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