Director John Miller-Stephany, center, during rehearsals for the 2016 play "Under the Gaslight" on the Minnesota Centennial Showboat. (photo by Leila Navidi/Star Tribune)
The national theater scene was shaken this week by news that Arkansas' flagship playhouse, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, is suspending operations because of financial woes.
It is laying off nearly all of its staff, including former Twin Cities director John Miller-Stephany, who had taken over leadership of the Arkansas Rep 18 months ago.
Based in Little Rock, the 42-year-old theater, which has a $4 million annual budget, will scotch its final play for the season, Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage.”
Miller-Stephany was associate artistic director at the Guthrie from 1996-2015, essentially serving as right hand man to the Guthrie's longtime boss Joe Dowling, Thus, he had a hand in much of what people saw onstage at the Guthrie during Dowling’s 20-year tenure.
“I am tremendously grateful for the opportunities afforded me - and for the personal support that I have received – during these past eighteen months,” Miller-Stephany told the Arkansas Times. “My hope is that The Rep will survive the current crisis in some form. However, I sadly do not see a place for myself in the reimagined Rep.”
In a statement, the theater said: “We’ve never been well capitalized, but the past few years have been particularly difficult for the Rep. We’ve experienced steadily declining ticket sales, capital needs on our buildings, and increasing competition for entertainment dollars. We are suspending productions until we can reimagine our theater and develop a business model that offers professional theater to our community, at an affordable price that is also sustainable.”