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The lineup for the June 8-July 8 season, which explores the theme of transformation, includes Shakespeare classics The Winter’s Tale; Henry IV, Part One; and a family adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, as well as Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady. All four 2018 shows feature characters who undergo major changes — some for the better and others, perhaps, for the worst.

The season will open at 7:30 p.m. June 8 with The Winter’s Tale outdoors on the lawn of McAlister Hall on the campus of the University of CentralArkansas. Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady will open in Reynolds Performance Hall on June 15, and Henry IV, Part One, will open on June 22. AST’s family-friendly adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing will open June 28 in Reynolds and will also tour across the state in June and July.

The Winter’s Tale will be directed by Nisi Sturgis, an AST artistic collective member, Conway native and UCA graduate who was a part of the critically acclaimed tour of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced at the Goodman Theatre, Berkeley Rep and Seattle Rep.

One of Shakespeare’s late romantic plays, it follows the story of King Leontes, who grows jealous of his wife, leading him to make a series of terrible mistakes. “This is a rarely produced Shakespeare gem,” said Rebekah Scallet, AST’s producing artistic director. “Combining comedy and tragedy, love and redemption, it is a beautiful play that speaks to the transformative power of forgiveness. I’m so excited for Sturgis’s production, which is adding even more magic to the show through the use of shadow puppetry and music.”The Winter’s Tale will also feature AST artistic collective member and UCA faculty member Paige Reynolds as Hermione.

Robert Quinlan, who directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in AST’s 10th anniversary season, will return at the helm of Henry IV, Part One. This adventurous tale is centered on the young Prince Hal, who prefers spending his time in the tavern with his fat and jolly friend Falstaff to time in castle with his father, the king. When rebellion stirs in England, he must make a choice as to where his true loyalties lie. Returning company member Sam Babick stars as Hal, and Dan Matisa, AST veteran and collective member, will return to play Falstaff — the same part he played in AST’s 2010 production of Henry V.

“I’m so excited for our audiences to see this wonderful story, full of laughter, swordplay and a timeless story of fathers and sons,” Scallet said. Henry IV, Part One, is also sponsored by the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.

Scallet will direct My Fair Lady. This multiple Tony Award-winning musical premiered in 1956 and will be given fresh life in this intimate new production. A musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a flower girl who wants to transform her status by changing the way she speaks, and so goes to curmudgeonly speech professor Henry Higgins for assistance. AST’s production will feature New York City-based actress Gabriella Pérez (seen last year as Marian the Librarian in The Music Man) as Eliza, with AST newcomer Thom Miller as Higgins. Miller will also take on the title role in Henry IV, Part One. Quinlan will also make his debut as an AST actor as Colonel Pickering. “This will be my first time to direct the musical as part of the AST summer season, and My Fair Lady is a perfect fit,” Scallet said. “The script retains so much of Shaw’s original language, along with Lerner and Loewe’s glorious songs. I’m thrilled to be able to bring it to life for Arkansas audiences.”

Enrico Spada will make his directorial debut with AST for the touring Family Shakespeare production of Much Ado About Nothing. With a cast of just eight people telling a reduced version of this classic tale, Much Ado is a romantic comedy with the great Shakespearean couple of Beatrice and Benedick at its center. This hour-long adaptation is perfect for families to enjoy together and will be performed on stage at Reynolds along with stops at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain, Hot Springs Farmer’s Market, The Joint in Argenta and The Griffin in El Dorado, among others.

Rounding out the acting company for 2018 is a talented group of veterans and newcomers, including Heather Dupree, Lindsay Smiling, Will Stotts, Corrie Green, Holly Ruth Gale and Diana Gardner.

Audiences will again be seated onstage for the three productions in Reynolds Performance Hall. AST’s 12th season will close on July 8 with a final performance of The Winter’s Tale.

AST is grateful for the support of the Morris Foundation, our 2018 Presenting Season Sponsor.

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