Backstage of The Rep’s Capital Campaign with Barbara Bova

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre (The Rep) was founded in 1976. Since that time the theater has moved, grown, celebrated and, most recently, revamped their Main Street location. The renovation was made possible because of the REPrise campaign, which raised $6 million. The Rep publicly launched the campaign in 2008 and, on January 31, 2011, exceeded its goal of $5.4 million and also secured a $600,000 challenge grant from The Kresge Foundation.

But the money did not simply land on the front steps of The Rep. Hundreds of people donated to the capital campaign, local supporters rose to the occasion, and the executive board spearheaded the operation. With persistent, passionate requests for funds and support, The Rep’s board tirelessly rallied Little Rock to its cause. One of the board members who made the REPrise a success was Barbara Bova. “When we launched the capital campaign in 2008, we had no idea of the economic turmoil we would be facing in a short period of time,” she explained. “I still think that it’s a miracle we accomplished so much!”

Bova has been involved with The Rep since its inception. She was a subscriber when shows were produced in the old church at MacArthur Park, but her real commitment began when she married her husband, Steve Bova. “One of the things Steve and I had in common was our love for live theatre,” she said. “My lovely ‘other mother,’ the late Anita Harris, told us that we would be involved with the theatre and that Steve would join The Rep’s board. Steve served for six years in a ten-year period, and then I went on the board for six years, plus an extra year with the capital campaign.”

Bova said she was always nervous when asking for money, but the experience taught her not to take “no” personally. “It was an exciting process with lots of highs and lows,” she said. “Foremost in my thoughts during the difficult times were Bob Hupp and the fantastic staff of The Rep. They are such a talented, hard-working, earnest group, and I would never want to let them down.”

Bova worked the campaign alongside other executive leaders Lee Brown and Brian Bush and honorary chairs Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson. “I am grateful to four groups of people who helped during the capital campaign,” she said. “One is a handful of large donors some gave more than once. Another is the great number of others who, as a group, gave even more. Truly, every dollar counted. Third are the Campaign Cabinet and our consultant, Ashley Coldiron, who kept us focused. And finally is the staff of The Rep, whose continued dedication inspired us to succeed. Without each of these groups we would not have been successful.”

Bova and her husband believe The Rep is an important piece of the Little Rock community and that the campaign was more than a just revamp, because The Rep is more than just a theatre. “We believe that The Rep is such an important influence on our community through not only the cultural benefits of great theatre, but also because of the educational opportunities it affords the young people of the state,” she said. “One cannot underestimate the benefits of the confidence building provided by the SMTI (Summer Musical Theatre Intensive) Program started by Nicole Capri. Every kid can be a star for five minutes.”

One of Bova’s favorite memories of The Rep is from the early days, when the theatre was in MacArthur Park. “Four couples used to decorate one of the rooms off of the balcony at the old church; they had some great parties there,” she said. “During that time none of us had any idea that what Cliff Baker had started would become such a force in our community. But thanks to Cliff’s dedication to live theatre and the quality of performances of that time, we now have our wonderful Rep.”

The Rep’s Producing Artistic Director, Bob Hupp, has been a driving force behind the endless success of the theatre’s performances. “I am such a fan of Bob Hupp,” Bova admitted. “I think Little Rock and Arkansas are so fortunate to have someone with his talent in our midst. Not only is he a true artist, but also his business acumen has been invaluable. He is respected in the world of theatre on a national basis.”

Bova had a difficult time choosing a favorite performance or show from The Rep’s years of productions. “It’s hard to choose one. I thought ‘Les Misérables’ was probably the most outstanding,” she said, “but The Rep’s production of ‘Cabaret’ was fabulous. I saw it twice on Broadway, and it was much better in Little Rock. Oh, and ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ with the wonderful costumes of Rafael Castanera, was pretty wonderful.”

The commitment of the Bovas is enriching. Barbara said, “Steve and I have ‘the Bova Family Rule,’ which is only one major nonprofit board in the family at a time. We want to commit our work, finances and passions in a way that can make a difference. We believe that one of the great things about Little Rock and Arkansas is that any one person can make a difference.”

Judging from the fabulously renovated theatre on Main Street, it seems Bova’s statement is correct—any one person can make a difference. When one rallies many to give and support, one is a powerful number.

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