Behind the Curtain Q&A: Communications Manager Lauren James

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

1689634_867417063269274_7763819236660539374_nThis week, I decided to take a stab at the Q&A and share my awesome experience with The Rep so far!

Here is what I had to say:

Job Title: Communications Manager

How long you have worked at the Rep: 5 months

Education/training: BA in Journalism from University of Arkansas; some graduate work at University of Memphis

How’d you get into the theatre biz: I just fell into it! I’ve always loved going to the theatre, but never thought it would be my line of work. After working in the publishing world for a few years after college, I was really aiming for marketing and PR work at a local nonprofit to be the next step in my career.  So, when I heard that the Arkansas Repertory Theatre was hiring in their marketing department, I thought it would be the perfect fit because of my love for the arts and my writing/communications background. And it was—one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

Why your job rocks: Getting to be behind the scenes of professional theatrical productions is incredible in itself, but sharing The Rep’s story with the public and engaging with patrons is the most gratifying and the most fun. And working with professional actors and theatre professionals is pretty cool, too!

Best work day ever: When our ceiling shakes from dance rehearsals and we can hear Music Director Mark Binns’ piano playing show tunes above us in the third-floor rehearsal space. I definitely feel like I’m a part of something special when I hear (and feel!) the rehearsals going on!

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why: With this being my first season, every show has been an awesome adventure, but I would have to say our first 2014-2015 show, Memphis, is my favorite. It was an extraordinary production to be a part of anyway and the fact that it was my first show made it even more special. Seeing how successful the show was and the way audiences enjoyed it made me so proud to be a part of it!

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  We are not just in the office working behind the computer all day. Our marketing staff is usually out and about coming up with new ways to engage our audience and before shows, spending lots of time with the cast at appearances and working with our creative team to best promote the theatre. It’s a great balance!

Favorite seat in the house: Center, first row of the First Mezzanine!

Best job perk: Seeing professional theatre for free and being able to share this incredible work with my friends and loved ones! My folks who live in Fayetteville and had never been to The Rep before this season, have been able to see every show this year and I’m so glad!

Be sure to check back every week to get a glimpse at a different member of The Rep staff. Buy your Flexpass subscription for the rest of the season here and buy gift certificates for the family this holiday season by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405!

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

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

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

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

How long have you worked at The Rep? 12 years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Sound Designer & Engineer Allan Branson

Allan Branson, our Resident Sound Designer & Engineer, is responsible for all of the sound in production-- from actor's lines to music and singing.

Allan Branson, our Resident Sound Designer & Engineer, is responsible for all of the sound you hear in every production– from the actor’s lines to the music to the singing. Les Miserables, shown here, was one of his busiest productions.

With the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

Someone that brings all of the sound to the stage– an actor’s lines, the ensemble or the music, etc.– is our Resident Sound Designer & Engineer Allan Branson

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

How long have you worked at The Rep? 2 years

Education/training: Sound Technology and Live Sound Certificate at South Plains College; Advanced Sim and System Design at Meyer Sound

How’d you get into the theatre biz: A friend from high school referred me to a local (West Texas) artistic director of a theatre company. I was with them for four seasons while also working for a regional production company doing festivals and concerts. I then applied to the Rep, and here I am.

Why your job rocks: I get to mix great musicals like Because of Winn Dixie and Memphis. I believe that is the definition of rocking.

Best work day ever: Going into a show and having everything come together. The show connects with the audience, and it just seems perfect.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why: Avenue Q– it was a wonderfully funny show every night, no matter how many times I mixed the show, I was never tired of it.

One thing people would be surprised about your job: I mix every musical, line by line. That means that I pull up a fader everytime someone says and sings a line. In some shows, I have to plan out moments to get a drink of coffee or water. I stayed very busy during Les Miserables.

Favorite seat in the house: Center seat, front row on the 1st mezzanine. No question.

Best job perk: Being able to work with so many talented designers, actors and musicians.

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

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Memphis Production Stage Manager Katie M. Dayley

backstage 2With the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series highlights staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

Someone who helps keep productions running smoothly– including Memphis, running through Sept. 28– is Production Stage Manager Katie M. Dayley.

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

How long have you worked at The Rep? Off and on from November 2012

Education/training: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Stage Management from the University of Utah

How’d you get into the theatre biz: I fell in love with stage management in college.  My senior year, I did a one-show internship at the Pioneer Theatre Company that turned into a two-year job.  When that was over, I had earned my equity card and have been working as a professional stage manager ever since.

Why your job rocks: I get to be with each production from before the first rehearsal until the end of the last show. Throughout the process, each show grows and comes together like a living creature that then emerges on opening night.  I love being a part of that, knowing the show so well that I see the little adjustments and discoveries that happen after we open and knowing that I am able to help present these amazing pieces of collaborative art to the public.

Best work day ever: My favorite day of the process is the first dress rehearsal.  At that point, we’ve been working for three weeks putting together the acting, choreography and music and then adding the lights, music, set and props. But for me, the show finally looks complete when the actors are dressed in costume.  It is a truly magical feeling see all of the hard work and long hours come together in the instant the show starts.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why: This one!  My current show is always my favorite.

One thing people would be surprised about your job: How physical it is.  Most people hear ‘manager’ and assume I sit behind a desk directing others what to do, but a lot of my job involves running around moving furniture and set pieces, which is very demanding work.

Favorite seat in the house: Slightly house right of center in the front row of the 1st mezzanine.

Best job perk: Meeting new people.  Every show is an instant family and you learn so much about each other by spending time together in rehearsals and hanging out at the company apartments.

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

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Company Manager/Casting Associate Peter Mensky

With the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

Peter MenskyIn honor of Memphis Cast Week, we thought it would be fun to highlight someone who knows brings the very actors who you see on stage: Company Manager/Casting Associate Peter Menksy.

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

How long you have worked at The Rep: 9 years

Education/training: Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts with a concentration in Acting at Dickinson College. I also attended a year-abroad program at The University of East Anglia in Norwich, England with a concentration in playwriting and attended New York University’s CAP21 Conservatory for musical theatre.

How’d you get into the theatre biz:  I lived in New York City for nearly a decade where I worked in (and out) of the city as a professional AEA actor.

Why your job rocks:  I enjoy helping people, so both aspects of my job suit this interest.

Best work day ever:  Whatever today may be!

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why: It’s difficult to narrow down to one.  When we have a very large cast who works well both on and off stage, I always feel that everyone in the building from cast and crew to staff and designers has done well to honor the collaborative spirit of the theatre.

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  I’m lucky to be the first and last staff member who a visiting actor interacts with at The Rep.  First, I contact them to set up their audition appointment, and last, I take them to the airport to see them off on the day after their show closes.

Favorite seat in the house:  BB4 in the First Mezzanine.

Best job perk:  Free theatre and the coffee machine in the admin office.

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

Learn more about auditions here.

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Set Designer/Technical Director Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols is The Rep's resident set director, designing such sets as last season's Les Miserables.

Mike Nichols is The Rep’s resident set director, designing such sets as last season’s Les Miserables.

With the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

Memphis is starting this week and someone behind the cool set is our Resident Set Designer/Technical Director Mike Nichols, who has been with the theatre for more than three decades.

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

How long you have worked at The Rep: 32 years

Education/training:  BSE in Speech/Theatre Arts at the University of Central Arkansas and a MA in Drama at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville

How’d you get into the theatre biz:  I fell into it when the scene shop foreman job came open at UCA.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why:  West Side Story and Towns Facing Railroads because of the design process and result.

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  I design every aspect of each set and those pieces are built, painted and installed under my supervision in The Rep’s scene shop.

Favorite seat in the house:  BB17

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

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Property Designer Lynda Kwallek

LyndaWith the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

With Memphis starting next week, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight someone who knows a thing or two about all of the props onstage: Property Designer Lynda Kwallek.

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

How long you have worked at The Rep: 8 years

Education/training: Bachelor of Fine Arts at Kent State and a Master of Fine Arts degree at Illinois State

How’d you get into the theatre biz:  I signed up for a class.  The slogan on the theatre table was ‘Theatre part time – Full time for a good time.’ I was 19 and it sounded good. I had always been interested in theatre; the slogan just gave me the chance to check out the theatre.

Why your job rocks:  I love finding that special prop, especially the one nobody expects me to find – the prop on the list that is nearly impossible.  I truly enjoy getting out shopping and meeting the vendors.

Best work day ever:  Every opening night is special. Very few people have a job that starts with a piece of literature and is collaborative with other often exceptional people.  The process culminates in a party.  It is a delight to see everyone at the openings. We meet so many creative, smart, well-read, non-judgmental people.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why:  I loved Clybourne Park last season.  The subject matter was a stretch for our theatre and our audience loved it. The cast did exceptional work on it. Another favorite show was 39 Steps – so wacky. Avenue Q was another favorite – such a positive message in the show. Loved Les Miserables both times and Full Monty was a great experience.

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  That we produce our shows here at the theatre. I have had people ask me where we bought certain things. It is a pleasure to say we built it for the show.

Favorite seat in the house:  Center on the 1st mezzanine

Best job perk:  Shopping – I find so many unusual things out looking for show props.  My apartment is an eclectic mixture. Often, a guest’s first comment is ‘so this is what a prop person’s home looks like.’  I love surrounding myself with the old stuff I find and it is often a bargain price.

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

Learn a little more about Lynda here.

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Costume Shop Manager Mark Nagle

costumeshop

Mark Nagle is the manager of The Rep’s Costume Shop, located on the third level of the theatre. Most of the costumes worn in the six MainStage shows each season have been created by hand right in the shop.

With the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

With Memphis starting in a couple of weeks, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight someone who is part of the creative force behind the costumes you see on stage: Costume Shop Manager Mark Nagle.

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

How long you have worked at The Rep: Since July

Education/training: A Master of Fine Arts in Design for Theatre at the Yale School of Drama and a Bachelor of Arts in Social work from the University of New Hampshire

How’d you get into the theatre biz: During my undergrad, I took a costume design class to fulfill my Fine Arts General Ed as I didn’t want to take figure drawing.  I was more interested in reading than doodling, and at that time I wanted to be a doctor, but this class seemed like less time commitment. After that class, I was hired to work in the costume shop as a stitcher and then they asked me to design a couple of the main stage shows.  I kind of just fell into it. I worked some summer stock gigs and at local theatres with the intention that it was just for fun, and then one of the theatre companies hired me to do the design for a show that was going to San Francisco. While in San Francisco, a theatre company, American Conservatory Theatre, there was putting on the first leg of the Sweeney Todd national tour and I perused their website and saw that they were hiring an in-house Assistant Costume Designer and I decided to apply. After returning home, I got a local job as a Psychiatric Case Manager (my undergrad is in Social Work), worked there for about a month before I got the call from ACT that they wanted to hire me.That’s how I got into professional theatre full-time.

Why your job rocks: I get to help create completely different worlds and talk with people about the psychological happenings of their character.  For me, it’s not really about the dress, it’s about the person in it that makes me wake up in the morning and be happy to come to work daily.  Why do people do what they do has always been interesting for me, and theatre lets me be around them.

Best work day ever: My family came to visit me in New York City when I was working on a show, and as we walked through Times Square to the Broadway theatre that I was working at currently, it kind of donned on me that this isn’t everyone’s normal everyday life.  Most of my family had never seen a theater that I worked at or as big of one, so it was that final ‘this isn’t a hobby, this is a real career moment’ from them and for me.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why: Memphis so far, its my first show.  Ask me in a couple of years.

One thing people would be surprised about your job: It isn’t easy. In costumes, we are the closest designers to the actors, and we see them in the most vulnerable. All body and self-esteem issues come out during fittings and we have to accommodate them all. Most actors can look past their own personal tastes and see what the character is, others don’t, which can be extremely hard.  If it is a modern show, everyone and their mother has an opinion of what the person should wear. You don’t just go and get one outfit for that look, you better have a department store on the side of the stage because you will be getting suggestions from everyone and the director will want to see everything on stage together before you have something you can move on with.

Favorite seat in the house: I haven’t sat in the house yet.

Best job perk: Coffee machine or health insurance– can’t decide

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

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Box Office Manager Jeff Roper

Jeff Kitty

At the start of the season, we wanted to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series we would like to call “Behind the Curtain.” During this weekly series, we will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis a short Q&A.

With tickets on sale to our first show of the year, Memphis, it seemed fitting to highlight one of the first people you see here at the theatre: our lively Box Office Manager Jeff Roper.

Here is what he to say about his ticket-selling time here at The Rep:

How long you have worked at the Rep:  6 years

Education/training:  Bachelors in Journalism from the University of Central Arkansas

How’d you get into the theatre biz:  A friend knew Kelly Ford and told me she was looking for a Box Office Manager.

Why your job rocks:  So much positive affirmation derived from getting people in to see great shows.

Best work day ever:  The night we had The Who tribute band perform

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and whyTommy because the cast was amazing.

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  How little we actually see the actors.

Favorite seat in the house:  H 7,6

Best job perk:  Getting to watch rehearsals and see the show come together.

Be sure to check back every week to get a glimpse at a different member of The Rep staff and buy your tickets to Memphis here!

Have questions about The Rep’s Box Office? Get your questions answered here.