UA Little Rock theater student cast in NY Shakespeare company

UA Little Rock theater major Keith Harper has learned that an acting career requires both talent and extensive networking. Through the UA Little Rock Department of Theatre Arts, he has developed both.

This summer, Harper heads to Silver Lake, New York, where he will spend six weeks performing in Shake on the Lake’s production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” The acting company performs classic Shakespeare throughout western New York.

Harper, 26, of Little Rock will play the roles of Adam and Audrey, which he is familiar with since he was cast in the same roles last year in UA Little Rock’s production of “As You Like It.” That show was guest directed by Chad Bradford, a Little Rock actor based in New York City who is the associate artistic director for Shake on the Lake.  

Harper worked with Bradford in 2017 when Bradford directed The Studio Theatre’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and cast Harper.

Then in October 2018, Bradford directed UA Little Rock’s production of “As You Like It” and worked again with Harper. When it was time to cast his New York show, Bradford encouraged Harper to audition for the Shake on the Lake acting company.

“I didn’t hear anything for a couple of months, and then I got an email,” Harper recalled. “I was happy and excited. It’s a paying gig!”

Harper earned an Associate of Arts at University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, where he took his first acting classes with theater instructor Sheila Glasscock who cast him in a production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He fell in love with theater and came to UA Little Rock as a transfer student. Harper received the Joan R. Taylor Scholarship and will graduate in December with a Bachelor of Art in Theatre Arts.

“The theatre department at UA Little Rock has given me a great foundation,” said Harper, who plans to pursue a career in film and theater in Los Angeles or Atlanta. “The faculty here have been great. Stacy Pendergraft and Larry Smith are awesome.”

While at UA Little Rock, Harper has performed in the Department of Theatre Art and Dance’s productions of  “Octoroon,” “Detroit 67,” and “As You Like It.”

Harper also has performed in several productions at The Weekend Theater, including “The Member of the Wedding,” “Two Trains Running,” “Stick Fly,” and “12 Angry Men.”

Before he leaves for New York, he will wrap up work with the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project. He and other actors will perform “On the Row,” a collection of staged readings of poems from death row inmates. The group leaves leaves June 13 to perform four shows in four cities including Dallas, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Wichita, Kansas; and Kansas City, Missouri.

Later this month, Harper will also shoot the TV pilot “Lela’s Place,” being filmed in Arkansas. Harper plays an attorney. His residency with Shake on the Lake runs July 7 to Aug. 11.

“This will be my first trip to New York, and I’m looking forward to working and building network connections and expanding my skill set,” Harper said. “I hope my art in this field reaches and inspires others to do what they love. Whatever gift God has given you, you just share it. Everything will take care of itself.”

Photo top right: Keith Harper plans to pursue professional acting as a career when he graduates later this year.

Photo above left: Keith Harper (seated) performed in UA Little Rock’s production of “Detroit 67” earlier this year.

Photos by Benjamin Krain 

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