Macbeth Monday: Q&A with Costume Designer Marianne Custer

Our first show of the 40th Anniversary MainStage Season is opening this week!

And a new show means a new blog series. To highlight all of the cool aspects of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we are launching a week blog series called Macbeth Mondays!

This week, we are highlighting the elaborate costumes you see onstage– from the handcrafted leather armor to the plaid capes, linen tunics, moccasin shoes and more. Dramaturg and Assistant Director Paige Reynolds had the chance to talk with costume designer Marianne Custer about her inspiration.

Here is what she had to say:

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Designer Marianne Custer’s sketch of a Macbeth soldier complete with a plaid and fur-lined cape, leather armor, handcrafted moccasin shoes and linen tunic.

Q: What did you find most compelling about designing Macbeth?

A: Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most produced plays. I’ve designed it once before rather long ago, so it was interesting to me to work on it again from today’s perspective. I think the use of technology in this production will make the supernatural elements of the play more believable and reduce the potential for unintentional humor. The play is a grand ghost story, with hauntings, witches and murder. It’s also a play about how a guilty conscience will betray one’s worst secrets. Would it be the same play if the ambitious Macbeths had been able to rise to power and commit their murderous acts without fear or regret, as today’s ambitious power mongers seem to do?

Q: What can you tell us about your inspiration? Where did you go to cultivate your vision for the overall look?

A: Because this production is to be set in the early Romanesque centuries, my research and inspiration was Celtic costume of this era. Very little change occurred in costume during the first thousand years after Christ. Fashion didn’t exist and news didn’t travel very
fast. The costumes are designed to appear primitive to support the primitive greed and superstition that lead to Macbeth’s undoing.

I wanted to emphasize the Scottish in the play through use of “plaid” fabric and kilts. Early kilts were not made of the clan tartans that we know today, but were solid or plaid, probably depending upon the wealth of the wearer. Shreds of fabric from graves have come to prove that plaid and checked fabrics existed among the Celts during Roman times. (The term “plaid” in the discussion of Scottish kilts can lead to confusion, as plaid is the proper term for the upper body covering of the ancient kilt and the term used for the strip of “tartan” cloth worn diagonally over the torso in more modern times.) Kilts were originally long lengths of cloth that could also serve as blankets. Scots would place their belts on the ground, pleat their blankets over the belt, lie down and belt the pleated cloth around their waists. The bottom would serve as the kilt and the top could be pulled over one shoulder or draped over the head as protection from cold and rain.

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Custer’s sketch of another soldier complete with a plaid cape, leather armor, handcrafted moccasin shoes and linen tunic.

The only clothing materials that existed in Scotland at the time were wool, linen, leather and fur. The Thanes in Macbeth are knights and warriors. They live rough and battle hard, as the prologue to our production will demonstrate. The warrior’s clothing is rough, battle worn, and dirty. They were not great bathers. Though metal armor existed during this period, we are using leather armor in an effort to make the costumes appear even more primitive. Long hair with braids, full beards and long mustaches also help to emphasize the primitive nature of our characters.

Q: Is there one particular element of the design that you are especially excited about? Why?

A: I just hope to be able to make all the elements of the costumes work together. The costumes are, in part, invented, so making them all seem part of the same world is a my imperative. I also hope to find a place with the actors in which the elements of the costumes support their characters and the action without them feeling buried in “the Look”. This will be one of my most important challenges in this production. “The Look”, however, is important to maintain, not just in terms of establishing a primitive culture and helping to set the time and place, but because several actors play multiple roles, “ the Look” aids in changing the appearance of the actor from one role to the next.

Q: Where are you from? How often do you work at the Rep?

A: I am from Minneapolis. I left long ago to design costumes and teach. I am a professor of 42 years at the University of Tennessee, where I developed and still head a highly successful MFA program in design for theatre. I believe Macbeth is my tenth production
at the Rep. I love working here with Bob Hupp, Cliff Baker and other talented directors. Working on August Osage County was truly a privilege. I saw the production on Broadway, saw the movie, and believe The Rep’s production better than either. I love working with the Rep’s staff, which I find welcoming, talented and always willing to give their best to help
create a vision.

Pulled from the Macbeth study guide, prepared by Paige Reynolds.

Check back every Monday to uncover a new aspect of this incredible Shakespearean tragedy and book your tickets by calling (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org.

And learn everything else you need to before seeing the drama by checking out our study guide here!

From Script to Stage: Fight Choreography

20848584996_4378699ee9_zA lot goes into the intense fighting in our production of Macbeth and it couldn’t be done without the expertise of Fight Director Geoffrey Kent, resident fight director for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

We are launching a brand-new video series From Script to Stage and to kick things off, we had a chance to sit down with Kent on what goes into creating fight choreography, the kind of swords that the actors use onstage, what patrons can expect to see and more. Check it out below!

The Shakespeare drama takes The Rep stage Sept. 11-27! Book your tickets to Macbeth by calling (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org.

Macbeth Monday: A Rundown

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Seth Rabinowitz as Macduff in Macbeth. Photo by John David Pittman.

Our first show of the 40th Anniversary MainStage Season is upon us!

A new show means a new blog series. To highlight all of the cool aspects of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we are launching a week blog series called Macbeth Mondays!

To kick things off, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the synopsis, characters and really why Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp wanted to bring this show to The Rep stage to start our landmark season.

Synopsis 

Featuring eerie witch-like figures conspiring in riddles and chants to the backdrop of a great battle coming to an end, the beginning of Macbeth promises a story that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.  A captain reports the details of the battle to King Duncan, praising the bravery of two generals, Macbeth and Banquo.  As Macbeth and Banquo travel home, they encounter the “Weird Sisters,” three witches who prophesy great honors in store for both men.  They tell Macbeth that he will become the Thane of Cawdor, and eventually, the king.  They tell Banquo that although he will not be king, his descendants will.  The first prophesy is fulfilled immediately when Duncan awards the title of Thane of Cawdor to Macbeth in return for his successful military service in the preceding battles.  He writes of the witches’ predictions to his wife, who begins strategizing how she will help her husband claim the crown.  When they find out the king plans to spend a night at their castle, the Macbeths decide to murder him in his sleep.

Malcolm and Donalbain, Duncan’s sons, run away in fear of their own lives, and Macbeth becomes king.  The rest of the play reveals the personal and political consequences of Macbeth’s act of regicide:  he and his wife, his former “partner in greatness,” drift apart, he plots murder after murder to cover up his initial crime, he desperately seeks out further help from the witches, he is plagued with insomnia, and he is terrified by the haunting of a ghost.  Lady Macbeth, too, suffers for her part in the murder of the king—she experiences distressing episodes of sleepwalking, and ultimately, deteriorates to the point of death.  In the end, Macbeth’s tyranny is brought to an end when he is defeated in battle by Macduff and Malcolm, who claims his right to the throne.  The play seems less interested in the eventual restoration of order than itis in the cost of corruption to the human soul.

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

Characters

  • Macbeth: a Scottish general and the thane of Glamis who is led to wicked thoughts by the prophecies of the three witches, especially after their prophecy that he will be made thane of Cawdor comes true. 
  • Lady Macbeth: Macbeth’s wife, a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. 
  • The Weird Sisters: three “black and midnight hags” who plot mischief against Macbeth using charms, spells, and prophecies.
  • Banquo: The brave, noble general whose children, according to the witches’ prophecy, will inherit the Scottish throne. 
  • Duncan: the good King of Scotland whom Macbeth, in his ambition for the crown, murders. 
  • Macduff: a Scottish nobleman hostile to Macbeth’s kingship from the start. 
  • Malcolm: the son of Duncan, whose restoration to the throne signals Scotland’s return to order following Macbeth’s reign of terror. 
  • Fleance: Banquo’s son, who survives Macbeth’s attempt to murder him.
  • Lennox, Ross, Menteith, Angus and Caithness: Scottish noblemen.
  • The Murderers: a group of ruffians conscripted by Macbeth to murder Banquo, Fleance (whom they fail to kill), and Macduff’s wife and children.
  • A Porter: the drunken doorman of Macbeth’s castle.
  • Lady Macduff: Macduff’s wife.
  • Macduff children: Killed by the murderers.
  • Donalbain: Duncan’s son and Malcolm’s younger brother.
  • Siward: Earl of Northumberland and uncle to Malcolm and Donalbain. Aids Malcolm in defeating Macbeth.
  • Young Siward: Son of Siward. Killed by Macbeth.

The Shakespeare drama takes The Rep stage Sept. 11-27! Book your tickets to Macbeth by calling (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org.

And learn everything else you need to before seeing the drama by checking out our study guide here!

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.

 

August Tuesday: Q&A with Lighting Designer Yael Lubetzky

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Susanne Marley (Violet Weston) in August: Osage County. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

We are in our final week of August: Osage County and before the cast takes their final bow this weekend, we would like to highlight one of the many incredible design elements of the play: the lighting.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre veteran Yael Lubetzky is the designer behind the powerful lighting that helps capture the emotion of each captivating scene in this dark comedy.

We had the chance to talk to her about what sparked her interest in lighting design for theatre, her approach to a play like August: Osage County and more. See what she had to say for our final installment of August Tuesday:

Q: What piqued your interest in lighting design?

A: I think I was Intrigued by what lighting can do to help tell a story. I believe that light in the theatre can have a breath and movement to it in a similar way as music and dance. And the way these things combine together with storytelling was fascinating to me. Lighting can be a powerful tool in many ways in the theatre. It can tell you where to look, and when, as well as how you might experience something in a specific moment by the way it is lit. I think that I am mostly intrigued by the emotional aspect of lighting design in a production– how lighting can help define and shape those moments, sometimes in very subtle ways, and other times in very dramatic ways. And the collaborative process of finding the language of a story visually. In the theatre, we all try to collaborate as artists to help bring a vision to life. And sometimes you find things out during that process that you hadn’t thought of. Something incredible happens during the journey of trying things. Those moments are some of my favorite.

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Susanne Marley (Violet Weston) and Cassandra Seidenfeld (Johnna Monevata). Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Q: How do you approach the lighting design for a play like August: Osage County?   

A: August Osage County is an amazing play. As in all projects I work on, I usually read the play or libretto a number of times and take notes about what the story and setting calls for and then after that I add in my other design ideas . Early on, I have a conversation with the director. In our case, the wonderful Bob Hupp and I talk through our initial ideas for the piece. And as soon as I see the preliminary scenic drawings, I have many conversations with the scenic designer. Mike Nichols designed the fantastic set you see in August. He and I worked very closely in a play like this to make certain things work. This particular play takes place in many rooms all over the house and different times of day. It is extremely cinematic the way the story is told, so that was extremely important in the lighting design. The other aspect was the transitions, and how in this play, the transitions through light, sound and staging is also telling a story and moving the piece forward. Some of the most important parts of lighting design is how you get from one place to another. That journey visually is a very strong aspect in the design of this show. We try to set the tone for where we are going, or where we just came from both emotionally and physically in these transitions, while also making any scenic/prop changes needed for the next scene.

Q: How does the set for August: Osage County affect your lighting design?  

A: The set– designed by Mike Nichols– for August: Osage County is a character in itself and a huge part of this play.  As soon as I saw his preliminary sketches and drawings, I loved it. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I was really excited to work on it with him and I am thrilled with the way it all turned out.

The set dictates some of what the light can and can’t do. We have hallways and ceilings and three stories with walls and windows taped shut for most of the show, along with two stairways and an outside porch and scenes take place in all of these places. But just like in a real home, we wanted to create the feeling of shadows and light in a house with hallways and ceilings. Mike and I worked together closely to try to figure out ways to hide lights in certain places to create this kind of atmosphere and also be able to light people underneath ceilings and walking in and out of hallways. And it was extremely important that each room could be isolated at times. Dan Kimble, The Rep’s Master Electrician, did an incredible job with the crew hanging and wiring all of these things to make it happen. The set has a ton of texture and amazing props to make it feel lived in, but at the same time it has a skeleton around it of beams. There is so much life in this house, but at the same time there is an eerie looming quality– light and absence of light– and being able to go between these feelings was really important in the lighting design.

Q: What is the best part about designing the lighting for theatre?    

A: That’s a tough question, but I would have to say the collaboration with the other artists and the discovery that you find together while working [is the best part]. I love being in the rehearsal room as much as possible while the actors are working early on if I can, because that is where a lot of discovery of the piece happens and being in that environment is always so enlightening. I think when you try new things even if they don’t work the first time, you learn and sometimes that will spark a whole new idea.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at The Rep?

A: This is my fourth production here at The Rep. I feel very lucky to keep coming back. It is an amazing group of people and artists who work here. They all care so much about each production and it shows in the dedication to the work and that is a gift to get when you work somewhere. I couldn’t do any of the design work I do here without the collaboration with everyone in all the departments. I definitely feel like we are all a team here making the show come to life. And I couldn’t be more grateful to all the people at The Rep who make that happen.

Purchase your ticket to the play before it ends this Sunday online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405!

August Tuesday: Interview with Director Bob Hupp

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LeeAnne Hutchison (Top Left), Richard Waddingham (Top Center), Susanne Marley (Top Right), Cliff Baker (Bottom Left), Kathy McCafferty (Bottom Center), Michael McKenzie (Bottom Right). Photos by John David Pittman.

With a little over three weeks to rehearse for shows here at the theatre, it’s a fast and intense process to put together a professional production.

For August: Osage County, Director Bob Hupp said it’s been an enjoyable rehearsal process with the top-notch crew and cast who are in place. For our third installment of August Tuesday, we had a chance to talk to him about how he approaches this production, what happens in rehearsal, what role the designers play in this production and more.

Here is what he had to say:

Purchase your ticket to the show online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405. We hope to see you here!

August Tuesday: Q&A with Dialect Coach Stacy Pendergraft

Our final show of the 2014-2015 MainStage Season is upon us!

August: Osage County, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play that is finally taking The Rep stage, will open June 5. And to highlight this critically acclaimed play, we are starting a brand-new blog series throughout the run, showcasing the various aspects of the show.

In the second installment, I was able to talk with the show’s Dialect Coach Stacy Pendergraft on her approach with character dialects for a show like August: Osage County, her actual connection to the play, how she has helped provide more context to the play, plus more.

Here’s what she had to say:

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Stacy Pendergraft

Q: What is your background in theatre?

A: I am an associate professor of theatre at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I am the primary professor in the performance and directing track and have just finished my 13th year on faculty there. I came to Little Rock from American Stage in St. Petersburg Florida, where I was the Artistic Associate and Director of Education. I also acted, directed and developed new children’s works for their touring program.

Q: What piqued your interest in theatre and voice coaching?

A: Oh, I’m a lifelong theatre rat. It just so happened that my very small rural Oklahoman town had a vibrant community theatre and my high school had amazingly devoted and highly skilled theatre and music teachers. Also, even though my hometown is small, it is a college town with a strong focus on its performing arts programs. So, my exposure came early and deep both in theatre and music. I suppose my music background developed a real appreciation for diction and placement of speech and singing sounds. In my university training, I gained more specific knowledge about the vocal apparatus and this led to more specific training in voice, phonetics and dialects. So voice and dialect work became a sub-specialty in all of my subsequent professional and educational gigs.

Q: How do you approach being a dialect coach for a play like August: Osage County? Do you observe the rehearsals and work with actors individually on their character dialects?

A: What’s incredibly rewarding about this particular process is that Bob and I are defining a way of working together. It’s not always common to have a dialect coach, and so I am glad to be able to contribute to this production and this particular ensemble. When a dialect or voice coach works with actors, she has to know that any feedback has to take into account each particular actor’s way of working and be sensitive to the way an actor wants to incorporate voice work into their character development. I want to be in-tune with their rehearsal goals and not be an intrusion. So knowing the right way and right time to offer feedback is paramount. This cast has from day one, placed great trust in me, and it is not a charge that I take lightly. They are the ones in front of an audience each night and are the ones the audience will be listening to, and I want to guide them to the most authentic choices possible.

For our production, I started by giving a one-hour dramaturgical presentation the first day of rehearsal on Oklahoma and its dialect. And I should say that like any geographical region, there is not necessarily ‘one sound.’ Rural/urban influences, socioeconomic status, educational level, not to mention the psychology of the human being, all impact the way we sound and the way characters sound, too. I gave the actors a packet of listening resources and basic sound substitutions to help them begin their work. I sit in on rehearsals, tuning my ear to the actors and helping them find the music of the dialect on a day-by-day basis. I am available for individual coaching and questions as needed by the actors. It’s become a rather fluid process.

Q: What is your connection to the writer of this play in particular?

A: I am a native Oklahoman and grew up in roughly the same part of the state that Tracy Letts was raised. He was raised in Durant and I was raised in Ada. Both towns are small Oklahoma college towns. My mother actually went to college for a while at Southeast Oklahoma State University where Tracy’s mom and dad (Billie and Dennis Letts) taught. I also went to college at the University of Tulsa, which factors into the story of Bill and Barbara, characters in the play.

Q: How do you think your background in Oklahoma will help the actors as they prepare for their roles in the show?

A: Researching both the place and sound of Oklahoma, I’ve had to really rediscover my own sound and the place from where I come. I’ve discovered things about Oklahoma that relate to the play that have brought me to a new place of understanding. I think I can answer some specific questions about the play’s given circumstances and the rhythms and nuances of the language that are perhaps not as obvious if you’re not from Oklahoma.

Q: Why should patrons see this production on our stage?

A: August: Osage County is an American play that speaks to me on the same level as Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams. Along with Angels in America and Clybourne Park, it is, for me, one of the three most important plays written about the fabric of American life in the past 50 years. The characters are epic in scale, richly imagined and full in their powers of expression. The language of the play offers the kind of text actors spend their careers pursuing. And finally, the cast assembled for this production is one that you will remember for a long, long time. They are passionate about this play, and what they are creating with Bob and the rest of the production team at The Rep is not to be missed.

Check back every Tuesday throughout the run of the show (June 5-21) to get a glimpse into a new aspect of the show and get your tickets for the show by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org.

Project Élan: Dance Choreography with Stephen K. Stone

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Photo by John David Pittman

The world premiere of young artist production Project Elan is taking center stage and to share the excitement of this brand-new show, we would like to showcase an integral part of the show: the fabulous choreography!

We recently had the chance to talk with one of the choreographers– Stephen K. Stone,  faculty member of UALR Theatre Arts & Dance — and we were enthralled by how moving the dancing was. Watch a sample of some of the choreography and learn more about this original production conceived and directed by The Rep Resident Director and Education Director, Nicole Capri!

Seats are $30 and $25 for season subscribers. Get your tickets by clicking here or calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405! Get more information on the blog here.

Project Élan: Who Are The Writers?

Taking stage from May 5-16 is Project Élan, a brand-new, original, culture-current musical that seeks to shed light on the individual and universal needs of the millennial generation.

Patrons will see more than 60 Summer Musical Theatre Intensive alumni hitting the high notes, showing off their acting chops and putting their best foot forward in this world premiere production! But before this inspiring production takes over The Rep, we wanted to highlight the eight creative minds who worked together to make bring it to Little Rock.

Here they are:

BBBS-NicoleCapri-May1NICOLE CAPRI (Writer/Director/Choreographer)

Resident Director and Director of Education at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Nicole Capri is the 2011 recipient of The Governor’s Arts Award for Arts in Education and the author of “Young Artists at The Rep.” Now entering its 10th year, Nicole is also the founder and Director of The Rep’s Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI) program for young artists – the fastest growing program in the history of The Rep. A theatre, music, writing and dance major at The University of Memphis and The National Theatre of the Deaf Professional Theatre School, Nicole has directed and/or choreographed more than 100 productions. Favorite Rep credits include: Next to Normal, Elf, White Christmas, Children of a Lessor God, The Foreigner, Glorious, Godspell, If you Sing It They Will Come, Review the Revue, That 80’s Show, A Christmas Story and Singin’ on a Star. Other credits include; Eve in The Apple Tree (Fairmount Theatre of the Deaf/Cleveland Playhouse/International Tour), “Best Performance” (First International Theatre Festival, Volgograd, Russia), original company of Ram in the Thicket (Off Broadway/Judith Anderson Theatre), “Critics Choice Award” Mary in The Miracle Play, writer/director for The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s 2013 Holiday Fantasy and Director/Choreographer/Editor for the world premiere of Rich Mullins’ original musical Canticle of the Plains.

BOBBY BANISTER (Writer)

The front man of the duo, Cheetah, Bobby has written and recorded six albums of work 6846215277_26453c56e3and numerous singles. Winner of the ASCAP songwriting competition and the rock genre in the Alchemy Songwriting Competition, Bobby’s music has been contracted for licensing for TV shows including “The Real World” and “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” His former band, Half Priced Hearts was named among “Best Unsigned Artists” on Tommy2 blog, recognized by Perez Hilton on his blog and toured the country playing shows with talented artists including: The Rocket Summer, Honor Society, Kaitlyn Tarver and Action Item. A graduate of Belmont University in Nashville with a degree in commercial music and a minor in music business, Bobby is an Arkansas native who now resides in Los Angeles where he is writing songs for major label artists while finishing Cheetah’s debut EP. “Songwriting is part of who I am and always will be. I’m thankful for the opportunity to put my feelings into the songs that just might be the soundtrack to someone’s day.”

ConlywebCONLY BASHAM (Writer)

Arkansas native, Conly Basham, is a singer-songwriter, teaching artist and equity actress who now resides in New York City. Conly has performed in the off-off Broadway theatre scene as both an actor and composer, and recently lead a cast with her original folk-scored production of Twelfth Night selected as part of the 2014 NYC’s Fringe Festival. As a cabaret performer, Conly’s original songs have been heard at such celebrated venues as Birdland Jazz Club, 54 Below and Top of The Rock Conservatory at Rockefeller Center. Rep audiences may remember Conly from her SMTI days or from Rep MainStage productions including: Peter Pan, Gypsy, Les Miserables and Next to Normal.

binns_mark-Web-640x612MARK BINNS (Writer/Music Director)

Originally from Little Rock, Mark is a musical director, singer, pianist, composer, arranger and teacher. At The Rep, Mark is music director for the SMTI program, has served as music director for White Christmas, Les Miserables, Memphis and Elf, and was assistant musical director for The Rep’s three world premieres; Treasure Island, Pal Joey and Because of Winn Dixie. Other music director credits include: The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre (Joseph, Oliver!, Pippin), The Studio Theatre of Little Rock (The Last Five Years), The Young Actors Guild of Fort Smith (Cinderella), and The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (42nd Street, Hairspray). In New York City, Mark was the accompanist for the world premiere of Mark Hayes’ Gettysburg Address and Requiem at The Lincoln Center. Last season, Mark was the vocal director and arranger for The Rep’s Young Artists for The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Fantasy.

samclarkSAM CLARK (Writer) An engineer by day for CenterPoint Energy, Sam is a musician and performer at heart. Sam was a charter member of The Barbara Mashburn Scholarship Foundation, a vocal jazz ensemble, and regularly performs for open mic nights in Fayetteville and around Arkansas. Sam also was a state-level ranked jazz guitarist and has been playing for more than 10 years. An alumnus of The Rep’s SMTI program, Sam now enjoys playing with the guys in the band. Favorite theatre credits include leading roles in Sweeney Todd, Little Shop of Horrors, High School Musical and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Sam is currently working on developing original songs and cover pieces for several shows around the Central Arkansas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amZ_n-emHQw

ROBERT FROST (Writer)

Robert is an SMTI 11150216_10204499465819689_7602150572666660979_nalumnus and is thrilled to be back at The Rep. A graduate of the National Theater Institute, Robert works as a musical director, arranger, writer and director. He currently serves as the Resident Musical Director for The National Musical Theater Institute at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. In addition to his work with SMTI, select MD credits include the premiere of Jonah and the Whale: A New Musical (7th House/Guthrie Theatre), Little Shop of Horrors (7th House) and Pig Iron’s James Joyce is Dead and So is Paris (Connecticut College). As a director, Robert recently assisted Hayley Finn for the premiere of The Secret Lives of Coats and has worked in various capacities with The Playwrights’ Center. Robert also serves as one-half of Frosty Bob and J’s Summer Camp, a performance partnership with playwright/performer Justin Caron. Together, they have created Utopiacopia (Director) and STAY WHERE YOU F***ING ARE: A TRIBUTE TO ELAINE STRITCH (Musical Director/Co-Writer). FBJ’s Summer Camp was recently named “Best Performance Art 2014″ by l’étoile Magazine.

JJimmy-Landfair-Music-Inform-Discover-New-Music-New-Music-DiscoveryIMMY LANDFAIR (Writer)

Jimmy is a singer/songwriter and lead guitarist touring with the southern rock band, Bearcat. A songwriting/entrepreneurship senior at MTSU, accepted into the prestigious commercial songwriting program, Jimmy recently released his first solo project EP album “Schoolhouse.” A featured performer at The Arkansas Songwriter Showcase, a lead guitarist with The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and a jazz guitar protégé of Ted Ludwig of New Orleans, Jimmy is excited to be returning to The Rep to write and perform again with the talented team of Project Élan. Jimmy’s music can be found on iTunes and YouTube.

charity-red-1CHARITY VANCE (Writer)

Charity is a professional singer-songwriter originally from Little Rock, Ark. A SMTI alumnus, Charity got her first big break at Arkansas Repertory Theatre starring as “Annie” at the age of nine. In 2010, at the age of 16, Charity wowed the judges of the hit FOX series “American Idol” with her unique rendition of “Summertime.” She continued her pursuit of music, writing and performing and is now living in Los Angeles where she is working to complete her next original music project and focusing on her YouTube Channel – /charityvancemusic.

Seats are $30 and $25 for season subscribers. Get your tickets by clicking here or calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405! Get more information on the blog here.

Project Elan: Behind the Music with Mark Binns and Conly Basham

The world premiere of young artist production Project Elan is getting ready to take center stage and to get ready, we would like to showcase an integral part of the show: the fabulous music!

We recently had the chance to talk with the musical director/writer Mark Binns and writer Conly Basham and we were amazed by the heartfelt opening song of the show. Watch a sample of the song and learn more about this original production conceived and directed by The Rep Resident Director and Education Director, Nicole Capri!

The show will run May 5-16 and tickets can be purchased at TheRep.org or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405!