Rep’s Stagehands deploys welcome wagon for actors

Brianne Bush and Cathey Robbins volunteered at the Arkansas Repertory Theater for the same reason – both have children who have performed on the representative’s stage.

Seven or eight years ago, the women helped found the Rep’s Stagehands, a group of over 30 volunteers who are the “welcome cart” for professional actors who come to Little Rock to star in productions.

“When they come to town for the first day of rehearsal, we prepare the food for what we call the meet and greet. They’re just meeting each other for the first time,” says Robbins.

Others are invited to the meeting, including the representative’s board of directors and his staff. When rehearsals begin, the Stagehands provide another meal.

“We made gift baskets for Christmas because most of the actors are not from here. They are away from their families and, in addition, many of our members have entertained the actors during the week or when they are. off on Monday. They might have a meeting at their house or something. It’s a great way for us to get to know them, “says Robbins.

“They all stay in apartments or hotels and we just try to do everything we can to give them southern hospitality and make them feel at home,” said Bush.

Bush adds that she has become friends with many actors and when they return to Little Rock, she will go to dinner with them. She also had dinner with her actor friends when she visited New York.

“We have a lot of really professional people in the shows,” Bush says. “It’s very important to work at the Rep. I think if you ask actors in New York who know the Rep, they would jump at the chance to work here because it’s a very professional and well-respected theater.”

When Jason Alexander premiered “Windfall” at the Rep in 2016, women got to know him and visited him on several occasions. Alexander was one of the stars of the longtime sitcom “Seinfeld”.

“He was wonderful,” Bush says. “It’s just great getting to know the actors on a personal level compared to who their characters are on stage.”

Robbins says his daughter Anna got interested in acting because of the Rep. She took Anna to shows at the Rep from when she was in second grade. Anna and Bush’s son Alex joined the Representative’s youth summer program and both eventually graduated with musical theater degrees.

“They do such a good job and it’s an intimate theater,” says Robbins. “I can tell that’s why she signed up for the youth program there.”

Anna, now 27, and Alex, now 31, moved to New York and tried acting before moving on to different careers.

The Stagehands have also hosted a few fundraising cabarets featuring cast members performing one or two numbers.

“Usually the actors are jumping around,” Bush says. “It gives them a chance to have a little bit of a spotlight on themselves and they can sing whatever they want from whatever their character is on stage. This usually happens mostly with musicals, but it’s a very popular thing. We sell tickets. It’s a very laid back format and the actors love it and the Rep clients seem to like it too. “

In 2021, some of the stagehands mobilized to help the representative to remodel the green room, the space where the actors hang out while waiting to go on stage. The job should be done early this month, Robbins says.

As longtime Rep supporters, the two women have seen plenty of shows. But everyone must have a favorite. What were they?

“Oh my God, I have to say the first ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.’ They did it a couple of times but the first one I think my daughter was in second grade and we saw it a couple times it was just awesome.

“Mine was probably ‘Les Mis’. My son was in that one and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for this show,” said Bush. “It’s his favorite musical and when it was picked overall it was a really special time for our family.”

Machinists are always looking for more volunteers – the more the merrier.

“It’s fun and it’s flexible and we all became friends,” Bush says. “It’s funny.”

You can find more information about the Arkansas Repertory Theater at therep.org.

Brianne Bush and Cathey Robbins both got involved with the Arkansas Repertory Theater because their children were interested in acting. They are members of Rep’s Stagehands and volunteer to make cast and performers from out of town feel welcome in the natural state. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Cary Jenkins)

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