to have professional theatre. We plan to use this forced retreat as an opportunity to regroup and build a sustainable plan for the future that will provide our community with those exciting, moving, entertaining group experiences that we are all missing right now.”