Behind the scenes of "Godspell"
There's a circus in town but in a very unlikely place. It's inside the Arkansas Repertory Theatre where the stage has been transformed into a wondrous big top for the newly reimagined production of Godspell. The director calls it a mix of extreme circus acts and musical theater at its best and it's being performed for the first time ever right here in Little Rock.
These past few weeks there have been a lot of fun and games happening inside the rehearsal halls of The Rep.
Actor Ben Franklin said, “I will be doing a hoola hoop act where I start with one hoop doing all of these tricks to move to two, to move to three, to move to 20. All while singing this ridiculously, up tempo hard song.” Franklin is not only a performer in Godspell but he is also co-founder of 2 Ring Circus out of New York City. “I walked in and said this is the perfect space for this show. It just felt right that the audience will be a part of the action right up close.”
Franklin, along with 2 Ring Circus Artistic Director Joshua Dean and Godspell Director Donna Drake, knew The Rep would be the ideal stage for this very different performance. “It's often done with clowns but I wanted to take it to the next level and make it a full fledge circus and have aerialists, acrobats, clowns, ringmasters, animal trainers,” explained Dean.
The story based on the gospel according to St Matthew focusing on Jesus's last days remains the same. They've simply added the circus element and changed the setting. Drake explained, “1968 -a time of social unrest. A time of racial tension, and I am pushing that button, as this man is running from the law and finds sanctuary in this circus tent amongst other misfits and outcasts such as he and he builds a community based on love.”
Actress Kacie Burns added, “If you've seen Godspell before I can guarantee you haven't seen this Godspell.” Burns is familiar to The Rep. Most recently she was seen as one of Ariel's sisters in The Little Mermaid also directed by Drake and the first time Rep audiences got a taste of circus in one of it's productions. “Think of Little Mermaid times ten,” said Burns who will be juggling and hoola- hooping in the show - something she's never done before. You'll also see incredible aerial acts.
Dean explained, “It's always fun. I mean, everyone in this community is always so gung ho to try new stuff and we get excited about it and that joy is always lovely.”
It's expected to be a theater experience most have never had before and for Drake, the ringmaster of it all, it’s a dream come true to see it unfold. “That's my favorite part of any show is reimagining what it is and daring to not only entertain an audience and bedazzle them beyond belief but also provoke them and make them think.”
Godspell run from Wednesday, May 31st to June 25th. You can get tickets by going to www.therep.org