Behind the Curtain Q&A: Resident Director and Director of Education Nicole Capri

With the 2014-2015 MainStage Season in full swing, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series highlights staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

Someone who directs not only our Young Artist program (including the Summer Musical Theatre Intensive), but also directs shows through the season, like the upcoming production of Elf– is Resident Director and Director of Education Nicole Capri.

WIN FOUR REPSHere is what she has to say about her theatre experience here at The Rep:

How long have you worked at The Rep? 12 years

Education/Training: Theatre, Dance and Music at the University of Memphis– attended college on an Orchestral Music scholarship (viola) but was received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre;  Professional theatre school at The National Theatre of the Deaf in Chester, Conn.

How’d you get into the theatre biz: My first play was Peter Rabbit. I was about five years old and I played the Cottontail Rabbit. My mom and dad asked me afterward if I wanted to be an actress and I said, ‘No… I want to be the director.’

Why your job rocks: I love conceiving, writing, casting and directing projects from start to finish, but the best part is working with young people and watching them embrace the process of ‘removing their Saran Wrap’ to become vulnerable and authentic. I teach my young artists that ‘their job as actors is to spread joy.’ The development and discovery process of young people is the most exciting part of my job.  My job is simply to love them, and their job is to learn to not only love and accept each other, but to learn how to love and appreciate themselves. Watching young actors take risks (painful and exhilarating), helping them to realistically identify their strengths and weaknesses and work to achieve attainable goals is the most rewarding part of my entire career.  I’ve seen kids from our SMTI training program go on to attend the best theatre schools in the country and become working professionals as actors, dancers, musicians, filmmakers, directors and teachers, but I’ve also seen our alumni use the skills they’ve learned at The Rep to become better doctors, and political activists and military officers and moms and dads.  My job and this program is about building confidence, building relationships, building a community that is solid and socially aware and most importantly, friendships and ‘safety-nets’ that will last a lifetime. Theatre can be a self-realizing and a healing art, and the more I work in this business, the more I realize that the main part of my job is to authentically love the people I coach and direct and to encourage young people learn how to trust and authentically love each other.

Best work day ever: Hmmmm… it’s so hard to choose.  There have been so many.  But the first thing that comes to my mind is in 2005 during our first SMTI tech rehearsal.  One of my first students, Hannah Eakin, (who ten years later is still my ‘adopted daughter’) sang ‘By My Side’ with the entire cast on stage. It was beautiful. Heart-felt. And I was genuinely moved.  It was at that moment that I think I realized that we really had something special here.  And it was at that moment I believe I finally embraced what I was really called to do with my life.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why: Professional show?  Probably Next to Normal. Young artist’s show?  It would probably be a toss-up between Singin’ on a Star (which was based on my journal as a struggling actress in my 20s) and the original musical my friends and I work-shopped last summer that will have a two-week run in the spring of 2015. Project Elan is a brand-new musical written by seven SMTI alumni and staff, including Bobby Banister, Conly Basham, Mark Binns, Sam Clark, Robert Frost, Jimmy Landfair, Charity Vance and myself.  This is a project that is so close to my heart and that I have huge hopes will have a life beyond The Rep’s stage. For more information, go to www.projectelan.com

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  My job is not glamorous… and for every one person I make ‘happy,’ I probably disappoint at least 10.  My job is not 9 to 5 and it’s definitely more sweaty than you could imagine.  I wear sweatpants, sneakers and a baseball cap more than dresses and heels.

Favorite seat in the house: I love every seat in the house.  The theatre is so intimate and no one is ever more than 40 feet away from the stage.  But when I’m directing, I sit in a different place all the time because I want to see my show from every angle.  Many times, I will drop by my show when it’s in a long run to ‘check in.’ You can see me leaning up against the back post on the house-left side of the theatre because I love to watch the audience watch my shows.

Best job perk: There are so many great things about my job— but the biggest job perk is what makes my job possible – my boss (but please don’t tell him because I always tell him that he’s ‘not the boss of me’). The thing I appreciate the most about working for Bob is that he seems to get how my brain works and encourages me to work in a way that allows me to be my most creative and productive (which is usually between 10 and 2 in the middle of the night). I’ve never been good at sitting at a desk and I’m too ADD to write in an environment with lots of distraction.  But working for him, I never feel like I’m punching a time-clock when I’m creating or writing a new piece. I am evaluated on my product rather than my crazy (sometimes unconventional) process.  I am praised for my efforts and listened to when I come to him with new ideas. I love working for an artist who understands the creative process.  Bob offers constructive criticism and never makes me feel micro-managed.  I am empowered and encouraged to do my best work. It’s an artist’s dream job.

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

Elfie Tuesday: An Intro to Elf The Musical

With Elf The Musical taking the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage, starting Wednesday, Dec. 3, we are penning a new short series called “Elfie Tuesday” every Tuesday throughout its run.

To start our series– with the help of our dramaturg, Robert Neblett– we will take a look back at the musical and what it was before became a fixture in theatre: a movie of the same name, starring Will Ferrell and James Caan!

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History

After 10 years of development and pre-production, the film of Elf was finally released in November 2003, with a script by David Berenbaum and direction by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Chef). It starred Will Ferrell in his first post-Saturday Night Live role as Buddy, James Caan (The Godfather) as Walter, Zooey Deschanel (The New Girl) as Jovie, Arkansas native Mary Steenburgen (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) as Emily, Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) as Santa and Bob Newhart (The Bob Newhart Show) as Papa Elf.

They introduced the world to an unlikely new Christmas hero in the movie Elf. A contemporary fable, this comic film charmed audiences and critics alike, and Buddy the Elf soon became the unofficial mascot for the holiday season in 21st Century America.

Wide-eyed Buddy reminds us that there is still room for magic in our world of hyper-commercialism and Black Friday sales and that the most precious gift of all is the love of family.

The film opened at No. 2 at the United States Box Office and went on to gross more than $220 million worldwide.

It received relatively favorable reviews from critics and audiences for its good-natured humor and positive message. Ferrell’s childlike performance catapulted it to an audience favorite, and Buddy is now a regular fixture in Christmas decorations and holiday television offerings.

In 2010, the story took on a new dimension as it was adapted into a festive seasonal Arcelusmusical for the stage by Tony Award-winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) and the Tony-nominated Matthew Sklar (The Wedding Singer and Shrek: The Musical).

Elf: The Musical broke Broadway box office records and toured the country before being snatched up by regional theatres across America, like The Rep this season!

Some differences between the film and the musical:

  • Papa Elf’s (Bob Newhart) role as the film’s narrator is replaced by Santa Claus onstage.
  • Buddy does get a job in the mailroom at the publishing house.
  • The snowball fight that endears Michael to Buddy is replaced by a science project onstage.
  • The role of temperamental author Miles Finch (played by Peter Dinklage), whom Buddy mistakes as an elf, is excised.
  • The musical does not reference the apocalyptic Central Park Rangers, who chase Santa’s sleigh in the movie.

Pulled from Elf study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

Great seats are available for Elf after Christmas. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

Help Name Special Loblolly Ice Cream for Elf- VOTE NOW!

IMG_6276Who doesn’t love Little Rock’s very own Loblolly Creamery? Well, you’re in for a treat!

This Christmas season with our production of Elf taking The Rep MainStage in December, we have teamed up with the popular creamery to create a special ice cream for the holiday show– sweet cream with peppermint chunks and house-made mallows. And guess what? We need your help naming it!

Starting Wednesday, Nov. 12, The Rep is launching its Elf Ice Cream Naming Contest, where we will be accepting entries for the special treat.

After we chose our top 5 favorite names, then, you, the fans, will vote for your favorite! The winner will receive a pint of the special flavor with their name on the carton and a pair of tickets to see Elf!

Here is how the contest will work:

THEREP_ELF (no credits)-page-0011. Submit your awesome ice cream name from 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16.  Bonus points if you include “Rep” somewhere in the name! SUBMISSIONS ARE CLOSED.

2. Our top 5 favorite names will be selected and fans will be allowed to vote for their favorite HERE Facebook page from 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 17 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19. The name with the most ‘Likes’ at the end of the voting period will be the winner!

3. The winner will receive a pint of the special flavor with their name on the carton and a pair of tickets to see Elf!

The special ice cream will be sold at Loblolly Creamery, located inside the Green Corner Store, 1423 Main St., Suite D, Little Rock, and at The Rep the month of December.

Don’t miss your chance to try this one-of-a-kind sweet treat celebrating our holiday production and get your tickets to Elf online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Box Office Assistant Bailey Lamb

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.

Chances are if you’ve purchased a ticket and picked it up at the Box Office, you met Box Office Assistant Bailey IMG_20140730_112811_208Lamb!

Here is she had to say about her theatre experience here at The Rep:

When did you start working at The Rep: More than  2 years– My Repaversary (yes, I did come up with that word) was Sept 5, 2012.

Education/training: I started going to college for a degree in dance performance, but school made me very unhappy, so I went in search for something that did make me happy.

How’d you get into the theatre biz:I started in the SMTI program, but I’ve been dancing and singing since I started walking. So, naturally I was attracted to musical theatre.

Why your job rocks: I get to work with Haley and Jeff!! They are the best coworkers/bosses ever, and Haley is my best friend. The first time we met, we got into a shirt together! I guess that’s why I love my job so much. We always have so much fun in the box office. I just love the atmosphere and the people!

Best work day ever: Any day when all three of us are down here in the box office together is the best work day.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why: It’s a toss-up between Avenue Q and Les Miserables. Avenue Q because it was such a fun show (I saw it 5 times!) and it brought so many new faces into the theatre, including young people who were just excited about theatre. Les Miserables because I got to be in the cast!! It was my first professional contract and the rest of the cast was so amazing.

One thing people would be surprised about your job: I know I’ve said it a lot, but how much fun we have!!

Favorite seat in the house: 1st Mezzanine Row BB Seat 15

Best job perk: We get exposed to some of the best theatre and the best people in central Arkansas. I have seen beautiful and meaningful art in person and made some of the best friends. This place is so special and magical! It is somehow still one of the best-kept secrets in Little Rock, but I think everyone should know how awesome the Rep is!

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

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Box Office Assistant Bill Hall

With the new MainStage season in full swing, 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.

Someone who helps keep the Box Office running smoothly during performances is Box Office Assistant Bill HIll.

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

When did you start working at The Rep? September 1997

Education/training: Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in creative writing

How’d you get into the theatre biz: Came to “help out for a while” and have been here almost 17 years

Why your job rocks: The entire ambiance of the theatre

Best work day ever: Saturdays

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and whyGod’s Man in Texas. It was a captivating play by David Rambo.

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  When picking up tickets, it’s surprising how many people can’t seem to remember their name.

Favorite seat in the house: Almost any seat in the First Mezzanine

Best job perk:  Being introduced to new plays and it’s a great group of people to work with on any given evening.

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

Wait Until Dark Wednesday: Q&A with Props Master Lynda Kwallek

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The kitchen is a centerpiece of the production, filled with period-specific items like a ’60s-style gas stove and oven, copper containers, and functional sink.

Wait Until Dark is nearing the end and to highlight some of the cool aspects of the show, we have done short series called “Wait Until Dark” every Wednesday throughout its run.

To close out our series, we take a look at the one of the other stars of the show: the props!

The woman behind our fabulous props onstage is our Properties Designer Lynda Kwallek, who has worked on this show twice before The Rep.

We had the chance to sit down with her and explore the wonderful world of props. Here is what she had to say:

Q: What is the process of you choosing props for each show?

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Kwallek selected this specific couch for the show because of its color, shape and style.

A: I read the script numerous times, for Wait Until Dark, I’ve read it about half a dozen times. I read the script, sit down and highlight all things that are mentioned as props and then I make a list and send it to my director and designer. We all then have a conversation where I discuss the use of those things and what is actually needed for them.

From the moment I read a script, I’m kind of peripherally searching for something. I’m always on the lookout for specific things that I think we will be using at some point. I’m usually searching fairly early on but I’m not purchasing until after I’ve talked to the designer and director.

Q: Props play such an integral role in Wait Until Dark. Can you talk about some of the most important props and how they were chosen for the stage?

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Because matches play a big role in the play, a lot went into picking the perfect matches– and boxes– to use.

A: For the matches, we started out with the large kitchen matches. We were going to use the non-strike anywhere because in the past, we’ve had an incident in another Wait Until Dark production where they jostled in the show and it lit onstage during that climactic moment when they’re fighting. So, we wanted to use kitchen regular-size matches and then they wanted to have a smaller matchbox, so I bought a bunch of those. [Director] Bob [Hupp] asked if I had researched any other matches and I really hadn’t, so when I did start to research it, I noticed there weren’t that many other brands out there. So, what we are currently using in the show are those little bitty tiny boxes of matches with the strike on the side with fireplace matches cut down to fit in there– only three or four fireplace matches to fit in each one. The fireplace matches are heavier and thicker and they create a bigger flame. We go through one a night—I think Amy Hutchins (Susy) goes through two packs and MIchael Stewart Allen (Roat) goes through one pack a night.

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Initially, Kwallek went with a rotary phone, but after much research, decided to go with a push-button phone to help with the pace of the show.the phone.

Another prop that in prominent in the show is the phone. Initially I had pulled a rotary phone. It’s what we expect to see but through a little bit of research, I found that push-button phones were available in 1963. I often thought the length of time that it takes to dial with a rotary, Bob wanted to keep that pace moving. I didn’t find anything that said people with limited vision had the need for a push-button phone but it kind of made sense to all of us and to keep. We try to keep things period-accurate, but we also have to take into consideration the pacing of a show, the needs of a show and just what the director wants.

All the way through the show, there was a soundscape that worked in cooperation with the props. There is the buzzer when Nate Washburn (Sam) is doing the photography developing; there is a bell in the phone; we have various door frames backstage that make noise; and the keys all rattle in the locks. The soundscape in this particular show and the props were very very important. It was about making noises that [character Susy] would be so much more aware of than we are on a daily basis. The fact that she can distinguish the sound of [character Roat's] shoes. We heightened much of that.

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In addition to the cool props Kwallek selected for Sam’s office, Resident Set Designer Mike Nichols went through our photography files– old postcards, business cards, mementos, etc.–and pulled stuff to dress that area.

Q: What do you enjoy most about finding props for the shows?

A: It’s about the prop that everyone says you can’t find and I find it. Now occasionally there is that thing I never find and I do never find it, but take for instance, the camera for Memphis. People were blown away by that old camera used in the second act and I found it here in town. It was something I found during our production of Frost/Nixon. I kept the guy’s name written down and when I needed one from that area, I called him up.

I enjoy meeting the people around the area, also. It’s great fun. I get to be out and about with the public and talk about the shows here at the theatre.

Great seats are available for Wait Until Dark. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

The Rep’s 40th MainStage Season: You Decide!

A Christmas Carol

It’s Election Day 2014 and with our 40th MainStage Season happening next year, we thought it was a good time to launch our Fan Favorite Campaign, starting today (Nov. 4).

Our Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp is already considering the must-see shows to make up the 2015-2016 lineup and for our campaign, we would like know from you, our fans:

What show would you like to see revived onstage for our 40th Season? Tell us here!

Would you like to see The Full Monty from our 2006-2007 Season, or God’s Man in Texas from the 2003-2004 Season? Or what about The Miracle Worker from the 2004-2005? We have quite a few to choose from! Submit your favorite show here.

Need a refresher? Check out our production history here!avery-shadow.jpg

The deadline to submit your choice is 10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6.  We will announce the Top 5 show submissions on Friday, Nov. 7 and leave the final decision up to you, our fans.

The Rep’s Wait Until Dark Sign Interpretation This Wednesday

KcjgzqMcqIn 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.

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UALR’s Raphael James before his first sign interpretation night for The Rep’s Memphis

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.

Are we are gearing up for our next sign interpretation night, which will be the Wait Until Dark performance at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5. There are still seats available!

Here are the dates for the remainder of the season:

  • Elf: Wednesday, Dec. 17
  • The Whipping Man: Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015
  • Mary Poppins: Wednesday, March 18, 2015
  • August: Osage County: 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.

Wait Until Dark Wednesday: Behind the Music

Wait Until Dark is in full force and to highlight some of the cool pieces of the show, we are doing a short series called “Wait Until Dark” every Wednesday through Nov. 5.

While the various technical aspects of the production play a critical role in moving the thrilling plot along (set design, lighting, etc.), one piece of the suspenseful puzzle lies with the sound– from the ’60s-era songs that transition the scenes throughout the performance to the spot-on sound effects and ominous music box, sound helps keeps audience members on the edge of their seat.

The man behind the sound is Arkansas Repertory Theatre Resident Sound Engineer Allan Branson, who is in his third season here at the theatre.

For plays like Wait Until Dark, our music professionals and creative team approach the music slightly different than musicals like Memphis and Les Miserables.

Wait Until Dark Photo by Tyler Rosenthal

Wait Until Dark
Photo by Tyler Rosenthal

While musicals are led by musical director Mark Binns on our second stage and mixed in to our auditorium by Branson, plays are done a little differently.

“For straight plays (like Wait Until Dark), all of the music and sounds are prerecorded and pre-programmed into a computer, so that a board op can easily play back the exact same show every night,” Branson said.

From the beginning, Branson works with the director of the play on what they want to accomplish with the music and for the most part, lyrical content is generally not the way he chooses music.

“Most of the time, I look particularly for music with no lyrics at all, if possible,” he said.

Sometimes specific songs or recordings of music are desired, though, like with this production, where Director and Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp requested popular songs of the era to transition the scenes along.

“[But] for the most part, I don’t want lyrics or the music, itself,  to get in the way of the story being told,” Branson continued. “After all, that is our main mission in theatre– to share a story with an audience.”

In addition to the prerecorded soundtrack that Branson has created for Wait Until Dark, Binns worked with Hupp on putting together a special tune for the music box onstage. Watch the video below on Binns’ process of creating this piece for the show!

Great seats are available for Wait Until Dark. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Production Assistant Intern Jennifer Gregory

brokeologyjenWith the new MainStage season in full swing, 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.

Someone who helps keep productions running behind the scenes is production assistant intern Jennifer Gregory.

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

When did you start working at The Rep: July 2013 as overhire; May 2014 as production assistant

Education/training: Bachelor of Arts in Theatre with an emphasis in stage management from Southwestern University

How’d you get into the theatre biz: When I was about 11 years old, I participated in Youth Theatre of Central Arkansas in Conway, which might have been my first exposure to theatre outside of sitting in the audience. During my sophomore year of high school, I discovered stage management when the music director asked me if I’d like to ‘ASM’ the spring musical, Kiss Me Kate. I said, ‘Sure. What’s an ASM?’  (It’s an assistant stage manager, I quickly learned.)

Why your job rocks:  I get to see the show develop from the first rehearsal all the way to closing night, and every day in between.

Best work day ever: I have good days all the time– when the show goes smoothly, rehearsal goes well or tasks are accomplished. By and large, they blend together more than the rougher days. One time, though, a 10-year-old told me I was good at my job.  That was pretty cool.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and whyLes Miserables (2014).  I’ve been listening to Les Miserables possibly since birth, and I was obsessed with it growing up.  For example, I wanted to have a Les Mis birthday party where all of my friends and I would get together and sing Les Mis and watch the 10th Anniversary Special.  My mom had a difficult time explaining to me why that was not going to work for a group of 6-year-olds.  My obsession has tempered a bit since those days, but working on Les Mis was always going to be wonderful for me.  It was even better than I imagined, though, because it was a great production with an amazing cast and crew.  My fellow dressers and I were particularly challenged by the hundreds of costume looks, which made the accomplishment of running the show that much sweeter.

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  That I actually like it.  Sometimes when I explain to people what exactly stage management entails, I get looks like this job must be a punishment on my way to something better.  Things like mopping and sweeping the stage or making copies of the script or updating paperwork are part of the job, and they are parts of the job that I really don’t mind. I like mopping the stage.  Really

Favorite seat in the house: I always put my family in first row, center, of the First Mezzanine. It’s where I’d sit if I had a chance to watch the show!

Best job perk: I get to work with some seriously great people doing a job I love. Oh, and I really appreciate the free food during photo calls.

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