Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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The rich vocals of Cynthia Scott highlight tonight’s “A Work of Art” concert for 2015 Jazz Week

2015 awoa ScottEl Dorado native Cynthia Scott brings her vocal prowess to Little Rock tonight (July 30) for the 2015 “A Work of Art” Jazz Week.  She will be performing her blend of swing, soul, and jazz at 7pm and 9pm at Club Sway.

For three decades, the vocal artistry of the multi-talented Arkansas-born vocalist Cynthia Scott has encompassed the swing of jazz, the soul of blues, R&B, and the sacred stirrings of gospel music. She is loved by audiences from New York to Africa, Europe and Asia; by musicians from Wynton Marsalis to Ray Charles – who discovered her – and by jazz critics like the Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich, who called her “a mesmerizing vocalist.”  A talented actress and playwright, she brings these skills to her singing as she uses each song to tell a story.

“A Work of Art” is the primary fundraiser for the Art Porter Music Education scholarship program. All proceeds from the week-long fundraiser benefit the scholarship fund. “A Work of Art” concludes in early August in observance of the birth month of Art Porter, Jr. Attendees enjoy a week of unique educational experiences by an impressive group of local artists, music students and national recording artists.

Ticket information is available at www.artporter.org.


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Nikola Tesla’s Birthday Party at tonight’s Museum of Discovery Science after Dark

ArkMod Dark TeslaNikola Tesla was born in July, and The Museum of Discovery wants you to have the party!  This month’s Science after Dark (tonight from 6pm to 9pm) celebrates his birthday and gives a once in a lifetime chance to experience the Guinness World Record musical bi-polar Tesla coil in the evening.

The tesla coil – named after its inventor Nikola Tesla, the developer of the alternating current system of electricity used today – is a device that creates high-voltage electricity at a high frequency visible to the eye.  The Museum of Discovery’s coil emits electrical discharges to a variety of songs and will share the record for the world’s largest bi-polar tesla coil with the coil at the Hands On Regional Museum in Johnson City, Tennessee.

The device, which can produce 200,000 volts of electricity, was built by Goodchild Engineering in Arizona and donated to the Museum of Discovery by Richard Mathias, founder and president of Tesla Coil Museum Exhibit Program, LLC, through a matching grant program from the General Electric Foundation.

“This world-record tesla coil will literally illuminate the work of this pivotal inventor and help the Museum of Discovery successfully fulfill its mission of igniting a passion for science, technology and math in our very interactive, hands-on environment,” said Kelley Bass, museum CEO. “We are grateful to Richard Mathias and the GE Foundation for making this opportunity possible for our museum and our visitors.”

The coil is housed in a new theater in the museum’s Discovery Hall.

Shows will be free but seating is limited so arrive early to get your ticket. Science After Dark admission is $5, free to museum members.  You must be 21 or older to attend Science after Dark.


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First Kaleidoscope Film Festival starts tonight with HENRY GAMBLE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY

FSLR Kaleidoscope 2015The Film Society of Little Rock is happy to announce the inaugural year of Kaleidoscope,​ Arkansas’s first LGBT film festival to be held July 30 through August 2, 2015 in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.

Kaleidoscope celebrates the diversity of the LGBT community and filmmakers by presenting poignant and thought­-provoking films documenting LGBT lives truthfully and with respect. Kaleidoscope focuses on the power of film to transform lives and opinions of those both inside and outside the LGBT community through the universal medium of the cinema.

The festival starts tonight at 7pm with Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party.

HENRY GAMBLE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY spans the 24 hours containing the birthday pool party of 17-year-old preacher’s kid Henry Gamble.

The night before the party, Henry and his friend Gabe, have a sleepover. Typical teenage boy chat quickly turns sexual, and it’s silently implied that Henry, on a search for identity, has a crush on Gabe.

As dawn arrives on the day of the party, Henry’s mom Kat wakes in a state of limbo, middle-aged, with a secret. A little while later, Pastor Bob is making breakfast, and they are joined by Henry’s 19-year-old sister Autumn, home from college for the party. Later that afternoon, guests begin to arrive – the assistant pastor, youth minister, husbands and wives; sons and daughters trapped between youth and adulthood, as well as Henry’s own teenaged church and “secular” friends, including the closeted young Logan, who has eyes for Henry.

As day turns to night and clothes come off, Henry & Co. carefully navigate the religious strictures and sexual secrets held within the community, all struggling to tread the public and private, and their longing, despite themselves and their faith, for earthly love.

Following the film (and a discussion moderated by Lindsey Millar of the Arkansas Times) at the Studio Theatre, there will be an opening night party next door at the Lobby Bar.

The Studio Theatre will serve as the home of Kaleidoscope screening 10 features and more than 30 short films dealing with subject matter reflecting the many issues surrounding the LGBT community. Kaleidoscope will also feature panels with filmmakers and several social events where the community can interact with filmmakers and other film fans.

Official sponsors of Kaleidoscope include The Arkansas Times, Out In Arkansas, Lost 40 Brewery, Local Lime, Big Orange and Heights Taco & Tamale.

The Film Society of Little Rock is a grassroots, non-­profit organization focused on the expansion of the creative community in Arkansas by providing year round opportunities to educate, entertain, and exhibit local, national, and international filmmakers and their works.


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HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX tonight at the CALS Potter Marathon

RRT HP 0730As Harry matures, some things don’t change; he is still pursued by He-who-must-not-be-named as the Central Arkansas Library System’s (CALS) Ron Robinson Theater’s (RRT) Harry Potter Movie Marathon with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Lord Voldemort has returned, but the ministry of Magic is doing everything it can to keep the wizarding world from knowing the truth. They appoint Ministry official Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts. When Umbridge refuses to teach practical defensive magic, Ron and Hermione convince Harry to secretly train a select group of students for the wizarding war that lies ahead. A terrifying showdown between good and evil awaits.

David Yates directed this 2007 movie becoming the fourth person to direct a Harry Potter film.  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith returned to Hogwarts for this film.

The cast also featured Fiona Shaw, Richard Griffiths, Adrian Rawls, Geraldine Somerville, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, Gary Oldman, Mark Williams, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Jason Isaacs, Chris Rankin, Imelda Staunton, Tom Felton, Katie Leung, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, David Bradley, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Ashan Azad, Shefali Chowdhury, Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane.

The screening of all eight movies from Sunday, July 26 – Saturday, August 1 will celebrate Harry Potter’s July 31 birthday. Special Harry Potter-themed concessions, activities, and prizes are part of the festivities at 100 River Market Avenue.

Tickets are $7 each for single tickets. Concessions will be available for purchase at every showing, and beer and wine are available at screenings scheduled after 5 p.m.

Some planned activities for movie-goers include being sorted into Hogwarts houses, competing for House Cup points, photo booths, and a horcrux scavenger hunt. Unique treats include candy from Kilwin’s and magical ice cream from Loblolly Creamery. Doors open and activities begin one hour before show time.

The movies continue in order through Friday at 7pm.  On Saturday the final two films will be shown at 1pm and 7pm.

If you see one or all 8, be sure and use #CALSPotterMarathon on social media.


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Little Rock Look Back: Ben Piazza – actor, author, Little Rock native

BDP LRHS

Actor-director-playwright-author Ben Piazza was born on July 30, 1933, in Little Rock.  Piazza graduated from Little Rock High School in 1951 as valedictorian. He also had starred in the senior play that year (The Man Who Came to Dinner) and edited the literary magazine.

Keeping the Tiger as his mascot, Piazza attended college at Princeton University.  While there he continued acting, including an appearance in a Theatre Intime production of Othello.  Following his 1955 graduation, he moved to New York City and studied at the Actor’s Studio.

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Piazza was an understudy in the 1956 play, Too Late the Phalarope at the Belasco Theatre.  In February 1958, he starred in Winesburg, Ohio sharing the National (now Nederlander) Theatre stage with James Whitmore, Dorothy McGuire, and Leon Ames. Other cast members included Claudia McNeil (who originated the part of Lena in A Raisin in the Sun) and Sandra Church (who originated the part of Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy).

In April 1959, Piazza starred in Kataki at the Ambassador Theatre. This two actor play also featured Sessue Hayakawa, who played a Japanese soldier who spoke only his native language.  Therefore, Piazza’s part was largely a very lengthy monologue.  For his performance, Piazza received one of the 1959 Theatre World Awards.

As the 1960s dawned, Piazza joined a small cadre of actors who had achieved status on Broadway who then also returned to acting Off Broadway.  Colleen Dewhurst, George C. Scott, and James Earl Jones were others in this select group who helped establish Off Broadway as an entity in itself, instead of being just a farm team for Broadway.

Piazza started the 1960s on Broadway starring at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in A Second String with Shirley Booth, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Nina Foch, Cathleen Nesbitt, and Carrie Nye.   Following that, he started his association with Edward Albee by appearing as the title character in The American Dream.  That play opened at the York Playhouse in January 1961.  Later that year, he appeared in Albee’s The Zoo Story opposite original cast member William Daniels at the East End Theatre.

piazza

Also in 1961 Piazza starred in several plays during a South American tour sponsored by the American Repertory Company.  He played Christopher Isherwood in I Am a Cameraand Chance Wayne in Sweet Bird of Youth.  In 1962, he starred in a series of plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre.  Piazza returned to Broadway to star along with Jane Fonda and Dyan Cannon in The Fun Couple at the Lyceum Theatre. This play had a troubled rehearsal period, which was documented in a short film about Jane Fonda.

Ben Piazza stayed on Broadway and returned to Albee in February 1963.  He took over the role of Nick in the original run of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? when original actor George Grizzard left to play Hamlet at the Guthrie Theatre.  (He had participated in earlier readings of the play prior to it being mounted on Broadway.)

This play was at the Billy Rose Theatre, which marked a return for Piazza. He had acted at this theatre when it was the National while appearing in Winesburg. Piazza played Nick for the remainder of the run and acted with Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill, fellow Arkansan Melinda Dillon, Eileen Fulton, Nancy Kelly, Mercedes McCambridge, Rochelle Oliver and Sheppard Strudwick.

Exact and Very Strange cover

During the run of this show, Piazza’s novel The Exact and Very Strange Truth was published.  It is a fictionalized account of his growing up in Little Rock during the 1930s and 1940s.  The book is filled with references to Centennial Elementary, Westside Junior High, Central High School, Immanuel Baptist Church and various stores and shops in Little Rock during that era.  The Piazza Shoe Store, located on Main Street, was called Gallanti’s.

Following Virginia Woolf, he starred in The Zoo Story at the Cherry Lane Theatre in 1965.  In August of 1967, his play The Sunday Agreement premiered at LaMaMa.  This was Piazza’s first playwright output to be professionally staged.

As Sunday Agreement was opening, Piazza was in rehearsal for his next Broadway opening. He appeared with Alfred Drake in The Song of the Grasshopper in September 1967.  In 1968, he returned to Albee and starred in The Death of Bessie Smith and The Zoo Story in repertory on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre.

Later that season, in March 1969, a double bill of his one-acts: Lime Green/Khaki Blue opened at the Provincetown Playhouse.  It was directed by future Tony nominee Peter Masterson and starred Louise Lasser, Robert Walden (who starred in the 2013 production of Death of a Salesman at Arkansas Repertory Theatre), Clinton Allmon and Dolores Dorn-Heft, to whom Piazza was married at the time.

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Piazza toured in many plays nationally and internationally. He also appeared in major regional theatres as an actor and a director.  During this time period he was in productions of Bus Stop, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, You Know I Can’t Hear You when the Water’s Running  and Savages.  In 1970, he starred as Stanley Kowalski in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire in New Orleans.  As the 1970s progressed, he turned his focus to television and movies.

BDP early

Piazza’s film debut was in a 1959 Canadian film called The Dangerous Age. That same year, his Hollywood film debut came opposite Gary Cooper, Karl Malden, Maria Schell and George C. Scott in The Hanging Tree.  Though he received positive reviews for his performances, Piazza chose to return to New York and perform in stage and TV productions.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared in a number of TV shows including Studio One, Kraft Theatre, Zane Grey Theatre, The Naked City and Dick Powell Theatre.  He had a recurring role during one season of Ben Casey and appeared on the soap opera Love of Life.

In the 1970s, he starred in the films Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon; The Candy Snatchers and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.  He also starred as the City Councilman who recruits Walter Matthau to coach a baseball team inThe Bad News Bears.

Among his numerous TV appearances in the 1970s were The Waltons, Mannix, Switch, Barnaby Jones, Gunsmoke, Mod Squad and Lou Grant (where he was reunited with Walden).

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In the 1980s, he appeared in The Blues Brothers, The Rockford Files, Barney Miller, Hart to Hart, Family Ties, The Winds of War, Dallas, Dynasty, Too Close for Comfort, The A Team, Saint Elsewhere, Santa Barbara, The Facts of Life, Mr. Belvedere, Moonlighting and Matlock.

Piazza’s final big screen appearance was in the 1991 film Guilty by Suspicion.  He played studio head Darryl Zanuck in this Robert DeNiro-Annette Bening tale of Hollywood during the Red scare.

Ben Piazza died on September 7, 1991.


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FingerPrints Band with Candy Williams play tonight as part of 2015 “A Work of Art” Jazz Week

2015 awoa fingerprintsAfter two days of daytime performances, the 2015 “A Work of Art” Jazz Weeks shifts to evening today.  Tonight at 7pm and 9pm FingerPrints Band featuring Candy Williams will perform at Cajuns Wharf.

“A Work of Art” is the primary fundraiser for the Art Porter Music Education scholarship program. All proceeds from the week-long fundraiser benefit the scholarship fund. “A Work of Art” concludes in early August in observance of the birth month of Art Porter, Jr. Attendees enjoy a week of unique educational experiences by an impressive group of local artists, music students and national recording artists.

Ticket information is available at www.artporter.org.


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Tonight at South on Main – the Local Live concert features Nan Maureen

llsom nanTonight at 7:30 PM join the Oxford American magazine for this week’s Local Live concert at South on Main, featuring jazz singer Nan Maureen!

As always, Local Live is free and open to the public. To guarantee a table/seat for this popular series, call ahead at (501) 244-9660. Local Live is made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Ben and Jane Hunt Meade.

Nan Maureen is a jazz vocalist who has been performing for many years in the Arkansas area, giving a special vocal touch to all the old jazz standards that everyone enjoys. She has recorded several albums and currently is the female vocalist for the Swing Band Reunion. She has been privileged to sing with the backing of many notable jazz musicians such as Art Porter and Charles Thomas and for this performance she will be joined by Bob Boyd on keys. To learn more about her go to www.nanmaureen.com.

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