TheatreSquared, theater patrons celebrate new space

TheatreSquared, theater patrons celebrate new space

Looking back at the year just past is a tradition — for everyone, not just the staff of What’s Up! We do it in print because so much more happens in the arts and entertainment world of Northwest Arkansas in a year than any of us can imagine — or remember. So we remind not just ourselves but all of you.

We have changed our thinking about one thing in the past couple of years, however. It’s a lot more difficult to rank stories as far as their impact on the region than it used to be. One woman’s No. 1 might be another man’s No. 10. So this year, Jocelyn Murphy, Lara Hightower and I took the easy way out. We’re numbering the stories from 10 to 1 — but they’re just place holders, not rankings. We hope you agree that all of these 10 things will continue to affect Northwest Arkansas in 2020 and beyond — in only the best ways, of course.

10. Silver Dollar City grows and glows.

9. Terra Studios says farewell to bluebirds.

8. Small museums have big impact.

7. Musical roots bear fruit.

6. Eureka Springs enjoying a renaissance in the arts.

5. Future looks bright for area musicians.

4. The Momentary adds another aspect to the arts.

3. Walton Arts Center making national name for itself.

2. Crystal Bridges Museum keeps redefining American art.

1. TheatreSquared a rare gem among regional theaters.

Thanks for reading!

— Becca Martin-Brown

Free Weekly Editor



The original idea for TheatreSquared was hatched around a kitchen table in 2004. A small group of friends — theater fans, all — were talking about how great it would be to have a local professional theater in Northwest Arkansas. The theater’s founders, Robert Ford, Amy Herzberg, David Pickens, Kassie Misiewicz and Morgan Hicks — each one a theater professional and force of nature in their own right — were not content to leave that idea languishing on that kitchen table and, in the spring of 2006, TheatreSquared debuted its first production. The company started out with a bang: It produced Teresa Rebeck’s “Bad Dates,” starring Fayetteville native Rebecca Harris, a professional actor with a slew of movie and television credits on her resume. The debut would make T2 only the second professional theater in the state, after Little Rock’s Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Early supporters say it was obvious that the theater company had staying power.

“I’d been friends with Bob and Amy for several years when I first heard that something was ‘up’ and that there was talk about a new theater venture in the making,” says Margaret Rutherford, the organization’s first board president. “Their intense vision, along with Morgan, Kassie and David, was to produce shows locally, and make them the kind of quality that would attract the professional theater community to our already richly endowed region.”

Still, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. When the theater’s current executive director, Martin Miller, was hired in 2009, the company was shaky after weathering the two-year economic recession and had pared down its paid employees to just one — the hiring of Miller was a sign they were ready to push ahead. At that time, the theater had 80 season subscribers. Today, they’re nearing 3,000.

“Add Martin Miller to the mix, and you had a winning team,” says Rutherford. “We’ve seen that, not only has all theater in the area benefited from this addition, but so have the people who’ve come here to work and have spread the word about T2 and Northwest Arkansas. Add the educational component of T2 to the mix, offering a unique learning experience to children all over the state, promotion of new artists’ work, and an unparalleled diversity of production, TheatreSquared has become what its name was created to imply — an exponentially potent theater experience.”

A theater experience that was recognized nationally, in fact: In 2010, the American Theater Wing named T2 as one of the “Best Emerging Theaters in the Nation.” That kind of national recognition has allowed T2 to attract top talent from around the country for the past decade.

Back in 2006, that debut show was performed at what press called T2’s “temporary home”: Nadine Baum Studios, across the street from the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. That “temporary home” would turn permanent for the next decade, and the intimacy of the space became something audiences loved most about the company. In 2015, T2 made a startling announcement at the season 10 kick-off party: They were exploring the possibility of building a new theater, a home of their own. In November of 2016, that dream took a significant step toward reality: T2 revealed design plans, created by award-winning firms Marvel Architects and CharcoalBlue, that showed a 50,000-square-foot theater building with two performance spaces — each one retaining the company’s now-trademark intimacy — state-of-the-art costume and scenic shops, artist housing and a gorgeous, window-lined first floor area known as The Commons, earmarked for all-day food and beverage service and meant to be a welcoming space that would lure the public inside.

The little idea that started at a kitchen table had hit the big time.

In September of 2019, T2’s 14th season opened in the new space with “Shakespeare in Love.” T2 chose a show that, said director Amy Herzberg, was a “love letter to theater” as its first in the new space, and the production debuted to great fanfare, a full house and no shortage of happy tears.

Miller and his team have been working in the space since spring of this year, but he says the excitement has yet to wear off.

“There are daily revelations — walking into the Commons, alive with activity hours before the show; watching an artist open the door to their own, brand-new apartment; and most of all, seeing the intimate and electric new theater spaces fill with excited people,” he says. “It’s made me incredibly meta — ‘Isn’t this amazing?’ — and something of a broken record. For many of our team, it’s like wearing clothes that fit you for the first time in your life. A costume shop with space and light; an office where you can glance into the rehearsal room; a rehearsal room, for that matter, that’s the actual size of the stage.

“I think the biggest surprise is how quickly and easily we’ve slipped into it, because everything just makes sense.”

Likewise, says Miller, the public reaction has been just as positive.

“No one is intimidated,” he says. “They tell us they walk in and feel at home, but also like they’re somewhere special. My favorite comment is frankly the one we hear most often: ‘Wow.’”

The space was designed with collaboration in mind — from The Commons to the large meeting rooms, T2 intended the space to be open to and used by as many members of the Northwest Arkansas community as possible.

“People use the Commons to gather every day — thesis meetings, organizing committees, book clubs, even a drop-in birthday party,” says Miller. “We vastly underestimated the excitement around community events. To meet the demand, we’ve brought on board a wonderful full-time events manager, Christina Meré. I thought we’d envisioned every use for the Commons, but when I saw it set up for a 200-person seated wedding — that was new, and incredibly beautiful.

“We’re excited to host the [NWA] Ballet [Theatre] again this spring, and we’ll be partnering with both the Momentary and UA Theatre for our upcoming Arkansas New Play Festival in April,” Miller continues. “But there’s easily a score of other community events scheduled ranging from corporate retreats, to improv workshops, to movie screenings as part of the upcoming Comic Show — it’s wonderful to see these spaces used.”

It’s a symbiotic relationship, it seems. The public is benefiting a great deal from the T2 facilities — but, as Miller points out, the T2 building would not be here without the Northwest Arkansas community.

“We are deeply grateful to the community members who gave generously, worked hard, and have helped welcome us to this wonderful new home this year,” he says. “We can’t wait for 2020.”




477 W. Spring St., Fayetteville


Next Show:

‘The Royale’

Jan. 22-Feb. 16

Categories: Cover Story