SMTI Junior Session: Q&A with Elena McKinnis


The 2014 Summer Intensive Theatre Musical program is drawing to a close this weekend with three performances of Godspell performed by the junior class.

And one of the many dedicated young performers you will see onstage is Pulaski Academy 10th grader Elena McKinnis, 15, who hopes to continue her theatrical and dancing career beyond high school.

We had the chance to talk with this longtime ballet dancer about her experience with the summer program, her future goals in dance and how she has improved over the years.

Here is what she had to say:

When did you get started in theatre?  I started in theatre when I was about 11– it was my first year in SMTI. I had gone to see Follie Holidays the year before and I decided to audition the next year.

How has SMTI helped your theatre skills? It has really opened me up a lot. I’ve gained a lot of confidence through this program. When I first started, I was more of a dancer–because I’ve been dancing since I was three– so I’ve seen myself before, but through SMTI, I realized I can sing and I can do a monologue and speak in front of people, so it’s helped me just open up to everything.

There are quite a few students in SMTI. Do you think you will have any lasting friendships from the program? Most definitely! A lot of the people I’ve met through SMTI I probably wouldn’t have met. One of my best friends lives in Cabot and I probably wouldn’t have met her without this program.

You’ve been rehearsing for last few days for the upcoming performances of Godspell this weekend. What role will you be playing?  I’m mainly a part of the ensemble but I’m in a couple of the dance numbers and am one of the lead vocalists in the Godspell song “By My Side.” In the senior session production, I had a lot of dance solos.

What are some other productions people might have seen you in the last few years? I’ve done all the SMTI shows the last five years– Project elan and Singin’ on a Star were the most recent ones. I’ve also done Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker down at the Robinson Auditorium and I’ve also participated in the Arkansas Festival Ballet productions.

Do you plan on pursuing theatre or dance beyond high school? I plan on going to college [in California] and trying to make it as a dancer because I’ve been doing it my whole life and it’s just something I want to try and do. I’ve recently been taking a lot of hip hop classes, so I’ve been leaning toward that. Dance is my life– it’s what I do.

Are you excited about this weekend’s production? I am. It’s going to be so much fun! Doing the senior show with all of the older kids and then working with the juniors, it’s been such an amazing experience. It’s been an amazing opportunity for me!

Do you plan on being a part of SMTI throughout high school? I’m going to try to do SMTI throughout high school. Beyond that, I’ve thought about being a choreographer like Marisa Kirby– she’s the choreographer for director Nicole Capri. I’ve thought about doing something like that.

Why should young performers interested in theatre be a part of SMTI? It’s an amazing program. It’s a great opportunity for people to come and really work with a really good director and get that experience.

See her in this weekend’s productions of Godspell, alongside many other talented students! Call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to get your tickets for any one of the performances, which are at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2.

Les Miserables Nominated for 9 Arizoni Awards


Big news here at the Arkansas Rep!

The Arizoni Theatre Awards nominations were announced yesterday and some of our staff and cast received nine nominations for the Phoenix Theatre production of Les Miserables, which took the stage here last March during our 2013-2014 MainStage Season.

Here is the rundown of award nominations:

  • Best Musical
  • Best Set Design for a Musical – Mike Nichols
  • Best Hair and Makeup Design – Rafael Castanera & Robert Pickens
  • Best Property Design – Lynda Kwallek
  • Best Choreography – David Baker: Fight – Musical
  • Best Actor in a Major Role of a Musical – James Zannelli
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Elizabeth Brownlee
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Caleb Reese*
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Michael Sample*

*performed here on The Rep Stage

The ariZoni Theatre Awards is a not-for-profit organization that promote the vitality of theatre in the Valley of the Sun and Maricopa County in Phoenix.

Winners will be announced on Sept. 15. Get more information about these awards here.

All About Giving: Words From Fran Carter

I grew up sitting in the audience at The Rep. My parents started bringing me when I was young, and I got my own season tickets when I got my first grown-up job in Little Rock. Sometimes a night at The Rep is a night out with friends and sometimes it’s date night, but it’s always an entertaining experience that leaves me wanting more. I especially like having a subscription, because I get to travel with The Rep’s artistic team through each season. I laugh, I cry, I am drawn into different worlds created by a variety of playwrights, brought to life by the actors and creative team, for me, on The Rep’s stage.

Fran Carter is The Rep's Director of Development.

Fran Carter is The Rep’s Director of Development.

Now I’m no longer just an audience member. The Rep is my office, and I watch all the months of preparation that go into every production. I meet the actors and designers when they arrive in Little Rock. I sit in the back of the auditorium to watch a few minutes of rehearsal. I hear feedback from friends in the lobby when they’ve seen something great on our stage. I talk with audience members of all ages and backgrounds when I’m here before a show, or during intermission. I visit with people regularly who tell me how long they’ve been attending plays at The Rep, and I meet young people coming to see a student matinee for the very first time. I bring my 12-year-old daughter to The Rep, and then we discuss all kinds of topics, conversations prompted by what she saw on our stage.

But my favorite thing about working at The Rep is getting to know our donors. Many people love Arkansas Repertory Theatre with their whole heart. I am impressed by what a generous state Arkansas is. Our friends and neighbors in this state will go out of their way to help someone in need. But it’s incredibly fulfilling to see how many people also see the value that the arts play in our lives. With the support of many donors, at every level, The Rep entertains, educates and inspires Arkansans each and every day.

Please join me in supporting The Rep with your whole heart. Buy your tickets, make a donation, and come see us often. I’ll be in the lobby – stop by and tell me what you love about The Rep!

Become a subscriber here and donate here!

Fran Carter is the Director of Development at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

SMTI: Q&A with Instructor Tyler Rosenthal

Tyler Rosenthal

The Summer Musical Theatre Intensive program is still going strong here at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre with dozens of students singing their hearts out and putting their dancing skills to work on a daily basis.

Someone you’ll find behind the keyboard helping students with their vocals is assistant music director Tyler Rosenthal, a SMTI alumni who has been actively involved with The Rep for the last few years.

We had the chance to talk to the senior at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia– who also doubles as a professional photographer (he wears a lot of hats!)– about his theatrical experience, his favorite parts about SMTI and what he hopes student get out of the program.

Here is what he had to say:

When did theatre become a part of your life? I always grew up with my sister going to the theatre. I went to Little Rock Christian High School and she was always involved in the high school productions, so I always went to them and thought, ‘I want to do that someday.’ I started in sixth grade in the high school musical—my first role was in the Sound of Music. And throughout middle school and high school, I was a part of all of the school productions. I did just about every aspect of the shows– I starred in some and casted for a lot of the roles, along with directing, choreographing and helping teach musical parts.

How did you get involved in SMTI? I first auditioned for the SMTI Review the Revue show during my ninth grade year, but I was put on the waitlist. I still wanted to be involved, though, so I ended up doing an internship at the theatre and did the spotlight and helped with sound stuff. After helping backstage with Gridiron later on, they asked me to join Review the Revue— my first SMTI show. I then participated in the next few SMTI shows and then I was asked to perform in the Saints & Sinners event. Anytime Nicole Capri asks back some SMTI alumni, I usually come back and perform.

What are some of your responsibilities as assistant music director? Mark Binns is the music director, so I assist him with whatever he needs help with—from getting everything organized to figuring out what he needs to teach and making sure he meets with all of the students. We will also break off and I’ll take some of the soloists and the trios and work on their parts, teaching them harmonies or vocal techniques. For the actual performances, I am in the band. I play keyboard No. 2, so all of the organ, flute and string sounds are me. I also help cast for the show, so I sit in the auditions where students sing songs from the show and I help match their voice with a good song.

What do you enjoy most about your position? I really like the casting process because I like pairing a specific kind of voice with a particular song, maybe where a student would shine the most. I have one-on-one moments with kids and I love seeing how something clicks in their head, like ‘Oh, I could hit that note.’ That’s fun to see them get something. And, also to see the transformation from day one to the last day when they perform. So many of them have made a complete change– they sound completely different. A lot of these kids come in and aren’t really sure of their talent and then, they get out there and perform in front of all of these people.

What do you hope students are getting out of their experience with SMTI? I hope that they learned a lot about themselves– not just the performer they can be, but also the confidence level they can have and being comfortable in their own skin, especially the SMTI junior session. They’re still in this transition of who they want to be. Some of these kids I performed with were teeny and now they’re huge and their voices are changing. It’s crazy how quick it all happens and so hopefully, they have the confidence in themselves and the ability to relate to other kids their age. There are a huge number of students who pursue performing and I think this is an awesome program to give them special experience in a real equity theatre. There is no other program that really gives you the opportunity to perform on a real stage like this. There is professional lighting, professional sound and a professional band. People who do the actual MainStage shows here are doing this program for them.

Where will we see you after SMTI?  I have one more year of college left and it’ll be a crazy busy year. Hopefully after that, I’ll be back in Little Rock. I could see myself doing photography and communications, but also auditioning for shows when I can. I’m so involved in so many things, but I hope to still be involved in The Rep and SMTI. I still love to be able to have an impact on younger people. I’m excited for the new building [here on Main Street] and the whole educational side. I’m excited to see what opportunities come from that.

Hear some of his piano-playing next weekend’s productions of Godspell, alongside many other talented students! Call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to get your tickets for any one of the performances, which are at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2.

SMTI Junior Session Performing Godspell Aug. 1-2

SMTI young artists in The Rep's production of Singin' on a Star.

SMTI young artists in The Rep’s production of Singin’ on a Star.

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre has recently welcomed a new batch of young performers for its Summer Musical Theatre Intensive, a two-week summer conservatory that attracts talented young artists from across Arkansas.

For the last two weeks, the senior session of the SMTI program took over the theatre and starting this week, our junior session has come for a visit.

The SMTI staff is comprised of professional directors, choreographers, musicians and designers, and each session involves intensive daily rehearsals culminating in a performance of Godspell on our main stage!

Learn more about the production here.

The feel-good musical– which incorporates songs from the original production with a few classic rock songs and current mainstream hits from today– will have performances at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1 and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2.

Tickets will go on sale to the public at 9 a.m. Friday, July 25 and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

Book Your FlexPasses Now

Les MiserablesGot your FlexPass for the 2014-2015 MainStage Season here at The Rep? It’s now time to book your seats!

Starting this week, all FlexPass holders can starting reserving their seats for the shows they want to see and when they want to see them.

Your FlexPass, which offers six passes, may be used in any combination: two passes for one show, four passes for another, or two for each of three shows, etc. All you have to do is call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to book your seats any way you want.

If you haven’t subscribed yet, get your pass by clicking here! There are so many benefits to having a subscription here at The Rep, including a “no charge” flexible exchange policy, lost ticket insurance and way more. Check out our full list of benefits here.

We look forward to seeing you here at the theatre!

5 Benefits to Season Subscriptions at The Rep

7348753380_c46435326aOur brand-new season is almost here and wouldn’t it be nice to have your seats guaranteed for our award-winning shows?

You can with a 6-play Series Subscription. You are guaranteed the same seats for all six MainStage productions, renewable from season to season. Just select your favorite seat (subject to availability) and date you wish to attend. Pretty cool!

Or, if you’re interested in a little more flexibility in your selections, the 6-play FlexPass Subscription may be the ticket. You start with six sasses and choose which plays you want to see and when you want to see them. Your FlexPass may be used in any combination: two passes for one show, four passes for another, or two for each of three shows, etc. Just call the Box Office to book your seats!

Get a look at the full season here.

Here just a few benefits to have a subscriptions right here at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre:

  1. “No Charge” Flexible Exchange Policy: Need to switch your dates? No problem. Free ticket exchanges are reserved exclusively for season ticket holders and can be used as often as needed.
  2. Additional Tickets at a Discount: Season ticket holders receive a $10 discount on each additional orchestra ticket purchased.
  3. NEW Concession Express: No more rushing during intermission! Season ticket holders can pre-order concessions in the lobby before the show to enjoy with family and friends at intermission.
  4. Lost Ticket Insurance: Season ticket holders can replace misplaced tickets right up to curtain time.
  5. Convenience: It’s super easy to get your season subscription! Subscribe by phone by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to discuss your subscription options.OR subscribe online here if you’re a brand-new subscriber or here if you’re renewing.

Packages start at just $198! Click here to get more information and a list of the subscription rates.

SMTI Senior Session: Q&A with Student Jacob Clanton


It’s that time of the year when the Arkansas Repertory Theatre reverberates with the sound of song and the walls shake from dancers’ leaps in the rehearsal studio above. It can only mean that the Summer Musical Theatre Intensive Senior Session is in full force, prepping for a new production of Godspell, opening Friday, July 18.

One of the many senior students taking to the stage is the very talented Jacob Clanton, 18, a recent graduate of Conway Christian High School.  Jacob plans to continue his theatrical endeavors when he begins college just a couple of hours away at the University of Memphis this fall.

We had the chance to talk with this longtime SMTI student about his experience with the summer program, his future goals and why other theatre students should be a part SMTI.

Here is what he had to say:

When did you get started in theatre? I started around the age of 12 at Vacation Bible School and started the Summer Musical Theatre Intensive program when I was 13. I’ve been a part of it for six years.

How has SMTI enhanced your theatrical performing? When I first started, I was incredibly shy– I loved to sing and act but I didn’t really have any confidence in that. But throughout my middle school and high school career, Nicole and the rest of the SMTI team have really brought that out of me– brought out that confidence and that stamina that I need, especially during that time in middle school and high school when you’re trying to figure out who you are. I grew to know myself as a performer and also as a person, which kind of helped me bring myself to the stage, as well as to an audition setting.

There are quite a few students in SMTI. Do you think you will have any lasting friendships from the program? Definitely. One of the things that this program has opened me up to is interning here at the theatre, which led to working backstage during the MainStage season. One of the productions I helped with was White Christmas, where I was a dresser with another SMTI alum, Angela Morgan. We grew really, really close during that– she’s one of my dearest friends. I have many others who I could talk about, but she’s my closest. I will definitely remain friends with her through college.

You’ve been rehearsing for last few days for the upcoming performances of Godspell this weekend. What role will you be playing?  I’m playing John the Baptist, so I get this rock song that opens up the show and sheds a little hope to the stage.

What are some other productions people might have seen you in the last few years? I was most recently in a production of Into the Woods at the Conway Dinner Theater. It was a smaller production but it was a lot of fun– I had a great time doing that. I also participated in the Arkansas Shakespeare Theater a few years ago in Big River. I was actually an understudy in that, which was awesome but incredibly difficult. Additionally, when I was 16, I did Les Misérables at the community theater in Benton.

What are your future goals in theatre? My plan is to join a touring company or maybe move to New York City and try to get work there. I’d really like to become a part of a touring company, though, because I really like to travel and I think it would be fun. But, honestly I really want to do what I love no matter where that may be, even if it’s in some rinky dink theater on the edge of the coast. I’m perfectly OK with that.

Why do you think other theatre students should be a part of this program? This program is kind of home. Everyone is very passionate and strives to get better. We thrive on everyone’s energy and talents and that’s really something important to me. It’s just a really nice environment for people to be in and I always recommend auditioning because it’s a great program.

Are you interested in becoming an instructor in the future? Last year, I did SMTI Select with the 10-year-olds. I think maybe down the road, I might try. We’ll see!

See him in this weekend’s productions of Godspell, alongside many other talented students! Call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to get your tickets for any one of the performances, which are at 7 p.m. Friday, July 18, and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 19.

Break a leg, Jacob!

Local Lawyer’s Gridiron Show Returning to The Rep Stage, Tickets on Sale Now

GridironThe lawyers are back at it!

After a four-year hiatus, 75 local attorneys and legal professionals are making plans to again take the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage to present Gridiron Gridlock — the lawyers’ biannual musical production spoofing Arkansas people and politics.

Its first show will premiere at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13 with a special offering of light bites and complimentary beer and wine. Four shows will follow on Thursday (8 p.m.), Friday (7 p.m. and 9 p.m.) and Saturday (8 p.m.).

Tickets are on sale now!

Gridiron traces its origins back to 1916 when a few theatrically inclined lawyers banded together to write and perform a vaudevillian-style dinner show. The show was an immediate success and became an annual event. It’s now close to celebrating its 100th anniversary. Some believe it is the longest-running production of its kind in the nation.

Joyful spa timeIn the 1963, the late Griffin Smith took up the mantel of Gridiron and began an extended and mutually beneficial association with the Pulaski County Bar Association, which saw the production grow in production quality and popularity.

This year’s show will be produced by the Gridironers, themselves, some of whom have been in Gridiron for more than 30 years. The cast is all volunteer, but the show is professionally produced by The Rep.

It’s not only fun to watch, but a chance for these legal professionals to get to know eachother outside the courtroom.

It’s also something else: a way for the lawyers to give back to the community. The 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 Association in appreciation for the support both institutions have given to Gridiron over the years.

Ticket prices for the Wednesday Premiere Night will be $65 for “A” seating and $60 for “B” seating. Ticket prices for all other performances will be $35 for “A” seating and $30 for “B” seating.

For ticket information, call The Rep’s box office at (501) 378-0405. For more information about the show, contact Joe F. Kolb at (501) 804-4939 or email

SMTI – Summer Musical Theater Intensive

SMTI young artists in The Rep's production of Singin' on a Star.

SMTI young artists in The Rep’s production of Singin’ on a Star.

It’s that time of year, again.  The time when our halls reverberate with the sound of song, and our walls shake from dancers’ leaps in the rehearsal studio above.  Our SMTI young artists have officially taken over The Rep.

Summer Musical Theater Intensive (SMTI) is The Rep’s annual training program for aspiring young artists in Arkansas.  Under the direction of Resident Director and Director of Education Nicole Capri, SMTI is an intensive, audition-based theatre training program designed exclusively for motivated young artists who are serious about the arts and musical theatre.

SMTI young artists in The Rep's production of Singin' on a Star.

SMTI young artists in The Rep’s production of Singin’ on a Star.

“The SMTI program, at its core, is a training program.  It’s a program that immerses young people, young artists, in all facets of the performing artists, in a very intensive, intensively focused, two-week summer program,” said Producing Artistic Director Robert Hupp.

The SMTI staff is comprised of professional directors, choreographers, musicians and designers. Daily rehearsals are structured similarly to a professional summer stock experience and include instruction in musical theatre techniques, multi-media, costume and stage make-up, dance and vocal coaching.

Each session – broken up into Senior Session (ages 16-23) and Junior Session (ages 13-15) – involves intensive daily rehearsals culminating in a public workshop performance of a selected musical or musical revue. This year’s musical is Godspell, with performances to be held on July 19 and August 2.

Check back over the next three weeks for a behind-the-scenes view of SMTI from young artists participating in this year’s program.

To purchase a ticket to a performance of Godspell, call The Rep Box Office at (501) 378-0405.