Rivka Kuperman is the Stage Manager for the Arkansas Children’s Theatre at the Arkansas Arts Center. While growing up in Little Rock, Kuperman gained a strong work ethic as a young child thanks to her mother, a bankruptcy attorney, and her father, a gynecologist. Helping out with administration duties like taking phone calls, setting appointments, filing and even cleaning exam rooms in her spare time, Kuperman completed her high school education at Mount Saint Mary's. Afterwards, she attended the University of Central Arkansas where she majored in Theatre and minored in Interdisciplinary studies.
At age 10, her father encouraged her to audition for the Summer Theatre Academy at the Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre. To her surprise, she was selected.
"I hated it my first day," Kuperman said. "Back then, the first day of the Academy was spent auditioning for your student placement in classes and it meant a lot of sitting around." Discouraged after her first day at the Summer Theatre Academy, she wanted to quit but her father convinced her to try it one more day.
"I'm glad he did, because that's the day I got hooked," Kuperman said. Since those early days of her youth, she became involved in shows at the Children's Theatre and the Weekend Theatre on a regular basis, which led to her continued involvement in the local theatre community.
During her four years at UCA, she worked in the UCA Costume Shop and in 2007 was a stitcher for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. She gained more experience when she was employed by the Conway Sewing Center that unfortunately went bankrupt during that time.
"I has no idea it was coming," Kuperman said. "The owner said they were bankrupt and just sent me home."
Kuperman went on to graduate from UCA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre. She began her master's degree at the popular New York University Tish School of the Arts, but her life took a sudden change. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and Kuperman took a leave of absence from school to take care of her mother during the last four months of her life.
"After she passed, my perspective changed and I never went back to New York," Kuperman said.
She decided to pursue her dream closer to home. Kuperman attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and worked in the the dean's office as a Special Events Coordinator planning fundraising and other social events for the college on a part-time basis. She eventually gained her Master of Art in Higher Education Administration. During that time, one of her mentors was Dr. Deborah J. Baldwin, Dean of the UALR College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
"Dean Baldwin is an amazing boss and leader," Kuperman said. "I admired her so much and learned a lot about leadership and myself from her."
Kuperman was promoted to a full-time position and assumed more duties that included working with students on campus. Her promotion inspired her to get more education in student administration.
"But I always knew I wanted to work in theatre," she said.
Theatre was Kuperman's passion and she wanted to make it her career, so when the production stage manager position opened at the Arkansas Arts Center, she applied. Her theatre degree, combined with her administration and student engagement education, made Kuperman a perfect fit for the position. She was hired and changed careers.
When Kuperman became the Production Stage Manger at the Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre, she started receiving notes of appreciation from her students saying how much they had enjoyed their experiences and couldn't wait to continue their theatrics.
"Receiving thank you letters and notes from students always makes me feel like I am doing something right," Kuperman said.
Although the process of putting on a performance is lengthy, she enjoys teaching young thespians their art. Some of Kuperman's upcoming performances include Giggle Giggle Quack, Goosebumps the Musical, Phantom of the Auditorium, Mother Goose Christmas, Junie B. Jones is not a Crook and Stone Soup.
"I am also looking forward to the theatre renovations in about two years," she said.
Kuperman's hobbies include sewing, cooking, traveling, and hanging with her cat Senorita. She is also a member of the local improv group ImprovLittleRock and performs every Wednesday at The Joint, located at 301 Main Street. Kuperman and her performance group celebrated its fifth anniversary this year.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[0:00:03.3] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:18.0] KM: Our guest technician is the famous Mr. John Cain. He’s KABF’s program director. I interviewed him on this show not too long ago. He’s a founder of a philanthropic John Cain Foundation where does philanthropic work, of course. Recently, he was featured in the High Profile section of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
It is an honor to have you, John, on our radio show with me today.
[0:00:41.3] JC: Thank you.
[0:00:41.3] KM: You’re welcome. Like John said, I’m Kerry McCoy, and it’s time for me to get up in your business. For the next hour, my guest, Rivka Kuperman — I’m going to find out about that name. It’s Hebrew for Rebecca, and you must be Jewish.
[0:00:53.7] RK: Yeah.
[0:00:54.2] KM: There you go. Rivka Kuperman, the Production Stage Manager at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I will be getting up in the business of acting education, children, and following your heart. We hope, through our storytelling of how we maneuvered the path of independence and leadership in pursuit of our dreams that you will learn something, want to get involved, or be inspired to take action in your own life. We’ll be answering questions via phone and email.
For me, it began over 40 years ago when I founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the past four decades, Arkansas Flag and Banner has grown and morphed from door-to-door sales, to telemarketing, to mail order and catalog sales, and now, relies heavily on the internet. Each change in sales strategy required a change in company thinking and procedures. My confidence, leadership knowledge, and my company grew. My initial $400 investment now produces nearly four million in sales.
Each week on the show, you’ll hear candid conversations between me and my guests about real-world experiences on a variety of businesses and topics that I hope you’ll find interesting. Starting and running a business or organization is like so many things. It takes persistence, perseverance, and patience. I worked part-time jobs for nine years before Arkansas Flag and Banner grew enough to support just me. It’s now grown much that to operate efficiently, we require 10 departments and 25 people to maintain them. Thus, reminding us all again that small businesses are the fuel for our economic engine.
Before we start, I want to remind everyone of my guest technician, Mr. John Cain, who’ll be running the board and taking your calls. Say hello again, John.
[0:02:39.6] JC: Hello, John.
[0:02:41.8] KM: He’s done a good job of being Tim. My guest today is Rivka Kuperman. I just love that name.
[0:02:48.0] RK: Thank you.
[0:02:48.7] KM: You’re welcome. Production Stage Manager at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre in Arkansas. Rivka is a graduate from Mount Saint Mary’s and UCA with the major in theatre and a minor in interdisciplinary studies. After college, Rivka went on to receive her master’s degree from the popular New York University, teach school of arts.
[0:03:07.6] RK: Let me stop —
[0:03:09.4] KM: But this high-education stamp was cut short.
[0:03:12.3] RK: Glad to say.
[0:03:14.0] KM: When her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Rivka made the selfless decision to move home. After her mother’s passing, Rivka Kuperman resumed her education and received a Master of Art in Higher Education Administration from the College of Arts at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
If that’s not enough, she sought yet another degree in student administration. In 2010— Is that right 2010? Rivka landed her dream job as the production —
[0:03:42.6] RK: I actually started in August of 2013.
[0:03:45.8] KM: I was going to ask you —
[0:03:47.2] RK: I’m starting my fifth season of the Children’s Theatre.
[0:03:51.1] KM: Great. In 2013, Rivka landed her dream job as the Productions Stage Manager at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre. Her theatre degree, education administration degree, and student engagement degree made Kuperman and the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre a perfect marriage.
It is a pleasure to welcome you to the table. The young, the wise, thespian and seamstress, Rivka Kuperman.
[0:04:19.1] RK: Thank you for having me on the show. I am honored to be invited.
[0:04:22.9] KM: You’re so nice.
[0:04:23.5] RK: This is great.
[0:04:24.5] KM: It is great, isn’t it?
[0:04:25.6] RK: I’m excited to be here.
[0:04:26.8] KM: I feel like the Arkansas Arts Center is so lucky to have you. Can you tell us about — You started a second ago. Tell us about landing that job at the Arkansas Arts Center.
[0:04:37.9] RK: Sure. I worked in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at UALR for four years; and that college doesn’t even exist anymore because the university restructured. I started out as a special events coordinator, which if you think about it, throwing a big party is a lot like throwing; putting on a play because you have to get all the people together, you have to have a timeline, you have to have communications between all different things in order for everything to come together at the right time and happen. Except this time, an event only happens once. You don’t have another try at it.
In a little bit of a way, it’s actually a bit more stressful because you only have one go at a party. We have a few different times to do a play. You can tweak things as you go. My theatre degree applied to that field, and when I worked there, I only started out as a part-time position. I worked for Dean Baldwin, and she is fabulous. She, I think, works in the library now at UALR. I think she’s the dean of the library. I’m not sure.
I left when she — She changed positions but she’s a fabulous leader. She reminded of a lot of Hillary Clinton really because she knows what’s up. She knows what’s going on. She can connect with all the people around her. We see her eat a peanut off the floor. She’s very relatable.
[0:06:06.8] KM: And assertive.
[0:06:07.6] RK: Yes, absolutely, and knows how to get some stuff done. She taught me something really important where it’s always better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for a permission.
[0:06:19.4] KM: Matthew, you’ve heard me say that a few times, haven’t you?
[0:06:22.4] RK: Just do things.
[0:06:24.6] KM: Push the envelope.
[0:06:25.5] RK: If it works, awesome. If it doesn’t, well.
[0:06:29.6] KM: Say you’re sorry.
[0:06:30.2] RK: Just move on.
[0:06:33.2] KM: You’re working for her part-time and you start working at the Arts Center part-time.
[0:06:36.5] RK: No. I worked for her part-time, and then I guess she liked me enough where she promoted me to a full-time position, and when I got promoted to full-time, that’s when I got to start working with the students and engaging and programing with some of the honor students doing leadership activities across the campus.
You know what? I had liked working with these young, energetic college students. They have all kinds of great ideas. That’s why I wanted to get more education about student affairs and programming. That’s when I started my master’s at UALR. I actually was working there the entire time while I was finishing my master’s degree. It took me a little longer.
[0:07:21.6] KM: How did you end up at the Arkansas Arts Center?
[0:07:24.2] RK: Sorry, this is the longer answer, I guess, to your question.
[0:07:27.2] KM: That’s fine. We’ve got a whole hour.
[0:07:29.2] RK: Since I have a theatre degree from UCA, I keep in touch with all of my theatre pals from UCA. We’re one big family and we all still talk to each other. A friend of mine said, “Hey, we are looking for people down at the Arts Center. I know we need a production stage manager.” I said, “Well —” I put the my name in the hat and Bradley called me in, I think, that same week for an interview and then told me right there, “You got the job.”
[0:07:58.0] KM: Yeah, it was that simple?
[0:07:58.9] RK: Yeah. Then I started two weeks later at the Art Center.
[0:08:04.2] KM: You sound like a perfect fit. I would have thought that you had always wanted that job and that that would been like a job that you’ve been working your whole life towards.
[0:08:11.4] RK: For the while I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do.
[0:08:16.9] KM: It’s just typical of most of us, I think.
[0:08:18.5] RK: Exactly. I kind of went where my opportunities led me and I said yes a lot, which is an improv rule, which is another bit part of my life. I just said yes and let’s just see what happens, right?
[0:08:37.8] KM: Yes.
[0:08:38.1] RK: I put my name in and he said I got it and I started two weeks later.
[0:08:45.0] KM: I think that that is a wonderful suggestion to everybody who’s listening. There are so many books written about saying yes. I saw a lady talking on Oprah one time on SuperSoul Sunday, because I watch that all the time, and she had written a book called Saying Yes.
I Googled it up, I was going to read her book and I Googled it up. There are so many books written about the power of yes that it was really hard for me to dig down and find out which book was hers. It is a life-changing — That philosophy is a life-changing strategy.
[0:09:26.4] RK: It’s the only way to really collaborate. If you want to be able to use other people’s ideas and work together, it’s always better to say yes and let’s see what happens.
[0:09:34.9] KM: There are lot of people that say no and then a little bit later on turn around and go, “Okay. I’ll do that,” but their first answer is, “No. No. No. No.” Then after a little while you talk them into it or they think about it and then they come back and say yes.
[0:09:47.8] RK: It’s a philosophy you have to grow into. It’s hard sometimes to say yes to things.
[0:09:52.3] KM: I think that’s true. I think when you’re young, you’re kind of taught to say no a little bit maybe and to be cautious maybe, but maybe not. I don’t know. I think it’s personality types maybe. I don’t know. I should have said no to a few more things when I was young probably.
All right. I think this is a good time to take a break.
You’re listening to Up In Your Business, with me, Kerry McCoy. My guest today is Rivka Kuperman, production stage manager of the Arkansas Art Center Children Theater in Little Rock, Arkansas, and that was from Courseline, and I wish y’all could have seen Rivka because she knew every word to this and told us a little Rivka trivia. Go ahead and tell our listeners.
[0:10:39.8] RK: I was saying that one of my dance teachers growing up, Dennis Glascock, he was in this show and taught our class all the choreography to this number.
[0:10:49.3] KM: On broad way. He was in the show on broad way.
[0:10:50.4] RK: Yes, and he taught us all the choreography to this number.
[0:10:54.8] KM: You’re going to step, step, kick, kick.
[0:10:56.4] RK: Absolutely. Let me tell you, it’s hard. It’s really hard, especially when you’re 13 years old.
[0:11:00.4] KM: It doesn’t look hard.
[0:11:01.7] RK: Well, because they’re professionals and make it look easy.
[0:11:05.0] KM: Oh! That makes total sense. Rivka, I can tell by your bio that you have a great work ethic.
[0:11:12.0] RK: Thank you.
[0:11:13.5] KM: All your life. You could give credit. Your mother was a bankruptcy attorney. Your father was a gynecologist, and then you’ve already mentioned Dr. Deborah Baldwin, who was the dean of your UALR College of the Arts when you went there. Those seem like three people that you mentioned that you found important to your life. Can you talk to me maybe about what each one of them did to make you the way you are today?
[0:11:36.2] RK: Sure. In the summer time we couldn’t just sit around the — We did kind of sit around the house some, but if we wanted to go and work we could just go with dad or mom to the office and we have to work. For my dad, he always got there real early in the morning at 8:00, but if you got up early to go with dad he would stop and get us breakfast. That was a perk if you got up early. If you didn’t get up early you have to go with mom with later and you got nothing until lunch. Kid perks.
For my dad, as a child — I remember being in kindergarten and answering the phones, filing, I would wash windows. I would organize the magazines in the waiting room. A lot of times I would talk to the patients because these ladies love to talk to children. I would bring them coffee and just things like that that a kid can handle.
The older I got the more things that I could do, and sometimes I even got to be an assistant in the exam room with my dad just to be a female in the room, because he never examined a patient without a female in the room. If his nurse or someone was unavailable, I put on my scrubs and I just went on in there with my dad.
[0:12:58.8] KM: That is really brave.
[0:12:59.9] RK: By that time I was in college.
[0:13:02.1] KM: I was going to say, that my scare me.
[0:13:03.3] RK: Yeah, I skipped a lot of time right there. For my mom, again, I answered phones, talked to clients and just filing and things like that. I would file her papers at the bankruptcy court.
[0:13:14.5] KM: Did they pay you?
[0:13:16.4] RK: Yes.
[0:13:17.2] KM: — and no.
[0:13:18.7] RK: Yeah. I’m different in my timesheet at the end of every week to my dad at his desk and he would calculate all the time and say, “This is how much you earned, and then he would write my check and he’d take me to the bank and he will say, “Half of it always has to go into savings.” Here’s my $20 check that half of it goes into savings.
[0:13:41.1] KM: What great training.
[0:13:43.3] RK: Yeah.
[0:13:43.6] KM: I never did anything like that with my children. I never really even thought about it. That’s a great tip for people listening. If you can take your children to work.
[0:13:53.5] RK: My parents were like — They were their own business and they shared an office building, [inaudible 0:13:59.9] enough. My dad was on one side and my mom was on the other. If dad didn’t have anything, you just run over to the side and see if mom needed some help.
[0:14:06.9] KM: Do you have any brothers and sisters?
[0:14:08.5] RK: I have five brothers and sisters. I’m the baby of six.
[0:14:12.6] KM: They all live in Little Rock?
[0:14:14.0] RK: No. My oldest brother, David, lives in St. Louis. The brother after that, Aaron, lives in Memphis. The brothers after that, Michael, he’s here in Little Rock, and then brother Steven is in Tulsa. My sister Rachel is in Memphis, and then I am here.
[0:14:30.8] KM: Were there any assumptions made about you as a child that they think, “Oh! She’s going to grow up to be in theater.”
[0:14:34.9] RK: You know, I’m not sure, but my dad said he wanted me to be a judge. He said I had a good head on me and a good assessment of situations and people. I guess he wanted me to be become like Judge Judy.
[0:14:53.4] KM: That’s very theatrical.
[0:14:54.2] RK: Yeah. That obviously didn’t happen, and my mom wanted me to go to law school. I took the LSAT just to please her.
[0:15:06.0] KM: What’s the LSAT?
[0:15:07.1] RK: The test you have to take in order to be admitted into law school. If the scale was backwards, I did amazing. Let’s just put it like that. Even if I wanted to go, I couldn’t. I didn’t have the scores at all.
[0:15:24.1] KM: Your heart wasn’t in it.
[0:15:25.4] RK: No. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be in the arts.
[0:15:29.4] KM: Tell our listeners how you started in the arts and that if hadn’t been for your father you probably wouldn’t have stayed.
[0:15:33.8] RK: It’s true. My dad, actually, he’s got a theater background himself. He’s from Chicago and he was part of the Yiddish Theater scene in Chicago as a youth. He always loved to be part of theater and things. He encouraged my sister and I to audition for summer theater academy.
[0:15:56.3] KM: At the Art Center.
[0:15:56.5] RK: Yes. At the Art Center, and at the time in the early 90s it was a six-week summer program, all day, and they admitted 40 to 60 students. I don’t remember, but you had to be there the entire six weeks. It was a big commitment. I auditioned and after I did I was like, “Oh! Gosh! Six weeks. Aah! That’s my whole summer. I can’t. Aah!” Then I got a call that both my sister and I were admitted, and so we went.
[0:16:26.8] KM: How old were you?
[0:16:27.7] RK: I was 10, so my sister 12. We went there together and my first day, I hated it. Hated it. We had to just — At the time, that’s when they did all their class placement, but as a 10-year-old, you don’t know that. The day was spent auditioning. If anyone out there listening has ever been to audition, there’s a lot of sitting and waiting.
I just sat around. I sat all the day at the theater and did nothing. It’s like, “Daddy, this is a waste. They didn’t do anything with me.” I hated it. I don’t want to go back. It’s the worst. My sister agree with me, because that’s what she does. He said, “Well, you know, just go back tomorrow. Give it another try, and if you still don’t like then we’ll go from there.”
Reluctantly, I get up and I go, and that’s when my classes actually started. It was great. It was magic. It was a complete 180 and I loved it, everything that I did. I felt for the first time that I belonged somewhere, that I was in a community where I wasn’t alone, because I always had a hard time finding my place in school.
[0:17:50.2] KM: I think a lot of theater kids feel that way.
[0:17:52.1] RK: Yeah. Then when I finally figured out, or discovered I should say, “Oh! This is where I’m supposed to be.” It was life changing.
[0:18:00.3] KM: That’s really odd that so many kids that can’t find where they belong you would think would be — To me, I would be intimidated to go into theater, but it seems like these kind of reserved kids end up going into theater, which is backwards from what you would think.
[0:18:16.5] RK: I think because their parents see that they need to find a place and they’d probably encourage them to audition, which is right. That same thing still holds true today, because now I guess I’m fast-forwarding a little bit. I administer summer theater academy. I started my career as a student there, and now I run the program, which is a whole 360, which is kind of exciting cycle of life.
The students there I find feel the same way, that this is the place where they feel like they’re home where they can be themselves and where they can find people with same interest and people that get them in the safe space that we have there, they feel like they can develop and grow and learn, and it’s —
[0:19:04.2] KM: I know it’s such a safe place. That’s the thing I think about theater, is you’re really able to be yourself and everybody is so accepting.
[0:19:12.4] RK: Absolutely. That’s how I started. Since then, when I got hooked, I started auditioning for the plays at the Children’s Theater and I did plays at the Children’s Theater when I was a kid. I was in a few and I also was on technical crew for some, which I always loved to be on technical crew because I didn’t have to memorize anything, but I still got to be part of the community. It was a great fit for me.
[0:19:35.4] KM: We had a girl on here last week, or lady. Kathryn Tucker was on here last week. She is the executive director for the Arkansas Cinema Society that is just starting and she began — She’s an award-winning cinematographer photographer, producer, and she started out, like you just said, at these jobs behind the scene at the Arkansas Art Center.
[0:19:59.8] RK: That’s awesome. That’s fantastic. I remember my most exciting thing that I did there as a kid was when I got to be the head of the run crew for The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which meant I got to wear he headset and run the turntable. Whoa! Big deal.
[0:20:17.9] KM: It’s not all about acting.
[0:20:19.0] RK: No, not at all. In fact, we have students that run our shows all the time. We have students on stage and backstage. We have students run the turntable on a fly system. I’ve even had a student on our soundboard before.
[0:20:31.7] KM: How many students are usually in a play.
[0:20:33.9] RK: It’s just depends on what show it is and the needs of the show.
[0:20:38.9] KM: Right. Sometimes there is more backstage than there are almost —
[0:20:42.3] RK: It can be. If it’s a highly technical show with lots of special effects or quick changes or something like that, we definitely need the support backstage. It is so important to have all those students back there because it is — You can’t have a show without everybody, and it’s not just about being on the stage. It’s about the whole community and working together and putting on a performance. Being backstage is just as important.
[0:21:06.7] KM: When you got your job, I read where you said receiving thank you letters and notes from students always made me feel like I’m doing something right.
[0:21:13.3] RK: That’s right.
[0:21:13.8] KM: What else do you get out of it?
[0:21:16.4] RK: It’s creating a relationship with these students and the sense of trust that they have in me and the other company actors and directors trust in us in their education and in the process.
[0:21:30.8] KM: Tell me about a day at the Arkansas Children’s theater. Tell me about a day for Rivka at the Children’s Theater.
[0:21:37.8] RK: Every day is different. It just depends on what’s going on at the time. Let’s say next week, we’re going to start our rehearsals for our very first show this season, Giggle, Giggle, Quack. Next week I’ll be coming in and I’ll prep for rehearsal. We’ll have rehearsal during the day and then in the afternoon I’ll do my reports and have meetings, production meetings and thing like that with the show. When we get into the run of the show, I go there and we do the play and then the actors will be in another rehearsal for the next play coming up that afternoon.
[0:22:16.7] KM: Is it different kids every time, children every time? Do you have auditions for each play? It’s a different audition?
[0:22:24.2] RK: What it is is we have a group of company of adult company actors that are in all of our shows throughout the season. Then each play we’ll have different students as needed from whatever the director wants or what’s required by the script. Sometimes our shows don’t have students and sometimes they do. Really, every play is different.
[0:22:44.7] KM: The Children’s Theater that’s going to run this fall doesn’t always have children in it?
[0:22:48.7] RK: It doesn’t always have children in the play.
[0:22:50.0] KM: They’re just plays that are for children.
[0:22:51.8] RK: That’s right. That’s right. For children and some are by children too, like in this next show, Giggle, Giggle, Quack, it’s going to be an all adult cast, but the next show, Goosebumps, the script calls for students.
[0:23:09.2] KM: Three boys, isn’t it?
[0:23:10.3] RK: That one is not my show, because there’s another stage manager that I split all the work with because it’s too much for one person. That show is calling for students. Then the next show after that, Mother Goose, that can go either way for adults, for students or for both. It’s just whatever the director, how he wants to pursue it.
[0:23:28.5] KM: Is it so demanding that the children can’t go to school during this time?
[0:23:31.8] RK: Yeah. When a student is in our productions, they have to miss school, because we have school day shows, Tuesday through Fridays at 10 a.m. and noon we have school day productions. Other schools bus in their students and take field trips so the children’s see the play. If we have a student in the show, they have to miss school. It’s a huge commitment for a student because they not only have to keep up with their school work, keep up with all rehearsals and stuff for the play.
[0:23:58.0] KM: But the rehearsals are at night.
[0:24:00.5] RK: Yes, rehearsals are at night.
[0:24:01.0] KM: They only miss school during the actual performance.
[0:24:03.1] RK: That’s correct.
[0:24:03.7] KM: Okay. That is a big commitment.
[0:24:06.6] RK: It’s a big commitment for a student.
[0:24:07.3] KM: The way that parents are juggling everybody around all the time.
[0:24:10.2] RK: Absolutely. Yeah.
[0:24:12.3] KM: You’ve been involved in local theater and community all of your life. Where all?
[0:24:15.6] RK: Yeah. Oh my gosh! Okay. The Children’s Theater, the Weekend Theater.
[0:24:26.1] KM: You do an improv?
[0:24:26.5] RK: I do. Yeah. Excuse me. Sorry. I’m part of a local improv troop, ImprovLittleRock, and we perform every week, every Wednesday at 8:00 at The Joint in North Little Rock.
[0:24:45.9] KM: Does it have a website?
[0:24:47.8] RK: I think it’s The Joint North Little Rock.
[0:24:50.0] KM: Does Improv at Little Rock have a website that tells about your performances?
[0:24:53.0] RK: Actually, you follow us on Facebook. You find us, the Joint Venture on Facebook, and that’s where we put up information about all of our shows and stuff. We’ve been performing at The Joint for five years, but ImprovLittleRock is actually a lot older than that. It started off, I think, 10 plus years ago. I joint the troop in 2009.
[0:25:14.3] KM: What it is about Improv that actors love so much?
[0:25:17.7] RK: I think it’s because they don’t — What I like about it is that there’s not a lot of — I don’t have to memorize anything. Everything is off the cuff. Everything is very natural.
[0:25:29.6] KM: That seems scary.
[0:25:31.3] RK: We have a good group of people around it that you trust and that won’t let you fail. It’s actually freeing.
[0:25:39.2] KM: It’s team building again.
[0:25:40.2] RK: Absolutely.
[0:25:41.2] KM: The process of putting together a performance is very, very lengthy. How long does it take you to put one up?
[0:25:47.9] RK: The whole process from start to finish is actually about a year, because the artistic director has meets with other directors and other consultants about what shows should we do next year.
[0:26:02.2] KM: Okay. You’re planning right now for next year.
[0:26:03.6] RK: For next year we’ll start in January, or maybe even early. Actually, he’ll probably start it in November, already thinking about next year. The artistic director chooses which plays we’re going to do and then we start meeting about the first show of the season in April. Before the previous season has even ended, we start talking about next season, so where we have constant meetings, where the production team, the costume designer, the set designer, the director.
[0:26:36.4] KM: And you’re a seamstress.
[0:26:37.1] RK: Yeah, I am, but I do a little extra help in the costume shop when they need it, but my primary job is as a production stage manager. I can pick up a needle and thread if I need to.
[0:26:48.9] KM: That endeared me to you when I read that, because that’s a lost art form.
[0:26:52.9] RK: Yeah, it is.
[0:26:54.5] KM: When we saw at Arkansas Flag & Banner, there’s nothing more relaxing, I think, than sitting around in the sewing department and sowing.
[0:27:03.0] RK: If you don’t have a deadline, it’s great.
[0:27:04.9] KM: That’s right. Deadlines, and we always have a deadline. It’s always —
[0:27:10.5] RK: Yeah, my mom taught me how to sow, and I’ve been sowing —
[0:27:12.8] KM: So did mine.
[0:27:13.2] RK: Since I was in kindergarten. I guess I’m kind of sidetracking here, but she also encouraged us to do things that were a little different to push out of our comfort zone. When I — Let me see. I was in elementary school or junior high, I don’t know. My sister is listening. I’m sure that she would tell me. I don’t remember things very well, but she discovered Japanese embroidery and she decided that my sister and I needed to learn how to do it, how to embroider in the style of this dying art.
Over our spring break, for three years, she would take us to Oklahoma City and it would be a week-long class workshop where we would sit and learn this dying art of embroidery.
[0:28:02.6] KM: That an interesting mother.
[0:28:03.5] RK: Yeah. She did French-hand sewing. She was a fantastic stitcher seamstress.
[0:28:15.6] KM: A bankruptcy attorney/artist seamstress.
[0:28:18.8] RK: She was an artist herself. In fact she said that she actually wanted to be a costume designer, but she didn’t do it.
[0:28:26.7] KM: You came home to be with your mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
[0:28:31.7] RK: Mm-hmm. She was diagnosed three years pervious, but she took it a turn for the worse and that’s when I decided that I needed to come.
[0:28:38.2] KM: Do you feel good about that decision?
[0:28:39.8] RK: Absolutely. If I didn’t come home I would never forgive myself.
[0:28:45.7] KM: It changed the course of your life, but in a good way maybe.
[0:28:49.0] RK: You know, I shattered when she passed. I have to figure out how to put myself back together when you’re shattered into a thousand pieces. You’re not going to put yourself back together the same way, and it changes you. It changes your perspective. It changes what’s important to you. That was really the day where I can say, “This is when my life changed,” is when I lost my mom.
[0:29:21.9] KM: You went back to school after that. Is that how you decided to put it back together?
[0:29:25.5] RK: Actually, what helped put myself back together was the next years when I joined the local improv troop, and my friend, Kelsey Craig, she was part of the troop at the time and we did improv together in college at UCA. She reached down and she said, “Hey, we’re looking for some people. Why don’t you come down here and just play with us? Come to our rehearsal, see what you think.” I just said, “No. No. I am in no state. I can’t think. I don’t know who I am anymore. I can’t do it. No. No. No. No. No.” I just kept telling her no and she kept pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing until finally I gave in and I went to a rehearsal. It was great. That’s when I started putting myself back together. Finding my confidence again and learning to say yes and taking risks again. Of course, it happened overtime, but improv is my therapy and it’s where I feel the most free. It was that that really started being like, “Okay. This is where —” I started clarity again. This is the direction that I need to go. I need to start pursuing my arts more seriously.
[0:30:36.7] KM: You can use — Some people have never felt the emotion that you are speaking of.
[0:30:41.3] RK: I was 24 when she died. I was pretty young.
[0:30:45.2] KM: Very.
[0:30:45.1] RK: For someone.
[0:30:46.0] KM: Yes. You can use that emotion in your craft, I imagine.
[0:30:50.2] RK: Absolutely.
[0:30:51.9] KM: Now, you’re getting your confidence back. You decided to go back to school?
[0:30:57.6] RK: That’s when I got the job at UALR.
[0:31:00.2] KM: You got the job first and then you went back to school.
[0:31:02.6] RK: Right.
[0:31:03.2] KM: I had that backwards.
[0:31:03.9] RK: Because when I got the job at UALR, when I was thrown into full-time, I got tuition discount and then I was like, “Well, you know what? If I’m going to get the tuition discount, this is obviously a sign.”
[0:31:15.1] KM: Saying yes again.
[0:31:16.2] RK: Okay. Universe is telling me, “Here you are. Here is your tuition discount. Go finish your degree.” That’s how I kind of interpreted it. That’s what I did.
[0:31:25.8] KM: That’s when you met Deborah.
[0:31:27.3] RK: Yes.
[0:31:27.3] KM: Dr. Baldwin, I think, and she began to be a mentor.
[0:31:31.1] RK: Yeah, she’s fabulous.
[0:31:32.3] KM: Thanks for sharing that great story.
[0:31:34.5] RK: Thank you for letting me share my story.
[0:31:36.7] KM: You’re welcome. Let’s take a quick break. When we come back we’ll continue talking with Rivka about the opportunities for young people at the Art Center, the upcoming fall season performances and she’ll give us some tips on how to start your career and manage the stress of acting which I think she already has. It’s just say yes to everything.
We talked a little bit about the benefits of young minds, and while we were on the break we talked about risks, because life is not fair and it certainly hasn’t been fair to you and that it made you grow so much. Healthy risks versus unhealthy risks. There’s a book I read when my children were young about teenage years and that children want to take risk. It’s part of their DNA, is to take risks.
[0:32:23.5] RK: You got to test the waters. You got to see how far you could push the envelope.
[0:32:27.3] KM: I think theater, choir, sports are all the type of healthy risks that you can direct your children in that direction.
[0:32:36.1] RK: Any kind of team activity where you can have a partner in crime to test the waters with.
[0:32:44.2] KM: It’s important that these children feel safe in whatever they’ve decided to do. I think sports build team. That’s one of the benefits of sports is that it becomes a safe place and a team effort. Is there a specific time you think kids should at the — What is the age limitation at the Children’s Theater?
[0:33:06.2] RK: Summer Theater Academy for anyone out there that is listening and doesn’t know is our summer intensive program for students ages 10 to 18 and now the program — It is not six weeks in the summer anymore like when I was there, but we have two three-week sessions. You can come in the beginning of the summer for three weeks or you can come later in the summer for three weeks. It’s theater 9 to 5. Then we teach classes on movement, voice and diction, improv. All of our students have to go through the shop and take an intro to technical theater class. We teach different design classes, scenic design, costume design. There’s script analysis. There’s an audition class. We had storytelling this summer. All the students will take movement, voice and diction, improv, but the other time slots are kind of up to them what they would like to learn more about and expand on.
It is truly an academy and a student can start at 10 and can take classes all the way through when they’re 18. We have students that do range from 10 to 18 in the academy.
[0:34:21.4] KM: When I went to your play a few weeks ago when my granddaughter was in one of your plays and I went there and there were a couple of girls who had been there their whole life that were graduating. They were 18. They were going off to college and it was their last play at the Arkansas Art Center, Children’s Theater, and it was very sentimental.
[0:34:39.3] RK: what’s really wonderful about the academy is the last two days of every day, is devoted to project. What that is, under the direction of two of our directors, students device and create a piece of their own work. They have their voices heard, the topics that they want to explore and they’re guided by two directors.
Each group of students is different. Sometimes students have a big question that they try to search and answer for, which there probably isn’t even an answer for it, but this is the way that they’re going to explore and pursue it. We have some students that just want to have fun. Every group is different. Watching all the projects over the past three years, four years, it’s amazing the variety of things that we see out of these students.
[0:35:38.3] KM: What do you think they learn mostly out of it? Do you think it’s mostly team building? Do you think it’s confidence?
[0:35:43.9] RK: I think it’s a lot of things. It’s definitely confident boost team building like you said. Also, they learn how to collaborate with each other. They learn how to communicate with each other with students that are younger with them and with adults. They learn to take risks and try, push the boundaries of things.
[0:36:05.6] KM: That’s the part I love.
[0:36:06.0] RK: Ask questions that they may not feel like they can’t ask somewhere else.
[0:36:13.2] KM: Be themselves.
[0:36:13.9] RK: Yeah, and be themselves. Absolutely.
[0:36:16.2] KM: Really safe place to be yourself.
[0:36:17.7] RK: Yes, absolutely.
[0:36:19.7] KM: Is space limited?
[0:36:20.8] RK: Yes. We take up to 60 students per session.
[0:36:24.7] KM: Do they have to tryout?
[0:36:25.2] RK: Yeah. The students have to audition to come to the academy.
[0:36:28.6] KM: That’s a scary thing?
[0:36:30.3] RK: It’s scary, but I’ll tell you, we look for students that want to be here that are willing to learn and try. We can tell if a student does not want to be there.
[0:36:44.6] KM: And their mother made them do it?
[0:36:45.7] RK: Absolutely. We can tell.
[0:36:47.0] KM: Like your father made you?
[0:36:48.3] RK: Well, I was excited to audition, which is after the first day when I was like, “This is — Dad!”
[0:36:55.4] KM: How do you manage your stress?
[0:36:57.7] RK: How do I manage my stress?
[0:37:00.0] KM: Go to improv on Wednesday nights?
[0:37:00.8] RK: Yeah. I do improv. I pet my cat a lot. Her name is Senorita and she’s wonderful.
[0:37:07.9] KM: Do you have to work more than 40 hours a week?
[0:37:08.8] RK: Sometimes. Sometimes I do. The closer that we get to a show opening, the more hours we have to work because of more things that I have to get done.
[0:37:19.4] KM: Parents and children have so many commitments. How are you able to help parents with managing your children’s schedule? Is there any way that —
[0:37:26.5] RK: Well, I will say that our schedule is pretty demanding when a student is in a show. I think it’s more on parents and helping their students decide what is the student’s priority and if being in one of our places a priority, then the parent will accommodate for that.
[0:37:45.7] KM: It’s a pretty big commitment on parents parts.
[0:37:48.0] RK: Oh my gosh! It’s a huge family commitment for sure, because they have to transport their student to and from as well.
[0:37:53.4] KM: When you were a kid that you could do it for six weeks, and now it’s down to three weeks you said. I think one of the reasons that probably changed or the Art Center has changed is because children have so many things to do.
[0:38:09.7] RK: Yes.
[0:38:10.0] KM: What is up with that?
[0:38:11.4] RK: There’s just more options out there and I think it’s because there’s more ways to get the word out about all the things that there are to do.
[0:38:19.3] KM: There’s so much competition for your children and you feel like if they don’t do everything — My poor children just run rugged every weekend and every night and my daughter now has children and she’s like, “I’m not that doing that to my kids.” I don’t know if she’s smarter than me or not, because I felt like if I didn’t run him everywhere and do everything that they were deprived and not going to grow up to be — I don’t know. I don’t know. Be perfect.
[0:38:48.9] RK: Every parent is different.
[0:38:50.8] KM: She’s like, “Give them time to be kids and let them be kids,” and I’m not sure she’s not correct about that.
[0:38:56.4] RK: Yeah. You only get to be a kid once in your life. Take advantage of it while you can.
[0:39:01.3] KM: I love your improv group that you do on Wednesday, and what time is it at The Joint?
[0:39:06.2] RK: It’s at 8:00 every Wednesday at The Joint, which is located at 301 Maine Street in North Little Rock.
[0:39:11.7] KM: All right. We’re going to talk about the shows coming up.
[0:39:13.4] RK: All right.
[0:39:14.3] KM: You already told us a little bit about Giggle, Giggle, Quack, Quack. It’s all adults you said.
[0:39:19.3] RK: Yes. This one is all adults.
[0:39:20.9] KM: Then next I think is Goosebumps The Musical.
[0:39:23.6] RK: Goosebumps The Musical Phantom of the Auditorium.
[0:39:28.0] KM: What in the world does that mean Phantom of the Auditorium? I guess Phantom of the Auditorium.
[0:39:32.2] RK: Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be very nostalgic piece too.
[0:39:35.3] KM: Are we going to have people rundown the aisles?
[0:39:37.5] RK: I don’t know. We haven’t even started yet.
[0:39:39.2] KM: You should take my suggestion.
[0:39:40.4] RK: Okay. I will. I’ll send it to the director.
[0:39:42.6] KM: If it’s a Phantom of the Auditorium, they got to be running down the aisles and running on to the stage. All right, Mother Goose Christmas.
[0:39:50.1] RK: Mm-hmm. Mother Goose Christmas. I’ll be managing that show.
[0:39:53.4] KM: Junie b. Joines.
[0:39:54.3] RK: The next one though is going to be Snowy Day is our January show.
[0:39:59.8] KM: Oh, I missed that one.
[0:40:00.4] RK: Uh-oh.
[0:40:01.1] KM: Snowy Day.
[0:40:01.3] RK: Mm-hmm is our show in January. Then our spring break show is going to be Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook. Then we’re going to end our season with Stones Soup.
[0:40:11.0] KM: That’s how long time. It starts in September?
[0:40:13.6] RK: Mm-hmm.
[0:40:14.8] KM: And runs through what?
[0:40:15.1] RK: Through mother’s day.
[0:40:16.9] KM: When is that? Is that May?
[0:40:18.5] RK: I think it’s the second Sunday in May, I think.
[0:40:20.1] KM: In May.
[0:40:20.2] RK: Yeah. In May. Mm-hmm.
[0:40:21.2] KM: Well, you’re very busy, and then you start your summer theater academy.
[0:40:25.6] RK: To be fair, I start summer theater academy in January, because that’s when I have to start getting my instructors for the summer time. I start working on STA in January and then we have our first audition for students in March and then we have another in April and then another in May. We have three audition times.
[0:40:48.6] KM: Those people are temporary then.
[0:40:51.0] RK: It all depends.
[0:40:54.4] KM: On what? The moon?
[0:40:57.3] RK: Sometimes I feel like it. It depends on their availability, if some of our company actors are going to continue their contracts through the summer time. Sometimes people does come in to teach for the summer. Sometimes they just come and teach part of the summer.
[0:41:11.9] KM: Oh, because a lot of them could be already teachers at high schools.
[0:41:15.5] RK: Or they already have contracts somewhere else. They have a certain specialty skill that we want to make sure our students learn, so we bring this special person in, things like that.
[0:41:25.0] KM: Do you have a big pool? Do we have a big pool to pull from?
[0:41:29.0] RK: Absolutely. Yeah, there’s a wonderful number of talented local people that have really wonderful resumes.
[0:41:35.7] KM: It seems like Little Rock, Arkansas is getting more and more theater and cinema and artist —
[0:41:42.6] RK: It’s a great time to be here.
[0:41:44.4] KM: I feel like we’re the verging Austin, Texas.
[0:41:46.9] RK: I hope so.
[0:41:48.4] KM: Everybody in the room is nodding heads.
[0:41:49.9] RK: I just don’t want that traffic.
[0:41:52.1] KM: I agree completely. Listen, everybody in the room talking. We had Kathryn Tucker on last week and she was talking about that she’s bringing all these great talent on to Little Rock and that it’s going to be great for the economy. She wants to do all these events that will bring more and more people to Little Rock and create more and more jobs. I said, “I love creating more and more jobs, but I don’t really know if I want to bring a lot of people in Little Rock, because this is like a hidden secret.” She said, “I hear that all the time.
[0:42:25.5] RK: I love Little Rock, and I don’t ever plan on leaving. This is where is started my journey and this is where I want to continue my journey.
[0:42:34.7] KM: You could just fly out of the airport. That’s the only thing. You can’t get a direct flight from anywhere. When I tell people that come by Little Rock and they have to layover here. I said, “I’ll come out to the airport and see you.” They’re like, “You can’t do that. It’s too much trouble.” I said, “I’ll pull up to the front door and park and walk in.” They’re like, “What?”
[0:42:51.0] RK: Really. That’s the truth. Yeah.
[0:42:54.5] KM: I hear that we’re having theater renovations.
[0:42:58.3] RK: Absolutely.
[0:42:59.6] KM: When is that starting?
[0:43:00.5] RK: The Art Center. The entire Art Center is going to have a huge renovation and we’re going to have this upcoming season in the theater. We’ll have summer theater academy, then we’ll have the next season and then the renovations will start.
[0:43:15.3] KM: About a year and a half.
[0:43:16.9] RK: Yeah. Year and a half, two years. Yeah.
[0:43:18.8] KM: What are they going to do with all the people that are employed there?
[0:43:21.4] RK: That’s still in the cards. I don’t know. I don’t know. You know, they are talking about it and I know that the administrators of the Art Center are working with the architects and with different contractors and things. I know that they will take care of their employees. I just don’t know what the plans are.
[0:43:40.4] KM: Do you know how long it’s going to take?
[0:43:43.8] RK: My guess is two to four years — Two years? I don’t really know. I’m not in those meetings.
[0:43:50.6] KM: Are they going to do it at those locations that’s at now? They’re not going to move somewhere else.
[0:43:56.0] RK: I’m not sure. I’m not sure what the plans are.
[0:43:58.9] KM: Really? Do you think they could relocate?
[0:44:01.3] RK: No. No. No. No. No. No. They’re not going to completely relocate. No. But I do not know.
[0:44:06.9] KM: Thank you so much, Rivka Kuperman, for coming on.
[0:44:08.8] RK: Thank you so much for having me on the show. It’s just been wonderful and letting me share my story. This is great. I hope that anyone out there listening will please come down to the Art Center. We have classes for students ages — Right now, our youngest class is for two to five-year-olds and all the way up through 18.
[0:44:25.7] KM: Those would not be in acting.
[0:44:27.5] RK: We have acting classes for students, yeah, for ages two to five beginning acting classes.
[0:44:31.5] KM: We didn’t talk about classes. We just talked about summer children’s theater. I didn’t even think about the classes.
[0:44:36.0] RK: We have classes all year round Saturday mornings.
[0:44:36.7] KM: They need to go on the — Saturday mornings. They need to go to the Arkansas —
[0:44:40.3] RK: Www.arkansasartcenter.org, where you can find information about our classes, auditions, our season, how to get tickets, other events at the Art Center. All that stuff. Check out our website.
[0:44:52.7] KM: That’s a great tip. For your present for coming on —
[0:44:56.2] RK: Huh! Oh! They’re tiny little flags.
[0:45:01.7] KM: It’s right. It’s a desk set.
[0:45:03.6] RK: I’ll have to put my cat with the picture with these flags.
[0:45:09.1] KM: I think that will great a most pot.
[0:45:09.8] RK: She’ll be so cute.
[0:45:11.7] KM: That will make an American cat. I’m expecting to see those on stage on one day as a prop.
[0:45:16.0] RK: Okay.
[0:45:18.4] KM: They’d make a great prop for your who.
[0:45:19.7] RK: I think you’re right. We’ll find a way to use them.
[0:45:21.4] KM: My guest next week is the Little Rock, Arkansas police chief, Kenton Buckner. I have never met him, but I see him on T.V. and I am so impressed with this guy that I called his secretary and I asked if he would come and meet me and talk to me. I cannot wait to see what motivates him and hear his words of wisdom for crime and just where Little Rock is going and what he thinks about everything. I just can’t imagine — Talk about a hard job. I think he’s probably got the hardest job of anybody I’ve ever heard of. I know.
To my listeners, if you have a great entrepreneurial story you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. Send a brief bio or your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will be in touch.
Finally, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program has been about you, you’re right, but it’s also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring of enlightening and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence or your life.
I’m Kerry McCoy, and I’ll see you next time on Up In Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:46:28.2] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it? Jot this down. Next week a podcast will be available flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labeled “Radio Show”, there you’ll find today’s segments with links to resources you heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal: to help you live the American Dream.