Grant brings beloved musical theatre program to life

Students perform a musical number at “MT Stage: The Hamilton Experience” summer enrichment program.

After a 15-year absence, a beloved musical theatre enrichment program returned to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, thanks to a grant from the Arkansas Department of Education. 

Hosted by the
UA Little Rock Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education, “MT Stage: The Hamilton Experience” provided a unique opportunity for high-ability and gifted students to learn about musical theater, stagecraft, and civics June 26-30 at UA Little Rock. It was funded by an Academic Enrichment for the Gifted and Talented in the Summer grant.

“To us, this program was an exciting opportunity to bring a very missed student enrichment program back to campus,” said Dr. Christine Deitz, program director. “The Jodie Mahony Center was beyond thrilled to offer this program again to Arkansas students.”

Program participant Margaret Rood, a rising ninth-grader at Malvern High School, spent much of her life dreaming of becoming an actor.

Growing up in the small town of Malvern, Rood didn’t know other aspiring actors.

When UA Little Rock hosted a musical theatre program for seventh- and eighth-graders in Arkansas, Rood jumped at the chance to get a taste of acting life during “MT Stage: The Hamilton Experience.”

“This was my favorite thing to do all summer,” Rood said. “Musical people are a very small niche in my hometown. It was great to be surrounded by like-minded people.”

After participating in the camp, Rood plans to pursue acting and theater opportunities in Little Rock to give her more experience before college.

During the program, students attended civics and musical theatre history classes to learn about the history behind the Broadway play. Students studied aspects of Greek theater, Shakespeare, and modern theater. In civics class, participants discussed immigration, citizenship, and the Bill of Rights.

“You could see the talent, passion, and commitment of these children in their eyes from the moment they came to campus,” Deitz said. “It reminded me of why I came into teaching.”

At the end of the week, participants performed music and choreography inspired by the Broadway hit, “Hamilton: An American Musical,” during a June 30 student showcase in University Theatre on the UA Little Rock campus.

Gabbie Stokes, a rising ninth-grader from Ozark, was thrilled to play the characters of Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette.

“I have never done theatre or drama before,” Stokes said. “This camp was the highlight of my summer.”

Participating students include:

  •      Emma Barrett of Jonesboro
  •      Trinity Bell of Little Rock
  •      Tyler Childers of DeWitt
  •      Taryn Oitker of Cabot
  •      Grayson Siebert of Blytheville
  •      Makiya Stuffs of Little Rock
  •      Kennedy Arnold of Little Rock
  •      Eva Grace Barrett of Jonesboro
  •      Lucy Box of Jonesboro
  •      Taylor Chandler of Huntsville
  •      Rachel Estep of Springdale
  •      JahLayae Freeman of Jacksonville
  •      Mia Hartley of Texarkana
  •      Alexandra Lanier of Alexander
  •      Zaria Montgomery of North Little Rock  
  •      Margaret Rood of Malvern
  •      Gabriella Stokes of Ozark
  •      Emily Wheat of Sheridan
  •      Benjamin Wilson of Texarkana
  •      Alexandria Wright of Jonesboro
Students and staff involved in “MT Stage: The Hamilton Experience” include: Front row (L to R): Dr. Christine Deitz, Sara Cooke, Dorothy Gantz, Dr. I. J. Routen, and Laura Dowling. Second row: TeLeah Allen, Alexandra Lanier, Trinity Bell, Makiya Stubbs, Gabriella Stokes, Blair King, Tyler Childers, Eva Grace Barrett, and Alexandra Wright. Third row: Tyler Chandler, Emily Wheat, Kennedy Arnold, Mia Hartley, JahLeah Freeman, Lucy Box, and Taryn Oitker. Fourth row: Rachel Estep, Zaria Montgomery, Tripp Wilson, Grayson Seibert, Margaret Rood, and Emma Barrett.
Students and staff involved in “MT Stage: The Hamilton Experience” include: Front row (L to R): Dr. Christine Deitz, Sara Cooke, Dorothy Gantz, Dr. I. J. Routen, and Laura Dowling. Second row: TeLeah Allen, Alexandra Lanier, Trinity Bell, Makiya Stubbs, Gabriella Stokes, Blair King, Tyler Childers, Eva Grace Barrett, and Alexandra Wright. Third row: Tyler Chandler, Emily Wheat, Kennedy Arnold, Mia Hartley, JahLeah Freeman, Lucy Box, and Taryn Oitker. Fourth row: Rachel Estep, Zaria Montgomery, Tripp Wilson, Grayson Seibert, Margaret Rood, and Emma Barrett.
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