The Year Ahead: Online Enhances Arts Live

The Year Ahead: Online Enhances Arts Live

Theater company continues to broaden horizons


Northwest Arkansas’ Arts Live Theatre is well established in the community — after all, it’s been around since 1983, when it started out as a touring company offering educational theater productions statewide. In 2000, the company’s mission shifted to producing theater with all-youth casts, and, when he took over as executive director in 2005, actor/director/playwright/agent Mark Landon Smith launched Arts Live on a trajectory that includes up to 14 productions per season in addition to a slate of workshops and classes for its young artists. Even covid-19 couldn’t stop Smith’s momentum, and this week he answered some questions for What’s Up! about where Arts Live finds itself after almost a year of surviving in a global pandemic.

Q. What did you plan for 2020 that fell flat? And what did you DO in 2020 that was way better than you hoped it would be?

A. In March 2020 we had began rehearsals for “The Little Mermaid,” but quickly realized due to the pandemic, we would have to postpone the production. We also had to cancel the remainder of our in-person production season. We shifted to virtual options very quickly by offering classes, workshops and productions online. This has been very successful for us and has opened Arts Live to a larger community; we now have young artists all over the country participating in Arts Live programming. We took the challenges and made them opportunities.

Q. What’s your biggest goal for 2021 for Arts Live?

A. To continue offering exciting and innovative virtual programming, to strengthen existing partnerships and establish new ones to serve all communities. And to ease our way back into in-person programming when we feel safe to do so.

Q. Are you still planning a 2021-22 season? Or have you kind of shortened that time frame while you wait to see what happens with covid?

A. We are planning a 2021-22 season with virtual classes, productions and workshops and are keeping our eye on how things develop regarding in-person. When we do return to in-person, we will continue virtual programming as it has been so successful and we see the benefit to the communities we serve of having both options.

Q. What should we be looking forward to for Arts Live in 2021?

A. We have some terrific classes being offered for all ages up to 18, a series of upcoming workshops, auditions and productions. We have been and are developing original scripts and adaptations, including “Alice in Cyberland,” which we adapted last year into virtual theater and was published and is now being produced around the country. We are currently developing the ALT original musical “Rock Dogs” for virtual performances and Louanne Kitterman’s comedy “Quarantine Sweet Sixteen.” As we look into spring, we will be producing additional online musicals, known and original works including a script being written by ALT actor/playwright Jae Hurd. We also have several special events scheduled including Punbags, the ALT comedy improv group, and are developing a YouTube and Instagram series.

Q. Do you have a time frame for when in-person events will return?

A. We do not have a time frame at this time as we continue to monitor the situation and talk with other producing companies about their plans of going in-person. We are keeping all possibilities in mind and making plans for all contingencies. The positive result of covid-19 has been Arts Live realizing the benefit of virtual learning that engages students, audiences and teaching artists throughout the country and has strengthened the organization.

Q. What are the next BIG goals for the company?

A. Arts Live wants to make outreach, collaborations and relationship development a priority so we can serve a communities.

Arts Live’s offerings during the pandemic have been just as eclectic and plentiful as in seasons past, with a mix of workshops, classes and virtual performances of original scripts as well as classic favorites.
(Courtesy Photo)


How To Help

Asked what supporters can do for Arts Live, its executive director, Mark Landon Smith, says: “We’d like to ask friends and fans and family of Arts Live to make a tax-deductible donation. Every bit helps, and through the generosity of others, so many benefit. Donations may be made through our website at

Categories: Family Friendly