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.
Here 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!