Q&A with SMTI Production Coordinator Katherine Tanner

FullSizeRenderCan you believe it has been 10 years since the Summer Musical Theatre Intensive got its incredible start within the confines of Arkansas Repertory Theatre?

Under the direction of Nicole Capri, the program has helped craft top-notch young artists in central Arkansas who have gone to big things in the entertainment world.

One person who actually saw the beginning of the program and has returned for the big 10th anniversary is production coordinator Katherine Tanner.

See what she had to say about her involvement with the program, how it’s evolved since its inception and more:

Q: What is your theatre training and experience?

A: As a young theatre educator, I have found that people (and not productions) are the most important aspect of my career. Real people are who I have studied and who I present when working on a production. I am an ongoing student of theatre and will never claim that ‘I’ve arrived’ or know all there is to know.

I was a ‘transferholic’ in college and because of it, have had a one-of-a-kind education.  I started at OBU, went to Columbia College Chicago and finally graduated from California State University Northridge, where I focused in directing.

In those areas, I was always able to work in the theatre departments and scene shops learning all I could in every aspect of theatre. I was mentored by many inspiring people in the last 10 years, including Susan Nichols, Fred Boosey, Scott Holsclaw, Eric Phillips (OBU), Sheldon Patinkin (co-founder of The Second City), Susan Padveen (CCC), Nicole Capri, Larry Biederman (CSUN) and Melissa Chalsma (co-founder of independent Shakespeare Co.) to name a few I greatly admire.  It is through their encouragement that I have skills that vary from welding steel to directing and most things in between.

Q: Can you give a brief history of your involvement with SMTI?

A: When SMTI began in 2005, there were only four women running the program and I was one of them.  I was titled the ‘Assistant Stage Manager,’ however, I was responsible for pulling props, running rehearsals, cleaning bathrooms, taking out trash, putting mics on the cast, tracking and mixing the mics from the sound console. In 2006, I was the Stage Manager with two peer interns and cast.  Let’s just say, it was as challenging as the prior year and then some.

Q: How do you think SMTI has evolved over the years?

A: The support from designers, choreographers, musical directors and directors has intensified the SMTI program, making it professional quality theatre entertainment.  It no long feels like a camp for kids–it’s a ‘coming-out’ celebration of the state’s young artists.

Q: What are you most excited about being a part of the 10th Anniversary of SMTI?

A: I am most excited to be back to celebrate the milestone– how far SMTI has come.

Q: Why is SMTI so important for local young artists?

A: This program rivals those nationally known and it’s in their backyard.  This program provides a network and support system for the young artists as they go off to college and into the professional world.

Don’t miss all of the incredible this summer when SMTI productions take flight in our new education space and on The Rep MainStage. Here is a lineup of productions not to miss this summer:

Senior SMTI: Once on This Island

  • 7 p.m. Thursday, July 23
  • 7 p.m. Friday, July 24
  • 1 p.m. Saturday, July 25
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, July 25

SMTI Select II: Really Rosie

  • 7 p.m. Friday, July 31
  • 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1

Junior SMTI: Once in This Island

  • 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6
  • 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7
  • 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8

Get more information about tickets for these shows by calling the Box Office at  (501) 378-0405!

The Rep to Present First Young Artists Showcases this Summer

171Did you see our Elf or Mary Poppins cast sing some of their favorite showtunes during one of the two cabarets this past season?

Well, you’re in for a treat this summer!

This month, we are excited to have our annual Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI) program present its first Young Artists Showcase – a cabaret-style event – this summer.

The showcases will feature a variety of dance, vocal and performance pieces starring SMTI young artists. The Senior Showcase (ages 16 – 23) will take place on Monday, July 20 and the Junior Showcase (ages 13 – 15) will take place on Monday, July 27. Proceeds from each showcase will benefit The Rep’s Young Artist’s Scholarship Fund.

“During these showcases, audience members will have the privilege of hearing and seeing some of the most amazing young talent from across Arkansas,” said Nicole Capri, The Rep’s Resident Director and Director of Education. “I’ve witnessed these young artists in auditions over the last 10 years and I’m excited for audience members to experience what we look for when seeking new talent. I can’t wait to see what our inaugural showcase will bring to the stage this summer.”

Admission is $5 at the door and reservations are not required.

Performances will take place at 7 p.m. on The Rep’s MainStage, 601 Main St., Little Rock, with the Lobby and concessions opening at 6:15 p.m.

Q&A with SMTI Select Director Ethan Paulini

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Ethan Paulini as Buddy in Elf. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre ended its 39th MainStage June 21 with the incredible production of August: Osage County and will resume in September with the first show of its landmark 40th Season with William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

But, just because there is a break in our seasons doesn’t mean the theatre takes a break. In fact, hundreds of young artists will be taking center stage through the summer for our annual Summer Musical Theatre Intensive sessions. The youngest of these artists will be learning from one of The Rep’s best returning actors, Ethan Paulini (Elf, Avenue Q, The Full Monty), for two SMTI Select sessions from July 6-18 and July 20-Aug. 1.

We had the chance to talk to Paulini about his return to Little Rock, what he loves most about coaching, his favorite Rep production and more. Here is what he had to say:

Q: What is your theatre training?

A: I grew up training at the Harwich Junior Theatre (HJT). I received a degree in Acting from Emerson College in Boston and I currently study voice with Larson Award Winner Marisa Michelson.
Q: You were most recently the lead in our show Elf and have been in several shows at The Rep. What keeps you coming back?

A: Arkansas Rep is one of the most welcoming and artistically supportive places I have ever worked. The directors, designers and actors I get to work with are fantastic. I always feel challenged. The audiences are curious and smart. Ultimately, it feels like home and home is made up of people.

Q: What will you be instructing the SMTI Select students on?

A: We will work on many aspects of performing. From presenting a successful audition to storytelling, voice, speech and movement. The students will participate in exercises that challenge their imagination and sharpen their actor toolbox. I will help them learn how to create their own process, from rehearsing to maintaining a performance. We will also be working on presenting the musical Really Rosie. It is a wonderful collection of musical vignettes by Carole King.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a theatre coach to young artists?

A: Growth. Theatre is not an exact science. There is no right or wrong, so I love watching each artist, regardless of age, bring themselves to the work. Oftentimes through that exploration, they discover a lot about themselves, both artistically and personally.

Q: Why is the SMTI program so important for young artists in central Arkansas?

A: Young artists in central Arkansas are so lucky to have Nicole Capri and the SMTI program. Not only does it create talented, exciting artists but also provides an important creative outlet to so many young people. Theatre training fosters discipline, creative thinking, builds self esteem and develops a community that can be an important support system both on and off stage.

Q: What is your favorite production you’ve been in at The Rep and why?

A: I love them all for different reasons, but I think the most recent show, Elf, was especially special. The reaction was so overwhelming. I got to spend the holidays doing what I love with people that I love. I also have two young nephews and a niece and it was the perfect way to share with them and create a wonderful holiday memory.


Sidenote with Ethan

Favorite place to eat in Little Rock: So many places! I think Little Rock is a GREAT food city. My dad runs restaurants, so I have grown into a bit of a foodie. If I only had time for one meal in Little Rock, though, it would probably be Whole Hog Cafe. I am from the northeast, so BBQ is really a special cuisine. I even ship their sauces home with me when I come to The Rep so I have a little taste of Little Rock in New York.

What you’re doing when you’re not on stage: I actually love going to see theatre and movies, spending time with friends and traveling. Performing takes lot of energy and stamina so I make sure to take time to rest and work out regularly. I also have multiple writing projects in the works so I steal time to work on those when I can. I am a huge baseball fan (Go Red Sox!) and I have an unnatural obsession with the TV show “The Golden Girls.”

Favorite musical right now: I saw the new Kander and Ebb musical The Visit four times during it’s recent Broadway run. They were responsible for such classic musicals as Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Chicago. Fred Ebb passed away several years ago so this will be their final new show to make it to Broadway. It was dark, smart, chilling and the music was incredible.

Total shows you’ve been in at The Rep: six shows: The Full Monty, The Who’s Tommy, White Christmas, Avenue Q, Compleat Wks of WLLM SHKSPR (ABRIDGED) and Elf.

Don’t miss SMTI Select in action when their production Really Rosie takes The Rep stage at 7 p.m. Friday, July 17 and 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 18 (first session) and 7 p.m. Friday, July 31 and 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1 (second session). Tickets are $10 and can be booked online at TheRep.org or at (501) 378-0405.

 

The Rep Partners with TheatreSquared for Arkansas New Play Fest Saturday

14198284829_73ea38a913_kIt’s happening again!

Arkansas Repertory Theatre is thrilled to once again participate in TheatreSquared’s 2015 Arkansas New Play Fest. With the majority of the Play Fest being held in Fayetteville, two productions will be read at Arkansas Repertory Theatre on Saturday, June 27.

The two staged reading performances include Uncle by Lee Blessing (2 p.m.) and Dust by Qui Nguyen (7 p.m.) and will take place in The Rep’s Lobby, located on the ground level. Admission is free of charge and open to the public. Here is a little bit more about these stories:

  • Uncle by Lee Blessing: From Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award nominee Lee Blessing (A Walk in the Woods), a comedy about an academic sabbatical gone terribly awry. Dr. Paul Waymiller is facing a “publish or perish” deadline on his book about Chekov’s masterpiece, Uncle Vanya. With his career in the balance, he refuses to be distracted by anything—be it his imminent divorce, Vanya himself, or the interdimensional wormhole that’s opened up in his backyard.
  • Dust by Qui NNguyen: Dust is the story of Thuy, a girl who sets out to find her ex-G.I. father—who has kept her existence a secret from his wife for 16 years. Blending live hip-hop, raw emotion and wry wit, Dust recasts the American dream through the eyes of an Amer-Asian teenager in this redemptive, cross-cultural coming-of-age story. It’s the newest work by Arkansas native Qui Nguyen (2014 Sundance Institute Fellow).

The  Arkansas New Play Fest is a collaboration between The Rep and TheatreSquared, located in Fayetteville. The collaboration is designed to introduce promising new works for the stage to audiences in northwest and central Arkansas and to encourage conversation about the themes of these new plays. There will be a talkback session with the playwright and the cast following each reading.

Get more information about event at The Rep here and more information about the festival here!

August Tuesday: Q&A with Lighting Designer Yael Lubetzky

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Susanne Marley (Violet Weston) in August: Osage County. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

We are in our final week of August: Osage County and before the cast takes their final bow this weekend, we would like to highlight one of the many incredible design elements of the play: the lighting.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre veteran Yael Lubetzky is the designer behind the powerful lighting that helps capture the emotion of each captivating scene in this dark comedy.

We had the chance to talk to her about what sparked her interest in lighting design for theatre, her approach to a play like August: Osage County and more. See what she had to say for our final installment of August Tuesday:

Q: What piqued your interest in lighting design?

A: I think I was Intrigued by what lighting can do to help tell a story. I believe that light in the theatre can have a breath and movement to it in a similar way as music and dance. And the way these things combine together with storytelling was fascinating to me. Lighting can be a powerful tool in many ways in the theatre. It can tell you where to look, and when, as well as how you might experience something in a specific moment by the way it is lit. I think that I am mostly intrigued by the emotional aspect of lighting design in a production– how lighting can help define and shape those moments, sometimes in very subtle ways, and other times in very dramatic ways. And the collaborative process of finding the language of a story visually. In the theatre, we all try to collaborate as artists to help bring a vision to life. And sometimes you find things out during that process that you hadn’t thought of. Something incredible happens during the journey of trying things. Those moments are some of my favorite.

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Susanne Marley (Violet Weston) and Cassandra Seidenfeld (Johnna Monevata). Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Q: How do you approach the lighting design for a play like August: Osage County?   

A: August Osage County is an amazing play. As in all projects I work on, I usually read the play or libretto a number of times and take notes about what the story and setting calls for and then after that I add in my other design ideas . Early on, I have a conversation with the director. In our case, the wonderful Bob Hupp and I talk through our initial ideas for the piece. And as soon as I see the preliminary scenic drawings, I have many conversations with the scenic designer. Mike Nichols designed the fantastic set you see in August. He and I worked very closely in a play like this to make certain things work. This particular play takes place in many rooms all over the house and different times of day. It is extremely cinematic the way the story is told, so that was extremely important in the lighting design. The other aspect was the transitions, and how in this play, the transitions through light, sound and staging is also telling a story and moving the piece forward. Some of the most important parts of lighting design is how you get from one place to another. That journey visually is a very strong aspect in the design of this show. We try to set the tone for where we are going, or where we just came from both emotionally and physically in these transitions, while also making any scenic/prop changes needed for the next scene.

Q: How does the set for August: Osage County affect your lighting design?  

A: The set– designed by Mike Nichols– for August: Osage County is a character in itself and a huge part of this play.  As soon as I saw his preliminary sketches and drawings, I loved it. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I was really excited to work on it with him and I am thrilled with the way it all turned out.

The set dictates some of what the light can and can’t do. We have hallways and ceilings and three stories with walls and windows taped shut for most of the show, along with two stairways and an outside porch and scenes take place in all of these places. But just like in a real home, we wanted to create the feeling of shadows and light in a house with hallways and ceilings. Mike and I worked together closely to try to figure out ways to hide lights in certain places to create this kind of atmosphere and also be able to light people underneath ceilings and walking in and out of hallways. And it was extremely important that each room could be isolated at times. Dan Kimble, The Rep’s Master Electrician, did an incredible job with the crew hanging and wiring all of these things to make it happen. The set has a ton of texture and amazing props to make it feel lived in, but at the same time it has a skeleton around it of beams. There is so much life in this house, but at the same time there is an eerie looming quality– light and absence of light– and being able to go between these feelings was really important in the lighting design.

Q: What is the best part about designing the lighting for theatre?    

A: That’s a tough question, but I would have to say the collaboration with the other artists and the discovery that you find together while working [is the best part]. I love being in the rehearsal room as much as possible while the actors are working early on if I can, because that is where a lot of discovery of the piece happens and being in that environment is always so enlightening. I think when you try new things even if they don’t work the first time, you learn and sometimes that will spark a whole new idea.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at The Rep?

A: This is my fourth production here at The Rep. I feel very lucky to keep coming back. It is an amazing group of people and artists who work here. They all care so much about each production and it shows in the dedication to the work and that is a gift to get when you work somewhere. I couldn’t do any of the design work I do here without the collaboration with everyone in all the departments. I definitely feel like we are all a team here making the show come to life. And I couldn’t be more grateful to all the people at The Rep who make that happen.

Purchase your ticket to the play before it ends this Sunday online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405!

Sign Interpreter Night for August: Osage County on June 17

IKcjgzqMcqn an effort to make Arkansas Repertory Theatre more accessible, we have a Sign Interpreter section for the deaf on the third Wednesday of every production run through the season.

Raphael James, an instructor in the Interpreter Education program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, will be positioned in front of the new section, located on the First Mezzanine. He will sign directly for those who need his services.

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Raphael James, an ASL interpreter and instructor in the Interpreter Education program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock

We are gearing up for our next sign interpretation night, which will be the August: Osage County performance at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 17. There are still seats available! Any open seats in the section will be released to the public at 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 16, so get your seats now!

Contact the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to reserve your seat at our upcoming interpreter nights and get more details at www.therep.org/attend.

 

Why You Should Become a Rep Subscriber

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The cast of The Rep’s production of Mary Poppins. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

We can’t believe we are nearing the end of our 39th MainStage Season here at Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

From a rollicking musical to kick things off to a fantastic start to a heart-stopping suspenseful thriller, sugary sweet holiday production, a poignant historical drama, a prim and proper classic and a hysterical look at the dysfunctional American family, this season has been filled with top-notch shows for just about any theatre lover.

And we are hoping to continue our momentum as we move into our landmark 40th MainStage Season! One of the best and most economical ways to see our big anniversary season is to become a subscriber. Not only will you always get the best seats at the best price (in advance of sold-out shows) but $5 off any additional orchestra tickets you buy all-season long.

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Michael McKenzie (Bill Fordham) and LeeAnne Hutchison (Barbara Fordham) in August: Osage County. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Here are some other benefits to being a subscriber:

  • No-charge flexible exchange policy: Need to switch your dates? No problem. Free ticket exchanges are reserved exclusively for season ticket holders and can be used as often as needed.
  • Lost ticket insurance: Season ticket holders can replace misplaced tickets right up to curtain time.

Whether you prefer flexibility or the ease of having the same seats all season-long, The Rep has to perfect option for you with plans starting at just $198! Here is what you can choose from:

  • 6-PLAY SERIES SUBSCRIPTION

    The Seats You Want, When You Want Them*
    You are guaranteed the same seats for all six MainStage productions, renewable from season to season. Just select your favorite seat (subject to availability) and date you wish to attend. If you are unable to attend on your preferred night due to an unexpected conflict, simply call the Box Office 24 hours in advance to attend another performance of the same production at no additional charge.

  • UNDER-21 PASS

    Under 21 with a valid student ID?
    You get Six (6) Passes, one pass per show, for MainStage productions at a deeply discounted price.

  • 6-PLAY FLEXPASS SUBSCRIPTION

    The Flexibility to Choose Your Shows
    Build your own season! You start with Six (6) Passes and choose which plays you want to see, when you want to see them. Your FlexPass may be used in any combination: two passes for one show, four passes for another, or two for each of three shows, etc. Simply call the Box Office to book your seats.

    If you’re a new subscriber, click here to subscribe now! And if you’re renewing your subscription, click here. You can also subscribe by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday.

August Tuesday: Interview with Director Bob Hupp

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LeeAnne Hutchison (Top Left), Richard Waddingham (Top Center), Susanne Marley (Top Right), Cliff Baker (Bottom Left), Kathy McCafferty (Bottom Center), Michael McKenzie (Bottom Right). Photos by John David Pittman.

With a little over three weeks to rehearse for shows here at the theatre, it’s a fast and intense process to put together a professional production.

For August: Osage County, Director Bob Hupp said it’s been an enjoyable rehearsal process with the top-notch crew and cast who are in place. For our third installment of August Tuesday, we had a chance to talk to him about how he approaches this production, what happens in rehearsal, what role the designers play in this production and more.

Here is what he had to say:

Purchase your ticket to the show online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405. We hope to see you here!

August: Osage County Special Events

The cast The Rep's production of August: Osage County. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

The cast The Rep’s production of August: Osage County. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

We are gearing up for our last show of the 39th MainStage Season: August: Osage County.

One of the most bracing and critically acclaimed plays in recent Broadway history, August: Osage County is a darkly comedic portrait of the dysfunctional American family at its finest—and absolute worst. It’s a show you don’t want to miss!

And in addition to the incredible show patrons will be able to see, there are plenty of ways to engage with us throughout the run, June 5-21. Here is what we have lined up for the run of the show:

Pay What You Can Night
Wednesday, June 3 | 7 p.m.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette presents The Rep’s “Pay What You Can Night” on Wednesday, June 3. Patrons can pay any amount they wish for their ticket. Tickets must be purchased in person at the Box Office at 601 Main Street the day of the performance. The Box Office will be open from 9 a.m. until curtain. Tickets are limited to (2) two per person. Offer is based on seating availability.

Pre-show Director Talks
Wednesday, June 3 and Thursday, June 4 | 6:15 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.
A preshow talk will take place on the set of August: Osage County with Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp and members of the creative team. Free!

Clinton School of Public Service Distinguished Speaker Series
Thursday, June 4 | 12 – 1 p.m.
Clinton School of Public Service, 1200 President Clinton Avenue, Little Rock

Join Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp as he hosts the cast from The Rep’s production of August: Osage County for a panel discussion on this award-winning drama.
Arkansas Repertory Theatre works in partnership with the Clinton School of Public Service to participate in their Distinguished Speaker Series, hosting educational panel discussions on various Rep productions. The panel discussions are led by Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp and include insights from guest directors, actors and Bob himself on bringing compelling stories to The Rep stage. Call the Clinton School at (501) 683-5239 for reservations. Free!

Opening Night
Friday, June 5 | 8 p.m.
Opening Night for August: Osage County will include a post-show reception with the cast immediately following the show. Complimentary champagne and light hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

Live from Foster’s with HeatherSmith
Friday, June 12 | 6:30 p.m.
Get your evening started early with live pre-show music from HeatherSmith in Foster’s. beerglassesFree!

The After-Party
Saturday, June 20 | 11:15 p.m.
Stick around after the show for drinks and look for members of the cast to make an appearance at The Rep’s lounge Foster’s. Free!

Purchase your ticket to the show online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405. We hope to see you here!

August Tuesday: Q&A with Dialect Coach Stacy Pendergraft

Our final show of the 2014-2015 MainStage Season is upon us!

August: Osage County, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play that is finally taking The Rep stage, will open June 5. And to highlight this critically acclaimed play, we are starting a brand-new blog series throughout the run, showcasing the various aspects of the show.

In the second installment, I was able to talk with the show’s Dialect Coach Stacy Pendergraft on her approach with character dialects for a show like August: Osage County, her actual connection to the play, how she has helped provide more context to the play, plus more.

Here’s what she had to say:

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Stacy Pendergraft

Q: What is your background in theatre?

A: I am an associate professor of theatre at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I am the primary professor in the performance and directing track and have just finished my 13th year on faculty there. I came to Little Rock from American Stage in St. Petersburg Florida, where I was the Artistic Associate and Director of Education. I also acted, directed and developed new children’s works for their touring program.

Q: What piqued your interest in theatre and voice coaching?

A: Oh, I’m a lifelong theatre rat. It just so happened that my very small rural Oklahoman town had a vibrant community theatre and my high school had amazingly devoted and highly skilled theatre and music teachers. Also, even though my hometown is small, it is a college town with a strong focus on its performing arts programs. So, my exposure came early and deep both in theatre and music. I suppose my music background developed a real appreciation for diction and placement of speech and singing sounds. In my university training, I gained more specific knowledge about the vocal apparatus and this led to more specific training in voice, phonetics and dialects. So voice and dialect work became a sub-specialty in all of my subsequent professional and educational gigs.

Q: How do you approach being a dialect coach for a play like August: Osage County? Do you observe the rehearsals and work with actors individually on their character dialects?

A: What’s incredibly rewarding about this particular process is that Bob and I are defining a way of working together. It’s not always common to have a dialect coach, and so I am glad to be able to contribute to this production and this particular ensemble. When a dialect or voice coach works with actors, she has to know that any feedback has to take into account each particular actor’s way of working and be sensitive to the way an actor wants to incorporate voice work into their character development. I want to be in-tune with their rehearsal goals and not be an intrusion. So knowing the right way and right time to offer feedback is paramount. This cast has from day one, placed great trust in me, and it is not a charge that I take lightly. They are the ones in front of an audience each night and are the ones the audience will be listening to, and I want to guide them to the most authentic choices possible.

For our production, I started by giving a one-hour dramaturgical presentation the first day of rehearsal on Oklahoma and its dialect. And I should say that like any geographical region, there is not necessarily ‘one sound.’ Rural/urban influences, socioeconomic status, educational level, not to mention the psychology of the human being, all impact the way we sound and the way characters sound, too. I gave the actors a packet of listening resources and basic sound substitutions to help them begin their work. I sit in on rehearsals, tuning my ear to the actors and helping them find the music of the dialect on a day-by-day basis. I am available for individual coaching and questions as needed by the actors. It’s become a rather fluid process.

Q: What is your connection to the writer of this play in particular?

A: I am a native Oklahoman and grew up in roughly the same part of the state that Tracy Letts was raised. He was raised in Durant and I was raised in Ada. Both towns are small Oklahoma college towns. My mother actually went to college for a while at Southeast Oklahoma State University where Tracy’s mom and dad (Billie and Dennis Letts) taught. I also went to college at the University of Tulsa, which factors into the story of Bill and Barbara, characters in the play.

Q: How do you think your background in Oklahoma will help the actors as they prepare for their roles in the show?

A: Researching both the place and sound of Oklahoma, I’ve had to really rediscover my own sound and the place from where I come. I’ve discovered things about Oklahoma that relate to the play that have brought me to a new place of understanding. I think I can answer some specific questions about the play’s given circumstances and the rhythms and nuances of the language that are perhaps not as obvious if you’re not from Oklahoma.

Q: Why should patrons see this production on our stage?

A: August: Osage County is an American play that speaks to me on the same level as Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams. Along with Angels in America and Clybourne Park, it is, for me, one of the three most important plays written about the fabric of American life in the past 50 years. The characters are epic in scale, richly imagined and full in their powers of expression. The language of the play offers the kind of text actors spend their careers pursuing. And finally, the cast assembled for this production is one that you will remember for a long, long time. They are passionate about this play, and what they are creating with Bob and the rest of the production team at The Rep is not to be missed.

Check back every Tuesday throughout the run of the show (June 5-21) to get a glimpse into a new aspect of the show and get your tickets for the show by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org.