Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
In preparation for the Rep's annual young performers showcase, Nicole Capri Bauer became an expert on holidays. Not just on the minutiae of the traditions surrounding big ones like Easter and the Fourth of July, but on the ins-and-outs of more obscure — yet very real, Bauer insists — celebrations like Dress Up Your Pet Day and Leave a Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Day.
Leave a what on the what?
“A bunch of people in Pennsylvania realized that zucchini spreads quicker than bunnies. They sneak around in the middle of the night and give it away on people's porches in the middle of August,” she explains, almost convincingly.
Zucchinis, Valentine's Day, Super Bowl Sunday — it's just the latest milieu for Bauer, the Rep's director of education, to show off the talents of the participants in the theater's Summer Musical Theatre Intensive, a competitive two-week program for young folks ages 10 to 23. Some 400 auditioned this year, but only 65 were selected. For the last four years, the SMTI students have presented a musical revue they learned over the summer in a two-week mainstage run at the Rep in the fall.
This year's production, “Follie Holidays,” draws inspiration from the old Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire movie “Holiday Inn,” Bauer says.
“It was an inn that was only open on the holidays, and in that spirit, we're hitting on all the major holidays, with some pretty quirky, funky ones in the mix, too.”
The revue features songs like “Calendar Girls,” “Summertime” and, Bauer says, “the most awesome ‘Thriller' number for Halloween. This kid sings better than Michael Jackson. No lie.”
In celebration of five years of the SMTI, the Rep will release a coffee table book next week that Bauer says doubles as a chronicle of the program and a “self-help book for parents who have kids who want to go into the arts.” All proceeds go back into the program, largely to fund scholarships.
When she's not managing the SMTI program, Bauer directs for the Rep's season. When asked which she prefers, she doesn't hesitate before picking the kids.
“I'm more energized when I'm with kids. I feel younger when I'm with kids. We always say in the program that art has no age requirement. You can be a 5-year-old and be an artist, or you can be a 95-year-old and be an artist.
“I think the theater becomes alive when they're in the theater. It's palpable. There's no other show that rivals it in energy all year long.”