Behind the Curtain Q&A: Property Designer Lynda Kwallek

LyndaWith the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

With Memphis starting next week, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight someone who knows a thing or two about all of the props onstage: Property Designer Lynda Kwallek.

Here is what she to say about her prop experience here at The Rep:

How long you have worked at The Rep: 8 years

Education/training: Bachelor of Fine Arts at Kent State and a Master of Fine Arts degree at Illinois State

How’d you get into the theatre biz:  I signed up for a class.  The slogan on the theatre table was ‘Theatre part time – Full time for a good time.’ I was 19 and it sounded good. I had always been interested in theatre; the slogan just gave me the chance to check out the theatre.

Why your job rocks:  I love finding that special prop, especially the one nobody expects me to find – the prop on the list that is nearly impossible.  I truly enjoy getting out shopping and meeting the vendors.

Best work day ever:  Every opening night is special. Very few people have a job that starts with a piece of literature and is collaborative with other often exceptional people.  The process culminates in a party.  It is a delight to see everyone at the openings. We meet so many creative, smart, well-read, non-judgmental people.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why:  I loved Clybourne Park last season.  The subject matter was a stretch for our theatre and our audience loved it. The cast did exceptional work on it. Another favorite show was 39 Steps – so wacky. Avenue Q was another favorite – such a positive message in the show. Loved Les Miserables both times and Full Monty was a great experience.

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  That we produce our shows here at the theatre. I have had people ask me where we bought certain things. It is a pleasure to say we built it for the show.

Favorite seat in the house:  Center on the 1st mezzanine

Best job perk:  Shopping – I find so many unusual things out looking for show props.  My apartment is an eclectic mixture. Often, a guest’s first comment is ‘so this is what a prop person’s home looks like.’  I love surrounding myself with the old stuff I find and it is often a bargain price.

Be sure to check back every week to get a glimpse at a different member of The Rep staff. Buy your tickets to Memphis here!

Learn a little more about Lynda here.

Video: What is Hockadoo?

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Do you know what Hockadoo means?

This week, we asked locals in downtown Little Rock what they think Hockadoo means and the answers are hilarious! Watch all of the answers in a special video below:

Find out what Hockadoo means when Memphis The Musical starts on The Rep stage Wednesday, Sept. 3 for Pay What You Can Night and officially opens on Friday, Sept. 5.

Get your tickets now by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or heading over to TheRep.org.

Memphis Monday: All About the Characters

The premiere of Memphis The Musical is fast approaching and to highlight some of the cool aspects of the show, we’ll be doing a short series called “Memphis Monday” every Monday through Sept. 22.

Before fans feast their eyes on the high-energy regional premiere of the show, it’s important to highlight the colorful characters who make up this special story.

Chad Kimball portrayed Huey Calhoun (left), while Montego Glover play Felicia in the original Broadway production of Memphis The Musical.

Chad Kimball portrayed Huey Calhoun (left), while Montego Glover play Felicia in the original Broadway production of Memphis The Musical.

Robert L. Neblett, an expert in American theatre, has prepared an educational study guide to accompany students for special student matinee performances of Memphis The Musical, which includes a rundown of the characters:

  • Huey Calhoun: Main character, a flamboyant white radio DJ who opens up the Memphis airwaves to the “race records” that lay the foundation for 1950s rock-and-roll. Huey is patterned after “Daddy-O” Dewey Phillips (1926-68), a historical rock-and-roll radio programmer in Memphis who rose to prominence between 1959-69 as a figure whose “Red, Hot & Blue” program featured both white and black musicians during a period of deep cultural segregation in the South. Phillips was the first radio personality to reveal Elvis Presley’s race (it was widely believed Presley was African American until Phillips interviewed him).
  • Delray Farrell: Owner of Delray’s, an underground juke joint on Beale Street in Memphis who is very protective of his sister Felicia
  • Felicia Farrell: Delray’s sister, an aspiring singer who falls in love with Huey
  • Vernon, James, Elroy: Musicians from Delray’s club
  • Selma, Laverne, Bessie: Felicia’s backup singers from Delray’s club
  • Mr. Collins: Owner of a department store where Huey works at the beginning of the play.
  • Perry Como: American singer  (1912-2001) whose popularity in the 1940s–1960s focused largely on his appeal to the traditional family values of post-war “middle America.” Como’s singing career was augmented by his persona as the host of many TV programs, including his Christmas specials.
  • Wailin’ Joe: A stand-in for colorful figures in the African-American music scene of the 1950s such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Little Richard.

    J. Bernard Calloway played Delray, Felicia's older brother a night club owner in the original production of Memphis The Musical on Broadway.

    J. Bernard Calloway played Delray, Felicia’s older brother a night club owner, in the original production of Memphis The Musical on Broadway.

  • Bobby: A frequent club-goer at Delray’s, a janitor for Simmons’ radio station, later becomes a personality on Huey’s television program
  • Gator: A soft-spoken bartender at Delray’s
  • Mr. Simmons: Owner of radio station WHDZ, who later becomes a producer of Huey’s television program
  • Buck Wiley – DJ and former host of “Boppin’ with the Blues” on WHDZ
  • Rev. Calvin Hobson: African-American pastor at the First Baptist Church
  • Gladys Calhoun/Mama: Huey’s mother, a waitress
  • Gordon Grant: Executive from RCA Records in New York
  • Martin Holton: A TV network executive from New York

See who will be portraying these characters on The Rep stage here and don’t miss your chance to see this award-winning musical Sept. 5-28! Get your tickets to show- single tickets are available now!

Purchase online here and get more information about the show–including special events– here.

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Costume Shop Manager Mark Nagle

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Mark Nagle is the manager of The Rep’s Costume Shop, located on the third level of the theatre. Most of the costumes worn in the six MainStage shows each season have been created by hand right in the shop.

With the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

With Memphis starting in a couple of weeks, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight someone who is part of the creative force behind the costumes you see on stage: Costume Shop Manager Mark Nagle.

Here is what he to say about his costume experience here at The Rep:

How long you have worked at The Rep: Since July

Education/training: A Master of Fine Arts in Design for Theatre at the Yale School of Drama and a Bachelor of Arts in Social work from the University of New Hampshire

How’d you get into the theatre biz: During my undergrad, I took a costume design class to fulfill my Fine Arts General Ed as I didn’t want to take figure drawing.  I was more interested in reading than doodling, and at that time I wanted to be a doctor, but this class seemed like less time commitment. After that class, I was hired to work in the costume shop as a stitcher and then they asked me to design a couple of the main stage shows.  I kind of just fell into it. I worked some summer stock gigs and at local theatres with the intention that it was just for fun, and then one of the theatre companies hired me to do the design for a show that was going to San Francisco. While in San Francisco, a theatre company, American Conservatory Theatre, there was putting on the first leg of the Sweeney Todd national tour and I perused their website and saw that they were hiring an in-house Assistant Costume Designer and I decided to apply. After returning home, I got a local job as a Psychiatric Case Manager (my undergrad is in Social Work), worked there for about a month before I got the call from ACT that they wanted to hire me.That’s how I got into professional theatre full-time.

Why your job rocks: I get to help create completely different worlds and talk with people about the psychological happenings of their character.  For me, it’s not really about the dress, it’s about the person in it that makes me wake up in the morning and be happy to come to work daily.  Why do people do what they do has always been interesting for me, and theatre lets me be around them.

Best work day ever: My family came to visit me in New York City when I was working on a show, and as we walked through Times Square to the Broadway theatre that I was working at currently, it kind of donned on me that this isn’t everyone’s normal everyday life.  Most of my family had never seen a theater that I worked at or as big of one, so it was that final ‘this isn’t a hobby, this is a real career moment’ from them and for me.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why: Memphis so far, its my first show.  Ask me in a couple of years.

One thing people would be surprised about your job: It isn’t easy. In costumes, we are the closest designers to the actors, and we see them in the most vulnerable. All body and self-esteem issues come out during fittings and we have to accommodate them all. Most actors can look past their own personal tastes and see what the character is, others don’t, which can be extremely hard.  If it is a modern show, everyone and their mother has an opinion of what the person should wear. You don’t just go and get one outfit for that look, you better have a department store on the side of the stage because you will be getting suggestions from everyone and the director will want to see everything on stage together before you have something you can move on with.

Favorite seat in the house: I haven’t sat in the house yet.

Best job perk: Coffee machine or health insurance– can’t decide

Be sure to check back every week to get a glimpse at a different member of The Rep staff. Buy your tickets to Memphis here!

Memphis Monday: A Historical Look at Memphis The Musical

The premiere of Memphis The Musical is fast approaching and to highlight some of the cool aspects of the show, we’ll be doing a short series called “Memphis Monday” every Monday through Sept. 22.

Before fans feast their eyes on the high-energy regional premiere of the show, it’s important to showcase where it all started and where it’s going, not to mention its collection of awards it has gathered along the way.

Robert L. Neblett, an expert in American theatre, has prepared an educational study guide to accompany students for special student matinee performances of Memphis The Musical, which includes a historical look of the production:

History

Memphis: The Musical was originally developed at the North Shore Music Festival in Massachusetts and TheatreWorks in California in 2003-04, and subsequently staged at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in 2008 and Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in 2009.

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Chad Kimball (far right) played Memphis DJ Huey Calhoun in the original Broadway production of Memphis The Musical, starting in 2009.

The musical opened on Broadway in October 2009, where it played for over 1,100 performances before closing in 2012. In late 2011, the actor playing Huey Calhoun, Chad Kimball, left the musical’s cast due to an injury, and was replaced by Adam Pascal, best known for starring in the original Broadway casts of Rent and Tim Rice and Elton John’s Aida.

In 2011-13, the producers mounted a successful national tour of the musical.

The original Broadway production was filmed in high-definition for a limited digital cinema release in 2011, after which it was released on DVD.

Memphis: The Musical will open in London’s West End in late 2014.

Awards

Memphis was nominated for 8 and won 4 Tony Awards (celebrating the best in Broadway theatre) in 2010, including:memphis-the-musical

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL: Joe DiPietro

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Joe DiPietro and David Bryan

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS: Daryl Waters and David Bryan

BEST MUSICAL

Memphis won 4 Drama Desk Awards (celebrating the best in theatre throughout New York City, on Broadway and off), including:

OUTSTANDING MUSIC: David Bryan

OUTSTANDING ORCHESTRATIONS: David Bryan and Daryl Waters

BEST MUSICAL

It also won 4 Outer Critics’ Circle Awards, including:

BEST SCORE: David Bryan and Joe DiPietro

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Sergio Trujillo

BEST MUSICAL

Don’t miss your chance to see this award-winning musical take The Rep stage Sept. 5-28! Get your tickets to show- single tickets are available now! Purchase online here and get more information about the show–including special events– here.

Bob Hupp’s 15 Year Repiversary

Today (Aug. 16) is a special day here at The Rep.

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15 years ago today Bob Hupp took his post as The Rep’s producing artistic director.  In his first 15 years with The Rep, Bob’s directing credits include Les Miserables, Red, Death of a Salesman, Henry V, To Kill a Mockingbird, The 39 Steps, Hamlet, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Les Miserables, It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Sherlock Holmes: the Final Adventure, The Full Monty, Moonlight and Magnolias, Of Mice and Men, Steel Magnolias, Much Ado About Nothing, Children of Eden, Romeo & Juliet, God’s Man in Texas, The Spitfire Grill, Fully Committed, Proof, The Temptest, You Can’t Take It With You and The Grapes of Wrath. 

In honor of Bob’s time here, members of the staff, friends and board of directors shared their favorite Bob memories and how they think he has influenced the theatre during his first 15 years.  Read below to find out what they had to say about Bob.

Fran Carter, Director of Development

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Favorite memory with Bob:  Every time I hear Bob talk about Arkansas Repertory Theatre, I learn something new. He is a great storyteller, and one of my favorite things to do is to meet with a Rep patron, with Bob, and to listen to him talk about why this theatre is so special, and so important to Arkansas.

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years?  Bob has a great ability to understand that The Rep exists as a very important part of our community. The list of organizations that we have partnered with, successfully, is long and diverse. I love that his vision of what The Rep is and what The Rep means to Arkansas, is broad enough to include so many partnerships. Each production at The Rep is made even more special, because Bob helps many different people find many different ways to connect to what they see on our stage.

Ken Clark, Board Member

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Favorite memory with Bob: I got to sneak a peek on the Rothko rehearsals a year or so ago. I sat about 10 rows behind Bob, who had his feet propped up on the seat in front of him. Watching him interact with the actors on stage from the dark audience, fine tuning their movements and collaborating with them on the creative process was everything I’ve imagined it to be. Fascinating and awe-inspiring to watch such a talented guy.

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? Bob brings a steadfastness of quality and purpose to the Rep. He has helped lay a foundation that other talented people can build upon and push creative boundaries with.

Charles Coleman, Board Member

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Favorite memory with Bob: Bob has amazing talents, almost magical! How else can you describe someone who has transformed me (and I am sure many others) from having no desire to see Shakespeare to absolutely loving every Shakespeare work performed on The Rep stage! When is the next one scheduled?

Lesli Hugg, Board Member

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Favorite memory with Bob: Bob speaks to a crowd in a way that is both astute and intellectual, while putting everyone at ease and placing a smile on their face. I loved the moment during Les Misérables when he gave his opening comments and bad weather was looming. He assured the crowd that The Rep was keeping an eye on the skies, but if the orchestra started playing the theme to Wizard of Oz, that was our cue. Laughs ensued, and everyone relaxed and enjoyed the show….including my guests!

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? Bob is accomplished in both the arts and the complexities of running a business, and I believe that combination of talents has contributed greatly to the success of The Rep.

Catherine Hughes, Board Member

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Favorite memory with Bob: Bob is well known for his creativity, his intelligence, his [slightly] intimidating intensity, and his demanding work ethic. While I am deeply appreciative of all of these attributes, my favorite memories of Bob are when his razor sharp sense of humor comes to the surface and he makes a deadpan comment in that dry, acerbic way of his, inevitably resulting in uncontrollable laughter on my part!

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? During Bob’s tenure as Producing Artistic Director, The Rep has received more and more national accolades for the quality of its productions. Bob attempts to fill each season with an array of plays which reflect The Rep’s mission “to create a diverse body of theatrical work of the highest artistic standards. With a focus on dramatic storytelling that illuminates the human journey, The Rep entertains, engages and enriches local and regional audiences of all ages and backgrounds.” Theatre lovers in Central Arkansas should feel extremely grateful that Bob chose to put his roots down in our community. We have indeed been entertained, engaged and enriched by the shows that he has brought to The Rep’s stage. The most common comment I get from first-time Rep goers is: “I saw this show on Broadway, but it was better here at The Rep!” Actors from major theatre hubs such as New York vie to come to Little Rock to be in The Rep’s productions. I applaud Bob’s genius, his tenacity and his generosity of spirit – here’s to many more years at the helm!

Michael McCurdy, Managing Director

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Favorite memory with Bob: There are too many to count over the past 14 years – from Grapes of Wrath to Les Mis I have seen everything that Bob has directed on our stage. He has been a fabulous teacher, mentor, artist and friend.

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? Just look around downtown. None of what is happening on Main Street would have been possible if Bob did not lead this institution with an eye to the community in which we work. His collaborative partnerships with all the arts groups in Little Rock have been a hallmark of his 15 years and what has made Arkansas Repertory Theatre such a respected arts organization both here in Central Arkansas and around the country.

Katherine Melhorn, Board Member

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Favorite memory with Bob: I feel fortunate to have worked with Bob on two different occasions expressly in non-Rep capacities when I helped him purchase two homes and sell one. I’m very grateful for his business, but it was also fun to get to know him better off the Rep radar. Seeing him interact with his sons and his soon-to-be wife during our house hunting/selling adventures, enjoying his razor-sharp wit, cheerfully enduring his pickiness on houses (yes, Bob is picky)…I felt very fortunate to get to know Bob a little better outside of our Rep relationship. Happy 15th Anniversary with the Rep, Bob!

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? Bob Hupp has put the AR Repertory Theatre on the map nationally. How? Because of his brilliant artistic direction and production of first class shows, because of his generosity in bringing outstanding directors to the Rep to direct outstanding shows, because of his collaborative spirit in wanting to work with the other arts entities in our city and state, because of his business acumen in keeping our theatre solvent during the toughest of times, because of his ability to surround himself with and retain exceptional staff, and because of his leadership on national repertory theatre boards such as LORT. And finally, because he tells stories that affect the human heart very, very well.

Cindy Murphy, Board Member and Bob Fan!

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Favorite memory with Bob: My favorite memory of Bob was when he texted me while I was in France 2 summers ago. He and Clea were looking for a place to get married and he told me where they had been so far. He asked if I knew of any other venues they should consider…I told him my favorite wedding was Tiffany’s and Daniel’s at our home! So, I hosted Bob & Clea’s wedding in our back gardens and it was beautiful! It was wonderful to finally “produce” something so special for Bob…He has done so very much for the state of Arkansas by creating Broadway quality shows for The Rep’s stage! What a huge gift!

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? Bob’s influence on The Rep over his first 15 years as Producing Artistic Director is monumental! From world Premiere’s like Because of Winn Dixie, to -nternationally acclaimed musicals like Les Miz, Bob has entertained thousands of adoring fans who LOVE THE REP! He has created a stellar reputation for The Rep in NYC (among other noted cities) and created an atmosphere that Broadway performers have thoroughly enjoyed. He has encouraged the growth of SMTI which has introduced so many talented, young actors to learn about professional theater and perform before a packed house! From brilliant director to consummate professional, Bob is a gift to our state. And for those of who are really lucky, a loyal and special friend.

Aubrey Nixon, Board Member

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Favorite Memory with Bob: Working closely with Bob in my two years as Board Chair is my favorite memory. It provided me with the opportunity to not only develop a good professional relationship with him but also a genuine friendship for which I am truly grateful.

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? Bob has developed The Rep into a nationally recognized theatre and brought much acclaim to Arkansas and The Rep. Every year, he has taken The Rep to the “next level” and the quality of the work produced on The Rep’s stage continues to escalate year after year.

Bill Rector, Board Member

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Favorite memory with Bob: There are so many it’s hard to pick. Probably the time we bought a dinner for four at Bob’s house at some fund raiser and he prepared a very nice pasta dinner. Very nice evening.

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? He has kept us doing substantial work, enhancing our national reputation while keeping us afloat financially.

Jeff Roper, Box Office Manager

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Favorite memory with Bob: The time I told Michele Clark that I was Bob Hupp. Bob was not amused when he introduced himself to her and she told him “no, he wasn’t.”

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? First of all, I like the phrase ‘First 15 years.’ Bob has brought the NYC experience with him and all the traits therein.

Douglas Webster, Guest Artist

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Favorite memory with Bob: Bob and I were in attendance for another theater company’s announcement of an innovative, to them, fund-raising scheme. The Development Director was effusive in how this would be a wonderful opportunity for the performers to interact with their adoring audience members, whilst the former would be holding buckets to receive inspired donations as the latter progressed to the exit through the gauntlet of bucket-wielding actors. Bob and I were well to the back of the crowd. He leaned in to ask, “How’re you doing?”
I replied in a direct, yet un printable manner that made clear my opinion of the whole scheme.

I asked him if he would be trying this tactic in Arkansas.

He replied, in much gentler phrase, that he was certain that, knowing his constituency, any replication of this tactic in Little Rock would result in his personal demise.

Bob did not use so many words to express this.

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? Bob has imbued his team, and the reputation of The Rep with an essence of professionalism, artistic merit and social involvement. He has guided The Rep to National recognition while remaining viable and present to his constituency. Honor and integrity are earned by time and example. And once earned, can only be retained through consistent and reliable action. Bob remains the catalyst, but has created an environment of artistic excellence that is independent of him and is poised to remain for the future. I cannot comment on where The Rep has been, but admire where it is and look forward to where it is heading.

“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed…because people are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events…by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.” -Leonard ‪Bernstein

Mary Wohlleb, Board Member

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Favorite Memory with Bob: We loved being able to share in his joy at his wedding to Clea. Even the groom’s cake had a theatrical focus.

How do you think Bob has influenced The Rep during his first 15 years? Bob has done a magnificent job both artistically and managerially (if that’s a word) creating an ever more impressive Repertory Theater. His ability to partner up (to play well with others) has helped forge some worthy networking. His outreach into the community keeps The Rep on the radar screen of central Arkansas citizens in numerous creative ways. We are lucky to have him!

Gridiron Gridlock: Q&A with Actress Judy Trice

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Judy Trice in The Rep’s Born Yesterday production during the 2006-2007 MainStage Season.

The lawyers are back at it this week!

More than 75 lawyers and law professionals will once again take The Rep stage, starting Wednesday (Aug. 13) with their production of Gridiron Gridlock. After a four-year hiatus, the lawyers bring back their biennial musical production spoofing Arkansas people and politics.

Many lawyers have graced the stage to put their best acting and singing skills to the test for decades. But, there is someone who is not a lawyer, but rather an equity actress who became a part of this tradition through her late husband Bill Trice, who was a lawyer. Her name is Judy Trice and she is returning to The Rep stage after performing several years in the lawyer spoofs, as well as several professional productions, including Born Yesterday during the 2006-2007 MainStage Season.

We had the chance to talk to her about her role in this year’s Gridiron Gridlock, what makes it such a unique production and why it’s so special for her. Here is what she had to say:

What is your role in Gridiron? I will be playing lawyer Virginia “Ginger” Atkinson. She was well-known for her choice of expletives and her very famous line “I hate men.” She was in Gridiron for a number of years and everybody loves her.

How long have you been involved with this special show? My last show was in the ’90s. The first one I did was in 1978 and I did them up through the 90s. My first Gridiron was with the the late Griffin Smith. He loved Broadway and wrote this show around the music he liked.

Who are some of the politicians can we expect to see spoofed onstage? My daughter Catherine Pryor is going to be Hillary Clinton this year and will be doing a duet with Joe Purvis, who is playing Gov. Chris Christie; you’ll also see former state treasurer Martha Shoffner, along with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama this year. We will have a wonderful duet with Congressman Tom Cotton and Sen. Mark Pryor’s father, played by Dewey Watson.

What is so unique about Gridiron? Gridiron, which is kind of modeled after the Washington D.C. shows, consists of lawyers who love to perform. In the past, there have been some wonderful singers– it’s so natural for them onstage. It’s the only show now in the state that is a parody. There were the two shows– there was one for print called the Farkleberry Follies– but now it’s just us. The show is certainly entertaining. People will enjoy it!

Why is this show so special to you? I’ve enjoyed getting back together with these people since my husband passed. It’s about getting to socialize with people I haven’t seen in awhile– doing something fun. It’s bittersweet because Bill isn’t here.

Tickets are still available for Gridiron Gridlock, showing Aug. 13-16. Buy them online or call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

Funds raised through ticket sales support some deserving local non-profits. This year, the lawyers intend to donate the net proceeds to The Rep and the Pulaski County Bar Foundation in appreciation for the support both institutions have given to Gridiron over the years. Get more information about the performances here.

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Box Office Manager Jeff Roper

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At the start of the season, we wanted to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series we would like to call “Behind the Curtain.” During this weekly series, we will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis a short Q&A.

With tickets on sale to our first show of the year, Memphis, it seemed fitting to highlight one of the first people you see here at the theatre: our lively Box Office Manager Jeff Roper.

Here is what he to say about his ticket-selling time here at The Rep:

How long you have worked at the Rep:  6 years

Education/training:  Bachelors in Journalism from the University of Central Arkansas

How’d you get into the theatre biz:  A friend knew Kelly Ford and told me she was looking for a Box Office Manager.

Why your job rocks:  So much positive affirmation derived from getting people in to see great shows.

Best work day ever:  The night we had The Who tribute band perform

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and whyTommy because the cast was amazing.

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  How little we actually see the actors.

Favorite seat in the house:  H 7,6

Best job perk:  Getting to watch rehearsals and see the show come together.

Be sure to check back every week to get a glimpse at a different member of The Rep staff and buy your tickets to Memphis here!

Have questions about The Rep’s Box Office? Get your questions answered here.

Memphis Monday: Bon Jovi’s David Bryan Brings High-Energy Music to Show

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Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan co-wrote Memphis with Joe DiPietro.

The premiere of Memphis: The Musical is fast approaching and to highlight some of the cool aspects of the show, we’ll be doing a short series called “Memphis Monday” every Monday through Sept. 22.

To kick things off, one of things we are most excited about in the production is the energetic music that will be rocking the theatre.

One of the musicians behind the fabulous original rock ‘n’ roll score in Memphis: The Musical is Grammy Award-winning David Bryan, keyboardist and one of the founding members of classic rock band Bon Jovi, a band who has sold more than 130 million records over the last 26 years. You’ve probably heard of “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

Memphis: The Musical is Bryan’s first dip into musical theatre and what’s incredible is that his debut won a 2010 Tony Award for Best Composer, a 2010 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Score. In fact, taking the stage on Broadway from Oct. 19, 2009 to Aug. 5, 2012, Memphis has garnered eight Tony Award nominations total, winning four Tony Awards in 2010, including Best Musical.

The Memphis: The Musical story goes like this: In the underground nightclubs of 1950s Memphis lies a new era of music– rock ‘n’ roll, blues and gospel– that is emerging into the mainstream. Falling in love with a beautiful club singer, white DJ Dewey Phillips’ desire to bring her voice and music out of the clubs and onto the national landscape will go against cultural divides and ignite a music revolution.

From the first notes of its opening number “Underground” right up to a rousing finale called “Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Memphis delivers one energetic song after the next.

Get your tickets to show- single tickets are available now! Get more information here.

Check out the Broadway.com video as Bryan and DiPietro highlight the score: http://bcove.me/do4fodl9

Take a Musical Journey with Velvet Kente Arkestra at The Rep

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Local artist Velvet Kente Arkestra will rock the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage Sept. 22 during the run of the theatre’s electrifying production of Memphis.

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre is kicking off its 2014-2015 Season with the exciting musical Memphis, a regional premiere that is loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s.

And to keep the Memphis musical energy alive, Little Rock artist Velvet Kente Arkestra will take over The Rep stage on Monday, Sept. 22.

Joshua Asante leads Velvet Kente, three-piece rock band that frequents hot Little Rock music joints like the White Water Tavern, the Rev Room, Stickyz and more. The extended version of the band, Velvet Kenta Arkestra, will feature 12-13 performers on stage. What the audience can expect is a unique blend of music– from horns, guitars, piano and percussion– to resonate through the theatre.

“We embrace different types of music,” Asante said.

Working in partnership with the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Velvet Kente Arkestra will take fans on a musical journey from 1950s Memphis to today. If you’re looking for a lively night of music, this is it!

Starting at 6 p.m., there will be a VIP Members Lounge in Foster’s and a cash bar open in the theatre lobby. The show will rock the stage from 7-9 p.m.

Tickets are $20 for A seats, which includes the lower level and first mezzanine, and $10 for B Seats, which includes the second mezzanine. To purchase tickets, CLICK HERE or call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405. Get more information here.

Get a preview of this energetic group below!