It’s time for audience members to feel great again as The Arkansas Repertory Theatre kicks off the 2016-17 season with Gridiron first up on the docket.
The show, a biennial music production spoofing Arkansas, national politics, and people, is put on by a group of legal professionals each year. This year there are an astounding 80 participants in the show titled, Gridiron 2016: Bake America’s Cake Again, which will run Aug. 2 – 6.
While the topics change year by year, the show boasts of an incredibly vibrant history, with this year marking it’s 100th anniversary. Producer of the show, Judge Mary Spencer McGowan, says, “We have documentation that [the production] started in Little Rock in 1916.” At that time the Vaudevillian-style show was put on by an all-male cast and took place during lunch.
The return of some familiar faces coupled with the fact that it’s an election year prove that this is one show you won’t want to miss, as Judge McGowan adds, “It’s a big year.”
Under the direction of Jana Beard with Lori Isner acting as Musical Director, the play is a full-fledged professional production. Craig Wilson, JD, MPA, a Gridiron player himself, believes that the show takes some serious skill, in part due to the nature of the script-writing. He explains, “The neat thing about the production is that the whole cast is awaiting the script when we go into the first rehearsal. […] Given the nature of politics and news events – that script can change on a daily basis.”
While some might think it a stretch for lawyers to delve into the theater, it’s not far off the mark. Kathryn A. Prior, a partner at Wright Lindsey Jennings who’s heavily involved in the production, says, “If you try lawsuits you’re basically putting on a production for the jurors so that you can teach them the facts and persuade them to your side. You can’t really go by a strict script in a courtroom because everything is always changing.” Thus, it makes sense that the cast of 80 is so light on their feet, as Judge McGowan adds, “I’ve always thought that there were a lot of lawyers that were frustrated actors.”
More than a production, however, the show is an institution in and of itself. Wilson says, “Gridiron is very much about capturing that oral tradition and passing it down from generation to generation. It’s not unlike what we do in establishing common law through the court – it’s passed down from generation to generation but it expands over time, it changes. That’s the way this production has been over time.”
From a political standpoint, there are obvious characters who will make appearances this year, but otherwise, the meat of the production is under wraps until opening night. Wilson adds, “With any show we like a little bit of surprise – with any cake you get a surprise.”
Don’t miss opening night on Tuesday, Aug. 2, which will feature a reception with lite bites and complimentary wine and beer before the curtain at 8 p.m. Four shows will follow on Wednesday, Aug. 3 (7 p.m.), Thursday Aug. 4 (7 p.m.), Friday, Aug. 5 (8 p.m.) and Saturday, Aug. 6 (8 p.m.).
Make plans to see the production by heading to the The Rep’s website or calling the Box Office at (501)378-0405 to get your tickets.
(Top image via The Rep)