Q&A: Arkansas Theatre Festival 2020

Chris James, Founder of Arkansas Theatre Festival

The Roots Art Connection, a North Little Rock-based nonprofit, is bringing the first Arkansas Theatre Festival to UA-Pulaski Tech Center for Humanities and Arts, March 5 – March 7, 2020. Chris James, Executive Director and Founder of The House of Art in the Argenta Arts District, visited with us.

Since it’s the first year for the Arkansas Theatre Festival, what should people expect? People should expect to be mind-blown by a bunch of epic-ness, back-to-back, every day of the festival. We have quality plays and workshops happening each day from 9 a.m. til 10 p.m. They can literally leave home in the morning and stay all day. The theatrical experience we are offering is affordable and it’s like nothing Arkansas has ever had. Our audience can expect to be baptized in culture. The stories being told through theatre are the stories of the world.

island trap
The award-winning one-man show, Island Trap, will be at UA-Pulaski Tech CHARTS in North Little Rock Saturday, March 7, 2020.

Which event are you personally most looking forward to? I am personally excited about seeing the one-man play Island Trap, the epic Remixology of the Odyssey. This show has won awards all around the world from New Zealand, Off Broadway and 10 awards from the Kennedy Center. This play is powerful and will have Arkansans talking for weeks.

How and why did the festival come about? The Arkansas Theatre Festival came about as a result of us not seeing a lot of opportunity for new work to be presented. We can go the Weekend Theater or The Rep and see world-renowned works almost every week, but what about the new works that are still emerging but are just as amazing? We decided over a year ago that we would serve as that platform for playwrights like fourteen-year-old Aidan Eslinger or Hendrix College professor Andrew Vaught. 

LATINX THEATRE PROJECT, hailing from Northwest Arkansas, will perform The Crossroads, a migration story of a young Mexican couple.

What kind of reaction/feedback/participation have you gotten so far? We’ve gotten a lot of local buy-in so far. We’ve have gotten a lot of great local organizations to come on board as partners and sponsors. They’ve immediately said “YES” for the most part. People have already begun buying tickets and sharing our social media post daily. We even have theatre lovers coming from as far as Atlanta to spend the week at this festival.

Can you talk a little about the diversity of the performers and why that was important? As I mentioned earlier, we have fourteen-year-old Aidan Eslinger producing his show, It’s Not What It Looks Like. From Northwest Arkansas, we have the LATINX THEATRE PROJECT presenting The Crossroads. Then Andew Vaught’s play, Obedience of Bustero, tells the story of a dictator-leader who is turned into a dog. We intentionally made sure this festival was diverse and inclusive of all types of stories and people, even dogs (I hope someone laughs at that!). But seriously, this festival will be beautiful for so many reasons and it is our hope that the entire state of Arkansas gets the opportunity to experience it.

Arkansas Theatre Festival will be in North Little Rock’s UA-Pulaski Tech Center for Humanities and Arts from March 5 through March 7, 2020. Besides a strong lineup on the main stage, the festival also include monologue competitions for high school students and adults; a ten-minute play showcase in partnership with ACANSA, and morning performances of The Ugly Duckling for local schools. Follow the Arkansas Theatre Festival on Facebook for updates.