Written by Arkansas Real Estate
This week we were able to chat to with Martin Miller, Managing Director of TheatreSquared. TheatreSquared’s locally produced and nationally acclaimed productions reach 22,000 patrons each year. The company is Northwest Arkansas’s only year-round professional theatre, offering a unique audience experience in its intimate 175-seat theatre at Walton Arts Center’s Nadine Baum Studios. TheatreSquared’s audience includes more than 10,000 students and their teachers. The theatre partners with teachers and schools from Northwest Arkansas to the Delta Region, working to give students across Arkansas access to live performances and leading arts-based learning tools.
A professional company, TheatreSquared employs trained artists from across the country to create its 130 annual performances, and is contracted with Actors' Equity Association. The theatre is also Arkansas’s home for professional playwrights, developing scripts through the Arkansas New Play Festival in Fayetteville and Little Rock and producing new works and world premieres each year. We were elated to have the opportunity to chat with Martin this week!
TheatreSquared has been quite a hot topic for your productions not only locally but even nationally over the last year. Can you tell me about the national recognition your organization has recently had?
During our 2012 season, we were thrilled to receive word that TheatreSquared would be honored by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, as one of the nation's ten most promising emerging theatres. Four of us traveled to New York to attend the awards luncheon and a $10,000 National Theatre Company grant, an exciting few days! The theatre has also been selected by the Shubert Foundation, the organization that owns 17 Broadway and off-Broadway venues in New York for funding support, and by the National Endowment for the Arts for two of its extremely competitive national grants. Beyond these honors, it's exciting to us to see actors who have appeared at TheatreSquared regularly go on to Broadway roles — and vice versa, as Broadway veterans join us here in Fayetteville with increasing frequency. It's affirming to be recognized for our work on the national stage, but it's always driven by the support we get here in Northwest Arkansas.
What is the history of TheatreSquared? When did you open and how has your organization evolved over time?
TheatreSquared was founded in 2005 by a group of professional theatre artists including Bob Ford, our current artistic director, who saw potential in Northwest Arkansas for a professional theatre audience. That vision was perceptive; most regions comparable to Northwest Arkansas (and many smaller) have thriving professional theatres, and it had been an unmet need in this area for too long. Over the course of our eight seasons since then, the theatre has grown quickly. From the beginning, every artist was paid a competitive national wage, helping establish TheatreSquared's reputation among the national theatre field. An institutional capacity-building grant from the Walton Family Foundation in 2011 was a major step forward, and the expansion of our annual audience from 3,000 to 24,000 over the last four seasons including a new schools tour to 12,000 students statewide — has also driven TheatreSquared's growth.
It's hard to pick fan favorites... We've had enthusiastic responses to a lot of shows, but our audiences seem particularly excited when they can participate in creating brand new plays. Sundown Town, by Kevin D. Cohea, was really the talk of the town when it debuted after a two-year development period, and more recently, Bob Ford's The Spiritualist was a sell-out in its world premiere this fall. It's terrific to have an audience that loves new work to be able to program new plays and still count on our audience attending because it's a TheatreSquared production. That level of faith helps us to just concentrate on the work of creating remarkable theatre.
For community members looking to attend a show, or get involved in volunteering/performing what are your biggest needs? How can people connect?
The best way to engage with TheatreSquared is simply to come see a show. We welcome volunteers as ushers, and have internships available to high school and college students — but we're always excited just to see a new face in the audience at the theatre. For those who are able to go beyond our ticket price and we have the most affordable professional theatre tickets in the state, contributions go a long way, helping us create top-notch theatre and bring educational outreach to 60 schools in Arkansas. Our website is a great place to start for more information — theatre2.org.
What are some productions we can look forward to over the next year?
We're very excited at what the rest of Season 8 holds — a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol directed by our own Morgan Hicks; Good People, an incredibly moving, smart and funny play by Pulitzer finalist David Lindsay-Abaire; and Hamlet, TheatreSquared's first mainstage Shakespeare production. We've got some terrific artists lined up for these shows, and I think our audience is going to love them.