Opening Week of Spelling Bee: Engage With Us!


The cast of The Rep’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Photo by John David Pittman.

Can you believe it? It’s the Opening Week of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the second production in The Rep’s landmark 40th MainStage Season!

Now that we are in our third week of October, we are excited to get our fall musical started and give our patrons engaging activities.

Here is this week’s lineup of fun events:

Wednesday, October 14:

  • Preshow Director Talk, 6:15-6:45 p.m.: Get exclusive insight into our production of Spelling Bee from Director Bob Hupp and the creative team before the start of the preview performances. FREE!
  • Pay What You Can Night, 7 p.m.: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette presents The Rep’s “Pay What You Can Night” on Wednesday, Oct. 14. 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.

Thursday, October 15:

  • Clinton School Speaker Series, 12-1 p.m. Clinton School Join Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp and members of the cast and creative team for a panel discussion on this musical. RSVP by emailing the Clinton School of Public Service. FREE!
  • Preshow Director Talk, 6:15-6:45 p.m.: Get exclusive insight into our production of Spelling Bee from Director Bob Hupp and the creative team before the start of the preview performances. FREE!

Friday, October 16:

  • Opening Night performance and post-show party, 8 p.m.: Opening Night for Spelling Bee will include a post-show reception with the cast immediately following the show. Complimentary champagne and light hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

Sunday, October 18:

  • Pay Your Age Night, 7 p.m.: Little Rock Soiree presents The Rep’s “Pay Your Age Night” on Sunday, Oct. 18. Are you age 22 – 40? Pay Your Age at The Rep! Top off your weekend with great theatre at a great price. Plus, enjoy a complimentary wine tasting provided by Colonial Wine and Spirits. Tickets are limited to four per household, Proof of age for each member of the party is required at time of pick-up.

Check out our full lineup of surround events during the show’s run from October 14-November 8 here and book your tickets by calling (501) 378-0405 or visiting

Spelling Bee Thursday: An Introduction


The original Broadway cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in 2005.

We are in the second week of our Spelling Bee Thursday blog series highlighting all-things The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

This week, we are breaking things down a bit and offering a look at what exactly the show is about, a little history and more.

Here we go:


From William Finn, the composer of Falsettos, A New Brain and Little Miss Sunshine, comes a Tony Award-winning look at the all-too-familiar world of adolescence, told with hilarity, catchy tunes and surprising poignancy.

The gloves are off in the take-no-prisoners, cold-blooded, dog-eat-dog world of competitive spelling as a menagerie of pre-pubescent misfits vies to d-e-c-i-m-a-t-e their young rivals on the cutthroat path to the national spelling bee championship.

Hormones rage and pulses pound as our awkward adversaries engage in feats of o-r-t-h-o-g-r-a-p-h-i-c prowess. The winner will receive a shining trophy and a luxurious DC hotel room with a big screen TV. The loser – nothing but a broken heart, a pat on the back and a juice box.


The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, first conceived by Rebecca Feldman with music/lyrics by William Finn and a book by Rachel Sheinkin, began development at the Barrington Stage Company of Pittsfield, Mass. in two different stages, according to the Musical Theatre International website.


Patrick Halley as William Morris Barfee in The Rep’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

After developing into full-scale musical, Spelling Bee then moved Off-Broadway to the Second Stage Theatre under the direction of James Lapine. Opening for previews on Jan. 11, 2005, and officially on Feb. 7, 2005, Spelling Bee received great reviews, sold out its limited engagement, broke box office records at Second Stage and extended its run. The musical concluded its short but successful Off-Broadway stint on March 20, 2005.

One month later, on April 15, 2005, Spelling Bee transferred to Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre, again receiving outstanding critical and box-office achievement. The show closed on January 20, 2008 after 1,136 performances and has since lived on with major success in two national tours, numerous international productions and numerous regional productions at theatres across the country.


This laugh-out-loud musical comedy has won numerous major awards since taking Broadway by storm, including:

  • Drama Desk Awards for Book of a Musical (Rachel Sheinkin), Director of a Musical (James Lapine) and Ensemble Performance
  • Outer Critics Circle Award for Featured Actor in a Musical (Dan Fogler)
  • Tony Awards for Book of a Musical (Rachel Sheinkin) and Featured Actor in a Musical (Dan Fogler)

Learn more about the fun (and youthful) costumes in our From Script to Stage video series here!

Don’t miss the highly acclaimed musical when it takes center stage Oct. 16-Nov. 8– book your tickets by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit

From Script to Stage: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Costume Design

21218014154_a9b054655a_kIn addition to props, costumes are a major thread in the storytelling of any show.

For The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Costume Designer Shelly Hall created the costumes with children in mind.

We have launched a new video series From Script to Stage this season and for the fourth in the series, we had a chance to talk to Hall about the  inspiration of the costumes and how she was able to transform the adult actors into kid characters, plus more. Check it out below!

See all of the fun costumes firsthand by booking your tickets when the musical takes center stage Oct. 16-Nov. 8– call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit

Spelling Bee Thursday: Q&A with Ethan Paulini

Ethan Paulini as Leaf Coneybear. Photo by John David Pittman.

Ethan Paulini as Leaf Coneybear. Photo by John David Pittman.

Can you spell F-U-N?

To highlight all of the cool (and funny) things about our upcoming show The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, we have launched a week blog series called Spelling Bee Thursday!

Our dramaturg, Robert Neblett, had a chance to talk with Ethan Paulini on his role as the cute and socially awkward Leaf Coneybear, his incredible involvement with Arkansas Repertory Theatre, what patrons can expect from the interactive show and tons more.

Here is what he had to say!

Q: You’ve had a busy year with The Rep. Can you talk to us about your growing relationship with the company and your activities in Little Rock over the past few months?

A: I started working at the Rep in 2007 and The Bee will mark my seventh production. Recently, I have come even more frequently because I directed the SMTI Select program in a production of Carole King’s musical Really Rosie in the brand new Education Annex. As an artist, beyond looking for a community, you also really seek an artistic home. I have found that here. To watch this organization grow and evolve and for me to be able to go on that ride to some extent is so rewarding. I am so grateful to Bob, Nicole, Mike and everyone at The Rep for their continued support and trust. From being able to play incredible roles like Buddy in Elf to becoming a staff member of SMTI, I take great responsibility and pride in the challenges The Rep presents to me. In addition, the patrons and community of Little Rock has been so welcoming that central Arkansas has really become my second home. I strive to do the best work here because both the supportive staff and the astute patrons deserve that. I look forward to watching the organization continue to thrive and hope to continue to be a part of that.

Q: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a unique work of musical theatre, combining improvisation and audience participation with a wickedly funny script and score. What can Rep audiences expect when they walk into the theatre?

A: At the risk of sounding cliche, audiences should expect the unexpected. The fun of this show is that it is never the same twice. We, as actors, are at the mercy of what the audience gives us. Their experience is almost entirely up to them and how they participate. While the improv is very structured and well thought out, it is impossible to know who and what will be joining us onstage. The results are deliciously unpredictable. If we as actors really respond to that, it is quite clear to the audience that it is not planned. The shared experience between us and the audience is indescribable. That is ultimately the thrill of live theatre– that sense that anything can happen. This is a show that takes that idea, turns it on it’s head and multiples it by a thousand.EthanPauliniPutnamHeadshot

Q: Tell us about your character, Leaf Coneybear, and his journey in the show.

A: Leaf marches to the beat of his own drum. He didn’t actually win his qualifying bee and instead is here as an alternate. He is just thrilled to be there and is probably the least competitive and most surprised by whatever success he achieves. He is the product of homeschooling and has many brothers and sisters who he feels inferior to in the intelligence department. The biggest thing Leaf gains is real confidence that while he may have issues learning from a book, he in fact is and always has been quite smart. Because of his inability to connect with people, he could be called a bit misunderstood but this experience really helps him come out of his own shell.

Q: How did you prepare for this role?

A: I played this role previously in Northern Stage’s production. It has been a few years, so I had to revisit his storyline, his mannerisms and his relationships to the world of this play. Of course as I have already mentioned, this show is never the same twice, even when doing the same production. So to prepare for this go-around, I really am just approaching this with an openness toward what these new actors and creative team will bring to it. The advantage is that many of these actors and creative team are near and dear and frequent collaborators. If ever there was a show that called for a sense of playfulness, this is it, so I just am gearing up for a few weeks of playing with friends new and old in pursuit of an authentic and earnest production.

Q: Do you feel Leaf exists along the autism spectrum or is just socially awkward? How does this impact your portrayal of the character?

A: I do think he probably exists on the spectrum but that’s just one more clue I gather about this character. Whether clues exist in the text or you infer them based on your own human experience, they all come together to create a vivid and alive character. When I was growing up, Autism was not as common a diagnosis, so I am sure I have had many peers who have existed on the spectrum. For me, the decision as an actor to accept that information is no different than information that exists such as his relationship to his family, or that he likes apple juice, or tosses his hair. It is just one more piece of the portrait you hope to put together when creating an alive, vivid character.

Q: You also play another role in the show. Tell us about this character and how you alternate between roles in the course of the performance.

A: I also play Carl Grubinierre, one of Logan’s adoptive fathers. He appears twice. Once during Logan’s song “Woe is Me” and then again in a very pivotal scene toward the end. Carl is educated, a bit fussy, mature and fiercely competitive. I think he is kind of the opposite of Leaf’s go-with-the-flow attitude. A lot of the work I get to do is about creating very broad but distinct characters, so I really relish the opportunity to find the differences between the characters but also not shy away from the parts of my own personality that can act as a sort of through line. It hopefully allows for some cohesion in the performance for the audience.

Q: The characters in the musical are misfits and outsiders, but in the competitive world of the spelling bee, they have found a place in which they excel, in which they belong. What does this aspect of the show have to say about our lives and a search for community?

A: Ultimately, I think as humans we strive to be a part of something. It validates us, bears witness to our lives and allows us to share experiences. This is easier said than done sometimes. I think this show really celebrates that idea of embracing who you are and accepting everyone. There is also comfort in realizing that everyone has insecurities and personal struggles. Despite the competition that these kids face from each other, ultimately they find support and a place to belong and be themselves at the Bee.

Q: What advice would you give to students in the Little Rock area who are interested in building a career in musical theatre?

A: It’s the same advice I would give to anyone hoping to pursue a career as an artist: STUDY, STUDY, STUDY. To be a successful artist, you have to be willing to constantly evolve. The advantage an aspiring artist in Little Rock possesses is access to professionals and resources. The Rep and the resident artists here are as good as anyone I have worked with anywhere. Learn from them and take advantage of their expertise. The SMTI program is so wonderful and unique. No matter how serious a student may be about pursuing this as a career, there is an immeasurable amount of benefit that can come from participating in that program.

Q: Did you ever participate in spelling bees as a child? Do you have any anecdotes that you would like to share.

A: I’ve never been in a Spelling Bee, but in seventh grade, I was the Massachusetts State Geography Bee Champion and I went to nationals in Washington, D.C. The Bee was hosted by Alex Trebek. I didn’t get too terribly far. I think I came in 40th or 41st out of 52.

Q: Spelling Bee is a hilarious show, yet I am always surprised by how moved I am by this show and its characters. Can you talk about the emotional impact of the musical? Is there a particular moment in the play that speaks to you?

A: Well, ‘The I Love You Song’ breaks my heart every time. But I think when the audience catches their breath from laughing, they realize these are earnest, sweet and unique characters who all face both struggles and triumphs equally. I also think watching characters have personal discoveries and change is what makes for a great musical and these characters do that. Not one person in this show is the same at the beginning as they are at the end. It’s a snapshot of the growing process and I think that can be very poignant.

See Ethan in action by booking your tickets when the musical takes center stage Oct. 16-Nov. 8– call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit

The Rep Offers Military Discounts

Blue Star TheatresDid you know that Arkansas Repertory Theatre offers special discounts to military personnel and their immediate families?

The Rep has a long-standing committment to the military personnel in our community and we welcome you to our theatre.

As a Blue Star Theatre, we offer discounted tickets to military personnel, spouses, children and U.S. Veterans immediate. To book your tickets, visit our season calendar, contact the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 and identify yourself as military personnel. All tickets are based on availability.

Blue Star Theatres is a program of Blue Star Families and Theatre Communications Group, with support from the MetLife Foundation.

From Script to Stage: Macbeth Original Score

Arkansas Repertory Theatre's production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. photos by Stephen B. Thornton

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

To set the atmospheric tone for a show like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it takes an eerie, beautiful and at times, haunting, score.

For the first time ever, The Rep enlisted to help of Musical Director Mark Binns to compose an original score for a production

We have launched a brand-new video series From Script to Stage and for the third in the series, we had a chance to sit down with Binns to look at the inspiration of the score, his process, what he enjoyed most and a few samples of the pieces you’ll hear during the production. Check it out below!

The Shakespeare drama takes The Rep stage through Sept. 27! Book your tickets to Macbeth by calling (501) 378-0405 or visiting

Macbeth Monday: Q&A with Lighting Designer Dan Kimble

Michael Stewart as Macbeth in The Rep's production of Macbeth. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Michael Stewart as Macbeth in The Rep’s production of Macbeth. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

To highlight all of the cool aspects of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we have launched a week blog series called Macbeth Mondays!

In the final week, we are highlighting the incredible lighting elements of the Shakespeare tragedy with some insight from Lighting Designer Dan Kimble. Find out his approach for the production, how the set affects the design, the cool effects created just for the show, plus more.

Here is what he had to say:

Q: What piqued your interest in lighting design?

A: I was first exposed to theatre in high school. I was in shows like Oklahoma! and The Music Man, but I was most interested in how the lighting worked. I was fascinated by everything that went into lighting a show: the color options, power requirements, angle and placement, the followspots, etc. I started college without knowing what major I wanted to pursue. Fortunately, I had to take a theatre class as part of the general education requirements for all majors. In that class, the students had to work on tech crew for one of the university’s mainstage shows. I asked to be a followspot operator for Annie Get Your Gun and loved doing it. After talking with the professor of the class and learning that people had full careers being lighting designers, I was hooked.

Q: How do you approach the lighting design for a play like Macbeth?

A: Most of Shakespeare’s plays can be (and frequently are) interpreted in a variety of ways; the creative license can be very broad. The first step is to read the script and understand what the text is giving you. Any questions moving forward can usually be answered by referring to the script, especially with Shakespeare. After thinking about what preliminary concepts I want for the lighting, the next step is beginning a dialogue with the director and the other members of the creative team. Director Bob Hupp was great with knowing the themes he wanted to convey while allowing me to focus on the story I wanted to tell with the lighting. Studying the work of the other designers (scenic, props, costumes, music, and sound) also helped inform my approach because it was crucial that I support their concepts while also helping it all come together.

Q: How does the set affect your design?

Kurt Benjamin Smith as Malcolm in The Rep's production of Macbeth. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Kurt Benjamin Smith as Malcolm in The Rep’s production of Macbeth. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

A: No other design element affects the lighting of a show more than the set. Lighting a show is 50 percent lighting the actors and 50 percent lighting the set. Scenic design, though self-sustaining, can give me great surfaces, structures and details to use to create environments and tell my story, much like in Macbeth. However, it can also create physical challenges when I am trying to figure out where to put lighting fixtures to achieve the looks that I want. Sometimes, a wall or some other scenic element can be between me and the ideal lighting angle. But, as part of a creative team, those challenges are discussed and solved in a way that supports the show and its overall aesthetic.

Q: In addition to the lights, there will special effects in the show. What will patrons be able to expect?

A: Without giving anything away, expect to see some things that you haven’t seen on our stage before. We incorporated a new design element into Macbeth, and I believe it is quite successful and helps particular scenes have a eerie and creepy feel (hint, hint).

Q: What do you enjoy most about creating the design for theatre?

A: I enjoy helping to create the moments that only a live performance can give you. The goosebumps, the awe and the surprise. Sure, more can be accomplished in a movie, but as an audience member, you are not an active member of that viewing. As a patron of The Rep, you are as much a part of those moments on stage as the actors, designers and technicians are. No two performances are the same; each show is singular and unique. It’s just part of what makes theatre so great.

See the cool lighting yourself by booking your tickets before the show ends this Sunday, Sept. 27– call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit

And learn everything else you need to before seeing the drama by checking out our study guide here!

Sign Interpreter Night for Macbeth on Sept. 23

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 section, located on the First Mezzanine. He will sign directly for those who need his services.

We are gearing up for our next sign interpretation night, which will be the Macbeth performance at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23. There are still seats available! Any open seats in the section will be released to the public at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, so get your seats now!

Here are the remaining sign interpreter performances:10653652_10152240681971105_882036142166987126_n

  • 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28
  • The Little Mermaid: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16
  • Peter and the Starcatcher: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016
  • Bridges of Madison County: 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, 2016
  • Windfall: 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Contact the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to reserve your seat at our upcoming interpreter nights and get more details at

From Script to Stage: Macbeth Costume Design


The cast of Macbeth. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

From the leather armor and tunics to the moccasins, helmets and other pieces, there is no doubt much time went into planning and crafting these incredible pieces. And the woman behind these extensive costumes is returning costume designer Marianne Custer, the resident costume designer for the Clarence Brown Theatre in Knoxville, Tenn. and head of the MFA design program at The University of Tennessee.

We have launched a brand-new video series From Script to Stage and for the second in the series, we had a chance to sit down with Custer on the inspiration behind the incredible costumes, the patterns and fabrics used, as well as a look at the badges on the armor, the moccasins and more. Check it out below!

The Shakespeare drama takes The Rep stage Sept. 11-27! Book your tickets to Macbeth by calling (501) 378-0405 or visiting

Macbeth Monday: Did You Know?


Michael Stewart Allen as Macbeth in The Rep’s production of Macbeth. Photo by John David Pittman.

Our 40th Season is here!

And a new show means a new blog series. To highlight all of the cool aspects of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth— our first show of the season– we have launched a week blog series called Macbeth Mondays!

This week, we are looking at a few things you may not know about the Bard, himself, and Macbeth, not to mention a few interesting stats.

Here you go!

Did you know?

  • Over 80 variations on the spelling of Shakespeare’s name have been discovered. Even the Bard himself couldn’t decide how to spell his name, it seems—in surviving signatures, we can see that he used “Willm Shaksp,” “William Shakespe,” and “Wm Shakespe,” among others.
  • The records from Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-up on-Avon show the baptism of baby William Shakespeare on April 26, 1564 (since infant baptisms typically occurred 3 days after birth, Shakespeare’s birthday is traditionally dated April 23, 1564). Coincidentally, he died on the same day 52 years later: April 23, 1616.
  • Shakespeare is credited with introducing some 3, 000 new words to the English language. Scholars estimate that he had up to an astonishing 29,000 words in his vocabulary– that’s at least twice as many words as used by the average speaker.
  • Over the course of his wildly successful career, Shakespeare authored 37 (some say 38) plays, 154 sonnets, and 5 narrative poems. Another way of looking at it? Shakespeare wrote 884, 647 words and 118,406 lines.
  • Shakespeare was worried enough about his final resting place that he wrote an epitaph to curse anyone who dared to disturb his body:
    Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear
    To dig the dust enclosed here:
    Blest be the man that spares these stones
    And curst be he that moves my bones.
    Though it was customary to dig up the bones from previous graves to make room for others, the remains in Shakespeare’s grave are still undisturbed.

By the numbers:

  • 2,113: Number of lines in uncut version of Macbeth
  • 24: Number of times the word “blood” appears in the play
  • 1623: Year Macbeth first appears in print (First Folio)
  • 681: Number of lines spoken by Macbeth
  • 80: Percentage of play written in blank verse (not much prose)
  • 1606: Year Macbeth is written

Pulled from the Macbeth study guide, prepared by Paige Reynolds.

Check back every Monday to uncover a new aspect of this incredible Shakespearean tragedy and book your tickets by calling (501) 378-0405 or visiting

And learn everything else you need to before seeing the drama by checking out our study guide here!