VIDEO: The Plot of Windfall with Jason Alexander & Scooter Pietsch

A new play by Scooter Pietsch and directed by Jason Alexander, Windfall is a dark comedy Rep audiences will get to experience first!

Watch our latest From Script to Stage video below to hear as Director Jason Alexander and Playwright Scooter Pietsch explain the plot of the show and why they think Arkansas audiences need to experience it.

Tickets are on sale now at www.TheRep.org or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ‪#‎WindfallatArkRep‬ ‪#‎ArkansasRep‬

Member Q&A: Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp

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Bob Hupp

At the helm of Arkansas Repertory Theatre and its artistic vision is Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp.

In his sixteenth season, Hupp has directed such plays as Red, Death Of A Salesman, Henry V, To Kill a Mockingbird, The 39 Steps, Hamlet, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Les Misérables and last season’s Wait Until Dark and August: Osage County.

Just in time for The Rep’s landmark 40th Anniversary Season, Leighanne Alford, The Rep’s Member Concierge, had a chance to talk with Hupp about his transition from New York City to Little Rock, what he loves most about the Capital City, he how casts for shows, the process for selecting productions and more.

Here is what he had to say:

Q: Being originally from Delaware and spending most of your time in New York City and the Northeast, what made you decide to accept a job in Little Rock, Ark. and move down South?

A: Southern Delaware, where I grew up, is like Arkansas with beaches: rural, lots of chickens, soybeans and watermelons and very warm and welcoming people. We came here so that I could work in one place and not travel around so much. And we came here because it seemed like a good place to raise our kids, which proved to be abundantly true. There aren’t very many jobs in the United States like mine and the competition for these limited jobs is fierce, so I feel very fortunate to be here.

Q: What surprised you most about your move to Little Rock?

A: The wealth of cultural amenities and opportunities here. This is quite unusual for a city of our size.

Q: How many times do you read through a script for a production in which you’ll be directing? And, how many times does that script change throughout your process?

A: It depends on the script. For a contemporary play, like August Osage County, it doesn’t change at all. For Shakespeare, it might change considerably: I will make cuts to clarify and streamline the story and I might change the order of scenes as I did in Hamlet. With Shakespeare, I spend months with the text: researching different versions and interpretations, comparing differing ideas about punctuation, word usage etc. For a comedy like The 39 Steps, my work is more focused on the visual realization of the script and creating the staging and physical humor. But at the end of the day, it all gets thrown out the window when the actors arrive and bring their talent and insight to the equation.

Q: What is your formula or process for selecting productions and their sequence in a season?

A: There’s no one formula or method. I want our seasons to be eclectic and represent a broad range of great plays and musicals. I often want to include a classic, American or otherwise, because that’s my core interest. I also want to see and study new plays that I think will entertain and engage our audience.  For the musicals, we have to see what rights are available or about to become available. There’s lots of input from staff, guest directors and peers, too. I look at what other theatres are doing, as well. I travel to see work as much as I can. Ultimately it is a dynamic balance between art and finance. In a good season, the two sides of this scale are not mutually exclusive.

Q: How do you work with our Casting Associate Peter Mensky and the director of a show on selecting the best person for a role?

A: Peter’s work is central to the casting process. He handles all the logistics of casting, both locally and nationally, and he makes all of our employment offers, travel arrangements, etc. Peter sorts through the thousands of resumes we receive and makes recommendations to me and our guest directors. He is definitely my valued ally in the casting process. Peter and I go back to my days of teaching college, so we’ve developed a shorthand for communication and I trust his instincts and judgment.

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

A: I don’t know. It’s usually the one I’ve most recently directed. I have great fondness for The Grapes of Wrath because it was the first play I directed in Little Rock, my first work with Mike Nichols and because it was such an epic American story.

Q: Do you have any superstitions or traditions for the shows you direct personally? (i.e. ‘lucky’ pair of socks on opening, a specific routine during tech or opening week?)

A: I’ve worn the same black hoodie for the start of tech rehearsals since the late ’80s. The shirt has some holes in it, and it’s not as loose as it once was, but that shirt and I are old friends.

Q: What is your favorite book in your office?

A: I have a lot of books in my office, mostly scripts. No real favorites, just the books I’ve collected over the years. Like anyone who’s worked in the same profession for a long time, I have photos and memorabilia in my office that mean a lot to me because I associate these things with the people I’ve worked with and care about.

Q: What is your favorite place to eat in Little Rock or favorite southern dish you’ve found since living here the past 16 years?

A: I can’t pick a favorite. There are so many! I am thrilled to see so many new restaurants opening on Main Street in close proximity to The Rep. Now you can walk to great places like Bruno’s and Samantha’s on a meal break or before a performance. That’s a game-changer for those of us who work the night shift.

 If you enjoy what you’ve seen on The Rep stage,  take the next step and join us as a Member. For more information on becoming a Member, call Member Concierge Leighanne Alford at (501) 378-0445, ext. 211, or visit lalford@therep.org.

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: An Introduction

THEREP_AUGUST (no credits)-page-001Our 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 weekly blog series, showcasing the various aspects of the show.

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

Plot

When the large Weston family unexpectedly reunites after dad disappears, their Oklahoman family homestead explodes in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling secrets. Mix in Violet, the drugged-up, scathingly acidic matriarch, and you’ve got a major new play that unflinchingly—and uproariously—exposes the dark side of the Midwestern American family.

“I knew this production needed to live on the Rep stage, so we’ve had the rights to this play for four years. As my favorite American play of the past decade, the timing is right now—the movie has come and gone and the right actors are available. This is the don’t-miss show of the season,” Hupp said.

Characters

Beverly Weston: The father of the Weston family, aged 69, an alcoholic and washed-up poet. His mysterious disappearance one evening and eventually discovered death are the reasons for the family’s reunion.

Violet Weston: The sharp-tongued matriarch who is addicted to several prescriptions; she is aware of the family’s many secrets and is not hesitant to reveal them.

Barbara Fordham: The oldest daughter of the Weston Family who is the mother of Jean and wife of Bill, though they are currently separated. She has the intense need to control everything around her as it falls apart.

Bill Fordham: Barbara’s estranged husband and Jean’s father who is a college professor. He has left his wife for a younger woman named Cindy, one of his students, but wants to be there for his family.

Jean Fordham: Bill and Barbara’s precocious 14-year-old daughter. She smokes pot and cigarettes, is a vegetarian, loves old movies, and is bitter about her parents’ split.

Ivy Weston: The middle daughter of the Weston family; is the only daughter to stay in Oklahoma and teaches at the local college. Her calm and patient exterior hides a passionate woman who is gradually growing cynical.

Karen Weston: The youngest daughter in the Weston family who is newly engaged to Steve, whom she considers the “perfect man”, and lives with him in Florida, planning to marry him soon. Karen can talk of little else but her own happiness even at her father’s funeral.

Steve Heidebrecht: Karen’s fiancé; a businessman in Florida, (whose business, it is hinted, centers around the Middle East and may be less than legitimate) and is not the “perfect man” that Karen considers him.

Mattie Fae Aiken: Violet’s sister, Charlie’s wife and Little Charles’ mother; she is just as jaded as her sister, constantly belittling her son and antagonizing her husband.

Charles Aiken: Husband of Mattie Fae and the father of Little Charles. Charlie, a genial man, was a lifelong friend of Beverly. He struggles to get Mattie Fae to respect Little Charles.

Little Charles Aiken: Son of Mattie Fae and Beverly, 37 years old who is unemployed and clumsy.

Johnna Monevata: A Cheyenne Indian woman, age 26, whom Beverly hires as a live-in housekeeper shortly before he disappears; Johnna is the silent witness to much of the mayhem in the house.

Sheriff Deon Gilbeau: A high-school classmate and former boyfriend of Barbara’s who returns to the Weston household to relay some news.

Production History

  • The show was originally produced on Aug. 12, 2007 by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company at the Downstairs Theatre in Chicago.
  • The Broadway production began previews on Oct. 30, 2007, at the Imperial Theatre only days before the 2007 Broadway stagehand strike on Nov. 10, which temporarily closed most shows on Broadway. The strike continued through the official opening date of Nov. 20, forcing the show to re-schedule its Dec. 4 opening. The Broadway show closed on June 28, 2009, after 648 performances and 18 previews. The Broadway debut used much of cast from Steppenwolf in Chicago, and opened to receive wide acclaim.
  • The production, originally slated to close on Feb. 17, 2008, was extended for three weeks to March 9 after the strike, and later extended to April 13, 2008, when it was subsequently given an open-ended commercial run.
  • August: Osage County made its UK debut at London’s National Theatre in Nov. 2008.
  • Additionally, a US National Tour was launched at Denver’s Ellie Caulkins Opera House on July 24, 2009. This production went on to tour throughout the country.

Awards

August: Osage County was the recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in addition to winning five 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Play, three 2008 Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Play, the 2008 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, the 2008 Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Play and the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Broadway Play.

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 buy your tickets for the show by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org.

Project Élan: Q&A with Creator/Director Nicole Capri

Photo courtesy of Sync Weekly

Photo courtesy of Sync Weekly

Before the 39th MainStage Season comes to an end, The Rep is excited to showcase a world premiere show– young artist production Project Elan.

Taking stage from May 5-16, Project Élan is a brand-new, original, culture-current musical that seeks to shed light on the individual and universal needs of the millennial generation. Digital and uniquely undefinable, this generation seeks to find answers in an unpredictable world. And although they may appear to be an age overrun by technology and isolation, their dreams are timeless. The millennial generation still longs for the most basic of human needs – safety, hope and love.

I recently had the chance to talk with creator and director Nicole Capri, The Rep Resident Director and Director of Education, about the inspiration behind the show, what it’s about, songs to look out for and more! Here is what she had to say:

Q: What is Project Élan about?

A: Project Élan is a brand-new, original, culture-current musical about the millennial generation – how they connect and relate to each other, their relationships, their hopes, their dreams, their fears and how technology has changed the way they interact with the world and the people around them.

Philosophers have predicted and many people now fear that today’s youth are being overrun by technology and isolation, but the dreams they have are timeless. The millennial generation still longs for the most basic of human needs – safety, hope and love.

The writers of Project Élan hope to shed light on the individual and universal needs of a uniquely undefinable generation, and a growing digital industry that impacts all of us.

Q: What gave you the inspiration to create Project Élan?

A: I’ve wanted to create an original musical for years, but I wanted to have something significant to say and I knew I needed the right creative team of collaborators to make it happen.

A few years ago, I had been journaling for several months about technology and how it was affecting the young artists I work with. As an acting coach and director, my job is to teach young artists how to authentically communicate and connect with their audience – and more importantly – with each other. Over the years (as technology has boomed and everyone now has a cellphone in their hand), I have found my job to be more difficult. We’re all so over-committed– attention spans are so much shorter and I’ve often wondered if the ability to connect face-to-face would one day become a lost art form.

Without disparaging the growth or the use of technology, I wanted to pose several questions:

  • With so much connectivity around us, are we now entering a dark age of genuine, authentic relationships?
  • Are we allowing technology to cause us to withdraw from the people around us and those that we love the most?
  • or… Is our world simply projectelanbeing redefined?

The word ‘élan’ means – to live with passion and reckless abandon, to live in the moment and to live each day as if it were our last. I wondered if I was living my own life just trying to get through the next project or scratch the next thing off my ‘TO DO’ list. I felt as though I was living a life where I was ‘glorifying the idea of being busy.’ I was tired… and I wanted more ‘life in my life.’ Something had to change.

I finally felt like I had something significant to say.

While in New York City auditioning actors for The Rep’s production of White Christmas, my music director, Mark Binns, and I went to see the musical Once on Broadway. We both looked at each other at the end of the show and said almost simultaneously, ‘We need to write a musical.’ It was kismet. That was in the fall of 2011.

Q: How long have you been working on this original show?

A: Our team of song writers began working together in the fall of 2012. The writers are from all over the country now, so we gathered together for the first time for a week in the home of Susan and Herren Hickingbotham’s. We felt like a band of gypsy artists, sprawled out all over their living room, singing and writing and occasionally taking naps. They fed us and would come down and encourage us and listen to our latest lyrics and creations. They were definitely our biggest supporters throughout this whole project – tangibly and spiritually.

We’ve rarely all gotten to be together in the same place since then… we’ve done a lot of writing over the phone and via Skype. We had a week together in Nashville before Bobby and Charity moved to Los Angeles. Conly and I have had long coffee-shop talks when I go to cast in NYC. And we camped out again for another week at the Hickingbothams on the home-stretch finishing the final touches of the latest script. The songs and storylines have changed and evolved over time and the way we collaborate and interact has become stronger and more exciting. When we first began over two years ago… we were trying to figure out how we all work, dream and create. Now that we understand eachother’s creative rhythms better, it’s been easier to focus more on fine-tuning the storyline and streamlining the rough edges of the show. The final puzzle piece of the show is our project/stage manager, Beth Thiemann. Without her, none of this would have been possible.

Q: What will be patrons be able to expect from the show?

A: We hope that our audiences will leave our show asking questions.

We hope that our audiences will leave our show with a renewed desire to spend tangible, touchable time with the people that they love.

We hope that our audiences will leave our show with hope.

When we work-shopped the original idea for Project Elan two summers ago, one parent remarked that she ‘felt like she got a window into her kids world.’ Interestingly… during the rehearsal process, so many of the cast members said they felt that they understood their parent’s generation so much more after participating in the creation of the piece.

Maybe there is a type of ‘generation connector’ in Project Elan? Or even just a reminder that life is too short to continue trying to live it as fast as possible.

If nothing else, we hope that our audiences will feel that we have moved them and enriched their lives in some small way.

Q: Song that patrons should look out for?

A: The show has such a diverse musical score with original songs from almost every genre of music. This is not your typical ‘Broadway book musical.’ The music you will hear will be more like what you would find on the radio – contemporary-alternative, acoustic-folk, urban-rock, indie-pop, Nashville-sound and progressive-Broadway.

Those who saw the original workshop will also hear two brand-new pieces and some big changes to familiar songs.

I’ve been asked several times what my favorite songs are from the show… it’s hard to decide and it changes daily. They’re all so different, but the one that haunts me most and gives me the most hope is one written by Conly Basham. The title is ‘Morning Song’ and it sounds like something you might hear on a soundtrack from ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Some of the lyrics are:

SOMETIMES WE LAUGH, WE FLY WE DANCE.

A CHANCE FOR EACH – FOR EACH, A CHANCE

STILL MOONS WILL GLARE AND NIGHTTIME CRAWL.

STEP OUT OF DARKNESS INTO ALL

THE LIGHT OF MORNING

Q: What was the best part of the writing process for the musical?

A:

  1. Creating a beautiful piece with my favorite collaborators in the world who amaze me with their talents every single day
  2. Creating a piece from scratch with young artists who shared their lives and their hearts to create the book of the show
  3. Watching a show that was only a glimmer of an idea several years ago come to life in front of a live audience
  4. (always my answer) Watching my parents watch one of my shows.

And finally… on the front page of my journal in 2006… I wrote ‘What will be my legacy? How will they remember me?’ I always thought that would make great lyrics to a song. I shared that with Binns and he turned those two sentences into the opening number of the show. It always amazes me how one small idea can come to life in a way that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. That is the art of synergy and collaboration, and that is the rarity of working with artists who are not only amazingly talented, but people who understand your heart, your passion and your vision. Two sentences scribbled on the front of a notebook almost 10 years ago became a fully orchestrated number for 60-plus people. All I had to do was share that one idea with the right person. It’s an amazing thing if you think about it.

How did you select the writers of the show?

A: Conly Basham and I have been saying for almost 10 years that we should write a show together. She was the one who introduced me to Mark Binns four years ago. They have such a positive and uniquely indescribable chemistry. I’ve never seen two people create so seamlessly together. I knew that anyone else we added to the mix needed to be a positive energy force, but we also wanted interesting diversity. Other elements that were really important to us were people who understood the mission and honor code we try to instill in the young people we teach, and interestingly… we all share a love for Christ. It wasn’t really planned that way, but it is a powerful and prayerful group of people to collaborate with.

It almost seemed effortless in choosing the other members of our team; Bobby Banister who now lives in LA and is doing a ton of producing and writing, Charity Vance who was an SMTI alum who got her big break on ‘American Idol,’ Jimmy Landfair (who became involved in the program through his younger sister Julia) who is writing and touring out of Nashville, Robert Frost was another SMTI alumni who is an amazing writer/composer who is now the music director at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre and Sam Clark – an SMTI alumni and local singer/songwriter. We call Sam the ‘normal one’ in our group. Sam is an engineer by day and we all secretly hope that he will be the one to support us one day.

It’s a great group of people. There are times when everything works and clicks and obviously there are times when we don’t agree, but ultimately… we are all committed to the project and the message which we believe is a message of hope.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

A:This is the show you won’t want to miss. This is the game-changer for The Rep and for this program.

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.

History of Little Rock Neighborhoods Topic of Preshow Talks

Join Clybourne Park Director Cliff Fannin Baker, Jess Porter and John Kirk from the UALR History Department and Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp to learn how Clybourne Park relates to issues of race, property, history and legacy in our own communities.

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(Maps provided by Jess Porter, Department of History, UALR)

January 22 and 23 | 6:15 – 6:45 p.m. | Clybourne Park curtain at 7:00 p.m.

Purchase tickets online or call The Rep Box Office at (501) 378-0405. Tickets include both the pre-show talk and the performance of Clybourne Park at 7:00 p.m.

A Dreamer Reborn: Reinventing Pal Joey at The Rep

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The American musical has long given birth to the lives of dreamers and romantics. In this new, radically reconceived version of Rodgers & Hart’s Pal Joey, our sexually charismatic protagonist Joey is both a dreamer and a romantic, albeit a troubled one. He is a Bad Boy who is trying to be better.

This has never before been the case with Joey.  When he first made his appearance–in a series of short stories in the New Yorker by John O’Hara–Joey  was an untalented, narcissistic young nightclub singer, a cad and a womanizer with few redeeming qualities.

In 1940, O’Hara called upon Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart to set Joey’s sexual machinations  to music. And they did so gloriously with songs which have since become standards, including “Bewitched,  Bothered and Bewildered” and “I Could write a Book.”  In the process, O’Hara, in his libretto, incited Joey’s ambition to own a nightclub, something he achieves by becoming the plaything of Vera Simpson, a rich Chicago socialite, and betraying every one around him.

The songs softened those harsh edges. The musical was a modest hit in 1940 and and launched the career of Gene Kelly. Later, Frank Sinatra turned it into a contemporary film vehicle for himself by setting it in 1957 San Francisco. The movie was almost unrecognizable from its source material. That was understandable. After 1952,  “Pal Joey” became what is known as “a problem” musical. It has never been successfully revived, due in part to a rhetorical question posed by Brooks Atkinson, the New York Times critic, in his review of the 1940 production: “Can you draw sweet water from a foul well?”

That was the challenge when I and my creative team set out to reinvent the show with all due respect and admiration for its origins. Part of the problem was that Joey had been born at a pessimistic time. In 1940, Europe was at war and America was preparing for it.  So one of the first decisions we made was to update the musical to 1948, a much sunnier era.  We are after all, an optimistic people. It is part of our DNA. And post-War America was brimming with optimism, a country on the make perfectly suited for a guy on the make.

Clifton Oliverweb (1)

Clifton Oliver stars as Joey. Mr. Oliver has also starred as Simba in The Lion King, Fiyero in Wicked and Benny in In The Heights.

And in our version the guy on the make is African-American. His presence raises the stakes. We felt that there was a certain poignancy in the notion of a talented young black man going for the brass ring in the white world of 1948. Joey’s dreams are fueled by the change that is in the air. Jackie Robinson has broken the color barrier in pro baseball. Joe Louis is the World’s Heavyweight Champ. Harry Truman has integrated the Armed Forces. For someone whose grandparents could have been born into slavery, Joey’s hunger to succeed is fierce. He wants everything the American dream promises.  But as he strives, he must confront not only his all-too-human flaws, but also a society which has told him to know his place.

On the most basic level, Joey just wants what we all want: to be visible, to count, to be worthy of someone’s love and attention. The two women who love him, in different ways, are Vera, the white socialite, and Linda, the working girl who is African-American. Our decision to make Joey and Vera’s relationship interracial was not taken lightly. It is a loaded one, especially for 1948. But our musical is less about race than about the desire for connection with another human being, whatever the age or color or sexual orientation for that matter.

MI0001717341We took our cue from the songs of Rodgers and Hart, which are all about the yearning for sex and love despite feeling unworthy of it. With this as our major theme, we replaced six songs in the original with others from their extraordinary catalogue, including “Sing for Your Supper,” “Nobody’s Heart,”  and “Glad to Be Unhappy.”

Which brings us to Ted, the piano player in the nightclub, who is a totally new character in the show. A songwriter and admirer of the Beat Generation, Ted bonds with Joey over their love of bebop and jazz. This gave us the opportunity to  re-interpret some of these well-known songs in the jazz idiom, giving them a fresh patina as performed by a very talented cast of actors.

We leave it to others to judge whether we have realized our goals. What we can say without reservation is that we are beyond delighted that the world premiere of our Pal Joey is at the Arkansas Rep in Little Rock. Bob Hupp and his exceptionally gifted and generous team have been invaluable in mounting this complex and challenging work. We are so very grateful to them. As we are to you, our first audiences.

After all, Pal Joey is ultimately about us. Our hopes, our dreams, our desire to love and to be loved, to be accepted for who we are. It is a quintessentially American story. If we have given Joey a heart, then we stand guilty as charged. But, as we all know, sometimes getting to the heart of the matter means a whole lot of drama—desire, doubt, betrayal, and all the other frolic and follies of our well-intentioned but often misdirected choices.

The miracle is that we ever end up connecting at all.

We hope you enjoy our Pal Joey.

– Peter Scheinder and Team

Home Away from Home: The Actor’s Holiday

Shane Donovan as Bob, Jennifer Sheehan as Betty, Case Dillard as Phil and Sarah Agar as Judy in Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

Photography by Cindy Momchilov, Camera Work. © Copyright 2012 Arkansas Repertory Theatre. All rights reserved.

Over the past thirty five years, The Rep has brought thousands of professional actors to Arkansas to perform in our shows, and every holiday season we fly in dozens of cast and crew members to entertain Little Rock audiences in our Christmas musicals.

This year, it’s interesting how the story line of White Christmas is so similar to the reality of the actor’s lives we employ — it’s the story of a group of young entertainers, traveling to a faraway place to put on a show for the holidays away from their family and friends. It’s the actors’ life in a holiday (chest)nut shell.

Read more about the cast and crew of The Rep’s White Christmas

There are a lot of things to fear going into the theatre industry: rejection, poverty, instability. But, for those of us that have ever dreamed of working in the theatre and a life on stage, probably the greatest fear of all is never being able to have a “normal life.” In choosing this profession, the reality is that we may never have the conventional “dinners at six” or the romanticized white picket fence, holidays with our family and friends or that Norman Rockwell idea of home.

The performing arts does not only take energy, it takes our time. Actors spend every night in the theatre – for three months, a six month tour, a season, or a Broadway contract. Our fellow actors become our family – and the theatre becomes our “home away from home” while we are separated from the ones that we love.

So… from our actors, directors, designers, managers and backstage crew of White Christmas, we want to wish you a very happy holiday and a peace-filled New Year. We are grateful to share our talents with you and we love sharing our lives. It’s our very personal gift to all of you this holiday season.

And for the opportunities, the applause and the appreciation of our craft – we are eternally grateful. Merry Christmas!

With love,

Nicole Capri and the Cast and Crew of White Christmas

A Note from Director Nicole Capri on The Rep’s Young Artists Production “That 80s Show”

Since 2005, I’ve seen hundreds of aspiring young artists graduate through our program to attend some of the best theatre training programs and universities in the country, become professional recording artists, star in films and national tours, earn their actor’s equity card on The Rep’s stage and become teachers, choreographers, directors, actors and working artists in the competitive field of performing arts. Our SMTI staff has tripled, our casts have quadrupled and our Young Artist’s Guild and “family fan club” is the biggest and best around.

Photo by David Knight, George Elrod and Elizabeth Wheeler sing "Video Killed the Radio Star" in Arkansas Repertory Theatre's Young Artist Production "That 80s Show."

But as educational programming continues to grow and expand, I believe it’s so important to remember where we came from.  It is not my life’s goal to create the biggest program in the country, but it is my dream to create one of the best.  That’s why it’s so important that we retain our sense of family, our integrity and our dedication to growing healthy, working young artists and genuinely good human beings.  My staff and I are committed to one thing above all else – loving and nurturing the young artists and creating a safe, professional environment to learn, grow and express themselves with tough and unconditional love.  This is our promise. This is our charge.

A huge thanks to The Young Artist’s Guild for their tireless hours of service, and for their commitment to award an ever increasing number scholarships to SMTI as well as university study each and every year. Special thanks to our SMTI scholarship sponsors Career Staffing Services and The Rebsamen Fund and to the Stover Family, the Brittain Family, the Boyd Family, the Aitken/Carey Family, Rene Julian and Wendy Brandon for their financial support of this year’s show.  Lastly, my love and thanks to the staff, crew and cast of THAT 80’s SHOW for making this year’s production one of the best one’s yet!

Photo by David Knight, Marina Redlich and Samantha Kordsmeier performing "True Colors" in Arkansas Repertory Theatre's Young Artist Production "That 80s Show."

Nicole Capri is the 2011 Governor’s Arts in Education Award recipient. As Resident Director and Director of Education,  Nicole began her professional theatre career as an intern at The Rep in 1988. Almost twenty years later, she returned to The Rep as Resident Director and Director of Education. Now in its 7th successful year, Nicole is also the founder and director of The Rep’s Summer Musical Theatre Intensive training program for young artists – the fastest growing program in the history of The Rep. A theatre, music and dance major at The University of Memphis and The National Theatre of the Deaf’s professional theatre school, Nicole has directed and/or choreographed more than 100 productions. Favorite credits include; The Rep’s productions of Children of a Lessor God, The Foreigner, Glorious and A Christmas Story, Eve in The Apple Tree (Fairmount Theatre of the Deaf/Cleveland Playhouse/International Tour), “Best Performance” (First International Theatre Festival, Volgograd, Russia), Ram In The Thicket (Off Broadway/Judith Anderson Theatre), “Critics Choice Award” Mary in The Miracle Play and Director/Choreographer/Editor for the world premiere of Rich Mullins’ Canticle of the Plains. However, Nicole’s favorite credit to date is working with the amazing and talented young artists at The Rep!

Jason Edwards on Johnny Cash

Jason Edwards starred on Broadway in Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash at the Barrymore Theatre, and is featured on the original cast recording produced by John Carter Cash. Jason is directing and starring in Ring of Fire at Arkansas Repertory Theatre Sept. 14 through Oct. 9. Photography by Cindy Momchilov.

Like many other singers and musicians who come from rural American places, young J.R. Cash learned to sing and play guitar from listening to old hymns.

When he first arrived at Sun Studios in Memphis as a young aspiring performer, his hopes were to land a record deal as a Gospel singer. After his first audition, Producer Sam Phillips told him that Gospel music wouldn’t sell records and to come back when he had written something that would. So he left and wrote “Cry, Cry, Cry” and “Hey Porter.”

He returned to Memphis and these two songs became his first recordings for Sun. Needless to say, the rest is history. Hundreds of hits followed, and also the birth of the rockabilly sound.

From a dirt-poor boy who grew up on a cotton farm to a rock’n’roll icon and country outlaw, underneath his image and fame as “The Man in Black” was a very patriotic American and a deeply spiritual Christian man. Throughout his life, he battled with demons and sang to angels, but he never lost sight of who he was or where he came from. He wrote and sang about what he knew and believed in—the things and people thatwere most important to him. To many, he was the voice of the forgotten and overlooked. Near the end of his life he recorded an album of Gospel songs his mother sang called “My Mother’s Hymn Book,” and of all his recordings he considered this his finest work.

Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash is a collection of Mr. Cash’s enormous catalog and variety of songs. It is the only theatrical show he ever gave his approval for and endorsed. William Meade and Richard Maltby, Jr.’s concept was never to have someone impersonate Mr. Cash, but to get underneath his image and present what he was trying to say in his lyrics. And to select performers who in some way might convey the essence of his southern style and roots.

It’s our pleasure to perform for you and celebrate some of the words and music of Mr. John R. Cash.

— Jason Edwards