Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s 12th season will open Friday, June 8, at 7:30 p.m. with William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale outdoors on the lawn of McAlister Hall on the University of Central Arkansas campus.

One of Shakespeare’s late romantic plays, The Winter’s Tale, follows the story of King Leontes, who grows jealous of his wife, leading him to make a series of terrible mistakes.

The Winter’s Tale “offers a powerful message about faith, redemption and transformation,” said director Nisi Sturgis, a member of the AST Artistic Collective and a Conway native. “The people who help us to become our better selves are often the ones who tell us the hardest truths. If we remain open in the present to the possibility of what we can learn from stories of the past, then we can look to future with hope.”

Sturgis, part of the critically acclaimed tour of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced at the Goodman Theatre, Berkeley Rep and Seattle Rep, is making her directorial debut with AST. She performed in two past seasons, with notable roles as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Viola in Twelfth Night.

Producing Artistic Director Rebekah Scallet said this would be AST’s first production of The Winter’s Tale.

“It is indeed a rarely produced Shakespeare gem,” she said. “Combining comedy and tragedy, love and redemption, this play speaks to the transformative power of forgiveness, and Sturgis’ production, which is adding even more magic to the show through the use of shadow puppetry and music, is going to be one of a kind.”

The Winter’s Tale also features AST Artistic Collective member and UCA faculty member Paige Reynolds as Hermione.

It’s an absolutely breathtaking story — there is so much heartache, but through that difficult journey we can see the power of mercy and the tenacity of the human spirit, even in times of devastating loss,” she said. “One thing I love about Hermione is how many times she says the word ‘grace.’ I think this tale is invested in grace, the kind that washes over the worst of wrongdoings and mistakes and messes in a way that makes survival possible. She’s a remarkably strong mother, and I think that’s one thing strong mothers can do. There’s something life-giving about that kind of grace. It’s heartrendingly beautiful.”

Performances of The Winter’s Tale will be June 8, 9, 17, 24, 28 and 30 and July 4 and 6. Every show is pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $15 per person. Vendors will be on site to provide food and drinks, and a number of artists will be on the lawn displaying works for sale during these performances.

“We are dedicated to enhancing the festival atmosphere of our outdoor show, one that engages and meets the needs of every audience member,” said Mary Ruth Marotte, AST’s executive director. “Summer nights are perfect for theater in the open air, and we look forward to creating a fun and welcoming experience for all who attend.”

Also featured in this production will be members of The Groundlings Company, AST’s youth ensemble, led by Sharon Combs.

AST’s complete summer season, which will run through July 8, also includes Henry VI, Part I, Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady and a family Shakespeare adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, all of which will be performed in Reynolds Performance Hall. For tickets and more information, visit or call 866-810-0012.

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre is proud to be a part of the University of Central Arkansas and is grateful for the continued support and sponsorship of the following UCA entities: Office of the President, College of Fine Arts and Communication and Department of Film, Theatre and Creative Writing.

The UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication includes the departments of Art, Music, and Film, Theatre and Creative Writing, as well as the School of Communication. The college’s primary mission is the preparation of the next generation of artists, educators and communicators. For more information about CFAC, visit or call ‪501-450-3293.