Faulkner Academy of Arts begins 2013 season

Carol Rolf Originally Published February 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 15, 2013 at 11:17 a.m.
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Carol Rolf

Joan Hanna, left, director of the Faulkner Academy of Arts, and Kristen Sherman, a drama instructor at the academy, make plans for the upcoming young-performers production of The Wizard of Oz. Sherman will teach an eight-week musical-theater workshop beginning March 1. The show will be presented May 10-11 and May 17-18 at Antioch Baptist Church.

The Faulkner Academy of Arts is starting off its 2013 season with a bang.

Under the leadership of Joan Hanna, FAA has added new classes, instructors and programs, all of which come together in a new location. FAA sponsors the Conway Dinner Theater and the Conway Women’s Chorus and offers a variety of music — piano, voice, guitar, percussion and other instruments as requested — and drama classes.

The academy moved to 2201 Washington Ave. in June 2012.

“We are very excited about our new location,” Hanna said. “We have four small teaching studios and one large room where we hold mini-recitals and rehearsals for the Conway Dinner Theater and the Conway Women’s Chorus.

“Everyone loves not having to climb stairs (referring to the academy’s prior location on the second floor of a building on Parkway),” she said with a laugh.

Two years ago, the Faulkner Academy of Arts merged with the Conway School of Music, owned by Fred Williams.

“Their strength is guitar and percussion,” Hanna said of the Conway School of Music. “By coming together, we feel like we complement each other. We bring different strengths to the table.”

The two entities operate under the umbrella Academy of Performing Arts.

For the first time since its opening seven years ago, FAA will present a musical performed by the academy’s younger members.

“For the very first time, the Conway Dinner Theater will feature our very talented younger performers in a Youth Performers Edition of the classic The Wizard of Oz,” Hanna said. “But we would like to see new faces also. If you know any young person who yearns to be on the stage, this is his or her opportunity.”

In order to get the young people prepared for the upcoming musical, which will be presented May 10 and 11 and May 17 and 18 at Antioch Baptist Church in Conway, the Conway Dinner Theater will hold an eight-week musical theater workshop beginning March 1. Classes will meet from 4:30-7:30 p.m. through May 3. The workshop is open to students in kindergarten through the 12th grade. The registration fee is $45, and the deadline to register is Friday. Call (501) 339-7401 to reserve a spot for registration or for more information.

One of the academy’s newest instructors, Kristen Sherman, will teach the workshop and direct the musical. Sherman, a 1994 graduate of Conway High School, received an Associate of Applied Arts degree in acting performance from the KD Studio Actors Conservatory in Dallas. She spent five years in the Dallas area acting and videoing theatrical performances.

Sherman said she is “very excited” to be involved in the upcoming FAA production.

“We moved back to Conway in 2007,” she said. “I felt my days of theater were over. My oldest daughter, Kennedy, who will soon be 15, got involved in acting here at the academy as soon as we moved back. I was living vicariously through her.

“Then this past summer, the acting bug got me again. I auditioned for the Conway Dinner Theater’s presentation of Oklahoma! and got the part of Gertie. After that, Joan asked me if I would direct this play.”

Sherman said Kennedy will audition for a part in the musical, and her two other daughters, Farrah Sherman, 4, and Ansley Sherman, 5, want parts, too.

“This will be their first venture into theater,” she said with a smile.

“Their dad’s an actor, too,” Sherman said of her husband, Bryan Sherman.

Emerging this year is the ensemble Piano 4-te, which features piano duets. Members of the group also use drama and visual arts in their program. Piano 4-te is available for civic groups, community events and benefit performances. It is scheduled to perform later this month for the Faulkner County Retired Teachers Association.

Current members of Piano 4-te, who range in age from 11 to 16, are Amanda Hall, Amanda Norris and Maddie Fulmer, all of Greenbrier; and Chloe Sharp and Douglas Butler, both of Conway.

Rehearsals are under way for the Conway Women’s Chorus’ spring recital, Love in Bloom. The chorus is composed of approximately 20 women. In

addition to two public performances each year, the chorus started a four-year educational project in 2011 celebrating the music and stories of the Civil War. Dressed in costumes, the women present an a cappella program interspersed with biographies of real women of the period.

In addition to sponsoring the youth performers in The Wizard of Oz, the Conway Dinner Theater will present a summer musical, 9 to 5, in July. Auditions will be held by appointment on March 9. Those planning to audition should bring 16 bars of music and expect to do a cold reading.

Hanna said the mission of the Faulkner Academy of Arts is “focusing on the needs of students through the integration of the arts.”

In addition to Hanna, who teaches piano and directs the Conway Women’s Chorus, and Sherman, who teaches drama; other FAA instructors include the following: vocal — Shanna Cummings, who teaches music at the University of Arkansas at Morrilton, and Kendra Thomas, a junior at the University of Central Arkansas; piano — Bryan Cole, music

specialist at Julia Lee Moore Elementary School in Conway; guitar — Fred Williams, owner of the Conway School of Music, and Nathan Matthews, a UCA music graduate; and percussion — Kyle Littlejohn, a graduate assistant at UCA.

Hanna said the Faulkner Academy of Arts is participating in the Kroger Community Rewards Program. She said participation in the program allows parents and others to designate money for the students’ tuition.

“This is similar to donating to a scholarship program,” she said. “We hope to use any money from this to purchase a new piano. Of course, you have to a have a Kroger Plus card. Then call us for more information on how to donate through this program.”

Hannah said FAA currently serves 70 to 75 students.

“We are always looking for new faces in everything we do,” she said.

For more information on the Faulkner Academy of Arts and its programs, call (501) 339-7401.

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