“Fishing for a Great Experience? Theatre and Dance at UALR is the Catch of the Day!”

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Our department features a stellar faculty of artists and teachers. Indeed, all of our faculty and staff have worked in commercial venues and the not-for-profit sector, and have developed educational and training programs for graduate and undergraduate liberal arts and fine arts institutions. For us, theatre and dance are “a way of knowing.” LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR RECENT GUESTS ARTISTS>>

Don Bolinger

Don Bolinger

Don Bolinger (Staff/Costume Construction) describes himself as someone who was bitten by the theatre bug at an early age and is still in recovery. Don has exceptional skills both as a performer and as a costumer/cutter-draper. He has appeared in professional stock and dinner theatres and at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre as well as with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Broadway series. His designs and design work have contributed to programs affiliated with the Lincoln Center Institute, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Hendrix College, the University of Tulsa, the Lifeline Theatre in Chicago, and the Hotel DuPont in Delaware. Holding a BA from the University of Kentucky, he also proudly points to his years with the Cumberland Playhouse as his “Theatre Vo-Tech.”


Joseph Cox

Joseph Cox (Assistant Professor of Dance) holds an M.F.A. in Dance from The University of Iowa, specializing in Ballet Technique, Choreography, and Dance History. A veteran of the professional dance arena, he has performed, taught, and choreographed for several American companies, most notably as a longtime principal dancer with the Louisville Ballet. Over his twenty-five year career, Joseph has grown intimately familiar with the classical ballet canon and numerous masterworks of the 20th century, and he has worked closely with some of the great icons in the dance world, including Sir Frederic Franklin, Suzanne Farrell, Andre Prokovsky, and Wendy Whelan.

Joseph has been on the faculty of the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, directed the second company of the Cincinnati Ballet (CBII), and served as ballet master for both the Cincinnati Opera and The Carnegie Theatre of Northern Kentucky. He is also the founding director of the Crossing Lines Project, a collection of professional performers dedicated to sharing dance with student artists from around the state of Kentucky.

Joseph’s choreography has been seen on the stages of the Louisville Ballet, the Cincinnati Ballet, the Dayton Ballet, Louisville’s Moving Collective, and in other venues. Joseph has earned numerous honors for his artistic accomplishments, including the 2009 Kentucky Arts Council “Al Smith” Fellowship for Choreography, the 2011 Iowa Arts Fellowship, and a Governor’s commission as a Kentucky Colonel.

Laura Dowling

Laura Dowling

Laura Dowling (Lighting Director) holds a BA in Drama from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and a MFA in Lighting Design from Indiana University. Prior to joining UALR, she was an Assistant Lighting Designer at the Washington National Opera in Washington, DC. In addition to her work as an design assistant and technician, she is also a lighting designer. Previous designs include: Madama Butterfly (Palm Beach Opera), Dream of the Pacific (Washington National Opera), Daughter of the Regiment (Opera Theatre of the Rockies), Steel Magnolias, The Foreigner (Brown County Playhouse), numerous operatic concerts and many other theatrical events. A native of Little Rock, she is thrilled to be back in Arkansas and still being able to do what she loves.

Karen Harris

Karen Harris

Karen E. Harris (Administrative Specialist III) has been with the department since 1998. Starting as a student, she excelled in all areas of the program, graduating summa cum laude, and earning practically every scholarship the college had to offer. She also completed an internship with the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, serving as an ASM on their production of Wit. Operating beyond her considerable job description, Karen manages our box office and also is the Properties Designer for the department productions. True to her motto, “the students come first,” she currently serves as the staff advisor to the UALR Theatre & Dance Guild. And, when Karen stops to breathe, it is usually somewhere on the auction circuit where she can pursue her other passion-antiques.

Michael Heavner

Michael Heavner

Michael Heavner (Instructor) currently serves the UALR department of theatre arts & dance as:  instructor of music for dance, piano/percussion dance accompanist and musical director. Michael joined the department in 2006 and concurrently served as instructor of recording arts technology and piano for the UALR department of music: 2006-2010. Other academic positions include, Artist in Residence at the University of Central Arkansas, College of Fine Arts and Communication and Guest Musical Director at Hendrix College in Conway. Michael received his Bachelor of Music in piano performance from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has traveled extensively throughout the United States as musical director/keyboardist in “equity” national tours of: Blues in the Night; Idols of the King; and Always Patsy Cline. He also has served as musical director/pianist for numerous equity and non-equity productions. Other musical credits include performances with Grammy winner Larry Gatlin, Percy Sledge, Charlie Pride, Earl Thomas Conley, David Ball, Dale Hawkins, Narvel Felts, Mike Huckabee, The Platters, The Coasters and he is the featured pianist on two live CDs — “Back By Popular Demand” and “Standing Room Only” — by The Diamonds, a “doo-wop” group now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Michael is a member of the International Guild of Musicians in Dance and performs annually at the American College Dance Association. For additional information, images and videos, visit www.michaelheavner.com 

Yslan Hicks

Yslan Hicks

Yslan Hicks (Associate Professor of Costume Design) has been lauded for her design work in such significant venues as the Old Globe Theatre, the Goodman Theatre Center, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Portland Center Stage, and the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. In addition to her work at UALR, Ms. Hicks has served on the faculties of Tulane University and the University of Tulsa. She is also a member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829. Yslan tells the story of encountering a young man in his first semester, who upon seeing so many other students passionate about “doing plays,” made the comment, “I’ve never been in a room with this many people who love theatre.” Yslan’s work as an artist has been shaped by the mentoring of those who know and love the art form. Her goal as a teacher is to pass on the passion and the craft and the tradition to every young person who cannot imagine a life and a society without it.

Bill Marshall

Bill Marshall

Bill Marshall (Associate Professor, Scenic and Lighting Designer) has been an educator for the past twenty-five years and has served on both the faculties of Swarthmore College and Kenyon College. During his thirteen years on the faculty of Swarthmore College, he devoted a large portion of his scholarship to developing curricular based production models that are still in use today. His Philadelphia theatre credits include: Peoples Light and Theatre, A Village Fable, Sacco and Vansetti, Valley Song, Arabian Nights, My Mother Said I Never Should, Distant Fires, and Faith Healer. As assistant designer to Paul Owen at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, Bill contributed to the creation of Metaphor, Where Abouts Unknown, Queen of the Leaky Roof Circuit, and Alone at the Beach during the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Bill has created more than 100 designs for regional, educational and European theatres. His New York theatre credits include: Dark Sun, at The Metro-Politan Playhouse of New York and Candida at the Pulse Ensemble theatre. Education: Bill holds a BFA from the University of Florida in design and technology and an MFA in Scenography from Virginia Tech.

Rhythm McCarthy

Rhythm McCarthy

Rhythm McCarthy has danced professionally with the North Carolina Dance Theatre, Agnes DeMille, Valerie Bettis, the California Ballet Company, Pauline Koner, and Ernestine Stodelle. Her teaching and choreographic credentials include residencies and guest artist positions with Florida State University, Jacksonville University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Imperial College in London (for the International Enrichment Program) and Missouri State University. Rhythm has directed/choreographed over fifty shows for the musical stage. Most recently she was responsible for a critically acclaimed production of Bye, Bye, Birdie! for Tent Theatre in Missouri. While at Missouri State University, she has been repeatedly recognized for the excellence of her scholarship, creativity, and teaching. In addition to numerous internal grants, and a sabbatical provided to pursue research detailing the original costumes of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, she won the College’s top teaching award in 2001 and the University’s top teaching award in 2004. She has taught ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance, and developed a premier touring program utilizing dance performance and movement studies to enhance literacy in the public schools of Missouri and Arkansas. Rhythm’s paper on “The Dance Educator’s Role in Preserving Diversity: Two University Programs” was chosen for presentation in 2004 at the 18th World Congress on Dance Research in Argos, Greece. The same organization invited her to return in 2005 to present her dance work, “Ozarks Folk Suite” for the 19th World Congress in Larnaca, Cyprus with a company of American dancers. Rhythm holds degrees from Jacksonville University (BFA) and Florida State University (MFA), and also received extensive undergraduate training from Pauline Koner at the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Stacy Pendergraft

Stacy Pendergraft

Stacy Pendergraft (Associate Professor of Actor Training) specializes in Acting, Voice and Movement, and Directing. Before joining the faculty at UALR, Stacy was the Artistic Associate and Director of Education for the American Stage Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida. Among her many responsibilities, she created and directed works in children’s theatre for the company’s School Tour series, developed educational curricula, and implemented an intensive internship program for college students throughout the state. She continues to serve as an adjudicator for the Florida State Thespian Association. As a professional actress, she has appeared in productions at The Cleveland Playhouse, the American Stage, the Actor’s Theatre of Phoenix, and Dixon Place. She holds degrees from the University of Tulsa and Arizona State University. Ms. Pendergraft is also a member of the International Taoist Tai Chi Society. Ms. Pendergraft was the 2013 UALR Faculty Excellent recipient.


Jay E. Raphael
Video: The Audition

Jay E. Raphael (Professor and Chair, Theatre Arts and Dance) has worked as an educator, an actor, a director and a producer in the academic, professional and corporate sectors. He has taught and coached everyone from children to CEOs, and in such institutions as Brooklyn College, Michigan State University, Southern Illinois University, University of Virginia, University of Miami, and Missouri State University. Jay has also acted and directed in regional theatres across the country and Off-Broadway in such theatres as the Denver Center, the Goodman Theatre, the Repertory Theatre of St .Louis, the Missouri Repertory Theatre, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the Human Race Theatre Company, and the Sierra Repertory Theatre. He has directed the works of Shakespeare, Chekhov, O’Neill, Williams, Genet, Albee, McNally, Simon, and Camus, among others. His primary goal as an educator is to prepare people to succeed in the world as they find it and to contribute to the growth and change of their art before they leave it!

Stephanie Thibeault

Stephanie Thibeault

Stephanie Thibeault (Associate Professor/ Head of Dance) holds her M.F.A. in Dance from the University of Maryland and a B.F.A. in Dance from Southwest Missouri State University. She spent nearly a decade in the Washington DC/Baltimore area, working as a professional dancer, choreographer, and dance educator, before serving as a dance faculty member at several institutions, including University of Maryland, Dickinson College, and Wichita State University. Originally trained in classical ballet, Stephanie Thibeault discovered modern dance in college, and went on to perform professionally in modern and postmodern dance. She was a member of Kinetics Dance Theatre, and a founding member of SURGE Dance Company of Baltimore. Thibeault has performed and presented work in New York, NY; Baltimore, MD; Washington, DC; Lisbon, Portugal; and many other cities, large and small. In addition to working with such fine choreographers as Deborah Hay, Joe Goode and Doug Varone, she has also had the pleasure of performing with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Parsons Dance Company. Stephanie Thibeault’s international teaching and choreographic career includes residencies with dance companies and universities across the U.S. and as far away as Taiwan. While much of her choreographic work has involved combining her passions for jazz music and modern/postmodern dance, Thibeault continues to seek out new ways to explore the human condition through movement. Stephanie Thibeault joined the faculty in 2008 to launch the B.F.A. degree in Dance at UALR.

MacGowan Larry

Lawrence D. Smith

Lawrence D. Smith (Assistant Professor) Holds a Ph.D. in theatre and cinema studies, and his scholarship bridges theatre history, cinema studies, and performance theory. He specializes in mid-20th century Swedish film and theatre, and received a fellowship from the Swedish Institute for his dissertation research on Ingmar Bergman. He has presented new research at the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, the American Society for Theater Research, the Southeastern Theatre Conference, and the American Conference for Irish Studies. He has articles on theater, cinema, and philosophy published in the Journal of Scandinavian-Canadian Studies (2010) and Theater Symposium (2011). Research interests include intermediality, phenomenology and cognitive studies; 19th-century American theatre and film; African-American theatre, film and television; and historical and contemporary approaches to acting. His recent credits include the independent film Animals (Schiffli 2013), Chicago Fire (NBC), and roles in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Circle/Mirror/Transformation at the Nebraska Repertory Theatre. Other acting credits include Steppenwolf Theatre, Northlight Theatre, A Red Orchid Theatre, Goodman Theatre, and Victory Gardens. Regional credits include American Conservatory Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Summer Studio Theatre at the University of Illinois, Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis, Pennsylvania Center Stage, Peninsula Players, and Arkansas Repertory Theatre. He is a frequent guest instructor of acting at the Bilingual Acting Workshop in Paris, where he also acted in the English language premiere of The Glory of Living. As a director, he is very interested in devised performance and ensemble-based collaborative processes, including Viewpoints and Contact Improvisation.

Joe Stafford

Joseph Stafford

Joseph Stafford (Technical Director) holds a BS in Theatre Production and Design from Illinois State University. A professional scenic carpenter, Joe comes to us from Chicago where he served for four years as the Carpentry Supervisor for Blue Man Group. Joe also has technical direction and carpentry credits from the LiveWire Theatre, The Illinois Shakespeare Festival, the Apollo Professional Theatre and the Peoria Ballet. He is excited to be working with young people doing what he loves in a great place like Arkansas. Fond of time spent in the outdoors, Mr. Stafford is glad to be taking advantage of the attractions in the Natural State.

Stephen Stone

Stephen K Stone

Stephen K Stone is a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists with professional performance engagements including The Baltimore Opera, Paramount Productions, and Spellbound at Harrah’s – Las Vegas. In addition to a myriad of ballet, modern and theatrical dance works, two world-premiere ballets: a futuristic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Fort Wayne Ballet, Indiana) and The Masque of the Red Death based upon the short story by Edgar Allen Poe (Bowling Green – Western Kentucky University Symphony Orchestra,) and a pioneering evening of integrative work entitled SEEING VOICES – A Dance Concert for Both a Deaf and Hearing Audience; Stephen’s production revue choreography has appeared upon the stages of Carnival Cruise Lines – Miami, the Tropicana Resort – Las Vegas, and Bally’s – Las Vegas. His academic positions have included Director of Dance at the Governor’s School of North Carolina – East hosted by St. Andrews College (Laurinburg, NC); Visiting Professor at Towson University (Baltimore, MD) where he assisted the development of Moving America, a National Endowment for the Arts funded CD-ROM illustrating the national standards for public school dance education, Assistant Professor and Director of Dance at Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, KY), Director of Ballet as well as Managing Director of the American Ballet Theatre – Detroit Summer Intensive at Wayne State University (Detroit, MI), Managing Director of the Winston-Salem Festival Ballet and in the fall of 2011 Stephen joined the faculty of the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. For additional information, images and video, visit www.stephenkstone.com.

Adjunct Faculty

Kimberly Nygren Cox was a professional ballet dancer for 14 years.  She is a certified Pilates teacher through the Pilates Method Alliance as well as a yoga instructor registered with the Yoga Alliance.  Kimberly is an active ballet instructor and choreographer and has many other fitness methods in her repertoire.  She has experience teaching private lessons and group classes, and has worked with people of all ages and varying health conditions.  She enjoys sharing her love of movement with others while helping them achieve their fitness goals or improve their overall sense of well-being.

Kevin Baer teaches Introduction to Theatre and Dance, and has served as the department’s House Manager at all theatrical events for the last eight years. The Board secretary for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Kevin has also acted and directed for the Royal Players in Benton and the Conway Community Theatre.

Bill Jones teaches Introduction to Theatre and Dance. He has taught college-level theatre classes for six years and has appeared in five productions at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre — most recently, Shakespeare’s Henry V (September 2012). In 2003, he scripted Arkansas Alive for The Rep’s fall school tour. Bill prepared an authorized readers’ theatre adaptation of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in 2006 for the NEA’s “Big Read” program, as well as a radio play of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for KUAR-FM 89 (2003) and a readers’ theatre piece for an international Robert Louis Stevenson symposium. He is the author of Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, Second Edition (2011), and the editor of Robert Louis Stevenson Reconsidered: New Critical Perspectives (2003).

Leonard (Len) Sullivan an organist, accompanist and arranger, credits early studies at American Conservatory of Music, Chicago, Garland County (Arkansas) Community College and University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Organ teachers include Dr. Frank Van Dusen and Len Bobo; Voice teachers, Marjo Carroll and Dorothy Sawatski; Piano with Rick Andrews. Settings of Hymntunes for organ include “Lord of The Dance”, “Fairest Lord Jesus”, “On “Eagles Wings), Piano, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Handbells. (3-5 Octaves). His commissioned works 2002-2012 include works for Organ, Piano, Handbells; ”Vision, Mission and Passion” S.A.B Choir, Organ/Keyboard, Guitar, Bass, Drums; (2013) (untitled) Pastor’s Retirement First Lutheran Church, Texarkana, Texas. Publishers/Distributors: Ron Harris (California), Carl Fischer (New York). Member: A.S.C.A.P.

Scott Southern has been playing drums and percussion for over 20 years. He is a graduate of UALR, with a B.A. in Liberal Arts. At the University, Scott studied percussion with Charles Law, performed in the Pep Band, Percussion Ensemble, and Pop Choir. Scott is very pleased to return to his alma mater, as an accompanist for Modern Dance classes.