Faulkner Academy of Arts announces artistic director of Conway theater

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published August 24, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Dean Cato is the new artistic director of the Conway Dinner Theater, which is sponsored by the Faulkner Academy of Arts.

CONWAY — Texas singer/actor Michael Dean “Doc” Cato, who has performed on stage in cities from New York City to Las Vegas, will now utilize his experience in musical theater at the Conway Dinner Theater.

He is the new artistic director of the Conway Dinner Theater, which is sponsored by the Faulkner Academy of Arts. He will also teach classes in voice and junior repertory theater at the academy.

Cato graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater and has 25 years’ experience as a performer. For several years, he was the lead singer for the Glen Dorsey Orchestra in the Dallas area.

Cato will teach a workshop, The Art of Audition, from 4-7:30 p.m. Thursday and again Sept. 4, at the Faulkner Academy of Arts, 2201 Washington Ave. The workshop is designed for young people 10 to 18.

“The workshop is absolutely free,” Cato said, adding that the workshop is designed to prepare young actors and singers for auditions. To enroll, or for more information, call (501) 339-7401 or email faulknerarts@yahoo.com.

Following the workshop, auditions will be held for the junior repertory theater, with its classes beginning in September and culminating with a full-fledged production in November.

“We will teach every aspect of production,” Cato said. “We will teach everything from auditioning to acting methods, stage combat, and set construction and design. It will be hands-on training in all aspects of putting on a production.”

Cato said the Faulkner Academy of Arts has a lot of voice and piano students, “but not everyone is a singer or piano player. We hope to attract those who would love to get on stage.

“Hopefully, this will be an ongoing class with the goal of getting one production, maybe even two productions, on stage per semester,” he said.

Joan Hanna, director of the Faulkner Academy of Arts, said she is “excited to have Dean on board to really take the dinner theater to a whole new level.

“We are already increasing the number of weekends that shows are available,” Hanna said. “Dean has already expressed the desire to increase the number of shows and to plan a season at one time. That translates to season tickets and more savings for our patrons.

“On the teaching end, Dean’s experience on a professional level in the Dallas area brings much-needed knowledge and practical skills to the studio. He’ll be teaching voice and junior repertory theater.

“I am so looking forward to seeing junior rep grow. I have been searching for five years for a person with a theater/music background who sees the necessity of teaching stage skills that culminate in a stage production. I guess that’s the musician in me.

“What good is taking lessons and not performing, or performing and not taking the time to really develop the skills you need?”

Originally from Snyder, Texas, Cato has been in Conway for approximately two years. He is a graduate of Renewal Ranch, a faith-based rehabilitation program for men with addictions. He is the praise and worship leader at the Perry County facility.

“I fell in love with the community,” Cato said. “The people here are so family oriented. They are good people.”

Cato said he always wanted to have a career in music.

“I come from a family of singers,” he said. “I was singing before I could talk.”

His mother has a band in Texas, and his sister is an opera singer and teaches voice in Houston, Texas.

“I come by it naturally,” he said with a smile.

Cato said most people call him “Doc.”

“That’s a nickname I got when I was in college,” he said. “One of my professors asked me what my name was, and I said, ‘Michael Dean.’ He asked what I went by and I said, ‘Either one.’ He said, ‘Michael Dean … M.D. … Doc,’ and it stuck.”

Cato has two adult sons, Joseph, 23, who is a musician in Fort Worth, Texas, and

Clayton, 21, who is stationed with the Marines at Twentynine Palms, California.

“Ideally, I want to help Conway Dinner Theater have an ongoing program for kids by developing the junior repertory theater and by establishing a regular full season of six productions a year at the theater,” Cato said. “We will take it a little bit by little bit.”

Cato said he believes Conway is “just the right size for a dinner theater. We just need to get enough folks to realize we are here.

“Where else can you go for dinner and a show for $27.50? What a fun evening that would be.”

Cato will also be involved in marketing and fundraising, going into the community to find corporate sponsorships.

Cato said the Conway Dinner Theater is seeking a corporate producer (sponsor) and benefactors for the theater’s next production, Wait Until Dark, a play by Frederick Knott that was first performed on Broadway in 1966. The play was later adapted as a film starring Audrey Hepburn.

Local auditions for Wait Until Dark will be held Saturday; call (501) 339-7401 for an appointment. The cast includes six men, one woman and one girl, who should look about 12.

Conway Dinner Theater will present Wait Until Dark on Oct. 17, 18, 24, 25, 31 and Nov. 1. Tickets will be available soon at www.faulkneracademyofarts.org.

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