New Director of Education Anna Kimmell introduces innovative programming and enthusiasm to the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s role in the community.
By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Meredith Melody
The renowned education program of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre is becoming even more exceptional under the leadership of new Director of Education Anna Kimmell. The most immediate and notable innovation is the new education program that transforms the summer-only youth training program into year-round classes, workshops and camps for adults as well.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of a program that is so new and ever-expanding,” says Anna, who joined The Rep’s team eight months ago. “The greatest joy comes from creating meaningful connections with students, families and community members. It’s an honor to witness and nurture personal growth and discoveries. I’m really looking forward to reaching more students through classes, workshops and student matinees.”
Producing Artistic Director John Miller Stephany notes The Rep is lucky to have discovered Anna. “Anna’s enormous enthusiasm for theatre arts education is matched by her keen insights and formidable skills. The Rep is incredibly fortunate to have Anna leading our efforts in education.”
Anna first heard about The Rep while she was studying music theatre at Elon University in North Carolina, where one of her professors had worked at The Rep as a choreographer. “Its reputation preceded itself,” she remembers. Through the years, many of Anna’s friends and colleagues have performed on The Rep’s stage. “Everyone raved about their experiences. This position was an honor and a thrill for me – I’m proud to call this theatre home.”
The arts have always played a significant role in Anna’s life. She attended a performing arts magnet elementary school in Atlanta and studied classical ballet, visual arts and sang in various choirs. “I was most drawn to theatre because it combined all of my creative interests.”
Anna’s been working in professional theatre for a decade, primarily as an actor and more recently as an educator, choreographer and director. “The work continues to challenge my understanding of myself and the world around me. I feel so fortunate to have received the gifts of a wonderful arts education growing up and it remains one of my goals to give back to the community in the same way.”
Most recently, she served as director of education at Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke, Virginia, where she facilitated a multi-faceted theatre education program for youth and adults. She also taught as an adjunct professor at Hollins University – a local women’s college.
The Rep’s expanded curriculum includes classes in acting, musical theatre, singing, theatre dance, tap dance, audition preparation, Shakespeare improvisation and technical theatre with plans to introduce even more classes. The program also collaborates with local schools and community centers as an advocate for arts education. “It’s an exciting time of rapid growth and change and new programs will continue to pop up throughout the coming years.”
Anna says she looks forward to The Rep’s Summer Sessions, which includes six weeks of theatre training for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The students perform a final showcase on The Rep’s Black Box Stage.
“Summer is a time to be fully immersed in the world of theatre, to establish lifelong friendships and make new discoveries about yourself and your art,” Anna explains. “Class sizes are limited and some sessions are already sold out, which illustrates the enthusiasm for theatre in Little Rock.”
In the Spotlight
I was raised on musical classics like The Music Man, Oklahoma, and West Side Story. The more I learned about theatre history, the deeper in love I fell with the shows that laid the groundwork for today’s composers and storytellers.
Favorite children’s play?
The Wizard of OZ, and it continues to pop up in my life. I watched the movie religiously as a child, toured with the show as an actor, and had the pleasure of directing and choreographing a production for my students in Virginia.