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4 Quotes from a Review that Means You Should’ve Already Gotten Your Shrek Ticket

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Written by Rosemarie O’Connor

As you already know, Shrek the Musical is running this weekend. You only have five more chances to let your freak flag fly, become a believer, and tell your life story. (If you see the show, you’ll get all of those references, just saying!)

But, it’s not just here at Encore that know we have got something special going with this production. Here are 7 quotes from a Review that Means You Should’ve Already Gotten Your Shrek Tickets:

1) “There were a few musical numbers in this show that I really enjoyed. Choreographer Kelsey Meiklejohn did a great job with “What’s Up, Duloc?,” where the dancers moved somewhat robotically, as if they were puppets on strings.” -Julia L. Exline, D.C. Metro Theater Arts

"Lord Farquaad (William Shingler) welcomes the audience to the town of Duloc. Photo by Aileen Pangan."

2)”Tap-dancing rats are always a good idea!” -Julia L. Exline, D.C. Metro Theater Arts (Once again, see the show and you’ll fully understand. All you need to know is that yes, there are tap-dancing rats!”)

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3) “Costume Designer Debra Leonard uses found bit and pieces– from face paint and tutus, to colored pajama bottoms– to create an ensemble of fairy tale characters, all easily recognizable.” -Julia L. Exline, D.C. Metro Theater Arts (Some of our cast are living the dream with pj costumes)
Fairy Tale Creatures Get Organized Photo by Rosemarie O'Connor

4)”Overall, Encore Stage and Studio’s production of Shrek, the Musical is a good way for the family to escape the summer heat!” -Julia L. Exline, D.C. Metro Theater Arts (Need we say more?)
Farquaad (William Shingler) with his Guards from left to right Josh Conrad, Angus Long, Mark Zubaly, and Zach Longsworth Photo by Rosemarie O'Connor

We have shows Thursday the 23rd, Friday the 24th, and Saturday the 25th of July at 7:30 pm and Saturday the 25th and Sunday the 26th of July at 2:00 pm. You can buy tickets online or at the door. The box office opens an hour before each performance. We hope to see you there so you can enjoy the big, bright beautiful world of Shrek the Musical. (Yes, that was another show reference that you will understand before you know it.)

Susan Keady Talks 25 Years of Encore

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Shrek The MusicalOn Saturday, July 17th, Encore is celebrating Susan A. Keady. This season marks her 25th year working with us. She has directed, choreographed, and worked as the artistic director for Encore Stage & Studio. In order to celebrate this momentous occasion, we sat down and had a good old fashioned interview about her time with Encore thus far. We talked about her most memorable shows, her motivations, and so much more. Alright, here we go! We’ll start at the very beginning. I hear it is a very good place to start.

Q1: What was your first show you directed with Encore?

My first show was in 1989, called Free to Be, adapted from the Ms. Magazine musical movie of the 1970’s. MS. Magazine gave me the freedom to adapt from their script, their music and their video to my individual production. I had already been adapting Shakespeare’s with editorial freedom, but this was my first project working with extant music, a book and a script.

It was very exciting because once I cast the show, I worked to discover the brilliant qualities that each actor brought to the cast and then the music director and I worked to weave the actors in and out the material – adapting the show to their individual talents.

Concurrently, I was hired to teach acting classes for Encore in Key Elementary school. So my first education and production experience were ongoing.

Let me just say that I was hired before there were navigation systems for cars, so I lived with an Arlington map in my front seat. I was zig-zagging daily all over Arlington county and the “location” perspective made my first experiences confusing. I was rehearsing in South Arlington in Gunston Middle School, where the all the Cultural Affair offices were located, teaching at Key Elementary in Roslyn but the show performed in Kenmore Middle School about mid county. Then, I met with the volunteer board at Jamestown Elementary periodically to update my progress in North Arlington.

Once I figured out how to criss-cross the county efficiently, I relaxed and began to enjoy the experience.

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Q2: How did you first become introduced to Encore?

In the spring of 1989, I was directing at Kiss Me Kate at Rockville High School and Midsummer Nights Dream at Paint Branch High School in Maryland. Eventually, I was the drama and technical director for both schools. One night two Encore volunteers, Celeste Groves and Sherry Gainer attended a performances of Kiss Me Kate. They saw an extraordinarily talented cast of over 50 students, a crew of 20 and a full orchestra of over 30 students in the pit perform. After the show, they introduced themselves, asked if I would teach an after school acting class that autumn and direct Free to Be. They also asked if I would commit to directing the Stage Door the following summer. Celeste and Sherry were happy to see so many students actively engaged on stage, and they enthusiastically laughed and said “Oh, you will be able to handle Stage Door” The Stage Door Director, Patricia Tully-Hawkridge was a fellow alumni from George Washington University, leaving to start a family in Rhode Island, with her husband, Alan Hawkridge, who directed Act III, our summer Shakespeare production at LubberRun. Marian DiJulio, another GWU alumni, took Alan Hawkridge’s position as director of Act III (Encore’s summer shows) and eventually, she became the Encore Education director.

Q3: What are the roles/responsibilities you’ve had working with Encore Stage & Studio?

I have worked in every artistic, educational and practical production capacity possible, except stage lighting. It has been quite an adventure and if there was a job I didn’t know how to do, I called experts at Folger, Arena, National Theatre, university friends and faculty and they lead me to sources to learn how to do the job. Eventually I morphed into the administration area and boy – there was so much to be learned that I was convinced I would need to go after a second Master’s Degree to develop business skills for theatre.

Q4: What are your top three memorable shows at Encore and why?

The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1997. This was my first show as artistic director and ACT III director in 1997 posed a huge challenge in Gunston Theatre 2. We had a very large and detailed set that I thought was amazing, but our strike lasted until 4am with cast and crew entire families, including my own. I decided to never do that again! Also, I had so many community adults audition, I used them all, proving another challenge, as I worked to integrate a large cast of 40 plus people i ages 15 through 70. The large cast of experienced adults and recent college graduates and only a small number of high school students. We only had three crew members come out for that show; one of whom was my son who was 10 and, as he had already performed in three Shakespeares, he was confident as he worked as a props person, dressed as an urchin, entering an exiting with props or scenery as a tiny member of the cast. We also had two large dogs in the show and he took care of the dogs offstage. This show marked my first of dozens of creative collaborations with Matthew Heap, who is the current musical director of Shrek.
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Winnie The Pooh, 1998. This was the show that turned Encore around with respect to audience size and financial solvency and also marks my first collaboration with Debra Leonard, as costume designer and she has worked all but one show since Pooh. It was another family affair for me with my dad, brother, husband, son and even my 2 year old daughter helping me build the set.
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West Side Story, 1999 and My Fair Lady, 2000 tie as favorites due to the talented cast, crew, staff, and amazing sets. I sat through show after show and show. I loved to watch and listen night after night. I was very sad when both shows ended those summers. The shows had a special quality and continued through the run to draw large houses and sell many tickets. They were exciting.
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Monster in the Closet, 2005 was a great opportunity to create many extra interesting roles, like the dream weavers. The “dream weavers” were a small group of cast members, who carried out my vision to incite imagination and create beautiful a dream-like stage, and they remain a favorite group of cast members.
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Beauty and the Beast, 2009 pushed our boundaries with the set in a way that West Side and Fair Lady had challenged us and it had a large, fascinating and intricate set with a competent crew and talented cast. I never tired of watching and listening to the cast.
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As You Like It, Narnia, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Alice in Wonderland, Free to Be You and Me, Charlie Brown, Sleepy Hollow, Hansel and Gretel, Brother’s Grim, Stuart Little, Three Musketeers, Kiss Me Kate, Suessical, Oklahoma, Legally Blonde, and now Shrek were all unique and wonderful experiences with great casts, crews and production staffs. The longer I think about each production, the harder it becomes to separate just 5 favorites!

Q5: What motivates you to continue working in the performing arts?

I began working on stage when I was cast as Guinevere in Camelot when I was 11 years old! I was an avid reader of all the King Arthur stories and I was so excited I had my lines memorized by the first rehearsal. By the end of the week I had everyone else’s lines memorized! To this day, I am still friends with many of my elementary school friends who were involved in the show. My next role was 9th grade as Juliet and I fell in love with Shakespearean roles. I auditioned for any Shakespearean role in any college in the area when I graduated high school, just for fun.

The stage incited a spark and an enthusiasm inside of me that never fades as I grow older. I sit and watch our productions and I feel like I experience the magic I felt when I was 11 years old. When I am watching a good production, sometimes I forget to exhale.

Although I continued to nurture other interests, theatre remained in my life as I grew up. In college I found that I continued to return to theatre over and over and, in fact, my theatre time interrupted any major I tried to follow. I finally gave in and now I hold a Bachelor of Theatrical Arts and a Masters Degree in Acting. I branched out into tv, radio and film to earn a living but my passion remains on the stage.

Q6: Students have learned so many skills through Encore and have grown in this organization, how has Encore Stage & Studio or the students participating impact you?

The children, students and young adults teach and inspire me, and children are, frankly, amazing. Each child has their own brilliance and, when given a chance, children shine brighter than we can imagine. Children never disappoint me with their creative impulses. Because of the children who come to auditions, my growth has been impacted through a series of iterative skill sets, especially, as a casting director. Casting a show to perfection is a skill that can only develop after working on hundreds of shows and auditioning thousands of children. Encore has given me this valuable experience.

I also credit to the Encore adults and parents who have nurtured, mentored and taught me. Encore consistently has a generous and wonderful group of adults who participate as Board of Director volunteers and a prolific production staff who have professional lives in other careers. They are driven by their hearts, to give back through theatre. They have been a pivotal resource for me, since I began, to create the infrastructure for production, education and live theatre. I continue to learn from all of the adults and especially, the production staff members all of whom have more technical knowledge than I.

In many ways, my first 20 years were fledgling as we created our theatre productions and our education classes. Presently, as Encore continues to grow through the administrative staff & guest artists, the resources grow and the opportunities are there for cast, crew or students to try just about anything they want to in theatrical arts. It remains an exciting adventure.

Photo by Clarence Chan

Encore Stage & Studio staff

Q7: What do you enjoy most about being an artistic director for Encore?

I enjoy sitting in the dark theatre and hearing children laugh the most. Directing the vision of the theatre to remain appealing and true to the heart of a child is what I enjoy most. I still love casting, rehearsing, and directing. I especially enjoy the creative collaboration with the production staff as we develop how to make the next production more perfect than the last production.

Susan, thank you so much for all you have already done for Encore. We are eternally grateful. Here’s to the next 25 years.

Take a look at some photos from some more of Susan’s favorite shows:

Photos by Larry McClemons

Top 10 Ways to Survive Tech Week

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With tech week fast approaching for Shrek the Musical, we thought we should come up with a list of ways to survive the chaos.
By Olivia Hammermaster

1. Be safe. Who wants to be on crutches during the show? No one! Imagine if you did break your leg right before opening… Relearning your blocking and choreography from a new perspective will be a challenge. So will being cautious of how you move your body and trying not to fall on your face during that one dance… ;)

2. Preserve your voice. Just like staying safe physically, don’t forget to keep your voice safe, too. Sure, you got tickets to that concert, but you also made a commitment to sing live to an audience. So if you feel the urge to sing along at the top of your voice, do it in your head.

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3. Be nice. You should always try to get along with everyone in the production. But if there’s one time you shouldn’t tell your castmate they annoy you, this is it. You’re basically family now. Everyone needs to be focused on the show, not on petty arguments.

4. Get plenty of rest. As most high schoolers or crazy college kids will tell you, it’s totally impossible. But it IS possible! Tech week will demand a lot from you, true, but if you go to sleep as soon as you get home and drink plenty of water during rehearsal, your body won’t even realize the late nights.

5. Wear sweats everyday. Literally every single day. This (and finals week, if you’re in school) is the only time it’s perfectly acceptable. So embrace the comfy laziness of sweatpants!

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6. Don’t worry; be happy. Tech week is NOT the time to wonder how you’re going to pay for the trip to Europe next summer or why you have such an intense phobia of spiders. Let the troubles of life slip away. You can always deal with them next week. But right now, you better be running lines until you can do it in your sleep.

7. Tell your mom or dad you love them. Let’s be real– our parents help us out tremendously during this time, even if we don’t recognize it. And since you’re going to be spending a lot of time with the theatre, treasure the moments you spend with your family this week.

8. When in doubt, stretch it out. You’re going to be dancing onstage, and you’ve got to sell it. No one cares if you’re a little tight that morning. Get the cast together to lead your own yoga classes before you go onstage.

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9. Bring food to rehearsal. You may be busy a lot of the time, but you’ll also have some down time, and since tech rehearsals run for hours on end, trust us when we say you’re going to get hungry. That power bar you ate before you got to rehearsal isn’t going to cut it. Pack a snack– or even an entire dinner if you’re daring.

10. Invite everyone you know. The more the merrier! Text your best friend, email your grandmother, make an announcement in your local coffee shop, and don’t forget to post the details on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook– and definitely on Myspace. Don’t leave anyone out! Not a single person! Shameless self-promo is the way to go!

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5 Things That Happened at Rehearsal Last Night That Will Get You Even More Pumped for “Shrek”

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Hello again, Front Row Readers!
This is your Arts Management Intern, Rosemarie and I just wanted to let you know what’s up at Encore, specifically with Shrek the Musical.
So, I had the pleasure to sit in on a dance rehearsal last night and I was ridiculously impressed. The dancing was spectacular to watch but, the energy from the cast was really the highlight of the rehearsal.

5 Things That Happened at Rehearsal Last Night That Will Get You Even More Pumped for Shrek

1) Donkey and Dragon showed everyone exactly why they were cast.
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2) The knights/guards learned some new choreography that sets up a Farquad worthy entrance.
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3) The Three Blind Mice came in and were not afraid to show off their moves and killer attitude.
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4) The fairy tale characters “let their freak flag fly” and set the bar even higher for the rest of the cast.
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5) Everyone walked away with more energy then when they walked in.

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This cast is working amazingly hard to put on a show that they obviously love. Whether it’s the people, the dancing, or the show itself, there is definitely reason to get pumped for <Shrek the Musical.
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Performance Showtimes and Dates:
Fridays, July 17 & 24 at 7:30 pm
Thursday, July 23 at 7:30 pm
Saturdays, July 18 & 25 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm
Sundays, July 19 & 26 at 2 pm

Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig. Music by: Jeanine Tesori Book/Lyrics by: David Lindsey-Abaire. Originally produced on Broadway by DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions.

In a kingdom far, far, away, a beautiful and feisty princess is locked up in her tower waiting for her one true love to rescue her. Countless attempts by handsome princes all fail this mission, however one ugly ogre and his talkative sidekick Donkey rise up to the challenge. With Princess Fiona, a gang of fairytale misfits, and the bad Lord Farquaad, Shrek becomes the unlikely hero of the kingdom in this must-see musical comedy! Based on the 2001 DreamWorks Film Shrek and William Steig’s 1990 book Shrek! Like the film, this musical contains irreverent humor and action sequences; we recommend this production for ages 8 and older.

Ticket Prices
$15 for Adults, $12 for Children, Students, Military and Seniors
Click here to purchase tickets online, or call our box office (703) 548-1154. Please e-mail boxoffice@encorestage.org for additional questions and information.

If you want more behind the scenes shenanigans check out our Tumblr: encorearlington.tumblr.com. It’s launching this coming Monday, June 29th.

Congratulations to the Class of 2015!

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We’d like to take the time to congratulate Encore’s seniors! Thank you for being a part of Encore’s community for multiple seasons, and allowing us to take part in your theatrical journey. We wish you the best of luck on your future endeavors! Check out our senior recognition video:

Encore Seniors Recognition Class of 2015 from Encore Stage on Vimeo.

Congratulations to the Class of 2015!

Maddie Ashton
Thomas Boudreaux
Gabriel Brown
Jake Bucks
Andrew Burkholder
Paddy Clancy
Caroline Culberson
Sarah Fahrenkrug
Carly Greenfield
Kerry Hackes
Kristopher Heaton
Abby Huston
Perry Kaufman
Brandi Moore
Meghan Mack
Hannah Murphy
Meghan Pierce
Katelyn Sparks
Sean Willner

The Other Encore Intern! Welcome Back Olivia Hammermaster!

Hey! I’m Olivia Hammermaster and I’ll be working at Encore this summer.
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(There’s a fun picture of me as Oin in The Hobbit. Fun fact: That was the show where I feel like I learned the most and really grew as an actor.)

First of all, I don’t live here anymore. I moved to Vienna, VA when I was 11, found Encore at 14, and then moved to Georgia last August. With some hardcore pleading and a very convincing number of service hours, my parents let me come back to work here for the summer.

I used to attend Marshall High School over in Falls Church before moving to Marietta, Georgia. I’m a full IB student and no, I don’t know where I’m going to college yet. I can tell you that I’m potentially looking at majoring in psychology, but I have plenty of time to figure it out and change my mind!
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(I’m the one in the white sweater- I stage managed Sherlock, working alongside this lovely tech crew.)

I’ve been involved with Encore since I was in eighth grade, and I’m now a rising senior in high school. I’ve done everything from cast to crew to stage managing to working at summer camps. My favorite productions, if I really had to choose, were 12 Dancing Princesses and Honk! Jr. For 12 Dancing Princesses, I played Stumble: the comic relief. I had so much fun developing that character and running around onstage. I worked on crew for Honk! Jr. and learned ALL of the music and choreography in the process. This summer, I’m splitting my time between our Stage Door camp and the Encore office.

Encore has always been a great experience for me– so great that I drove ten hours (I was the only driver in the car!) to continue working here. I’ll be running around helping with a lot of things, so you’ll probably see me at some point.

Thank you for reading! Come see our Stage Door production, Beauty and the Beast, and Act III, Shrek!

7 Encore Students Receive Awards for Excellence and Achievement

Star Awards and Encore Crew-ton Award were presented on June 12, 2015.

After participating in at least six Encore Stage and Studio productions: two onstage, two backstage on tech crew, and two more in either capacity, six Encore Stage & Studio students joined an elect group of Star Award honorees on Friday, June 12, at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre. Four present members received their awards from Sara Strehle Duke, the Executive Director of Encore Stage and Studio.
“The Star Award is an important milestone in the Encore experience,” said Duke. Duke continued saying “these six students should be proud of their accomplishments.”
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From left to right Thomas Schindler, Erin Poplin, Colin Meek, and Maggie Keane

The Encore productions that these Star Award Winners participated in Encore production include Hansel and Gretel, Charlotte’s Web, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and many more. Malena Davis, Maggie Keane, Colin Meek, Erin Poplin, GG Richmond, and Thomas Schindler accepted their awards during the intermission of Encore’s latest production Alice in Wonderland.
Kristen Jepperson, the company’s Technical Director, presented high school senior, Thomas Boudreaux, the “Crew-ton” award for his consistent work and dedication to the technical crew at Encore for the past four years. While the other tokens were shaped like a star, Boudreaux received a gold hammer.
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Thomas Boudreaux (left) and Kristen Jepperson

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Maggie Keane as Malady DeWinter in The Three Musketeers 2015

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GG Richmond in Sleeping Beauty 2013

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Thomas Schindler (left) and Colin Meek (right) in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 2014

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Colin Meek in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 2015

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Erin Poplin in Cinderella 2015 on the far left
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Malena Davis in Cinderella 2015

Photos by Larry McClemons and Aileen Pangan

Meet the Arts Management Intern: Rosemarie O’Connor

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Why, hello there Front Row readers! Seeing as I will be here at Encore for the summer, it’s just polite to let you all know a little bit about me.

I am a rising senior at Marymount University in Arlington, which is fitting because I’ve lived in Arlington my whole life. I’m studying Communication with a focus in Public Relations with a business minor. I still can’t tell you exactly what I want to be when I grow-up (or graduate next year) but, a summer at Encore is a way to help me sort that out. I mean, in an ideal world I could make a living wage as an actress in New York but, I love doing public relations type stuff in class and for different organizations that I’m involved in at Marymount.

Once Upon a Mattress has been my only Encore credit thus far. Apparently that one summer production last year was enough to have me apply for this job. I do a lot of work with the theatre club at Marymount and was even the president this past school year. It is amazing to be here at Encore and see a group that has been putting on productions and so much more for almost fifty years. (Marymount Actors’ Guild just had its fourth, so far so good as far as I know.)

As far as the summer goes, I’ve already had a weekend in the box office for the second weekend of Alice in Wonderland. That was actually a lot of fun. There were times where there were tons of people who wanted to get tickets at the door and I was still new to the system, but it was a good time. Trust me. I also got to work different tables and interact with lots of the Encore patrons. I can’t wait to meet and see more of you at Shrek. The toughest part of this weekend was doing all the things that needed to get done on crutches. I’ve got this lovely boot on my right foot and it makes moving or rather, hopping or crutching around a little more complicated. DSC_0215

This summer on top of learning all that I can from the amazing Encore staff, I will be working on a few projects: helping with the Encore Tumblr, adding to the past show database, adding pictures from past seasons to the website, and helping to get some things going for the upcoming 50th season. Also, I am just looking forward to being here.

Thanks for reading and you just might be hearing again from me soon.

Curiouser and Curiouser–Find out our 2015/2016 Season at Encore’s Alice in Wonderland!

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This year, we added our new Bard in the Box program presenting Much Ado About Nothing, giving a chance for our students to perform Shakespeare in the black box theatre at Theatre On The Run. In addition, we had our world-premiere of our original Encore script of The Three Musketeers by Matthew Heap.

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Just as Alice experiences many surprises in her journey through Wonderland, Encore has many surprises in store for the upcoming 2015/2016 year!

Will there be more Shakespeare? Will there be more shows and more locations? All the more reason to come find out this weekend as we unveil our 2015/2016 season! Our 2015/2016 Season subscriptions will be available for purchase in the lobby. See you there!

Photos by Larry McClemons