LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arts and Culture sector of Arkansas has lost about $5.5 million since the onset of the pandemic. According to Americans for the Arts, roughly $2.6 million of that was lost in Little Rock alone.
On average, performing arts centers in the capital city are out about $100,000 each. The Arkansas Repertory Theater is no exception.
The Rep has had to lay off about 25 employees because of the pandemic. They’re dipping into their reserves and pinching pennies to make up for lost revenue. But what they haven’t lost yet is hope.
Drew Irvin misses the rush of a live performance.
“I want to be back in the big house with people and an audience and the energy we get from playing for them,” Irvin said.
The concertmaster with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra said he longs for the frenzy of holiday performances.
“It’s a lot more lonely,” Irvin said.
Lonely like the inside of The Rep.
“We’re now down to a skeletal staff of only a few folks,” said Will Trice, Executive Artistic Director at The Rep.
“It stopped us in our tracks and we haven’t been able to do what we do and that’s meant a lot of people losing their jobs,” Trice said.
But in a year of loss, what remains at The Rep is a theatre tradition.
The ghost light sits alone after every performance. It helps the crew see clearly and reminds them the show will go on.
“It’s been out here and on every day and night since we went dark,” Trice said.
It’s been nine months since the music stopped and as the theatre ushers in a new season, the ghost light remains a message for artists and for those who love the theatre.
They’ll leave the light on for you — until it’s safe to come back home.
Trice said he doesn’t expect the theatre to return to normal operations until at least the start of 2022