For young and old alike, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's education department sets the stage for those spellbound by the world beyond the curtain, weaving an ever-evolving slate of courses, workshops and camps.

Kirk Bradshaw | Arkansas Rep Board Member

When were you first inspired to get involved with your local theater?

I consider the Arkansas Rep to be an important part of not just the city of Little Rock, but for the state of Arkansas. It's locally-run, but known around the country for the quality of its productions. The more I heard about it, the more I wanted to become involved. Having the chance to work with a group like that inspires me to help out in any way that I can. I consider it to be a local nonprofit that stages New York quality shows.

What impact did theater have on you when you were younger?

I grew up in south Arkansas, and I can't say that I had much exposure to theater when I was younger, but occasionally we would head to Little Rock to see a show. I remember seeing "Annie" and "Ain't Misbehavin'" — I think those are my first memories of theater — and they left the impression that participating in a show must have been exciting and fun. You got to become someone else and lead a different life … at least for a little while.

Why are organizations like The Rep important to communities?

I think The Rep in particular is important to downtown Little Rock and has been for many, many years. It has been one of the anchors for our downtown, and I think because of The Rep, Main Street has become a much better place. So many great restaurants, art galleries and other nonprofits have helped create a Main Street you want to visit and explore, and I think much of that started with the existence of The Rep.

Your most memorable moment with The Rep:

Being the chair of Saints and Sinners or the one time I did a group tap dance to help raise funds for the education department. Both made me nervous, but both were worth it.


Berkeley Courtney-Moore, 9 | Actress

When were you first inspired to get involved with your local theater?

I was in my first musical at my school when I was in kindergarten. I was Gretl in "The Sound of Music" and I loved it so much I wanted to do it again and again and again. Then somebody told my mom about auditions for "Macbeth" at The Rep and she let me audition — even though I didn’t really know anything about Shakespeare — and Mr. Bob [Hupp] cast me. It was so much fun and I got to work with actors from New York. Now I know about Shakespeare and I get to take lessons and classes at The Rep.

What impact did theater have on you when you were younger?

I saw my very first play, "Because of Winn Dixie," at The Rep. I was only four years old, but I loved it so much and told my mom I wanted to be up there. Two years later, I got on stage for the first time and I can’t imagine not acting and singing and dancing now. I never ever want to quit doing it. It’s really just like playing make-believe all the time. [Director of Education] Miss Anna Kimmell, [Education Associate] Mrs. Katherine Silverman and so many other people that have worked at The Rep are so nice and fun, and they’ve helped me get better as an actress. I’ve been in 14 shows, mostly at community theaters in Little Rock and Benton, and I have made the best friends in the world and learned so much. I really want to be on Broadway one day!

Why are organizations like The Rep important to communities?

Theater lets us tell important and wonderful stories to everyone. It lets you learn about a lot of stuff, even old-timey days and all different kinds of people. I hope everyone goes to see all the shows because a lot of times, if it’s a musical, you just want to stand up and sing and dance when you leave! The Education at The Rep program teaches any kids who want to learn about acting, making sets and costumes, singing and choreography.

Your most memorable moment with The Rep:

I love summer camp at The Rep! It’s so much fun and we learn a lot! Performing “We Are Made of Stars” with everyone at camp last year was my favorite. The audience loved it. It was mostly our parents, but I really think it was an awesome and amazing show. I definitely want to do it again this summer!


Gregory Myhre, 37 | Teaching Artist / Actor

When were you first inspired to get involved with your local theater?

I first got involved in theater in high school. I was an athlete and my best friend needed a partner for a speech/forensics scene. I agreed and after we won the state title, I was hooked.

What impact did theater have on you when you were younger?

Theater had a very positive impact on my adolescent anxiety and depression. I had the chance to go down a more destructive path, but theater gave me purpose, direction and validation.

Why are organizations like The Rep important to communities?

Theater is the original entertainment and has always played a large part in social climates. It is a way to challenge and provoke communities. There is a resonance in experiencing a story in person, and it dares us as a society to evolve. This is simply not happening in film and television. The Rep and Arkansas are very lucky to have each other.

Your most memorable moment with The Rep:

I'll never forget when I saw the 2017-18 season and thought, "This is exactly the kind of theater that society needs." It's so rare, so very rare.


Olivia Mack, 17 | Actress

When were you first inspired to get involved with your local theater?

I was first inspired to get involved with my local theater when I was 14 years old. My mother approached me with an advertisement for a theater camp. I was extremely shy at that time and was terrified.

My freshman year of high school, I auditioned for Forensics (competitive drama). My drama teacher told me I seemed so natural. That ignited a spark. I also participated in my first theatrical production, "Hansel and Gretel and Friends," at North Little Rock High School. The exact moment I stepped on stage and the lights hit me the opening night, I knew I had to get more of this. I wanted to know if this is what I was meant to do.

What impact did theater have on you when you were younger?

When I was younger, theater made me believe in something. I was extremely aware of my surroundings as a child. This often caused me to feel out of place from other children who were not quite like me. I was a hardcore daydreamer who longed for the characters and stories that I read in novels. Theater showed me that new worlds could be created not only in our heads, but on a stage.

The first production that I ever saw was "Beauty and the Beast" at The Rep. I never noticed the stage or the set changes. I remember the story unfolding in front of me. I remember being frightened by the beast and feeling what Belle felt. I remember simply feeling. The music fascinated me and caused my heart to dance and sing along. It was good. It called to me, in a sense, even though I did not break out of my shyness until I was 14.

Why are organizations like The Rep important to communities?

Organizations such as The Rep add life and color to communities. They provide a place where you can watch the stories of not only other people, but also your own, unfold on stage.

In theater, there is a place for everybody. Math, science, history and the arts combine to create worlds and change lives. This is why organizations like The Rep that offer opportunities to educate the community on theatrical elements are so needed. They create well-rounded citizens that are vital to the success of any city.

Organizations like The Rep value individuality within a person. This is especially seen through The Rep's education. In every class I have attended, I have been encouraged to be able to be who I truly am on stage as well as off. This message is especially important in the world of social media. Education at The Rep gave me some of the skills that I need in order to ground myself in a rapidly changing world.

Your most memorable moment with The Rep:

My first time working with The Rep was with the Summer Music Theater Intensive (SMTI) program. It was my first time auditioning for anything outside of school, and I was super nervous. I walked into the room, my heart pounding. I remember seeing three people in the room and I knew that I was desperately unprepared. I don't even remember introducing myself.

I vaguely remember stumbling through my monologue, and then it came time to sing. I actually bought the wrong music. I will never forget how willing the education department was to work with me. They asked me what song I knew, and I told them "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith. The head director smiled, and I was allowed to use that as my song.

That was the first time in my life that I had ever felt like somebody wanted me to win. I will never forget being told before I left the room that I had made it into the program. I'm almost positive that I jumped four feet into the air. It was the first step in my dreams of becoming a performer.


Mario Luna, 44 | Actor / Father of Two Actresses

When were you first inspired to get involved with your local theater?

I became captivated with theater at the age of 12 in junior high school.

What impact did theater have on you when you were younger?

Growing up in east Los Angeles, the pressures of being bullied, gang violence and being a student in elementary school were challenging in themselves, along with being a latchkey kid of a single mother. It was music and theater that changed the direction of my path from being destructive to disciplined, in turn changing my life. ...

It wasn’t until we moved to a suburb that I was able to attend a wonderful school with excellent academic, sports and theater programs. High school brought on a whole new set of challenges — self acceptance, rebellion, finding myself and hormones, to name a few. The theater gave me back the identity I had lost, it helped me not to wear a mask all the time and gave me the ability to stand with confidence, even when the curtain closed.

Why are organizations like The Rep important to communities?

The Rep and local theater are beneficial to communities because theater is the truest form of expression, and in that, we all find a sense of freedom. It helps us all find balance when we allow ourselves to get lost in a performance.

Your most memorable moment with The Rep:

My most memorable moment at The Rep was when my daughters performed in the Education at The Rep summer class. The scene had just started and 20-plus kids were harmonizing and dancing. It brought my wife and me to tears to see our girls blossoming with confidence on the stage before our very eyes, and rekindled the spark within myself of how theater had changed my life at that age. It was a truly magical moment.


Where the Action Is

Only a few years ago, the best-known facet of The Rep's education department was a summer-only musical program where kids were immersed into the world of one show, which they performed at the end of a few week’s time. But the department has grown exponentially over the years to provide year-round classes, matinees, scholarships and outreach to kids and adults across the state.

In the summer of 2017 alone, Education at The Rep hosted more than 150 students for workshops and camps, not counting the theater day camps on national and school holidays for kids.

Currently the winter class session is in full swing, offering training in areas such as improvisation, Shakespeare, tap dance, voice-over acting and preparing for auditions. Education at The Rep’s mission is to develop students’ skillsets through central values like collaboration, creative problem-solving and a deep connection to the community.


The annual Saints & Sinners Gala will raise funds for Education at The Rep on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 6 p.m. at the Statehouse Convention Center.
Tickets + Info: TheRep.org