‘A Very Rich Ex­pe­ri­ence’

Words are enough for ‘Col­lected Sto­ries’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BENTONVILLE - LARA JO HIGHTOWER

Univer­sity of Arkansas as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor Mor­gan Hicks knows her way around large-cast the­ater pro­duc­tions. This spring, she directed “As­sas­sins” for the UA and “The DingDong” for TheatreSquared. She also spent the sum­mer co­or­di­nat­ing the large-scale Arkansas New Play Fes­ti­val, the Sum­mer Academy for Young Adults and the AEGIS: Sum­mer Stage project at TheatreSquared, where she is a co-founder and the di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion and pro­gram de­vel­op­ment. It’s no won­der she’s re­lax­ing into her most re­cent project — the in­ti­mate drama “Col­lected Sto­ries” by Don­ald Mar­gulies, pro­duced by ArkansasS­taged at the 21c Mu­seum Ho­tel in Ben­tonville.

A study of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween an es­tab­lished, suc­cess­ful au­thor and her pro­tege, “Col­lected Sto­ries” was a fi­nal­ist for the Drama­tists Guild Award for Best Play when it was pro­duced off-Broad­way in 1997.

“I’ve been work­ing on shows with big en­sem­bles or shows where ac­tors play mul­ti­ple roles a lot over the last sev­eral years, so I haven’t had a chance to work on a script like this in a while,” says Hicks of the two-per­son show. “This play — which fea­tures two amaz­ing roles for strong ac­tresses — is all about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween two hu­mans. We get to ex­plore this amaz­ing dy­namic and watch it shift right be­fore our eyes.”

Hicks says ArkansasS­taged’s his­tory of pro­duc­ing staged read­ings of cut­ting-edge scripts makes it a per­fect launch­pad for the show.

“This play is all about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween these two ac­tors,” she says. “We won’t need some­one read­ing stage di­rec­tions de­scrib­ing high the­atri­cal­ity to tell the story. I think that with a play like this, the au­di­ence will get a very rich ex­pe­ri­ence by just be­ing able to hear the words without any dis­trac­tion.”

Founded in 2012, ArkansasS­taged has spent this sea­son as the the­ater-in­res­i­dence for the 21c Mu­seum Ho­tel in Ben­tonville.

“I think hav­ing com­pa­nies like ArkansasS­taged and Artist’s Lab[or­a­tory Theatre] and all of the other com­pa­nies that come to­gether to pro­duce art are so im­por­tant for our re­gion,” says Hicks. “[Peo­ple] love liv­ing here be­cause we rec­og­nize that the artistry and tal­ent of our com­mu­nity makes this place spe­cial. A com­pany like ArkansasS­taged is able to have a fo­cused mis­sion and is able to iden­tify the ex­act type of con­ver­sa­tion that they want to be spark­ing in the com­mu­nity. I have so much re­spect for Laura [Shatkus, artis­tic di­rec­tor of ArkansasS­taged] and this com­pany be­cause of the pas­sion that is the en­gine of the work.

“As we grow as a re­gion with an ap­petite for the­ater, hav­ing more com­pa­nies do­ing good work is good for our au­di­ences — and good for our artists.”

NWA DEMO­CRAT-GAZETTE/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF

Lisa (Emily Riggs of Fayet­teville), from left, stage man­ager Ce­leste Richard of Fayet­teville, di­rec­tor Mor­gan Hicks of Ben­tonville and Ruth (Lau­ren Hal­yard of Rogers) re­hearse for the ArkansasS­taged read­ing of “Col­lected Sto­ries” at 21c Mu­seum Ho­tel in Ben­tonville.

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