In a return to his Central Arkansas roots, Will Trice will helm the revival of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre as executive artistic director, a newly created position that Trice says combines his business and consulting experience with his celebrated career as a Broadway producer.
Trice’s producing work has won him three Tony Awards and five nominations — including awards for “All The Way,” starring Bryan Cranston; the Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”; and “Porgy and Bess,” starring Audra McDonald. Speaking from his current home base in New York, Trice told us in a phone interview last week that this new position at The Rep is a combination of responsibilities for which he’s uniquely suited.
“A lot of arts organizations have this sort of dual leadership model where there’s an artistic director and then there’s an executive director or a
Trice also said that artistic directors at other
As a Little Rock native, Trice said he’s looking forward to this move to his hometown, as it will allow him to “regularly see folks I would normally see every other holiday or something like that,” he said. “Some of my
The beginnings of Trice’s
“It is where I learned about professional
Trice said this new position was developed after he initially reached out to The Rep during its suspension of operations last April.
“[I was] just sort of offering up help in any way, as a thought partner to Cliff [Baker] and to Ruth Shepherd, [but] very general, like, ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ Like everyone in the community, I didn’t want to see the institution go down. As those conversations continued, they morphed into discussing something long term. So it sort of happened organically.”
Trice said he’s been consulting with The Rep’s board for the past few weeks, and while he was hesitant to share specifics on his guiding principles for the
Trice is slated to assume his role at The Rep in
“In the first six months, it’s about tackling my learning curve and building relationships with the staff, the board, the supporters and the audiences, getting to know the audiences a little bit better,” he said. “Yes, I spent the first 18 years of my life there, but that was 20 something years ago. It’s a lot of the same people, but it’s a lot of new people, and so finding out who they are and what they like and what they might like. That all takes time to learn. And establishing a lot of those relationships, like with the other arts leaders and community leaders in town, that’s the biggest goal initially.”
When asked if one of those relationships may potentially be with the Arkansas Cinema Society, which was founded by Little Rock-born filmmaker Jeff Nichols, a friend of Trice’s, Trice wasn’t
“I hope The Rep partners in some way or another with every arts organization that’s in town,” he said. “I would say that I certainly see that as being part of my mission. Who knows what those partnerships look like at this point? But our town is too small, with such great, large arts organizations, for us not to all be in it together somehow. A lot of times, the most unlikely of those partnerships can wind up producing the coolest events.”
Trice said he and his husband are ready for a new chapter after living in New York for the past 15 years, and while they’ve been talking about a move back to the South for a while, he couldn’t have predicted that this is how it would take place.
“Life’s funny that way,” he said. “In retrospect, it looks like it was all planned out and completely obvious, and in real time, in actuality, it was lovely and random.”