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.