Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Cast members from MEMPHIS to perform at Lobby Bar tonight

lobbybarThe cast of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production of MEMPHIS is extremely talented.  In addition to displaying their talents on stage at the Rep, the performers will be showcasing their talent tonight in another downtown venue.  

The Lobby Bar will host a cabaret performance tonight featuring members of the cast.  Mark Binns, music director for MEMPHIS will be the accompanist.  The evening will features showtunes as well as standards.

There is not cover charge or admission charge.


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Little Rock Look Back: Charles E. Taylor, LR’s 42nd Mayor

Mayor TaylorOn September 15, 1868, future Little Rock Mayor Charles E. Taylor was born in Austin, Mississippi.  After locating to eastern Arkansas, his family moved to Little Rock around 1880.

Taylor graduated from Scott Street High School in Little Rock and proceeded to work for various hardware stores and other businesses.  In 1895 he married Belle Blackwood, with whom he would have four children.

In 1910, Taylor announced his intention to run for Mayor of Little Rock.  Though he had never held elective office, he had been involved in several civic organizations.  Taylor was the main challenger to Alderman John Tuohey.  Seen as a reformer, Taylor initially lost to Tuohey.  But after an investigation of voter fraud and a subsequent runoff, Taylor was elected Mayor.

Upon taking office in August 1911, Mayor Taylor focused on improving health conditions in the city, upgrading the fire department and enhancing the overall moral tone of the city.

As a progressive of the era, he fought against gambling, drinking and prostitution.  He created a Health Department and enhanced the City Hospital.  His efforts led to a decrease in the death rate in Little Rock.  As Mayor, Taylor introduced motorized vehicles to the Fire Department.  He also led the City Council to establish building and electrical codes.  Mayor Taylor also oversaw the construction of the 1913 Beaux Arts Central Fire Stations (which today serves as the City Hall West Wing).

Under his leadership, the City of Little Rock annexed Pulaski Heights. One of the selling points to Pulaski Heights residents was Mayor Taylor’s ability to provide modern services such as paved streets, water mains, fire hydrants and street lights.

Though neither his 1911 Parks Master Plan nor his dreams for a civic auditorium came to fruition, they paved the way for future successes in both of those areas.

Funding for projects continued to be a problem throughout Mayor Taylor’s four terms in office.  He believed that one obstacle to city funding was the prohibition by the state constitution against cities issuing bonds.  Though that ban has since been lifted, Taylor tried three times unsuccessfully to get it changed while he was Mayor.

In April 1919, Taylor left office after having served eight years.  He was the longest serving Mayor of Little Rock until Jim Dailey served in the 1990s and 2000s.  Following several business ventures, Taylor moved to Pine Bluff and led their chamber of commerce from 1923 through 1930.

Mayor Charles E. Taylor died in Pine Bluff in 1932. He was buried at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.

During his time in office, Mayor Taylor was presented with an unofficial flag of Little Rock by a group of citizens.  During Mayor Dailey’s tenure, that flag was restored by some private citizens and presented to the City.  It is framed on the 2nd Floor of Little Rock City Hall.


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Little Rock Look Back: H. L. Fletcher, LR’s 35th Mayor

Mayor H L FletcherOn September 15, 1833, future Little Rock Mayor Henry Lewis Fletcher was born in Saline County.  His parents were Henry Lewis and Mary Lindsey Fletcher.  One of his siblings was future Little Rock Mayor John Gould Fletcher.  The Fletcher brothers are the only set of siblings to serve as Mayors of Little Rock.

Though the life of John Gould Fletcher is fairly well documented, not much information is out there on his brother Henry Lewis (and some of what is out there is incorrect).  He married Susan Bricelin August 30, 1855, in Pulaski County.  During the Civil War, he served as a sergeant in the cavalry for the Confederate Army in Captain Ed Nowland’s Company.

As a civic leader, Fletcher oversaw Arkansas’ contribution to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. The building received as a prize a cast-iron fountain still standing in front of the Old State House Museum.

Fletcher served as Mayor of Little Rock from 1891 to 1893.  When Fletcher became Mayor he appointed a new Police Chief (as most Mayors did) and the entire police force was dismissed.  A new police force was hired by E. H. Sanders, who served as chief for 18 months.  Upon his resignation, Frank MacMahon (who had been dismissed from the force when Fletcher came to office), was appointed Chief by Mayor Fletcher.  He would serve from 1892 until 1905.

Mayor Fletcher died on June 30, 1896 and is buried at Oakland Cemetery next to his wife (who died in 1911).


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Little Rock Look Back: Miss America 1964 comes to Little Rock

Photo from Encyclopedia of Arkansas, courtesy of Mike Polston

Photo from Encyclopedia of Arkansas, courtesy of Mike Polston

Tonight a new Miss America will be crowned.  This ceremony marks the 50th anniversary since Miss America 1964, Arkansan Donna Axum, ended her reign.

A native of El Dorado and a student at the University of Arkansas, during her reign as Miss America Miss Axum (or simply Donna as the newspaper headlines referred to her) made four public visits to Little Rock.  As the first Miss Arkansas to become Miss America, the state’s Capitol City was very interested in giving her a warm welcome.

After being crowned on September 7, 1963, her first visit to Arkansas was November 1 through 3.  In addition to stops in Hot Springs and El Dorado, she appeared in Little Rock to attend events including an Arkansas Razorback football game at War Memorial Stadium.  Her entourage included the top four runners up from the Miss America pageant.

In February 1964, she made a brief appearance in Little Rock which included a press conference.

Donna Axum spent nearly two weeks in Arkansas in May 1964 attending several pageants as well as spending time with family.  During that visit she appeared in Little Rock twice.  The second time she headlined a concert with the Arkansas Symphony (not related to the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) and the Arkansas Choral Society. It took place at Robinson Auditorium.


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THE MUPPETS showing this afternoon at CALS Ron Robinson Theater

CALSRR MuppetsThe CALS Ron Robinson Theater welcomes Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo and the rest of the gang this afternoon.

At 2pm, the 2011 film The Muppets will be shown.   Tickets are $5 per person.

Starring Jason Segal and Amy Adams. The Muppets reunites The Muppets with the help of a few fans to save their old theater.  Also in the cast are Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Alan Arkin, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Jim Pasons, Sarah Silverman, Emily Blunt, James Carville, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, David Grohl, Neil Patrick Harris, Judd Hirsch, John Krasinski, Rico Rodriguez and Mickey Rooney

After the showing, moviegoers are invited to participate in several different Muppet character photo booths.

The screening will feature free theme-related concessions and door prizes.


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Little Shop of Horrors continues at The Studio Theatre

LSOHTSTThe second production of The Studio Theatre is the award winning 1983 musical Little Shop of Horrors.  Featuring book and lyrics by Oscar winner Howard Ashman and music by Oscar winner Alan Menken it is based on an early film from Roger Corman.

The cast includes Sharayah Wallace, Jess Carson, Denai Brown, Jeremiah James Herman, Gabi Baltzley, Jeremy Hall, David Weatherly, Duane Jackson and Mark Burbank.

The show is directed by Michael Henderson with music direction by Matthew David Mentgen.  Brandon Nichols is the choreographer.

The show opened on Thursday, September 11.  It continues tonight, September 18-20 and September 25-27 at 7:30pm.  On September 21, there is a special 5pm performance.

Tickets are $20.


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Chamber Music Concert this afternoon at 2pm

10636104_10100252551002598_8065792863022342325_nThis afternoon there will be a chamber music concert featuring musicians from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Katherine Willamson (violin), Ryan Mooney (viola), and David Gerstein (cello) will present a short program of works by Beethoven and the world premiere of a duo by Arkansas composer Karen Griebling.

David will be running the Chicago Marathon in October to benefit the kids at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, so please come with cash or check ready to make a donation. The concert is free, but donations to St. Jude are greatly appreciated.

**Katherine Williamson, violin**
Ms. Williamson is a recent graduate of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music where she received a Bachelor of Music with Distinction under the instruction of Professor Mark Kaplan. Other important mentors include Celine Leathead of the Minnesota Orchestra, Nam-Yun Kim and Professor Jorja Fleezanis. She has played with numerous orchestras worldwide, most recently the New World Symphony, National Repertory Orchestra, Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, Richmond Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Moritzburg Festival Academy Orchestra in Germany.

In addition to her love for the orchestral repertoire, Katherine is equally compelled by the world of chamber music. She is particularly drawn to the string quartet, but is also dedicated to performing duo sonatas and contemporary works, most recently pieces by Sofia Gubaidulina and Claude Baker. Ms. Williamson has attended the Castleman Quartet Program of the West, was a winner of the chamber music competition at the Meadowmount School of Music and a two-time prizewinner at the Saint Paul String Quartet Competition. She has collaborated with pianists Aleksey Artemyev and Risa Ohkubo, performing works by Prokofiev, Mozart and Mendelssohn. Notable coaches include Ik-Hwan Bae, Charles Castleman, Gerardo Ribeiro, Jan Vogler, Jorja Fleezanis and members of the Pacifica, Guarneri, Pro Arte and Artaria string quartets.

**Ryan Mooney, viola**
Ryan Mooney started the violin at the age of four with his aunt, Margaret Pressley. He then switched to viola at age 15 and went on to study with Ian Swenson and Jodi Levitz at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has attended such music festivals as Roundtop and Tanglewood where he had the pleasure of performing with the Mark Morris Dance Troup at Jacob’s Pillow. He was also a fellow of the Carnegie Hall exchange program where he performed with his quartet in Carnegie Hall and on a Central Asian tour. Ryan has a large studio of violin and viola students, and teaches at the Community School of the Arts at UCA in Conway.

**David Gerstein, cello**
David Gerstein, a devoted performer of chamber and contemporary music has played concerts all over the world, from the stage of Carnegie Hall to the Great Wall of China. David is currently the principal cellist of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which he has been a member of since September ’08. He is also the cellist of the Quapaw String Quartet, which performs regularly at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, AR as well as in schools all over the state as part of the ASO’s Arts Partner program. Mr. Gerstein has recently appeared in concert with the Ying Quartet, mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer, soprano Renee Fleming, cellist Fred Sherry, violinist Jonathan Carney, Bela Fleck, and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonenberg.

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