Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Former Ambassador to Iraq, South Korea to speak at Clinton School today

outpost-9781451685916_lgToday at noon at the Clinton School, Christopher Hill, former US Ambassador to Iraq will discuss his new book “Outpost: Life on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy”

Ambassador Christopher Hill is the Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Ambassador Hill is a former career diplomat, a four-time ambassador, nominated by three presidents, whose last post was as Ambassador to Iraq from April 2009 until August 2010. He was the first American Ambassador to Macedonia; Ambassador to Poland, where he also served in the depth of the cold war; Ambassador to South Korea; and chief disarmament negotiator in North Korea. From the wars in the Balkans to the brutality of North Korea to the endless war in Iraq, “Outpost” is the inside story from some of the most dangerous outposts of American diplomacy.

An “inside the room” memoir from one of our most distinguished ambassadors who—in a career of service to the country—was sent to some of the most dangerous outposts of American diplomacy. From the wars in the Balkans to the brutality of North Korea to the endless war in Iraq, this is the real life of an American diplomat.

Hill was on the front lines in the Balkans at the breakup of Yugoslavia. He takes us from one-on-one meetings with the dictator Milosevic, to Bosnia and Kosovo, to the Dayton conference, where a truce was brokered. Hill draws upon lessons learned as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon early on in his career and details his prodigious experience as a US ambassador. He was the first American Ambassador to Macedonia; Ambassador to Poland, where he also served in the depth of the cold war; Ambassador to South Korea and chief disarmament negotiator in North Korea; and Hillary Clinton’s hand-picked Ambassador to Iraq.

Hill’s account is an adventure story of danger, loss of comrades, high stakes negotiations, and imperfect options. There are fascinating portraits of war criminals (Mladic, Karadzic), of presidents and vice presidents (Clinton, Bush and Cheney, and Obama), of Secretaries of State (Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton), of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and of Ambassadors Richard Holbrooke and Lawrence Eagleburger. Hill writes bluntly about the bureaucratic warfare in DC and expresses strong criticism of America’s aggressive interventions and wars of choice.


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“Well, That Was Embarrassing” is theme of tonight’s Tales from the South at Oyster Bar

talesfromthesouthWe have all fallen flat on our face, either literally or figuratively.  Tonight, Tales from the South celebrates this shared experience with “Well That Was Embarrassing” at the Oyster Bar. The storytellers for this edition are John Wells, Martin Bauer, and Grant Rollins.

Music is by Mark Currey and blues guitarist Mark Simpson.

“Tales From the South” is a radio show created and produced by Paula Martin Morell, who is also the show’s host. The show is taped live on Tuesday. The night is a cross between a house concert and a reading/show, with incredible food and great company. Tickets must be purchased before the show, as shows are usually standing-room only.

“Tales from the South” is a showcase of writers reading their own true stories. While the show itself is unrehearsed, the literary memoirs have been worked on for weeks leading up to the readings. Stories range from funny to touching, from everyday occurrences to life-altering tragedies.

Dinner is served from 5pm to 6:30pm, the show starts at 7pm.  Admission is $15.  Dinner can be purchased separately.

You MUST purchase your ticket before the show.

Previous episodes of “Tales from the South” air on KUAR Public Radio on Thursdays at 7pm.  This program will air on January 22.


“Between a Rock and a Hardplace” as the 2015 Tales from the South kicks off tonight at the Arkansas Arts Center’s Best Impressions

talesfromsouthWhen Tales from the South’s permanent home closed in mid-2014, it was put between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.”  Founder/Host Paula Martin Morell persevered and has re-established the program rotating through several sites.  So it is fitting that the program celebrates the kick off of the 2015 season with the theme “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.”

Tonight, Tales originates at Best Impressions at the Arkansas Arts Center. The storytellers for this edition are Connie Mack Meskimen, Holly Patton and Karen Hayes.

Music is by The Salty Dogs’ Brad Williams and blues guitarist Mark Simpson.

“Tales From the South” is a radio show created and produced by Paula Martin Morell, who is also the show’s host. The show is taped live on Tuesday. The night is a cross between a house concert and a reading/show, with incredible food and great company. Tickets must be purchased before the show, as shows are usually standing-room only.

“Tales from the South” is a showcase of writers reading their own true stories. While the show itself is unrehearsed, the literary memoirs have been worked on for weeks leading up to the readings. Stories range from funny to touching, from everyday occurrences to life-altering tragedies.

Dinner is served from 5pm to 6:30pm, the show starts at 7pm.  Admission is $15.  Dinner can be purchased separately.

You MUST purchase your ticket before the show.

Previous episodes of “Tales from the South” air on KUAR Public Radio on Thursdays at 7pm.  This program will air on January 15.


Remembering 14 Cultural Figures from 2014

Little Rock lost several cultural luminaries in 2014. Some were practitioners, others were volunteers and donors.  All were passionate about the role the arts and culture play in not only everyday lives, but in making a city great.

While there are doubtless omissions to this list, these 14 are representative of the loss in 2014 but also the rich cultural legacy of the Little Rock area. They are presented in alphabetical order.

1414mayaThough never a Little Rock resident, Maya Angelou is linked to the City’s cultural life. Throughout her career, she would make appearances in Little Rock at a variety of venues. As an actress, dancer, poet and professor, she lived life to the fullest and encouraged others to do likewise.

1414jeffbJeff Baskin was more than a librarian in North Little Rock. He was a religious scholar, an actor, and an appreciator of many art forms. He was a regular fixture at cultural events on both sides of the Arkansas River. With his sly smile and quick wit, he put others at ease. His charm was disarming and his circle of friends was boundless.

1414BowenAttorney, banker, historian, author, Dean, advisor, raconteur. This was Bill Bowen. And so much more.  He helped build Little Rock and Arkansas into modern entities. As such, he realized the value of arts and culture to the big picture.  He was not only generous with money, he was generous with wise advice.

1414tcT.C. Edwards was far more than the lead singer of TC and The Eddies, TC and The Ponies and The Piranhas. One of the most familiar faces in the Little Rock music scene over the last 25 years, he was an icon. Much more could be said about him, but he’d prefer the music just keep playing.

1414lawrenceBroadway star Lawrence Hamilton. After conquering the Great White Way, he conquered the Rock. Whether with the Philander Smith College Choir, the Arkansas Rep, Arkansas Symphony, surprising Governor Beebe, or at an event, Lawrence was a consummate performer and warm and welcoming individual.

1414anneAnne Hickman was ever-present at the Arkansas Arts Center. For over forty years she gave time and money to make sure this museum could fulfill its mission. Her generous smile and ebullience were also part and parcel of many Arts Center events. In recognition of her dedication, she received the Arts Center’s Winthrop Rockefeller Award in 2008.

1414geraldGerald Johnson was a tenor saxophone player and Little Rock music scene mainstay. Whether headlining a concert or as a side man in a recording session, he brought the same level of cool excellence to his playing. He also mentored younger musicians and worked to instill love of music in many generations.

1414warrenWarren Law lit up Little Rock. For nearly three decades he was lighting designer and a teacher at UALR.  He designed the lighting for many Ballet Arkansas, Murry’s Dinner Playhouse and Arkansas Arts Center productions as well. At the time of his death, he was the lighting designer for Robinson Auditorium and the Little Rock School District.

1414barbaraBarbara Patty was a force of nature, especially when it came to support of music and art. As a singer, master gardener at museums, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra volunteer and board member, Arts Center docent, Aesthetic Club president, and general lover of the arts, she not only enjoyed the arts, she was a mentor and encourager of arts patrons and practitioners.

1414pennickBanker Edward M. Penick served on the Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees.  As a longtime leader at Worthen Bank, he was instrumental in helping establish many nascent cultural institutions such as the Arts Center, Arkansas Symphony and Arkansas Rep as they were getting established in the 1960s and 1970s.

1414TTheresa Quick, or “T,” was a founding member of the Arkansas Rep. She spent over three decades on stage as an actress. She also was a teacher and mentor.  In addition to usually stealing the show when she appeared at the Rep, she shone at Murry’s, the Arts Center and countless radio commercials.

1414kayKay Terry Spencer enjoyed being on stage, but also enjoyed volunteering to make sure others had the opportunities to shine in their artistic talents. After moving to Little Rock, she spent countless hours as a volunteer at the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and with the Fine Arts Club.

1414billTBill Trice. That name is synonymous with the arts in Little Rock. He was an actor, director, dancer, singer, teacher, student and mentor. From small blackboxes to large halls, bars to churches, his smile and talents left their mark. He was an expert attorney too. And a lover of music (all types), politics (Democratic), and his exceptionally talented family.

1414pollyCaroline “Polly” Murphy Keller Winter embraced the arts as she embraced all aspects of life – fully and without reservation. She served as board chair for the Arkansas Symphony and established the ASO endowment, which continues to grow.  She was an active supporter of the arts in Little Rock, south Arkansas and other states.


14ish Cultural Highlights of 2014

2014 was a busy year.  Here are 14 cultural highlights. In no particular order. Except maybe once in while.

The Rep's Bob Hupp and Catherine Hughes flank NEA Chair Jane Chu

The Rep’s Bob Hupp and Catherine Hughes flank NEA Chair Jane Chu

Dr. Jane Chu visits Arkansas. Former Arkadelphia resident Dr. Jane Chu was appointed as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. In October, she paid a visit to Little Rock and northwest Arkansas. While in the Rock, she participated in a discussion at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and toured the new Creative Corridor spaces under construction for the Rep, Ballet Arkansas and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Chu was also the guest of honor at a reception hosted by the Arkansas Arts Council. While here, she had the chance to renew old friendships as well as make new ones.

Carroll Cloar exhibit at Arkansas Arts Center. The Arkansas Arts Center featured the works of Arkansas native Carroll Cloar. Much as the Biblical prophet who is ignored in his homeland, Cloar has long been better recognized outside of his native state.  The Cloar exhibit (which included a painting of future Little Rock mayor J. V. Satterfield playing football, a personal favorite of the LRCV) and the outreach by the AAC staff made great strides towards raising Arkansas’ consciousness about the works by the American treasure.

DSCF0011Robinson Center Music Hall closes for renovation. Opening in February 1940 as the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium, the City’s prime venue for performances and civic gatherings needed an external and internal facelift at 74. The building closed in July 2014 for a two year renovation which will see the reconfiguration of the performance and audience space in the music hall, the creation of a new special events venue overlooking the Arkansas River, and the restoration of this historic main lobby and front façade to 1940 appearance. During this closure tenants such as Ballet Arkansas, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Celebrity Attractions have temporarily relocated to other venues including the Pulaski Academy Connor Performing Arts Center and the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.

Ron Robinson Theater opens. Shortly before one Robinson closed, another opened.  The Central Arkansas Library System’s new Ron Robinson Theater opened. This multi-purpose venue has quickly become home to lectures (by the library, the Clinton School and others), films (in partnership with Arkansas Times, Little Rock Film Festival and others) and music (including the Arkansas Sounds series).  Named for famed Little Rock adman Ron Robinson, the public spaces pay tribute to his love of movies and music about Arkansas.

Music Music Music

  • As noted above, Arkansas Sounds has switched from a concentrated music festival to instead offering a variety of music styles and genres throughout the year at the new Ron Robinson Theatre. The music has ranged from Big Band to Klezmer to Country to Rock to Rap.  This is only one of the new music offerings in Little Rock.
  • South on Main completed its first full year of the weekly Local Live free music series sponsored by the Oxford American and Landers Fiat. South on Main also started a Jazz on Main series as well as increased their bookings of other musicians ranging from Rodney Block to Rodney Crowell.
  • Meanwhile, The Undercroft completed its first full year of (mainly) acoustic music offerings at the corner of Capitol and Scott Streets.

New Works of Art.

  • New sculptures were added to the Vogel-Schwartz Sculpture Garden and Riverfront Park as well as the Bernice Gardens.
  • In what may be the first for any symphony in the US, the musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra commissioned a new piece in honor of the ASO board of directors. The work, composed by Christopher Theofanidis, was entitled The Wind and Petit Jean.  It was well-received by audience and musicians alike.
  • Ballet Arkansas sponsored a choreography competition “Visions” which featured five choreographers competing to be selected for a full-scale commission.  The winner was Hilary Wolfley whose work will be seen at the spring Ballet Arkansas presentation.
  • Finally, in conjunction with the 175th anniversary of Christ Episcopal Church (the oldest church in Little Rock to be at its original location), a new choral piece was commissioned. Daniel E. Gawthrop’s “Haste the Day” premiered on December 7.

mod delaneyThe Tonight Show with Kevin Delaney. Because Jimmy Fallon is really just a big kid at heart, he wanted to include periodic “cool” science experiments when he took over the “Tonight Show.”  After being contacted by a producer of Fallon’s show and an audition process, the Museum of Discovery’s Kevin Delaney was booked to appear.  He debuted on May 5 performing experiment with Fallon and returned on November 7. When not a guest of NBC, Delaney performs the same types of “Awesome Science” experiments for tens of thousands of children and adults at the Museum of Discovery.

New Festival of Arts. Acansa, a new multi-discplinary, multi-venue arts festival, debuted this year in September.  Over a five day period, ACANSA Arts Festival brought together audiences and cultural resources to present unique and exciting visual and performing works which celebrate the unique influence of the south and champion excellence and innovation in artistry.  There was theatre, dance, instrumental music, choral music, puppetry and visual art.

14 14 4Gridiron Returns. The talk of the return of the Star Wars movie franchise was not the only welcome news of returns. Gridiron, the biennial attorney fundraiser which spoofs politics, current events, sports and everything that is “sacred” to the general populace, returned after a hiatus.  Once again this effort was under the watchful eye of producer Judge Mary McGowan, the creative leadership of Jana Beard, and the writing prowess of the anonymous committee.  As has been the case in the past, many of the targets of the show good-naturedly showed up and laughed along in the audience.

Sculptures Returned.  Gridiron was not the only welcome return. Earlier this year several sculptures were stolen from the Vogel-Schwartz Sculpture Garden in Riverfront Park. After a media blitz about the theft, some people strolling through the park stumbled across a bag containing the missing sculptures. The pieces are in the process of being restored and will be reinstalled soon.

14 14 3Clinton Center turned 10.  Proving that you can come home again, quite a few of the people who were present for the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center in 2004 showed up again in 2014 to take part in celebratory festivities.  Among events included several lectures; a day of service benefiting the Arkansas Food Bank; a barbecue picnic; and a concert featuring Nick Jonas, Kool & the Gang and others which was hosted by Kevin Spacey.  The Clinton School also celebrated 10 years of lectures and innovative programs.

Preservation Concentration – The Quapaw Quarter Association marked the 50th Spring Tour this year. The event was co-chaired by First Lady Ginger Beebe and lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith.  Later in the year, the QQA hosted its first Mid-Century architecture tour highlighting some of Little Rock’s buildings from this style. They ended the year with the news that they had purchased the William E. Woodruff House in east Little Rock. One of Little Rock’s oldest houses, it was built by the founder of the Arkansas Gazette.  They will shore up the building to try to ensure no further decay as the building is readied for its next phase.

Huzzahs

  • 14 14 2Reese Rowland, architect and principal at Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock, was named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, awarded to fewer than 4 percent of AIA members.
  • Little Rock native Will Trice earned his third Tony Award in three years, this time for producing All The Way, the Best Play of 2014. His previous Tonys were for Porgy and Bess (Musical Revival-2012) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Play Revival-2013).
  • Arkansas native and frequent Little Rock performer Al Green was one of the 2014 Kennedy Center Honorees.
  • Little Rock’s Creative Corridor continued to rack up honors. The UA’s Community Design Center, which includes faculty and staff members from the school, won a 2014 Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects for its work on the Creative Corridor, on which it collaborated with Marlon Blackwell Architect of Fayetteville. The project also received the American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award for Analysis and Planning.

Transitions.

  • 14 14Sharon Priest, a longtime cultural advocate as a City Beautiful Commission member, Little Rock City Director, Little Rock Mayor and Arkansas Secretary of State announced her retirement after 12 years as Executive Director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.  Over the past dozen years, she has continued her cultural advocacy.
  • One of Priest’s successors as a member of the Little Rock City Board, Stacy Hurst, was named by Gov.-Elect Asa Hutchinson to be his choice to lead the Department of Arkansas Heritage. She will oversee seven agencies including three Little Rock museums: Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Old State House Museum and Historic Arkansas Museum.
  • Following the closure of Starving Artists Cafe, the weekly Tales from the South program (which originated from there) had to scramble to find a place.  After several weeks of a completely nomadic existence, it is now settling into a rotating list of locations. The Arkansas Arts Center’s Best Impressions restaurant has been designated a “permanent” site for the first Tuesday of each month.
  • The free outdoor Movies in the Park celebrated its 10th season this year. Founders Blake Rutherford, Heather Allmendinger and Ben Beaumont were honored at the start of the season.  A few weeks into the season, the series screened the film Frozen and set a new record for attendance by logging over 7,000 attendees.
  • After the closure of the Riverdale cinema in 2013, the space sat vacant.  In June 2014, Matt Smith moved the Market Street Cinema operations into the Riverdale space. He upgraded the equipment at Riverdale (which was also a vast improvement over the equipment at Market Street).  The new Riverdale 10 shows a mix of first-run blockbusters as well as the independent films for which Market Street had been beloved.
  • The Studio Theatre was launched adjacent to the new Lobby Bar in downtown Little Rock.  In addition to producing its own performances, it is also the new home of the Community Theatre of Little Rock and Precipice Theatre.
  • Weekend Theatre founder Ralph Hyman retired as the Artistic Director of that group. He will continue to direct productions from time to time.

 


The Top 6 Stories from Season 9 of Tales from the South tonight at Stickyz

Tonight for the Season 9 finale, Tales from the South returns to Stickyz Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicken Shack.

The featured storytellers are a surprise since they will be the top six stories from Season 9.  Because there are six storytellers, tonight’s program is one hour.  talesfromsouthLive music is provided by Brad Williams and bluesman Mark Simpson.

“Tales From the South” is a radio show created and produced by Paula Martin Morell, who is also the show’s host. The show is taped live on Tuesday. The night is a cross between a house concert and a reading/show, with incredible food and great company. Tickets must be purchased before the show, as shows are usually standing-room only.

“Tales from the South” is a showcase of writers reading their own true stories. While the show itself is unrehearsed, the literary memoirs have been worked on for weeks leading up to the readings. Stories range from funny to touching, from everyday occurrences to life-altering tragedies.

Doors open for dinner, socializing at 5 pm; Live music at 6 pm; Dinner available for purchase until the kitchen closes at 6:30.  Show starts at 7 pm Tickets $20 (show only).

You MUST purchase your ticket before the show.

Previous episodes of “Tales from the South” air on KUAR Public Radio on Thursdays at 7pm.  This program will air on January 1.


ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap is 2014 CALS J. N. Heiskell Distinguished Lecturer

espnschaapArkansans love their sports! They probably discuss and cuss sports more than any other topic.  Therefore it is fitting that ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap will deliver the 2014 J. N. Heiskell Distinguished Lecture tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Avenue. Schaap will discuss his experiences in sports journalism at An Evening with Jeremy Schaap.

Clint Stoerner, former quarterback for the Arkansas Razorbacks, will introduce Schaap.  The event is free and open to the public. A book signing and reception will follow the program. Seating is general admission. Reservations are appreciated, but not required. RSVP to pedwards@cals.org or 918-3009.

An ESPN reporter since 1996, Jeremy Schaap functions in a variety of roles at the network. He is a correspondent for E:60, the host of ESPN Radio’s The Sporting Life, and a frequent contributor to Outside the Lines, NFL Countdown, and College Gameday. His reports, interviews, and commentaries are regularly featured on SportsCenter.

Schaap has won multiple national Sports Emmy Awards and many other honors for his work, including a national Edward R. Murrow Award in 2012, and a National Headliner Award in 2007. He is the author of Cinderella Man, a New York Times bestseller, and Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics. In December 2013, Disney secured the movie rights to Triumph and enlisted Schaap for a consulting role on the film.

In addition to his contributions for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, Schaap’s work has appeared in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Time, the Wall Street Journal, and Parade.

As quarterback, Stoerner led Arkansas to a 2000 Cotton Bowl Classic victory, and went on to play for the NFL, the NFL Europe, and the Arena Football League.  He regularly appears on radio and television in Arkansas to discuss sports events.

The Heiskell Distinguished Lecture is named for J.N. Heiskell, the longest-serving member of the Library’s Board of Trustees and editor of the Arkansas Gazette for more than seventy years. Speakers and programs honor Mr. Heiskell’s commitment to excellence in journalism as well as his support of the library.

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