CONWAY—Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre at the University of Central Arkansas has announced Chad Bradford as its new managing director.
“We are Arkansas’ only professional theatre company that focuses on classic and mythic tales. This uniquely positions us to tell imaginative and life-changing stories while promoting UCA’s educational mission,” Bradford said. “Recent studies have proven that arts education can lead to higher academic scores and increased levels of empathy. Therefore, the future of AST will include a more robust educational element. We are also interested in partnering with other Arkansas’ based institutions to strengthen our impact.”
Bradford is a UCA alumnus having earned a Bachelor of Arts in theatre with a minor in music. He returns to UCA after a storied career on and off the stage. He served as associate artistic director and founding company member at Shake on the Lake Theatre Company from 2016-2022.
His acting credits include leading roles in five national tours, two of which were “The Fantasticks” and “Christmas Carol.” He has also had leading roles off-Broadway at the American Theatre of Actors and American Globe Theatre in New York City. His credits include leading equity companies through the American Shakespeare Center, Pennsylvania Center State, Omaha Playhouse and the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
Bradford earned a Master of Science in leadership for creative enterprises from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He also earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting from The Pennsylvania State University.
He has served as touring director and manager for AST from 2006-19 and was a company member for nine seasons. He has been a guest director and visiting lecturer at Bradley University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and UCA.
Bradford took his first acting class through UCA Theatre’s Youth Theatre of Central Arkansas at 15. His first Shakespearean role was Hamlet as a junior at UCA, and he played Lysander in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the inaugural season of AST in 2007. He also met his wife, Sharon Combs, while both were teenagers in UCA’s youth theatre. Combs is also an alumnus of UCA and AST. The couple welcomed their first daughter, Eliza, this year.
“I am thrilled to step into this position. Leaving New York was a huge decision, but I couldn’t be happier to be back in my home state to work at a theatre and an institution I love,” Bradford said. “I will get the opportunity to work with educators and artists that I have known and admired for many years. I cannot wait to serve and entertain this community and my home state.”
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