Business of Show Workshops Scheduled for July

171They don’t call it show business for nothing.

Learn the basics of the industry in our Business of Show workshops for adults and young artists this July. From branding to social media presence to getting an agent and video auditions, learn how to make your mark and discover opportunities no matter where you live.

From your own backyard to the bright lights of the Big Apple, this will be a part-informational seminar, part-instructional workshop. Actor Ethan Paulini, who has been in several shows at The Rep, will lead the workshop and Musical Director Mark Binns and Choreographer/Dancer Marisa Kirby will be on the panel.

    Ethan Paulini as Buddy the Elf in The Rep's production of Elf. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Ethan Paulini as Buddy the Elf in The Rep’s production of Elf. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

A limited number of participants will present material of their choosing and receive constructive feedback as to how to best create a cohesive brand based on their type and unique talents and present themselves as a competitive member of the entertainment industry.

In addition to working on material, there will be an extensive Q&A session. Here are the dates to get signed up:

Adults 18+
The Business of Show, 6-8 p.m. Thursday, July 7

Young Artists (ages 10-17)
The Business of Show, 6-8 p.m. Friday, July 8

Call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to reserve your spot in the workshops! Payment is required at time of reservation.

Spelling Bee Thursday: Q&A with Ethan Paulini

Ethan Paulini as Leaf Coneybear. Photo by John David Pittman.

Ethan Paulini as Leaf Coneybear. Photo by John David Pittman.

Can you spell F-U-N?

To highlight all of the cool (and funny) things about our upcoming show The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, we have launched a week blog series called Spelling Bee Thursday!

Our dramaturg, Robert Neblett, had a chance to talk with Ethan Paulini on his role as the cute and socially awkward Leaf Coneybear, his incredible involvement with Arkansas Repertory Theatre, what patrons can expect from the interactive show and tons more.

Here is what he had to say!

Q: You’ve had a busy year with The Rep. Can you talk to us about your growing relationship with the company and your activities in Little Rock over the past few months?

A: I started working at the Rep in 2007 and The Bee will mark my seventh production. Recently, I have come even more frequently because I directed the SMTI Select program in a production of Carole King’s musical Really Rosie in the brand new Education Annex. As an artist, beyond looking for a community, you also really seek an artistic home. I have found that here. To watch this organization grow and evolve and for me to be able to go on that ride to some extent is so rewarding. I am so grateful to Bob, Nicole, Mike and everyone at The Rep for their continued support and trust. From being able to play incredible roles like Buddy in Elf to becoming a staff member of SMTI, I take great responsibility and pride in the challenges The Rep presents to me. In addition, the patrons and community of Little Rock has been so welcoming that central Arkansas has really become my second home. I strive to do the best work here because both the supportive staff and the astute patrons deserve that. I look forward to watching the organization continue to thrive and hope to continue to be a part of that.

Q: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a unique work of musical theatre, combining improvisation and audience participation with a wickedly funny script and score. What can Rep audiences expect when they walk into the theatre?

A: At the risk of sounding cliche, audiences should expect the unexpected. The fun of this show is that it is never the same twice. We, as actors, are at the mercy of what the audience gives us. Their experience is almost entirely up to them and how they participate. While the improv is very structured and well thought out, it is impossible to know who and what will be joining us onstage. The results are deliciously unpredictable. If we as actors really respond to that, it is quite clear to the audience that it is not planned. The shared experience between us and the audience is indescribable. That is ultimately the thrill of live theatre– that sense that anything can happen. This is a show that takes that idea, turns it on it’s head and multiples it by a thousand.EthanPauliniPutnamHeadshot

Q: Tell us about your character, Leaf Coneybear, and his journey in the show.

A: Leaf marches to the beat of his own drum. He didn’t actually win his qualifying bee and instead is here as an alternate. He is just thrilled to be there and is probably the least competitive and most surprised by whatever success he achieves. He is the product of homeschooling and has many brothers and sisters who he feels inferior to in the intelligence department. The biggest thing Leaf gains is real confidence that while he may have issues learning from a book, he in fact is and always has been quite smart. Because of his inability to connect with people, he could be called a bit misunderstood but this experience really helps him come out of his own shell.

Q: How did you prepare for this role?

A: I played this role previously in Northern Stage’s production. It has been a few years, so I had to revisit his storyline, his mannerisms and his relationships to the world of this play. Of course as I have already mentioned, this show is never the same twice, even when doing the same production. So to prepare for this go-around, I really am just approaching this with an openness toward what these new actors and creative team will bring to it. The advantage is that many of these actors and creative team are near and dear and frequent collaborators. If ever there was a show that called for a sense of playfulness, this is it, so I just am gearing up for a few weeks of playing with friends new and old in pursuit of an authentic and earnest production.

Q: Do you feel Leaf exists along the autism spectrum or is just socially awkward? How does this impact your portrayal of the character?

A: I do think he probably exists on the spectrum but that’s just one more clue I gather about this character. Whether clues exist in the text or you infer them based on your own human experience, they all come together to create a vivid and alive character. When I was growing up, Autism was not as common a diagnosis, so I am sure I have had many peers who have existed on the spectrum. For me, the decision as an actor to accept that information is no different than information that exists such as his relationship to his family, or that he likes apple juice, or tosses his hair. It is just one more piece of the portrait you hope to put together when creating an alive, vivid character.

Q: You also play another role in the show. Tell us about this character and how you alternate between roles in the course of the performance.

A: I also play Carl Grubinierre, one of Logan’s adoptive fathers. He appears twice. Once during Logan’s song “Woe is Me” and then again in a very pivotal scene toward the end. Carl is educated, a bit fussy, mature and fiercely competitive. I think he is kind of the opposite of Leaf’s go-with-the-flow attitude. A lot of the work I get to do is about creating very broad but distinct characters, so I really relish the opportunity to find the differences between the characters but also not shy away from the parts of my own personality that can act as a sort of through line. It hopefully allows for some cohesion in the performance for the audience.

Q: The characters in the musical are misfits and outsiders, but in the competitive world of the spelling bee, they have found a place in which they excel, in which they belong. What does this aspect of the show have to say about our lives and a search for community?

A: Ultimately, I think as humans we strive to be a part of something. It validates us, bears witness to our lives and allows us to share experiences. This is easier said than done sometimes. I think this show really celebrates that idea of embracing who you are and accepting everyone. There is also comfort in realizing that everyone has insecurities and personal struggles. Despite the competition that these kids face from each other, ultimately they find support and a place to belong and be themselves at the Bee.

Q: What advice would you give to students in the Little Rock area who are interested in building a career in musical theatre?

A: It’s the same advice I would give to anyone hoping to pursue a career as an artist: STUDY, STUDY, STUDY. To be a successful artist, you have to be willing to constantly evolve. The advantage an aspiring artist in Little Rock possesses is access to professionals and resources. The Rep and the resident artists here are as good as anyone I have worked with anywhere. Learn from them and take advantage of their expertise. The SMTI program is so wonderful and unique. No matter how serious a student may be about pursuing this as a career, there is an immeasurable amount of benefit that can come from participating in that program.

Q: Did you ever participate in spelling bees as a child? Do you have any anecdotes that you would like to share.

A: I’ve never been in a Spelling Bee, but in seventh grade, I was the Massachusetts State Geography Bee Champion and I went to nationals in Washington, D.C. The Bee was hosted by Alex Trebek. I didn’t get too terribly far. I think I came in 40th or 41st out of 52.

Q: Spelling Bee is a hilarious show, yet I am always surprised by how moved I am by this show and its characters. Can you talk about the emotional impact of the musical? Is there a particular moment in the play that speaks to you?

A: Well, ‘The I Love You Song’ breaks my heart every time. But I think when the audience catches their breath from laughing, they realize these are earnest, sweet and unique characters who all face both struggles and triumphs equally. I also think watching characters have personal discoveries and change is what makes for a great musical and these characters do that. Not one person in this show is the same at the beginning as they are at the end. It’s a snapshot of the growing process and I think that can be very poignant.

See Ethan in action by booking your tickets when the musical takes center stage Oct. 16-Nov. 8– call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.

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.

 

Elfie Tuesday: Q&A with Ethan Paulini, Buddy the Elf

With Elf The Musical taking the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage, we are penning a new short series called “Elfie Tuesday” every Tuesday throughout its run.
Actor Ethan Paulini is performing the role as Buddy the Elf in The Rep’s production of Elf. Our Dramaturg Robert Neblett took a few moments to ask him some questions about the show and his role of playing the loveable character, which can also be found in our special study guide for the production here.
Photo by John David Pittman

Photo by John David Pittman

Why do you think Elf (the film) has become such a contemporary holiday classic?

Every generation seems to have a classic Christmas film. Films like It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and now Elf. I think Elf came out at a time when people wanted to laugh. The idea of family and togetherness is a common theme for the holiday season, but I think that combined with the out and out, over-the-top comedy of Elf really resonated with audiences. Laughing makes people feel good and people want to feel good at Christmas.

How would you describe the biggest differences between the film and the musical version of Elf?

Well, singing and dancing for one thing. There are slight variations in the story to support a musical number or a slightly modified comedic bit. The original story is there and many iconic moments are represented on stage, but it also explores the relationships between these characters slightly differently, especially the family. They all have a different experience while trying to accept this 30-year-old, 6’2” tall grown-up who thinks he is one of Santa’s elves.

What do you think the ultimate message of the piece is?

There is a lyric in the song “The Story of Buddy the Elf” that I sing with my father – “maybe the point of the story is it’s never too late to grow.” The beauty of this line is that I don’t think it means growing in a traditional sense. I think it is more about that willingness to change and evolve as a person. Buddy doesn’t apologize for who he is and rather than caving in to the pressures to conform, he makes others rediscover the child inside them. He pushes them to in many ways be themselves.

Is there a little bit of Buddy in you?

Absolutely. I would like to hope I am a bit more mature and aware, but I do like to think I have maintained some of the youthful optimism that Buddy has in spades.

How do you prepare for a role like Buddy? What do you hope to bring to it that no one else can?

I think this is a role, more than some others, that is about building up my stamina. I am onstage for virtually the entire show, so for me it’s about staying healthy. I have been exercising, trying to eat right and get plenty of sleep. As far as the actual role, of course, I watched the movie. I definitely want to make Buddy my own so I am trying to find a way to bring what Will Ferrell brought initially but I also want to put my own stamp on the role. One of the great things about Arkansas Repertory Theatre is that they aren’t interested in carbon copies or replicating a particular production or movie, so that gives me the freedom to bring all of my own ideas about who Buddy is and where is comedy comes from. I hope to bring a sense of authenticity to him. The comedy comes from his earnestness, he doesn’t try to be or even realize he is being funny, and I like to think as a comedic actor that is something I understand and do well.

You’ve played many roles onstage at The Rep. Do you have any favorites? How would you describe Little Rock audiences, compared to other audiences around the country?

This is the toughest question. I have loved them all for different reasons. I gained a lot from each and every experience in both personal and professional ways. I suppose The Full Monty will always hold a special place for me since it was my first show here. The rehearsal process for my most recent show, Compleat Wks of Wllm Shkspr ABRIDGED was special because the process was so personal. Nicole Capri (our director, and the director of Elf) really allowed us and encouraged us to bring ourselves to the characters. That is not only so rare, but also makes it a lot of fun. For me, I guess each experience boils down to the people and each show has provided me the opportunity to work with such remarkable collaborators that it is nearly impossible to narrow it down to just a couple of memorable moments. The audiences here are so generous. It takes a lot of energy to get out there and do this sort of work and the audiences here give it back. It makes it that much more rewarding for us to do our jobs.

How do you think Little Rock audiences will respond to this show? What do you think will surprise them about the musical?

I think they will LOVE the show. It’s bright, shiny and happy. But I think the surprise will be how touching this story and these characters are. Of course they will come in expecting to laugh but I think they will leave feeling warmer and perhaps a bit more nostalgic than they expected.

What was your favorite Christmas movie or television program when you were growing up and why?

Well, I used to countdown the minutes until Frosty and Rudolph and all of those great television specials that would come on during Christmas. But without a doubt, A Christmas Story is not only my favorite Christmas movie, but one of my very favorite movies. When it is on for 24 hours on Christmas, I generally average 3 or 4 viewings. I just find that family so warm. I really feel like it captures that childlike excitement that occurs during the whole holiday season. It didn’t sugarcoat it, either. It showed those characters as flawed and funny and human and totally lovable.

What is it like performing away from home on Christmas? Do your fellow actors become your family on occasions like that?

There are so many people here in Little Rock who are like my family that it feels surprisingly natural. I have worked with Mark, our musical director, Marisa our dance captain, and Nicole, our director, on several occasions and I count them among my best friends in the world. Beyond that, Little Rock has always been so welcoming to me that there are many people who I consider family here. When you work in this business, you have to instantly accept people as an integral part of your life very quickly. That also tends to create a familial dynamic. In this show, I have worked with many of the actors before both here in Little Rock and around the country. In addition, I am a career and acting coach and I even have three clients in the cast. I am also fortunate to have my dad, sister and niece and nephews coming to see the show just before Christmas.

What do you want Santa to bring you this Christmas?

Continued success and challenging and rewarding collaborations, health for me and my family and friends and the strength to follow my path wherever it may lead me….and if he has an extra iPhone 6 laying around, I’d take it off his hands.

All remaining shows of Elf are sold out but there are 10 Standing Room Only seats at $40 apiece for each performance. Just stop by the Box Office an hour before showtime to receive a voucher! Call (501) 378-0405 for more information.

Pulled from Elf study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

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Don’t Miss Elf Carbaret on Monday

171What are you doing this Monday, Dec. 15?

Join the Elf cast members as they perform their favorites in cabaret style!

Emceed by Ethan Paulini (Buddy the Elf) with musical accompaniment by Elf Musical Director Mark Binns, the fun show will feature 15 of the cast, including members from both the ensemble and principal cast. Get ready for eclectic mix of holiday songs, musical theatre tunes and jazz standards, performed solo and in duets!
The cabaret will begin at 7 p.m. in the lobby of Arkansas Repertory Theatre, 601 Main St., Little Rock, with registration and a cash bar open at 6:30 p.m. A reservation is required. Individual tickets are $30 and couples are $50.

To reserve your seat, contact the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.Ticket sales from this event support the volunteer auxiliary group, The Stagehands, whose mission is to welcome and provide hospitality to The Rep’s visiting actors, directors and technical crew.

Get more information about the show here!