Marr Street Productions
2023 Northeast Arkansas Outstanding Business of the Year
Nonprofit Business award
Marilyn Hogan was an avid clogger and decided she wanted to start a class to teach others the folk dance that has been popular for more than a century. She was working as a speech pathologist, but soon began to teach guitar and violin lessons.
A string band was formed, and drum lessons were added to the class schedule. Marr Street Productions, a nonprofit organization based in Pocahontas, was born.
“We knew we had a mission. We were doing so many things,” she said.
The nonprofit was formed in 2004. Each year Marr Street has an average of up to 150 students per year. The numbers slightly fluctuate, she said. Students come from the local community and other cities and towns such as Jonesboro, Walnut Ridge, Maynard and southern Missouri.
Jazz, ballet, drama and many other classes were added to Marr’s schedule through the years. There are even classes that teach Taekwondo. One of Hogan’s motivations was that when she was in Pocahontas, she didn’t have access to classes that taught things like playing the guitar.
“The average person can’t afford those prices. We want to offer classes that are affordable,” she said.
Hogan has always been a fan of live theater and had strong connections to the local scene and Black River Technical College’s theater instructor Kelly Grooms. There has been strong connectivity between Marr Productions and The Playhouse, a nonprofit live theater that Grooms helped to develop.
When Grooms told Hogan he wanted to retire from the theater earlier this year, it made sense for her nonprofit to absorb The Downtown Place.
The theater is housed in the former Imperial Theater, which used to be a movie theater. Hogan knows the place well. She watched movies there years ago, she said.
Now that they’ve taken over the theater, it will be rebranded the Marr Street Playhouse. In November the first play under MSP’s direction, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” will be performed.
“Celtics Nights,” “Over the River and Through the Woods,” and “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” will be the three main plays slated for 2024. Other events such as a student showcase in May and a Christmas musical will be held, too.
The ultimate goal is to move the entire operations into the Playhouse building, Hogan said. There is a vast amount of classroom space in the basement, and it will be more cost effective to bring all their operations under one roof.
But that will require money and it will take time, she said.
“That is our plan for the future. With a non-profit a lot of work and time goes into raising money,” she said with a laugh. “Like most other nonprofits we are always trying to find enough money to survive.”