Staying Busy

Staying Busy

Theater artists pivot into new covid-19 concepts


Since March, we’ve talked a lot about artists and arts organizations “pivoting” in the face of a global pandemic — and, in fact, artists in Northwest Arkansas have proven to be quite adept at finding ways to stay connected with the community while many are staying home. We asked two of them to let us know what they’ve been doing. This is part of an ongoing series.

Jacob Christiansen

Jacob Christiansen is a playwright and director who has worked with area theaters including Arts Center of the Ozarks, Smokehouse Players and Trike Theatre. His plays have been produced at regional theaters, festivals and competitions across the Midwest. Since the pandemic began in March, he’s worked on four productions — three online and one in-person.

Mark Landon Smith

Directing: “Early One Morning” by Ron Melrose, produced with Arts Center of the Ozarks. In the early weeks of this pandemic, after a different play I was directing was forced to cancel, I was fortunate to work with Kandace Bowen and Denise Richards on a one-woman musical written by Broadway composer Ron Melrose. The musical, “Early One Morning,” adapts the biblical story of Mary Magdalene’s life for the stage. Before the pandemic, I received the rights from Melrose to produce a touring version of this piece which I planned to take to area churches. When the pandemic shut down local theaters, I reached out to Melrose to see if he would be willing to grant me the rights to produce a filmed version of the piece to release online. He graciously agreed. Working with Kandace and Denise was a joy; they were inventive collaborators as we explored the process of filming a stage play.

“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” by Eugene O’Neill, produced by the Nomadic Theatre Collective. It was an engaging adventure to direct an online production of Eugene O’Neill’s classic play with three local actors (Bill Hesse, Michael Myers and Miranda Burger) working alongside two out-of-state performers. As a team, we had to find new rehearsal techniques or adapt old ones to accommodate the video call process. Original music by composer Patrick Cunningham and original artwork by Darla Ferrara added so much to the final product.

“Sure Thing” by David Ives, produced by Arts Center of the Ozarks. I was contacted by Arts Center of the Ozarks and asked to direct a short play as part of Springdale’s Ozarktober Fest. It was a relief and a joy to return to in-person theater after so many months away.

Playwriting: “Big Money” by Jacob Mann Christiansen, produced at The Studio Theatre. The Studio Theatre (The Villages, Fla.) reached out to me and purchased the rights to produce a play of mine online. The script, “Big Money,” was written for the stage, but adapted well to a Zoom format. A video of the piece was publicly available in late October.

Mark Landon Smith

Mark Landon Smith is a professional actor, director, choreographer and playwright who founded and runs the Actors Casting Agency and is the executive director of Arts Live Theatre.

Jacob Mann Christiansen

My online projects: Arts Live pivoted very quickly to virtual in March, offering virtual classes, productions and special events which have provided opportunity for artists throughout the country to participate. We have produced two musicals, “The Show Must Go Online” and “Super Happy Awesome News,” along with the monologue play “Quaran-teens” and productions of “The Red Badge of Courage,” “The Tempest,” “Snow White” and “Little Women.” We have also launched the “Me Interview You Too” series where ALT actors interview each other, Splash Theatre, Radio Theatre, Shaky Bugs Living Room Theatre and have produced two series of the national 24 Hour Monologues. Through the Arts Live Theatre YouTube channel past and present productions and produced series may be seen and have received over 8,500 views since the channel’s release in March. We have also created a podcast and an in-house play publishing division offering Arts Live adaptations and original work for virtual production, and ALT virtual scripts are being published on a national and international level by play publishing companies. We have also been able to bring in professional theater and film artists from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and other places to work with young artists. Our fall season includes productions, classes, workshops and special events which may be found at

What has helped Arts Live through this time is the support of our staff, teaching artists, families, sponsors and the community at large. They have been encouraging and excited about the innovative programming and opportunities Arts Live has brought virtually. That support and enthusiasm is what keeps us connected to our passion and realizing anything is possible and continually thinking outside the box and challenging ourselves.


Go Online!

Mark Landon Smith

Find Arts Live Theatre’s projects at

Jacob Mann Christiansen

Find out more at

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