“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.”

Laura Dowling

Laura Dowling

Laura K. Dowling (Lighting Director) holds a BA in Drama from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and an 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 a design assistant and technician, she is also a lighting designer. Previous designs include: The Magic Flute (Opera in the Rock), Fall Dance Harvest 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015. Much Ado About Nothing (Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre), Boom (UALR), 9 Voices (UALR), Madama Butterfly (Palm Beach Opera), Dream of the Pacific (Washington National Opera), and numerous operatic concerts and many other theatrical events. A native of Little Rock, she is thrilled to be back in Arkansas and doing what she loves.


Kamika Gaines


Kamika Gaines (Coordinating Assistant of the Performing Arts) has been employed with UALR for the past ten years. She graduated from the College of Business with a BBA in Management and Certification in Nonprofit Management and Leadership in 2011. She began her career in higher education with the Office of Campus in 2004; she held the Administrative Specialist III position, while coordinating with program managers and students to facilitate special event programs, advocacy programs and new student orientation. In 2009, she moved the College of Business with the Department of Marketing and Advertising as the Administrative Specialist III, while in this capacity she was able to assist student majors with their academic needs and requests as well as facilitating the department faculty with their everyday objectives. Shortly after graduating, Kamika received another opportunity to advance her knowledge of the campus through a promotion with the Facilities Management Department as the Personnel Coordinator. In 2014, she took a position with a local utility company; however she was able to return to the university in the capacity as the Coordinating Assistant for the Performing Arts in August 2015. She brings exceptional skill sets of program planning, budgetary experience, and student service experience to the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance.

Michael Heavner

Michael Heavner

Michael Heavner (Instructor) currently serves the UALR department of theatre arts and dance as: instructor, dance accompanist, musical director, website and social media manager. 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, AR. 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” 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 throughout the country. Other musical credits include performances: with Grammy winner Larry Gatlin, Rock & Roll Hall of famer Percy Sledge, Grammy winner Charley 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 Doo-Wop Hall of Fame. Michael performs annually at the American College Dance Association and is a member of both the International Guild of Musicians in Dance and the International Dance Council. 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 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) 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 (Assistant Professor, Dance) joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Department of Theatre Arts and Dance in fall 2011. Since then he has presented choreography in UALR’s annual spring dance concerts, BodyWorks, as well as the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences’ annual galas, Finale. Additionally, Stephen has performed and/or choreographed in Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s, Godspell, Project Élan, Singin’ On A Star, That 80s Show and Saints & Sinners, as well as the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Fantasy. This past December, for the fourth year, Stephen performed the role of Herr Drosselmeyer in Ballet Arkansas’ The Nutcracker, and this spring he made his performing debut on The Rep’s mainstage in the ensemble of Mary Poppins. As a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists, Stephen is a performer who has traversed the worlds of ballet, concert dance, and musical theatre, with performance credits including The Baltimore Opera, Paramount Productions, and Spellbound at Harrah’s Las Vegas. In addition to a myriad of ballet, modern, theatrical dance and musical theatre works, two premiere ballets, Frankenstein and The Masque of the Red Death, as well as an evening of integrative works 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, the Tropicana Resort, and Bally’s. Prior to UALR, his academic positions have included the Governor’s School of North Carolina, Towson University, Western Kentucky University, and Wayne State University and its American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive. For additional information, images and video, visit www.stephenkstone.com.

Adjunct Faculty

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.