The Front Row Blog


Exec Director Sara Duke is Chosen as an Honoree of Leadership Arlington’s Forty Under 40!


We are delighted to share exciting news! Encore Stage & Studio’s Executive Director, Sara Duke, has been chosen as an honoree of Leadership Arlington’s Forty Under 40! Today, December 4, 2015, Leadership Arlington celebrates the 40 impressive trailblazers in the 2015 Forty Under 40 honorees at the Army Navy Country Club. Forty Under 40 is an initiative that builds social and intellectual capital for the DC metro community amongst this leadership group as they move into key decision making positions. The under-40 demographic represents a large segment of the area’s population. Leadership Arlington and the community as a whole have the responsibility to empower and celebrate this civically-minded, future leadership. We are proud to honor our Executive Director, a remarkable leader and a great contributor to the youth’s performing arts in Arlington! Congratulations Sara Duke!

“I am so happy that Sara was awarded this honor,” Encore Board member Jerry Gidner stated, “she has not only transformed Encore Stage and Studio, but the world of children’s theater in Northern Virginia. I can’t wait to see where she leads Encore next.”


5 Ways to Celebrate Fall with our “Theatre By Kids, For Kids!”


Fall for Encore Stage & Studio means a lot of things: the start of rehearsals, the beginning of a new season, and so much more! As we count down the days until opening of Hansel and Gretel, here are 5 ways to celebrate the fall season with us!


#5 – Come join us this weekend at Kinder Haus Toys and meet Encore Stage & Studio’s cast of Hansel & Gretel! Enjoy an afternoon of theatre games, storytelling, and a sneak preview of Hansel & Gretel! Click here to learn more about our Kinder Haus Toys event. Be sure to buy your tickets to Hansel and Gretel! Click here to buy your tickets online.


#4 – Sign up for a theatre class this fall! Late fall classes for students in grades K-12 begin Saturday, November 14. Show your pirate side and Walk the Plank, go on an Animal Adventure, or bring to life the bad guys in Shakespeare’s Villains

#3 – Participate in Encore’s Spirit Week! We challenge you to show off your Encore Spirit! Dress up for our theme days and post them on your social media for a chance to win cool prizes! Click here to learn more.

#2 – Sign up for our holiday mini camps this fall! While school is on a short vacation, Encore will take its students on a vacation of lifetime–into literary destinations! Students in grades K-5 will enjoy a day of theatre activities and games, crafts, a movie, and fun in a safe and supportive environment. Upcoming camp days include: Catholic Prof Devel/Oct 30 | Theme: The Great Pumpkin
Election Day/Nov 3 | Theme: Hansel & Gretel
Veterans Day/Nov 11 | Theme: Big Hero 6
Click here to sign up today!

#1 – Subscribe to Encore’s 2015/2016 season! Plan your family theatre adventure from beginning to end and enjoy the benefits of being an Encore subscriber! Subscribe to an entire season for just $66!

Encore Spirit Week starts November 2!

bn all crew

Encore friends and family, near and far! We challenge YOU to show off your Encore Spirit! Encore Spirit Week begins November 2, participate in all theme days for a chance to win some fun prizes!


How it works: Dress up in our theme days. Be sure to take a photo and post it on social media using our hashtags: #encorespirit #encorestageandstudio on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. You must tag or mention @EncoreArlington as well so we can see your submissions! Each social media post equals one submission to our raffle to win our prizes. The more you dress up and post, the more chances you’ll have to win!


-Two 5-show season subscription
-One Family 4-pack gift certificate to Snow White
-$25 gift certificate to Silver Diner

Here are the theme days:
Monday, November 2 – Sports Day
Tuesday, November 3 – Cowboy Day
Wednesday, November 4 – Witch Day
Thursday, November 5 – Techie Appreciation Day
Friday, November 6 – #RepYourShow Encore Shirt Day
Saturday, November 7 – Superhero Day
Sunday, November 8 – Mystical Creature Day
Thursday, November 12 – America Day
Friday, November 13 – Crazy Hat and Sock Day
Saturday, November 14 – Pajama Day
Sunday, November 15 – Flannel Day

bn all crew



Winners will be announced on November 15! Be creative and show your #EncoreSpirit!

Theme days brought to you by the cast of Hansel and Gretel

Kinder Haus Toys Presents An Afternoon with Encore

Kinder Haus Event

Meet Encore Stage & Studio’s cast of Hansel & Gretel and join us for an afternoon of theatre games, storytelling, and a sneak preview of Hansel & Gretel! Bring your friends and join the fun!

Sunday, October 18, 2015 | 12 – 1:30 pm

Located at Kinder Haus Toys Store
1220 N Fillmore St, Arlington, VA 22201 | This event is free.





7 Must-Haves in Your Rehearsal Bag


Hansel & Gretel rehearsals have started this week! Have you started rehearsal for your school’s fall show? Preparation is key in theatre and it can start with a good routine of items in your rehearsal bag! Here are 7 must-haves that our staff has recommended for your rehearsal bag!

#1 – Your script! Even if you’re off-book, always have your script handy!

#2 – Bottle of water Stay hydrated in rehearsal, friends!

#3 – Healthy snacks will keep you energized and ready for the next line or cue! Make it a habit to pack healthy snacks (like carrots instead of gummy worms) and you’ll focused in the rehearsal room, and even inspire your cast mates too!

#4 – Sweatshirt Just like in the theatre, the rehearsal room can always get mysteriously chilly. Bringing a sweatshirt will keep you warm and alert!


#5 – Closed-toed shoes Shoes that are comfortable to move in and are closed-toes will keep you safe and staying professional.

#6 – Homework/Reading Material. When chance of some downtime during rehearsal, it’s helpful to bring out your flash cards to get some extra study time or get some chapter ins of your favorite book!

Last but not least, don’t forget to bring a
#7 – Pencil (or 2!) Taking notes at rehearsal is important, and pencils do the trick far more than pens. There will always be something to erase!

There you have it, your 7 must-haves in your rehearsal bag! Break legs friends! CCP_7036-2489690762-O

Interested in auditioning for Encore’s next show? Click here to learn more!

Photos by Clarence Chan

Arts Management Intern, Signing Off.


Hello again, Front Row Readers! And goodbye, at least, for now.

Today is my last day as the Arts Management Intern for Encore so, I would like to share a little bit about what this summer has been like for me and what I’ve learned. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this blog post.

My first day on the job is now a blur. I started in the box office for the second weekend of Alice in Wonderland. I remember being confused by the ticketing system, amazed at the how the staff calmly got everyone through the doors to see the show, and how nice everyone was to the new intern who also happened to be on crutches. The rest of the weekend, I learned. I learned how to sell tickets, how the front of house crew sets everything up, and about how the Encore mission shines through the actions of its members.

Once I got into the office, I got to talk to Aileen, the fabulous Marketing Manager, about what I was going to do for the rest of the summer. Some of the things on the list were: put up all the past seasons on the website, create an alumni database, start the Encore Tumblr, and write; write press releases, blog posts, show blurbs. There was lots of writing. It felt like I would have to be in the office 24/7 just to attempt to get it all done. And getting stuff on the website? I had never looked at a line of code in my life.

Well, I didn’t have to live in the office. With Aileen’s help and guidance I learned some basic HTML and got going on the past seasons (which can all be found here ). Creating the database was easy once I got the seasons done. The Tumblr was just fun. I got to write content, find things and reblog things that are funny or cute or both (you can check out the Tumblr here ). The writing? I love writing. That was just fun for me.

By the time the first weekend of Shrek rolled around, I knew what I was doing in the box office and could answer almost every question that was posed to me at the information table. Plus, I wasn’t on crutches which just makes the whole weekend a lot easier. 11202564_10153054618632532_5485358159370895704_n

That’s me! In the box office! Knowing what I’m doing!

But, there was so much more to this summer. I am now a published photographer. I have tried to use Photoshop, although it is still a little intimidating. I can handle a box office rush and help out the front of house crew when things are a little nutty. I have even made some changes to the website that help make it easier to use on the go. However, the most important thing that happened this summer is that I have fallen in love with Arts Administration.

Apparently, when you love what you do then you never work a day in your life. I have loved coming to work everyday this summer and doing what I can to help here at Encore. I loved watching the summer camp performances. I loved creating a whole new way to engage with Encore participants, parents, and theatre goers. I loved working with the fantastic staff here. Needless to say, there has been a lot of love in all I have gotten to do for Encore.

So as much as this post is about sharing what I’ve learned, it’s also a huge thank you. Thank you Encore. Thank you Aileen and everyone else. But, also, thank you to you Encore members and patrons!

If you are curious about some of those photos I took, you can check them out here:

Susan Keady Talks 25 Years of Encore


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.


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.
Merry Wives of Windsor 618

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.

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.

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.

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.
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

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


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!”)


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.)

Top 10 Ways to Survive Tech Week


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 be cautious of how you move your body!

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.


3. Be nice. You should always try to get along with everyone in the production. 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 school students or 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!


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 in 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.


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!


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


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


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.
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 for additional questions and information.

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