Here’s a double hallelujah: The Arkansas Repertory Theatre is back this summer, with outdoor shows to be staged at War Memorial Park, the Little Rock Zoo and Murray Park.

After The Rep suspended operations in April of 2018 to regroup its financial future and hired Executive Artistic Director Will Trice — a native of Little Rock and a Tony Award-winning producer — in 2019 to help lead its revival, the COVID-19 pandemic closed the theater doors once again. This summer’s outdoor productions mark its return to live theatre. Tickets for the series go on sale June 1, and tickets for individual shows go on sale July 1.

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First up in “The Rep Outdoors” series: “Marie & Rosetta,” playwright George Brant’s 2017 play about Cotton Plant, Ark., native and gospel/rock icon Sister Rosetta Tharpe and her relationship with contralto Marie Knight. The New Yorker said of the play: “It is so rare for a play about the inner lives of black women to center on their intimacy and not world politics or degradation that the very fact of George Brant’s loving two-character script is refreshing. … As the two women exchange licks on piano and guitar (Elvis learned a lot from Tharpe’s strong strumming), it becomes clear that Tharpe is drawn to the young woman’s gentleness—but how to love a woman, given the strictures of the black church?” Steve H. Broadnax directs, and the play takes place July 13 – Aug. 1 on the grounds of War Memorial Park.

Next, Jennifer Vanderbes’ “Primating” goes up Aug. 10-30 at the Civitan Pavilion in the Little Rock Zoo. Directed by Ari Edelson, The Rep describes the play like this:

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Desmond and Eve, two of the world’s leading primatologists, re-unite on a chimp reserve in Africa to study the mating habits of primates, and wind up grappling with their animal instincts. The headstrong, brainy ex-lovers use what they know about primate behavior to justify their own past decisions, igniting a full-blown battle of the sexes – and wits – as they pit man against woman, and ape against man.

Lastly, a concert staging of beloved 1960 musical “The Fantasticks,” free to the public and held at Murray Park Sun., Oct. 3.

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“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how much we all crave being out in the world, and sharing experiences with our families, friends, and neighbors,” said The Rep’s Executive Artistic Director, Will Trice. “That’s exactly what live theatre provides, and these immersive productions give us the chance to enjoy our city’s beautiful community spaces in a whole new way.”

“The city of Little Rock is thrilled to partner with The Rep to bring people together in a safe fashion and enjoy theatre while showcasing our city’s amazing parks and Zoo,” Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. said. “Innovative approaches to parks usage such as this bring excitement to our community and provide additional opportunities for intentional interactions with our fellow residents and visitors to Little Rock.”

Series tickets for both summer productions will go on sale June 1, with tickets for individual productions going on sale July 1.  Rep patrons who donated the value of their tickets to cancelled 2020 productions will be offered an advance pre-sale period beginning May 24.

The Rep is closely following the latest recommended public health protocols to ensure that each audience member will have an enjoyable, comfortable, and safe experience.  All performances will be held in open air facilities, and capacities will be limited to accommodate social distancing.  Other specific policies will be released at a later date.