Q&A with SMTI Production Coordinator Katherine Tanner

FullSizeRenderCan you believe it has been 10 years since the Summer Musical Theatre Intensive got its incredible start within the confines of Arkansas Repertory Theatre?

Under the direction of Nicole Capri, the program has helped craft top-notch young artists in central Arkansas who have gone to big things in the entertainment world.

One person who actually saw the beginning of the program and has returned for the big 10th anniversary is production coordinator Katherine Tanner.

See what she had to say about her involvement with the program, how it’s evolved since its inception and more:

Q: What is your theatre training and experience?

A: As a young theatre educator, I have found that people (and not productions) are the most important aspect of my career. Real people are who I have studied and who I present when working on a production. I am an ongoing student of theatre and will never claim that ‘I’ve arrived’ or know all there is to know.

I was a ‘transferholic’ in college and because of it, have had a one-of-a-kind education.  I started at OBU, went to Columbia College Chicago and finally graduated from California State University Northridge, where I focused in directing.

In those areas, I was always able to work in the theatre departments and scene shops learning all I could in every aspect of theatre. I was mentored by many inspiring people in the last 10 years, including Susan Nichols, Fred Boosey, Scott Holsclaw, Eric Phillips (OBU), Sheldon Patinkin (co-founder of The Second City), Susan Padveen (CCC), Nicole Capri, Larry Biederman (CSUN) and Melissa Chalsma (co-founder of independent Shakespeare Co.) to name a few I greatly admire.  It is through their encouragement that I have skills that vary from welding steel to directing and most things in between.

Q: Can you give a brief history of your involvement with SMTI?

A: When SMTI began in 2005, there were only four women running the program and I was one of them.  I was titled the ‘Assistant Stage Manager,’ however, I was responsible for pulling props, running rehearsals, cleaning bathrooms, taking out trash, putting mics on the cast, tracking and mixing the mics from the sound console. In 2006, I was the Stage Manager with two peer interns and cast.  Let’s just say, it was as challenging as the prior year and then some.

Q: How do you think SMTI has evolved over the years?

A: The support from designers, choreographers, musical directors and directors has intensified the SMTI program, making it professional quality theatre entertainment.  It no long feels like a camp for kids–it’s a ‘coming-out’ celebration of the state’s young artists.

Q: What are you most excited about being a part of the 10th Anniversary of SMTI?

A: I am most excited to be back to celebrate the milestone– how far SMTI has come.

Q: Why is SMTI so important for local young artists?

A: This program rivals those nationally known and it’s in their backyard.  This program provides a network and support system for the young artists as they go off to college and into the professional world.

Don’t miss all of the incredible this summer when SMTI productions take flight in our new education space and on The Rep MainStage. Here is a lineup of productions not to miss this summer:

Senior SMTI: Once on This Island

  • 7 p.m. Thursday, July 23
  • 7 p.m. Friday, July 24
  • 1 p.m. Saturday, July 25
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, July 25

SMTI Select II: Really Rosie

  • 7 p.m. Friday, July 31
  • 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1

Junior SMTI: Once in This Island

  • 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6
  • 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7
  • 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8

Get more information about tickets for these shows by calling the Box Office at  (501) 378-0405!

The Rep to Present First Young Artists Showcases this Summer

171Did you see our Elf or Mary Poppins cast sing some of their favorite showtunes during one of the two cabarets this past season?

Well, you’re in for a treat this summer!

This month, we are excited to have our annual Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI) program present its first Young Artists Showcase – a cabaret-style event – this summer.

The showcases will feature a variety of dance, vocal and performance pieces starring SMTI young artists. The Senior Showcase (ages 16 – 23) will take place on Monday, July 20 and the Junior Showcase (ages 13 – 15) will take place on Monday, July 27. Proceeds from each showcase will benefit The Rep’s Young Artist’s Scholarship Fund.

“During these showcases, audience members will have the privilege of hearing and seeing some of the most amazing young talent from across Arkansas,” said Nicole Capri, The Rep’s Resident Director and Director of Education. “I’ve witnessed these young artists in auditions over the last 10 years and I’m excited for audience members to experience what we look for when seeking new talent. I can’t wait to see what our inaugural showcase will bring to the stage this summer.”

Admission is $5 at the door and reservations are not required.

Performances will take place at 7 p.m. on The Rep’s MainStage, 601 Main St., Little Rock, with the Lobby and concessions opening at 6:15 p.m.

Q&A with SMTI Select Director Ethan Paulini

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Ethan Paulini as Buddy in Elf. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre ended its 39th MainStage June 21 with the incredible production of August: Osage County and will resume in September with the first show of its landmark 40th Season with William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

But, just because there is a break in our seasons doesn’t mean the theatre takes a break. In fact, hundreds of young artists will be taking center stage through the summer for our annual Summer Musical Theatre Intensive sessions. The youngest of these artists will be learning from one of The Rep’s best returning actors, Ethan Paulini (Elf, Avenue Q, The Full Monty), for two SMTI Select sessions from July 6-18 and July 20-Aug. 1.

We had the chance to talk to Paulini about his return to Little Rock, what he loves most about coaching, his favorite Rep production and more. Here is what he had to say:

Q: What is your theatre training?

A: I grew up training at the Harwich Junior Theatre (HJT). I received a degree in Acting from Emerson College in Boston and I currently study voice with Larson Award Winner Marisa Michelson.
Q: You were most recently the lead in our show Elf and have been in several shows at The Rep. What keeps you coming back?

A: Arkansas Rep is one of the most welcoming and artistically supportive places I have ever worked. The directors, designers and actors I get to work with are fantastic. I always feel challenged. The audiences are curious and smart. Ultimately, it feels like home and home is made up of people.

Q: What will you be instructing the SMTI Select students on?

A: We will work on many aspects of performing. From presenting a successful audition to storytelling, voice, speech and movement. The students will participate in exercises that challenge their imagination and sharpen their actor toolbox. I will help them learn how to create their own process, from rehearsing to maintaining a performance. We will also be working on presenting the musical Really Rosie. It is a wonderful collection of musical vignettes by Carole King.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a theatre coach to young artists?

A: Growth. Theatre is not an exact science. There is no right or wrong, so I love watching each artist, regardless of age, bring themselves to the work. Oftentimes through that exploration, they discover a lot about themselves, both artistically and personally.

Q: Why is the SMTI program so important for young artists in central Arkansas?

A: Young artists in central Arkansas are so lucky to have Nicole Capri and the SMTI program. Not only does it create talented, exciting artists but also provides an important creative outlet to so many young people. Theatre training fosters discipline, creative thinking, builds self esteem and develops a community that can be an important support system both on and off stage.

Q: What is your favorite production you’ve been in at The Rep and why?

A: I love them all for different reasons, but I think the most recent show, Elf, was especially special. The reaction was so overwhelming. I got to spend the holidays doing what I love with people that I love. I also have two young nephews and a niece and it was the perfect way to share with them and create a wonderful holiday memory.


Sidenote with Ethan

Favorite place to eat in Little Rock: So many places! I think Little Rock is a GREAT food city. My dad runs restaurants, so I have grown into a bit of a foodie. If I only had time for one meal in Little Rock, though, it would probably be Whole Hog Cafe. I am from the northeast, so BBQ is really a special cuisine. I even ship their sauces home with me when I come to The Rep so I have a little taste of Little Rock in New York.

What you’re doing when you’re not on stage: I actually love going to see theatre and movies, spending time with friends and traveling. Performing takes lot of energy and stamina so I make sure to take time to rest and work out regularly. I also have multiple writing projects in the works so I steal time to work on those when I can. I am a huge baseball fan (Go Red Sox!) and I have an unnatural obsession with the TV show “The Golden Girls.”

Favorite musical right now: I saw the new Kander and Ebb musical The Visit four times during it’s recent Broadway run. They were responsible for such classic musicals as Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Chicago. Fred Ebb passed away several years ago so this will be their final new show to make it to Broadway. It was dark, smart, chilling and the music was incredible.

Total shows you’ve been in at The Rep: six shows: The Full Monty, The Who’s Tommy, White Christmas, Avenue Q, Compleat Wks of WLLM SHKSPR (ABRIDGED) and Elf.

Don’t miss SMTI Select in action when their production Really Rosie takes The Rep stage at 7 p.m. Friday, July 17 and 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 18 (first session) and 7 p.m. Friday, July 31 and 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1 (second session). Tickets are $10 and can be booked online at TheRep.org or at (501) 378-0405.