Mary Poppins Monday: Cast Reflections

Our big spring production is on our stage– Mary Poppins– and that means a blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

16612485379_784def21f8_kOur dramaturg Robert Neblett asked the cast to reflect upon why this story, Disney’s film, and the title character are important to them, and here is what they had to say:

Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins)

Disney’s Mary Poppins means childhood, keeping on the straight and narrow, respect and love for authority, trust in your elders, joy, delight, wonder and the magic of one’s imagination.

When I was a little girl I fell in love with the film because it was real, not animated, and it was magical. There was truth I could grasp as well as just enough wonder for me to dream of more. As I grew into my teens I began to follow and admire Julie Andrews and fell in love with the film again, this time because of her ease and perfection in the role. I fell in the love with the film a third time when I was auditioning for the Broadway show. This time it was because I identified so closely with Mary. I loved children and had been a nanny, who came and went and fell in love with families, many times! As an adult, well, what can I say? This incredible, heartfelt and moving story has literally changed the course of my life. It has impacted it such that I will never be the same in so many glorious ways.

Rachel Perlman (Ensemble)

Mary Poppins means believing in the ability to find magic in anything that is seemingly ordinary and using your imagination to enhance or escape reality. It also means remembering the importance of the family/father-children relationship, and the balance of indulgence and discipline in a loving, healthy, happy home. I first saw the film when I was 6 years old, and it was always one of my favorites because it spoke so much to me about embracing my imagination (including being able to break into song and dance in any situation and setting choreography to “Jolly Holiday” and “Step In Time” on my younger sisters). Its lasting impact also includes finding “magic” in every day tasks, bravery to stand up for what I believe in, and understanding my father, who often reminded me of Mr. Banks.

Corey West (Ensemble)

I remember watching the film as a kid and thinking how great it was to really be able to use your imagination. It can take you anywhere you want to go! It was my first introduction to Musical Theatre. It was one of the movies that drove me to the conclusion that this is what I wanted to do as a career.

Stephen K. Stone (Ensemble)

The idea that it’s not about what others can do for you, it’s about what you can do for others. This is especially clear in the movie when Mary and the bird umbrella handle are talking just before her departure when the Banks family have left to fly a kite. As a kid, my primary memory of the film is the word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” as well as the concept of a spoonful of sugar helping medicine go down. As an adult, I find the dichotomy of Mrs. Banks being a suffragette while being typically conceding to Mr. Banks when inside the household to be interesting both in terms of this possibility having been typical of the era, and/or did this have other effects upon marriages of the time. I am so looking forward to performing “Step in Time” and these amazing songs!

Chris Shin (Ensemble)

Disney’s Mary Poppins means a lot to me. For some reason, anything Disney related seemed “fancy” to me. It really was one of those movies that encouraged my wild childhood imagination. I loved that it didn’t take place in America. In terms of lasting impact, I had a wild imagination as a child and liked to make up games. Seeing the movie definitely encouraged my imagination. To this day, I just loved seeing those chimney sweeps in “Step in Time” and the community that they are together.

Thomas Cooper (Admiral Boom/Chairman)

I can’t remember when I first saw Mary Poppins as a child, but I do remember being enchanted by the animated characters interaction with live characters in the film. I also remember being touched by the song and message of “Feed the Birds,” even though at that time I couldn’t completely understand its full meaning. As an adult I have beautiful memories of my oldest son, now twenty-five years old, as a toddler dancing like a Hottentot on top of the couch to “Step in Time” with the rest of the chimney sweeps.

Monica Clark-Robinson (Bird Woman and Mrs. Brill) 16797535251_725d805264_k

I’m feeling whimsical, so I decided to answer you with an acrostic poem:

Many nights, snuggled under blankets, eyes glued to the perfection of

Andrews, Dame Julie Andrews.

Really, need one say more?

Yearning to fly kites and jump into chalk pictures with her,

Perhaps even wanting to BE her.

Often, I would sing into a hairbrush at my dollar store mirror, imagining I was

Practically Perfect in Every Way.

People grow up, sadly, and brushes become just brushes.

I continued to sing, though–“Feed the Birds,”

Night after night to my sleepy-headed child

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, indeed.

16797108281_d0ed14677c_kKaren Q. Clark (Mrs. Banks)

What Mary Poppins means to me: Joy, imagination, beautiful, playful singing. Being together is more important than being stuffy. As an adult, I see the idea that family trumps a job. There are costs in life that are not monetary, and they can be more dear. I remember seeing the film as a little girl – probably aired on TV. I learned many of the songs and remember them to this day. I believe a number of the songs have become general knowledge. I remember the white and red dress Mary wore, and jumping into paintings. Loved the penguins.

Grace and Corbin Pitts (Jane and Michael Understudies), c/o Christen Pitts

Mary Poppins is the first Broadway show that Grace and Corbin ever saw (Corbin was 6 and Grace was 8). They loved the lights, set, costumes, energy, excitement, choreography, music, etc! We had a friend in the show and they got to go backstage and also had the opportunity to meet some of the cast members. They got to walk around the set and see some of the props. It was a magical moment for them! They got to visit with the children who played Jane and Michael. It is so cool that they now get to work together as real life brother and sister with some of the same people who were in the Broadway production that they saw! Grace and Corbin saw the film last year, but saw the Broadway show before they saw the movie. The lasting impact is the magic of live theatre!

They sing “The Perfect Nanny” together all the time at home! Grace got to learn some of the choreography for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” at a workshop with one of the Broadway cast members. They love the music in the show!

Tom Souhrada (Mr. Banks)

Mary Poppins has occupied a special place in my heart since I was a little kid. The story, the characters and, of course, all the wonderful songs have inspired me and brought me so much joy. Mary Poppins was the very first movie I ever saw. My parents took me and my two sisters to a Saturday matinee and my world was changed. I absolutely fell head over heels for Julie Andrews. When we got the album my sisters and I would listen to it for hours on end, memorizing every note and word. In fact we would put on little backyard versions of the movie playing all the characters. So I guess it inspired me to become a performer, in a way. It remains one of my very favorite films. I was fortunate enough to work with the original Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews herself, on the National Tour of The Boy Friend. An experience I will never forget. My favorite song in the show is “Feed The Birds.” With its soaring melody and beautiful message, it never fails to touch my heart.

Hannah Eakin (Ensemble/Mary Poppins Understudy)

What Mary Poppins means to me: Family, nostalgia, inspiration, joy. I first saw it when I was a little girl, before I can even remember. It was one of those movies that first instilled in me a love of music and theatre, and I truly believe it is a huge reason for why I am an actress today. “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” speaks to me most, because I remember literally going to fly a kite with my father and brothers and singing that song with them, all boisterous and uninhibited. To me, that song is symbolic of the joy of childhood, and of the way that joy can remain with us, long after we have grown up.

Michael Milkanin (Ensemble/Herr Von Hussler)

Mary Poppins is a Disney classic, and a childhood staple. It is a glimpse of whimsy in our world of chaotic reality. I don’t remember when I first saw the film. But I do remember watching “A Spoonful of Sugar” as part of my Disney sing-along VHS. I always loved Julie Andrews being sassy to her reflection and sing to fake birds. I also remember the magic of Disney and how much influence they have to encourage creativity in children. That moment during “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” of leaving your cares behind to be with the ones you love is something that has always spoken to me!

Burt Durocher (Robertson Ay)

To me Mary Poppins exists in that intangible moment where magic seems to seep into real life. Where, as is said in the show, anything can happen if you simply open your eyes to the possibilities and allow it to happen. I can’t recall exactly when I first saw the film – sometime when I was very young. The thing I remember liking most were all the scenes with Dick van Dyke; there was a mischievous twinkle in his eye that made you want to be his best friend. I especially loved learning that Dick insisted on also playing Mr. Dawes (I think the story goes he had to pay Disney to be allowed to do the part!). This, I’m sure, was an early lesson in the fun you can have as an actor…moving seamlessly from one character to another.

The moment that always makes me well up a little is the idea of saying au revoir, but not goodbye (perhaps it’s my French-Canadian roots.) Much like when a cast of actors disbands after a show, though you know you’ll probably see each other again, there’s no saying when. The idea of saying goodbye is simply too painful, so we part with the promise of another meeting. I can’t think of anything more bitter-sweetly human then that.

Paul Thiemann (Ensemble/Mr. Northbrook)

Honestly, as a kid Mary Poppins was just a fun movie that taught me if I could laugh hard enough I would float up by the ceiling. Later in life, especially after seeing Saving Mr. Banks, the movie has more depth and meaning to me. It is a beautiful fairy tale about redemption, family, and how to find joy in everyday events and relationships. I first saw the movie when I was a kid growing up in the mid 90’s. I remember watching the scene with Dick Van Dyke playing all the different instruments and thinking, “That looks fun! I want to do something like that.” The moment in the film when Bert talks about feeling sorry for Mr. Banks is such a beautiful moment. It reminds us the importance of seeing things from a different point of view. It shows us how to understand other people’s situations and how they influence their actions. It was one of the first lessons of empathy many kids got growing up.

Pulled from the Mary Poppins study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

Check back every Monday to uncover a new aspect of this magical production and get your tickets to our biggest show ever by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org!

Support The Rep on ArkansasGives Day

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ArkansasGives is a 12-hour online giving event on April 2, 2015
sponsored by Arkansas Community Foundation.

Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Arkansans across the state are invited to grow the love for Arkansas’s nonprofit organizations by making a donation to the charity of their choice. ArkansasGives is our state’s opportunity to say thanks to its many philanthropic organizations!

BONUS DOLLARS
Make your dollars count. On ArkansasGives Day, each nonprofit is eligible to qualify for additional dollars through a $250,000 match pool from Arkansas Community Foundation.

All participating nonprofits will receive a portion of the match pool. The more a nonprofit raises, the more of the bonus dollars it will receive.

HOW TO GIVE
•On April 2, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., visit ArkansasGives.org to make your online gift to Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
•To give to the theatre, CLICK HERE or select Arkansas Repertory Theatre in the drop-down menu when making your gift.

Thank you for supporting Arkansas Repertory Theatre!

Mary Poppins Monday: Mary Poppins Vets

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

A new production is on our stage– Mary Poppins– and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

This week, we are taking a look at members of the cast are not new to the Mary Poppins musical. In fact, there are six members who have performed in a Mary Poppins production– either regionally, on the national tour or even on Broadway.

Here is a look at those who have been featured in other Mary Poppins productions:

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Elizabeth DeRosa as Mary Poppins. Photo by John David Pittman.

Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins) was the understudy of Mary Poppins– where she performed numerous times in the title role– and an ensemble member in Mary Poppins on Broadway. Additionally, she was Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins at Fireside Theatre in Fort Atkinson, WI.

Tom Souhrada (George Banks)
appeared in the original production of Mary Poppins and had several roles, including Von Hussler, an ensemble member, Policeman and the George Banks understudy. Additionally, he was a part of the ensemble in the First National Tour of the show.

Q. Smith (Miss Andrew) was last seen on Broadway in Mary Poppins as Miss Andrew and in  the First National Tour of Mary Poppins, where she played a variety of roles over the course of three
years (Mrs. Corry, Bird Woman and Miss Andrew).

Brian Letendre (Bert) originated the role of Neleus and was an ensemble member in the original Broadway production of Mary Poppins. He was also an ensemble member in the First National Tour of Mary Poppins in 2009.

Christopher Shin (Ensemble) was a featured ensemble member in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins.

Tyler Foy (Ensemble/US Bert/Dance Captain) was a performer in the First National Tour of Mary Poppins.

Check back every Monday to uncover a new aspect of this magical production and get your tickets to our biggest show ever by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org!

The Rep Participates in First-Ever Downtown Little Rock Culture-Cation

LR Staycation ImageAs central Arkansas residents head out of state for a week of sun and sand, many are choosing to spend their spring break at home exploring The Natural State.

In partnership with area art and cultural organizations, Arkansas Repertory Theatre is thrilled to announce a “Culture-cation” package throughout the week of spring break, March 23 – 29. The package includes special deals for attractions located in downtown Little Rock.

The “Culture-cation” package will encourage residents staying home to venture downtown and enjoy all it has to offer. With so many deals available, visitors can be a tourist in their own town.

The “Culture-cation” package includes:

  • Arkansas Arts Center
    o $5 off a family membership
    o Information:

  • Arkansas Repertory Theatre
    o $5 off student tickets
    o Currently Showing:

    • Mary Poppins
    • On stage through April 12, 2015
      o Information:

  • Capital Hotel
    o Discounted room rates starting at $159/night, based on availability
    o Must present ticket from one of the “Culture-cation” institutions to receive the reduced rate
    o Information:

  • Clinton Presidential Center
    o Free kids admission with a kids card
    o Currently Showing:

    • “Pigskin Peanuts” and “Heartbreak in Peanuts”
    • On display through April 5, 2015
      o Information:

  • Esse Purse Museum
    o 50% off admission price and 10% off museum store
    o Information:

  • Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
    o 10% discount in museum store
    o Information:

  • Museum of Discovery
    o 15% off one item in the museum store
    o Currently Showing:

    • “Mindbender Mansion” – solve puzzles and brainteasers in this multi-station, hands-on exhibit
    • On display through September 7, 2015
      o Information:

  • Old State House Museum
    o 10% discount in museum store
    o Information:

For more information about the “Culture-cation” deals, click here.

Mary Poppins Monday: Q&A with Set Designer Ken Goldstein

A new production is on our stage– Mary Poppins– and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

Our Dramaturg Robert Neblett had a chance to talk with set designer Ken Goldstein– the man behind the fabulous set– about his design process, inspiration behind the Mary Poppins set, challenges, plus tons more!

Here is what he had to say:

Q: What attracts you to a piece of theatre like Mary Poppins?

A: Simply, I love telling stories. The story of Mary and the children has always been interesting to me, but the story and evolution of Mr. Banks has always warmed my heart!

By Stephen Thornton

By Stephen Thornton

Q: Where do you begin when you approach the design process for a show like Mary Poppins, especially when you have to confront the fact that audiences who grew up with the film have very specific expectations?  

A: I always start with the text no matter what I am designing. In terms of preconceived notions or expectations that come with a piece like MP, or anything that is present in our culture it becomes a bit more complicated. We will never recreate the movie…so while I try to respect the source material, I try to create a world where the audience is willing to put expectations aside…to hop on board with “our” Mary Poppins.

Q: How do you balance your own creative vision with the influence of the source material?

A: I think it is important to nod in the direction of the source, but truly, I try to take a fresh look at the story, at the characters, the environment, and the atmosphere of the world of the play, and serve that.

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By Stephen Thornton

Q: Did you use any specific visual resources in creating the scenery for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre production?

A: I always do a lot of visual research—knowing the practical reality of our production, much of my research focused on the rhythm of Victorian and Edwardian city-scapes.

Q: Did you create a design statement that guided you through the process of creating the scenery for Mary Poppins? What was it?

A: ‘Design Statement’ is too formal to reflect my process. When I work in my studio, and the foundation of what I teach my students as the through line of the design process is one central question: What are you trying to do? In this case, my answer is to create a space that while fundamentally serving the action of each scene, allows the atmosphere and characters of this story come to life on stage and in the imagination of the audience.

Q: This is a fairly large show with many different locations. What is it like designing for a theatre space as intimate as The Reps, both in general and for this play in particular?

A: The intimacy is an advantage! I love feeling the breath of the characters on stage when I go to the theatre, and so the scale of the theatre at the Rep is a bonus! The challenge is the structure of the piece. It was created with a particular type of theatre in mind—the music, scenes, the transitions between locations are built in the text and typically dictate the kind of space you would create to stage this musical. Here, I designed a scheme—a theatre in the theatre—to facilitate the movement through the piece. The biggest challenge is the part of the theatre we aren’t seeing!

Q: Unlike a realistic play like this seasons Wait Until Dark or The Whipping Man, part of designing the set for a musical like Mary Poppins is creating moments of visual magic that leap off of the stage. Do you work with special effects coordinators to build these moments? How do you balance the practical concerns of the physical world of the play with the magical needs of the shows fantasy?

A: In this case there is a company serving some of the magical moments, but as a set designer, I am always counting on the collaboration with the director, lighting designers, costume designers, sound designers…and the work of the carpenters, painters, prop master, and technical direction to make my work come to life—and we all still relay on the actors to inhabit the space. So in this case there is an additional collaborator, but I don’t think that makes it more complicated then usual. That said, there is a practical reality to serving the SFX. It would be short sighted not to work to meet the requirements the expert needs.

Q: As a designer, what is the most challenging moment in the play and why?

A: In a practical way, the most complicated is the transition to the rooftops…but artistically, the biggest challenge is finding a vocabulary that serves the story when you only have relatively small units to use to define each scene.

Q: What do you think will surprise audiences about The Rep’s production of Mary Poppins, and why?

A: I hope the production excites the audience’s imagination…I think imagination leads to surprises.

Q: Whats the most impossible piece of theatre magic you have ever had to design, and how did you accomplish it?

A: It wasn’t a piece…it was a full production. A number of years ago, with Director Donna Drake, and Lighting Designer Annmarie Duggan, I designed Annie. The challenge was capturing an entire environment from the point of view of a bright-eyed child. I tried to make the entire city as exciting as a good book…with discoveries around each corner, and visually capture the scale and perspective of the city from Annie’s eyes. Each piece was drawn from a low perspective…and each unit came from an unexpected place or on in an unexpected way. Donna asked if I could turn a skyscraper in to a staircase. We did!

Q: Did you have a Mary Poppins in your life when you were a child? How did that person influence the adult you are today?

A: To me, Mary encourages imagination—for me, that would be my mother. Cliché perhaps, but growing up with an elementary school teacher as a mother, you can’t help but grow up in a supportive and creative environment.

A: What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in theatrical design?

A: Aside from coming to school at The State University of New Paltz, where I teach…pay attention to how environments effect people and how people influence environments.

Pulled from the Mary Poppins study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

Check back every Monday to uncover a new aspect of this magical production and get your tickets to our biggest show ever by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org!

Sign Interpreter Night for Mary Poppins on March 18

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.

We are gearing up for our next sign interpretation night, which will be the Mary Poppins performance at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 18. There are still seats available! Any open 10653652_10152240681971105_882036142166987126_nseats in the section will be released to the public at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, so get your seats now!

The last sign interpreter performance of the season will be for August: Osage County on Wednesday, June 17, 2015

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.

Mary Poppins Monday: Q&A with Elizabeth DeRosa

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Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins). Photo by John David Pittman.

A new production is getting underway– Mary Poppins– and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

Our Dramaturg Robert Neblett had a chance to talk with Elizabeth DeRosa, who will be playing Mary Poppins on The Rep stage, about her preparation on her role, the importance of the story and the magic that Mary Poppins brings to all of our lives.

Here is what she had to say:

Q: How did you feel when you heard that you would be playing Mary Poppins in this production in Little Rock?

A: Well, I was excited, of course! I had heard lovely things about Arkansas Repertory Theatre. I couldn’t wait to meet The Rep family and get started. Mary Poppins is an iconic, demanding, vocally challenging, thrilling and wonderful role! She is a confident and other worldly woman who will not be ignored. She commands respect. She is loved and feared. She is one of the greatest female roles ever written for musical theatre and I am honored to be introducing my version of this character to the Mid-South!

Q: How do you approach an iconic role like this, which many audience members may not only be familiar with but have a deep emotional attachment for, based on Julie Andrews cinematic portrayal? As an actor, do you start from scratch and create your own character or are there moments of homage to Andrews performance in how you bring Mary Poppins to life?

A: I think, as actors, we are always beginning with a fresh palate. If I have learned anything in my 10 years working professionally, its that when I do get cast, it is for being MYSELF playing a role, my purely unique version of it. I think this holds true whether a role is iconic or brand new. It is one thing to honor a legendary actor’s portrayal and to layer that as a basis of who a character is, but if I simply parroted Julie Andrews’ performance I wouldn’t come across as genuine and authentic, i.e., as Mary Poppins!

Q: In the books by P. L. Travers, Mary Poppins can be described as more stern and aloof and less likable than the on-screen version presented by Julie Andrews. Does your portrayal of Mary Poppins borrow any of the original creation from the books?

A: I love P. L. Travers’ books. I have read all of them multiple times. The woman and her books are absolutely one of a kind! (Have you read her bio? Its awesome.) When Disney Theatricals and Cameron Mackintosh decided to create the stage version of the musical, P. L. Travers played a more vital role. This is why “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” the park in “Jolly Holiday,” Miss Andrew, etc., are more closely matching the scenes/lessons from the books. Well, P. L. Travers changed the course of my life (obviously a multitude of other’s lives as well). So, I can tell you for this reason, with absolute certainty, not to mention she is brilliant, that my portrayal of Mary Poppins honors her creation. (Which is a British sensibility that can be lost in translation, if not approached delicately.) That said, of course we have the Disney movie that everyone knows and loves. So, I am also very aware of what an audience is expecting and hoping to see! (This isn’t all about me???) Lastly, I must also honor my director’s vision and cannot wait to find out what Donna’s is…then blend this all together for the Rep!

Q: What would you say to prepare audience members for this production? There are many moments and songs from the film that do not transfer to the stage version, as well as many added plot points (especially in the second act) that may seem unfamiliar. Should they leave their expectations at the door, particularly since this is a live play and not a movie?

A: I think you answered this question in the question! Yes, come for what you love and what you want your family to experience, a live production of a kid friendly musical…not to see the movie. You won’t see the movie, but, your family will be thrilled by our story telling. I can promise you that! Children need not be familiarized (although that CAN be more fun for them sometimes.) Children will watch and listen and be mesmerized by this story. Adults will be amazed at how closely they may identify with it! It is poignant and gripping for all ages.

Q: Describe an average day of rehearsal for this production.

A: An average day of rehearsal will include working with Helen Gregory, our musical director, to learn music. We may then move on to choreography with Rhonda Miller. The ensemble will often stay with Rhonda to learn the intricate dance steps and shapes of a large production number, i.e., “Jolly Holiday,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Step in Time.” During which time, the principal characters of our story will do scene work, learning blocking with Donna. The Rep has two rehearsal spaces which makes this possible! Each day a few actors will have costume and wig fittings sprinkled throughout the schedule as well. We work quickly and efficiently. Actors are responsible for writing down what we’ve learned and making sure it is in our bodies the next time we approach that part of the play in rehearsal. It’s a very large musical and we must always be moving forward!

Q: How do you strive to become practically perfect in every way, both onstage in this role and in your everyday life?

A: In my personal life I am always striving to be a kind, honest, loving and generous person with a positive outlook. I am also a healthy and fit person. I honor my body, mind and spirit by eating healthily and exercising daily. I treasure my life and the people in it as the gifts that they are. I know how to have fun and when are the appropriate times to do so. On stage I listen, watch and do. I am laser focused, knowing that we often have a limited amount of time to learn each section. I do my very best to immediately catch the choreography. Then I go home and drill it to perfection, so it is “in” my body. I always memorize exactly what the author wrote, never paraphrasing. I am kind to the children & cast as we work, but also serious and always lead by example.

Q: Is there any moment of the musical that means more to you on a personal level than any others?

A: I adore “Feed The Birds.” The song itself is stunningly crafted and beautiful. Apparently it was Walt Disney’s favorite song and he would ask the Sherman brothers to play it for him frequently! This moment/lesson in the show means so much to me when I play the role of Mary. The respect and care with which she treats all beings on Earth is a something I often have to remind myself to employ. We are all equal, valuable and worthy…if we can only remember to pause and see the beauty in everything, we would all be that much more peaceful and content.

Q: What is the most difficult moment to play in the show?

Madison Stolzer (Michael) and Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins). Photo by John David Pittman.

Madison Stolzer (Michael) and Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins). Photo by John David Pittman.

A: The most physically difficult moment to play in the show is “Step in Time. It’s a very long song, with intense choreography and staging. The cast must always be in sync as production numbers like this, with large set pieces and difficult choreography can be dangerous if not approached with caution and focus. The most difficult moment to play in the show, as an actor, is probably the relationship between Mary & Bert. What they have….what they are…what they could be…what they can’t be… And of course the answers to these questions are different depending on the director as well as the two actors playing Mary & Bert. It’s the “juiciest” part of playing Mary Poppins and I look forward to figuring this out for our production.

Q: This is a story about magic, the magic of the imagination, the magic of a kind gesture, the magic of dreams. Does that magic share anything in common with the magic of the live theatre?

A: I think this is a very personal question. For a woman who grew up loving theatre and great performances, the magic definitely translates for me. Then, I’ve always believed the theatre is a magical place. When I walk in, I am taken over by a sense of mystery, wonder and awe about what is happening, what could happen and what is about to happen!

Q: Without giving away any of the behind the scenes magic, describe the sensation of being given the opportunity to fly as Mary Poppins.

A: Flying as Mary is the most relaxed and peaceful moment of the show for me. There is no singing, no dancing, no changing costumes, just flying! It’s wonderful. I like the sensation of flying and the power I feel as I arrive and leave. This sense of strength and supernatural magic is very engaging for me as an actor. It helps me to realize and “wear” my role while giving the audience a visual of just how enchanted the character of Mary Poppins truly is.

Q: Did you have a Mary Poppins in your life? Who was it and what was their impact on who you have become as an adult?

A: I didn’t have a Mary Poppins in my life. I never had a nanny and my only babysitter was my Grandmother, from time to time. My example of how to be a grown up came from my amazing parents. They were there at every twist and turn, guiding me, supporting me, cherishing me, believing in me and loving me. I actually became a Mary Poppins! I started babysitting in my neighborhood at age 12. I babysat on the weekends, on & off, all through out middle school and high school. After graduating from college and moving to the city to “pound the pavement,” I became a nanny! I stayed with the first family I worked for, for 2 & a half years. I auditioned and did a few theatre jobs here and there. But I was with them for the entire beginning of my career. That job supported me while I was laying the foundation for my acting career! I absolutely fell in love with the children (a boy & girl). We all got very close and although we knew it was inevitable, it was still very difficult to say goodbye. After I came back to the city from doing a National Tour, I was with another family. I had to say goodbye to this little boy, after 9 months, to go do Mary Poppins on Broadway. As I began to learn the role of Mary, I was so touched by these little faces from my past. They are always there in my mind, giving an authenticity to my performance that is invaluable and that I could never repay them for. When I began to go on for the role of Mary on Broadway ALL of the children I had babysat for, and many of their friends and families, came to see me. I am speechless to this day about how that made me feel. I also have 7 nieces and nephews who I am with as often as possible and love very deeply. It’s all so appropriate. Sometimes I like to think, I truly am Mary Poppins. As a caregiver I am never too stern, but I suffer no nonsense. I am honest and kind. I am clean, sensible and full of energy. Of course, I also play all sorts of games!

Pulled from the Mary Poppins study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

Check back every Monday to uncover a new aspect of this magical production and get your tickets to our biggest show ever by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org!

The Rep Announces 40th MainStage Season Lineup

40thMainstageLogoCan you believe it?

Next season, Arkansas Repertory Theatre will be turning 40 and that means a stellar lineup to celebrate! On Monday, our Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp announced the landmark season, which will include Tony Award and Pulitzer prize-winning artistic experiences and family favorites that exemplify The Rep’s mission of producing diverse work of the highest artistic standards for its Arkansas audience.

And drumroll….here they are!

Macbeth

Sept. 11-27, 2015

Murder, madness and magic haunt every shadowy corner in the most powerful of William Shakespeare’s great tragedies.

After receiving an ominous prophecy on a blood-soaked battlefield, Macbeth and his ambitious wife claw their way to the Scottish throne, and damned be all who stand in their way! Each step closer to fulfilling his royal Fate leads Macbeth deeper and deeper into a fiendish quagmire of carnage and corruption, from which none can survive; not even him.

“The original House of Cards. It’s fitting to start off a milestone season with the English language’s greatest author,” said Bob Hupp, Producing Artistic Director at Arkansas Repertory Theatre. “Shakespeare keeps us honest, and tests our mettle when we seek to tell great stories that demand to live on a stage. I’ve been reading and seeing productions of Macbeth for more than 30 years, now I’m ready to direct it for you this fall.”

Join The Rep as we cast a spell on Arkansas audiences with this powerful production that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Oct. 16-Nov. 8, 2015

Music and lyrics by William Finn  |  Book by Rachel Sheinkin
Conceived by Rebecca Feldman  |  Additional Material by Jay Reiss
Directed by Nicole Capri

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.

“A truly funny, unpredictable night of theatre,” said Bob Hupp. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is never the same musical twice. The actors’ wit and verbal agility are put to the test night after night as each new audience brings new hilarity to the performance. If you can spell “cow”, then this musical is for you.”

Join The Rep onstage (quite literally, since several lucky audience members will be asked to show off their spelling chops alongside the cast each night) as we bring you this sidesplitting, irreverent, interactive musical comedy hit!

Intended for adult audiences.

The Little Mermaid

Dec. 4, 2015-Jan. 3, 2016

Book by Doug Wright  |  Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and Disney film
Music by Alan Menen  |  Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater

From the creators of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Little Shop of Horrors, this enchanting musical features an infectious score that includes the popular songs “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.”

Adapted from the beloved fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson into one of Disney’s most popular animated films of all time, The Little Mermaid is now a lavish theatrical spectacle you won’t want to miss. Plunge into the colorful depths of an undersea wonderland as The Rep’s stage is transformed into an aquatic playground underscored by a funky Calypso beat.

A heart warming musical for the entire family,” said Bob Hupp. “From Hans Christian Anderson to Disney to The Rep, generations have fallen in love with the young mermaid who dreams of love and life on land. This musical has it all: a great story, lush designs and all the songs you sang with your kids.  You’ll certainly want to make The Little Mermaid part of your world this holiday season.”

Fall in love with The Little Mermaid’s bubbly sense of wonder, romance and rollicking fun all over again.

Peter and the Starcatcher, co-production with TheatreSquared in Fayetteville

Jan. 15-Feb. 7, 2016

Play by Rick Elise  |  Music by Wayne Barker
Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Think you know all there is to know about Peter Pan? Think again.

In this swashbuckling prelude to J. M. Barrie’s fantasy classic, the secret history of the Boy Who Would Never Grow Up is revealed with theatrical panache. Based on the popular Dave Barry books, and mixing British pantomime with playful elements of childhood make-believe, this raucous adventure journeys into the forgotten realms of the imagination filled with mermaids, fierce natives, pirates and magical starstuff.

Embark upon a treacherous ocean voyage as Molly, a young Starcatcher aboard the good ship Neverland, races to escape the comical clutches of the dread pirate Black Stache. Accompanied by a trio of Lost Boys from a British orphanage, she is soon marooned on a not-so-deserted island filled with otherworldly enchantments and exhilarating danger around every turn. Each breathtaking adventure leads them closer to the mysterious origins of the Peter Pan you know and love.

Who was Captain Hook before he was Captain Hook? The answer might surprise you!” said Bob Hupp. “This rollicking new play with music is to Peter Pan what Wicked is to The Wizard of Oz. It was mesmerizing on Broadway: funny, touching and wildly inventive. This one is madcap fun: a dozen actors play over 100 parts. If you liked our production of The 39 Steps, you’ll love Peter and the Starcatcher!”

In 2012, Peter and the Starcatcher was nominated for nine Tony Awards.

Peter and the Starcatcher will be presented as a co-production with TheatreSquared in Fayetteville, Ark.  The Rep presents the regional premiere of this award-winning play as a perfect outing for young and old alike.

The Bridges of Madison County

April 8- May 1, 2016

Based on the novel by Robert James Waller
Music and lyrcis by Jason Robert Brown  |  Book by Marsha Norman

Fresh from Broadway, this amorous new musical from Jason Robert Brown, the acclaimed composer of Parade, Songs for a New World and The Last Five Years, will transport you to the soaring heights with its lush score and its all-too-human characters. The Rep is proud to present this breathtaking work of theatre, based on the runaway bestselling novel by Robert James Waller.

Italian-American wife and mother Francesca lives a dutiful life on a quiet Iowa farm, until a charismatic, handsome photographer sweeps into her world, reigniting her passion for life and reawakening her capacity for romance. Torn between her need to be loved and her promise to her family, Francesca must make the most difficult choice of her life. Either way, her world will never be the same again.

This one will melt your heart. It did mine,” said Bob Hupp. “Jason Robert Brown has written one of the finest musical theatre scores imaginable. I’m probably one of the few people who didn’t read the book or watch the movie. It didn’t matter; the first note captured me. This is the don’t-miss show of the season.”

Winner of the 2014 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations, The Bridges of Madison County is an experience your heart won’t soon forget.

Fall head over heels with this poignant love letter for the stage, told through a mixture of pop, folk and country melodies that will ignite your soul.

Windfall

June 10-26, 2016

Play by Scooter Pietsch  |  Produced in partnership with John Yonover
Directed by Jason Alexander

Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame directs this world premiere production that rounds out The Rep’s 40th Season.

“I am thrilled and grateful that Arkansas Repertory Theatre is giving us the chance to bring this fascinating and funny play to their audience,” said director Jason Alexander.  “Within this play is what many would consider an American Dream and it becomes an American nightmare. To be able to make our world premiere in this beautiful theater and for this appreciative audience is a real gift and I am looking forward to it immensely.”

At a small data processing business in Columbus, Ohio, four coworkers toil under the heavy hand of their maniacal and deceitful boss. So far, camaraderie and mutual support have allowed them to survive his low wages, verbal abuse and unreasonable demands for perfection. But, when his manipulation escalates to ridiculous, unprecedented heights, they are driven to the brink of sanity.

Desperate to escape to live the lives they’ve dreamed of, they put it all on the line, betting every last cent they have playing the lottery. But the possibility of sharing the $300 million jackpot brings out the hysterically worst in these best friends. Compassion and human decency have no place in a world where money can buy happiness.

“I’m so excited to be working with Arkansas Repertory Theater on the world premiere of Windfall,” said Scooter Pietsch, playwright, Emmy nominated composer and TV producer.  “I think the theatergoers of Little Rock will love not only the humor of the play but its relevance to all of us who would love to strike it rich.”

Windfall is a dark, hilarious comedy that delves into how far any of us would go, how despicable we might become, in our attempt to have it all.

“Rep audiences will be the first to experience this dark, delicious comedy,” said Bob Hupp. “I laughed out loud when I read it, I can’t wait to see it come to life on our stage. We’ve read a lot about our state lottery in the local papers, so Windfall is truly ripped from the headlines! And we’re honored to welcome Jason Alexander to our theatre, and to our state.”

Pietsch’s music has appeared in thousands of television episodes and many movies, including: Pretty Little Liars, Sex and the City, Burn Notice, Van Wilder and American Idol.

Windfall is produced in partnership with John Yonover. Yonover has invested in more than 30 productions on Broadway, in Chicago and in London’s West End, including Memphis, Hair, The Addams Family and Catch Me If You Can.

Non-Subscription Productions

In addition to The Rep’s MainStage productions, special projects and educational programs round out the theatre’s calendar.

  • An Evening with Rebecca Wells and the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
    • February 11 – 14, 2016
    • Join author Rebecca Wells for this new one-woman show based on her No. 1 New York Times Bestseller “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”
  • Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI): Broken Wings
    • March 1-12, 2016
    • Celebrating the beginning of their second successful decade, The Rep’s SMTI young artists will take the stage in a musical revue conceived and directed by Nicole Capri, Resident Director and Director of Education. With an encouraging message inspired by the Beatles song “Blackbird,” this piece will remind audiences that sometimes we have to break in order to breathe again.
  • The Second City: Hooking Up
    • May 3-15, 2016
    • America’s favorite comedy improv troupe is back at The Rep with this gaspingly funny revue that includes a modern mix of romance, rancor and everything in between.  Hooking Up with The Second City makes mirth out of missed connections, girls’ night out adventures and all the crazy things we do for love.

Season Subscriptions

Season Subscriptions are on sale now and will range from $198 – $276, making subscribing to The Rep the best way to get the best seats at the best price. Early Bird Discounts will be available through May 31, 2015. Single ticket sales open to the public in August 2016.

For more information on Season Subscriptions, call The Rep’s Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit www.therep.org.

Mary Poppins Monday: P.L. Travers and Mary Poppins

A new production is getting underway– Mary Poppins– and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

PL Travers, wrote Mary Poppins series of booksThis week, we would like to take a look at the woman behind Mary Poppins– author P.L.  Travers. For our study guide, Dramaturg Robert Neblett provided an in-depth look at this legendary woman and her legacy, just in time for our Mary Poppins production set to take stage this week!

Early Life

Born Helen Lyndon Goff in 1899 in Australia, P. L. Travers had a colorful life before ever being approached by Roy and Walt Disney to make a film version of her Mary Poppins books in the mid-1940s.

After her alcoholic father, a bank manager, died of tuberculosis in 1905, her mother and sisters moved to Bowral, New South Wales. While attending boarding school, she began writing poetry and pursued a career as an actress. After she moved to England in 1924, she assumed the pen name P. L. Travers and started creating the characters who would soon populate her children’s books.

In her youth, she lived a globetrotting life, studying poetry with the leaders of the new Irish national literature movement and even working in the United States studying Native American mythology and folklore.

Career

Upon the 1934 publication of Mary Poppins, Travers became an international success, following up the original volume with seven sequels over the next 50 years. While she wrote many other children’s books and nonfiction works, none achieved the success that her Mary Poppins books did.

Mary Poppins author DL Travers with Walt Disney and Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews, Walt Disney and P.L. Travers

Beginning as early as 1938 Walt Disney pursued the rights for a film adaptation of Travers’ Mary Poppins stories. She refused him for nearly 20 years, finally agreeing to meet with him and the film’s collaborators in California in 1961 as a “consultant” on the film, largely because she was in danger of financial ruin. These encounters are dramatized in the 2013 film “Saving Mr. Banks.”

Her main objections to the film version were that she felt Mary Poppins’ character had been “softened” too much, she did not like the music composed by the Sherman Brothers for the film and was absolutely opposed to any use of animation in the telling of her story. Ultimately, Disney overrode her objections once he purchased the rights from her, claiming final cut privilege.

The tension between Travers and Disney was so strong by the time of the world premiere of the film that Disney did not even invite her to the event. She had to ask to be added to the guest list. She was supposedly so angered by the final version of the film that she wept openly during the screening. Even though the film secured her financial future and reinvigorated her fame for the rest of her life, she always regretted her decision to sell her beloved character to Disney. When asked for permission to create a sequel to Mary Poppins, she refused and would not change her mind.

Who is Mary Poppins, exactly?

The character of Mary Poppins, as written by Travers, is often cold, intimidating, stubborn and unsympathetic. Her hardness is intended to cut through the nonsense attempted by the Banks children, in an attempt to civilize their uncouth ways. However, she does take the children on a number of magical adventures in which they are exposed to compassionate, open-hearted friends, relatives and associates of Mary Poppins, all of whom seem to be as ancient and timeless as she is.

Mary Poppins’ true identity is never disclosed, although there are intimations through the books that she may be a shooting star or a “fairy tale come true.” She is referred to as “The Great Exception,” meaning that she has retained the memory of being an infant and possesses special abilities that humans lose as they grow older, including being able to talk to animals. She also remembers the eternal world from which we are born into existence on Earth.

Pulled from the Mary Poppins study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

Check back every Monday to uncover a new aspect of this magical production and get your tickets to our biggest show ever by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org!

Mary Poppins Monday: Did You Know?

Elizabeth DeRose (Mary Poppins) and Brian Letendre (Bert). Photo by John David Pittman.

Elizabeth DeRose (Mary Poppins) and Brian Letendre (Bert). Photo by John David Pittman.

A new production is getting underway– Mary Poppins– and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

To keep things rolling, we wanted to highlight some things you may not know about the original “Mary Poppins” film and books. Here are some interesting facts, courtesy of our Dramaturg Robert Neblett:

 

Film

  • Mary Poppins was the first film the Walt Disney Company ever released on DVD format.
  • The word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986.
  • Julie Andrews was left hanging in mid-air during one particularly long camera set up. The stagehands unwittingly lowered her wire harness rather rapidly. “Is she down yet?” called a grip. “You bloody well better believe she is!” fumed Andrews. [From www.tcm.com]
  • The opening shot of Mary Poppins sitting on a cloud contains a gag originally used in Disney’s “Dumbo.” While Poppins checks her make-up, her carpetbag slides “through” the cloud. She catches it repeatedly just before it falls to oblivion. The stork delivering Dumbo does the same thing with his bundle. [From www.tcm.com]
  • Many of the nannies seeking an interview to replace Katie Nanna at the beginning of the film are men in drag.
  • The child actors who play Jane and Michael were not told that Dick Van Dyke would also be playing Mr. Dawes, Sr., in the bank scenes.

    Julie Andrews & Audrey Hepburn

    Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews

  • Van Dyke suggested to Walt Disney that he double in the role of Mr. Dawes, Sr. He even offered to play the role for free. Disney made him audition for the role, and when Van Dyke was cast, also made him make a financial donation to the CalArts film school.
  • Julie Andrews was hesitant to accept the role of Mary Poppins, hoping that she would be asked to recreate her stage performance as Eliza Doolittle in the film adaptation of the musical My Fair Lady, which cast Audrey Hepburn as the Cockney flower girl instead. Andrews went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role as Mary Poppins in a year that saw the two films competing for Oscars.
  • Interestingly enough, though she was not asked to play Eliza Doolittle, her performance in Mary Poppins is what convinced the producers of The Sound of Music (1965) to cast her as Maria von Trapp, another singing governess (with decidedly fewer magic powers).

Books

  • In the books, Jane and Michael have three additional siblings: the twins, John and Barbara, and youngest sister Annabel, who is born in the middle of the second book, Mary Poppins Comes Back. While Jane and Michael are the primary characters in the books, the other children do accompany M
    little-prince

    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    ary Poppins on adventures as well.

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was written in 1943 to compete with the publication of the third Mary Poppins book, Mary Poppins Opens the Door.
  • The illustrator of the Mary Poppins books, Mary T. Shepard, was the daughter of E. H. Shepard, the famous illustrator of the Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows books.
  • In 1981, the “Bad Tuesday” chapter of Mary Poppins was edited by Travers to alter some negative ethnic stereotypes that were deemed offensive in the latter 20th century. These characters were replaced by animals from around the world.
  • Emma Thompson, who stars as P. L. Travers in the 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks, also appears as a magical, Mary Poppins-esque governess in the Nanny McPhee series of films, based upon the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand.

Pulled from the Mary Poppins study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

Check back every Monday to uncover a new aspect of this magical production and get your tickets to our biggest show ever by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org!