Typing Cows Continue on stage at Ark Arts Center

aacctcowsTyping cows and a talking duck are just a few of the wonders which await audiences as the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre production of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type continues through February 9.

“This classically hilarious children’s story about some rebelliously clever farm animals will come to life on stage at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre as they engage in peaceful protests to improve their working conditions,” said Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre artistic director Bradley Anderson. “This delightful tale about negotiation and compromise is enjoyable for any age.”

Farmer Brown thinks it’s odd when he hears typing sounds coming from the barn but his troubles really begin when his cows start leaving him notes demanding better working conditions before staging a strike. Join the Arkansas Art Center Children’s Theatre as a bunch of literate cows turn Farmer Brown’s farm upside down. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type is adapted by George Howe and James E. Grote from Doreen Cronin’s original book with illustrator Betsey Lewin.

The cast for Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type includes:
John Isner, of Little Rock, as Farmer Brown
Jeremy Matthey, of Little Rock, as Duck
Moriah Patterson, of Sheridan,  as Cow 1
Aleigha Garstka, of Little Rock, as Cow 2
Veronica Lowry, of Charlottesville, VA, as Hen

Bradley D. Anderson is the artistic director and the director for the production. Choreography by Moriah Patterson, musical direction by Lori Isner, costumes are designed by Erin Larkin, technical direction by Drew Posey, lighting design by Penelope Poppers, scenic design and properties by Miranda Young and Sarah Gasser is the stage manager.

Presenting sponsors are Landers FIAT in Benton, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and in honor of Dorothy and Fallon Davis by Dr. Scott and Shannon Davis. Also sponsored by All Aboard Restaurant and Martha Logue.

Recognized by The Drama League as one of the best regional theatre companies in America, the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre is the only professional company in Arkansas that produces children’s literary works for the stage. Since 1979, Children’s Theatre has been creating unique experiences for family audiences. During the 2012-13 season, nearly 43,000 children and families enjoyed Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre productions which included more than 200 schools across Arkansas.

For more information, visit arkansasartscenter.org or call (501)372-4000.

General Admission Tickets are $12.50 for children and adults & $10 for AAC members.
Friday at 7 p.m.
Saturday at 2 p.m.
Sunday at 2 p.m.

Science of Good and Bad Habits is focus of January Science after Dark

scienceafterdarkThe Museum of Discovery’s monthly adults-only Science After Dark explores “The Science of Good and Bad Habits ” this month.

The new year often brings a resolve to try new things or break harmful practices. This month the event explores the science behind habits.  There will be junk food experiments, demonstrations about nicotine, recycling and much more!

Damgoode Pies will sell pizza by the slice and Juanita’s will provide a cash bar

Wednesday, January 29 from 6-8 p.m.
@ Museum of Discovery

Ages 21 and older

Cash Bar Available

Admission: $5 per person; members FREE

Watch this month’s Science After Dark video 

Science after Dark occurs the last Wednesday of each month from 6pm to 8pm. Museum educators pick a science-related topic, and develop an event around it. The event is for ages 21 and older.

It is a great chance to explore the museum’s exhibits and enjoy downtown Little Rock.

Little Rock Look Back: W. W. Stevenson, Little Rock’s 2nd Mayor

LR sealOn this date in 1797, future Little Rock Mayor William Wilson “W. W.” Stevenson was born in South Carolina.

In 1811, he came to Arkansas when his family settled in Batesville.  An ordained Presbyterian minister, he married Ruana Trimble in 1821 and had two children.  After she died, he married Maria Tongray Watkins in 1831 and had two more children.

In 1831, he ran for Mayor in the first election for the office but was defeated by Dr. Matthew Cunningham.  The next year he ran to succeed Cunningham and was elected.  After leaving the Mayor’s office on December 31, 1833, he continued public service.  He was State Commissioner for Public Buildings in 1839.

In 1849, he delivered the funeral oration at the ceremony for Hon. Ambrose H. Sevier.  Later that year, he was hired as a geologist for the Little Rock and California Association which was created to take advantage of the gold rush.  He and his two oldest sons moved to California and never returned to Arkansas. He died in 1888.

No photograph or painting of Mayor Stevenson is known to exist.

Sold on CLYBOURNE PARK – expanded

ClybourneClybourne Park, Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer and Tony winning play, is about race and place. But it is not a pedantic treatise meant to induce guilt. Through its humor and honesty it examines prejudice, property value, and protection of principles. The prejudice on display is not just racial, but also extends to gender, class, disability and sexual identity. The characters are alternately clinging to a past as well as trying to bury it. If this sounds like heavy stuff, it is. But it is presented in such a way, that it does not seem weighty or oppressive.

The action of Clybourne Park takes place in the unseen house that was the crux of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. The conceit of Norris’ play is that fifty years separate the first act from the second one. Though played by the same actors, the characters are different in the two acts. Neither the playwright nor Cliff Fannin Baker, the director, hit the audience over the head with the connections the second act characters have to the first act or to the Hansberry play. They let things emerge organically. The people in this play are rarely who they seem to be. Allegiances shift throughout each act as layers are peeled back on the characters and their motivations.

It is cliché to say, but this play is truly an ensemble piece. As such, Norris (an erstwhile actor himself who once was directed by Baker) has provided each actor with moments to shine in both acts. When given these moments, the actors seized them. In quieter moments, the members of the ensemble exhibited wonderful performances as well without stealing focus from their fellow actors.

Shaleah Adkisson is marvelous both as a long-suffering maid and wife in the first act and a neighborhood activist in the second act. Her voice can drip honey and cut like a knife at the same time. Katie Cunningham plays an expectant mother in both acts. In the first act her character is deaf, while in the second act her character can hear perfectly (but may wish there things she didn’t hear). Shifting from prim to relaxed in the two acts, Cunningham creates two distinct characterizations on stage.

LeeAnne Hutchison’s first act housewife is appropriately daffy and warm. In the second act, she transforms herself into a self-absorbed, calculating professional by use of a different voice, demeanor and posture. As Hutchinson’s husband in the first act Robert Ierardi portrays a man wrestling with emotions and changing times while trying his best to continue to provide for and protect his wife. His interaction with Hutchison during the opening of the first act captured the dichotomy of comfort and confrontation found in long-married couples.

Ryan Barry’s harried priest in the first act is doing his best to be helpful and remain calm in the midst of a sea of turmoil. In the second act he is a bemused, detached attorney trying to facilitate conversation between opposing parties. Though the reactions are different, in both acts his character is pushed to a brink long after other characters have been. In many ways, he is a barometer for the audience. Lawrence Evans has little stage time in the first act but creates a memorable character as a husband just trying to be helpful. In the second act Evans has more opportunity to shine as a neighborhood resident working to preserve his community, and perhaps understand his wife as much as he is trying to understand some strangers.

In the first act, Jason O’Connell plays Karl, a character who appeared in A Raisin in the Sun. While not trying to justify his racist actions, this play fleshes out Karl. O’Connell’s characterization is not a broad villain, but it does not try to make excuses for his beliefs. He also handles some physical comedy in a manner that is both humorous but also completely in character. In the second act, O’Connell’s character is more naïve on some levels as he is confronting aspects of himself and his wife (played by Cunningham) that had never been considered.

Rounding out the cast is David Tennal, an alum of the Rep’s Summer Musical Theatre Intensive, in a small but pivotal role at the end of the play. It is always nice to see students who came up through the Rep’s SMTI program hold their own on mainstage productions. It was nice to see Rep veterans Adkisson (Avenue Q), Evans (Fences) and O’Connell (All My Sons, Sherlock Holmes, Frost/Nixon) return and create memorable characters. Based on their performances in this play, hopefully Cunningham, Ierardi, Hutchison and Barry will be back in the future.

The seamless direction provided by Baker well-serves the actors and Norris’ masterful script. It is obvious that in rehearsal Baker created an atmosphere of trust and collaboration among the acting company. Together he and the actors have mined the play for its much needed humor. But they did not settle for cheap laughs. The play uses laughter to relieve tension. But it does not shy away from making the audience or the characters onstage uncomfortable. Baker and his cast know when to let the feelings of unease simmer. In Baker’s hands, the play never seems pious but it does show the challenges of building and maintaining a community when often well-meaning people have competing perspectives.

While the acting ensemble could have undoubtedly sold the play performing in street clothes in a bare stage, luckily they did not have to. The physical design supported the play. Mike Nichols’ set is in many ways another character in the play. He has created a pre-war two story house. While the play is set in a fictional Chicago neighborhood, the actions in the play could easily take place in any mid- to large-sized American city over the past half century. In the first act, Nichols’ house is the epitome of the emerging middle class. The second act shows the same house after years of neglect. With only a few physical changes, the difference is stark.

Yslan Hicks’ costumes ably showcase not only the different time periods but also the different stations in life of the characters. Through exacting details, her costumes enable the characters to look like they have stepped out of magazine photos from the two eras. Yael Lubetzky’s subtle lighting adds atmosphere to the play. The early morning shadows cast in the final moments of the play were particularly memorable. As sound designer, Allan Branson not only set the mood with music but had the unenviable task of ensuring that numerous actors talking over each other throughout the play could still be heard. Lynda J. Kwallek has a knack for finding props which tell the audience about the characters and their stations in life more than spoken words can do.

Whether we know it or not (or are willing to admit it) Clybourne Park is all our story. There are times we each feel like an outsider, a protector, a denier, a fighter, a detached observer, a victim or a peacemaker. The play offers no easy answers or pat conclusions. In fact it’s one message seems to be that unless we continue to have these messy conversations we will never move forward.

We must respect each other and see value in each other. But we must not be afraid to engage each other in meaningful and often complicated dialogue. If that doesn’t happen, sectors of the community will continue to move back and forth sliding past each other like some sort of societal amoebas without respecting differences.

A final note, some of the language in Clybourne Park is harsh. There are words said on the stage that could definitely offend theatregoers. But the use is not gratuitous. It is to highlight how words do matter, but also ideas. Audience members should not let their distaste for those words detract from their play-going experience. Kudos to Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp for choosing this play for Little Rock audiences.

Little Rock audiences need to pay a visit to Clybourne Park. It runs only through February 9. For those who want to laugh and think, this is one property not to be missed.

Due to a cut and paste error, an earlier version of this review inadvertently omitted a section on Robert Ierardi’s performance. This review has also been edited because the author of it is constantly tweaking his writing.

Starchitects, Prizes and the Changing Face of Architecture lecture tonight

ThorneTonight at 6pm at the Arkansas Arts Center, Martha Thorne will present a lecture entitled “Starchitects, Prizes and the Changing Face of Architecture.”

Martha Thorne served as an Associate Curator of the Department of Architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1996 to 2005, the year she left to assume the directorship of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, headquartered in Madrid, Spain.

Established in 1979 by Jay and Cindy Pritzker and underwritten by the Hyatt Foundation, the award was conceived as a meaningful prize that would stimulate public awareness and inspire greater creativity within the profession of architecture. Recipients of the annual award, often called the “Nobel of architecture”, are selected by an international jury committed to the art of architecture and its social responsibility. Each year’s winner receives a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.

Lord Peter Palumbo of England, a developer and art collector, is the current jury chair. Toyo Ito of Japan, selected (by a jury of seven which included Thorne) as the 2013 Pritzker laureate, was presented his award by Tom Pritzker, Jay Pritzker’s son.

Supporters of the Architecture and Design Network include the Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, UA Fay Jones School of Architecture and the Arkansas Arts Center. ADN lectures are free and open to the public.

ASO River Rhapsodies: Dvorak’s Piano Trio No 3 in F minor

ASO_revTuesday night (January 28) at 7pm, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s next concert of the Parker Lexus River Rhapsodies Chamber Music Series will features duos of ASO Musicians. The concert will be held at the Clinton Presidential Center.

The program is an intimate showcase of the ASO’s musicians. Tonight’s program features Dvořák’s Piano Trio.

General Admission tickets for River Rhapsodies concerts are $23, and Student tickets are available for $10. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org, over the phone at (501) 666-1761 or at the door.

The program will include:

Mahler – Piano Quartet in A minor
Berg – Lyric Suite
Dvořák – Piano Trio No. 3 in F minor

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 48th season in 2013-2014.  Under the leadership of Music Director Philip Mann, the ASO performs more than thirty concerts each year for more than 42,000 people through its Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks Series, ACXIOM Pops LIVE! Series and River Rhapsodies Chamber Series, in addition to serving central Arkansas through numerous community outreach programs and bringing live symphonic music education to over 24,000 school children and over 200 schools.

Little Rock Look Back: Voters Approve Robinson Auditorim

10.+citylittlerock-2On January 26, 1937, Little Rock voters went to the polls to vote on three different municipal bond issues.  One of them was the construction of a municipal auditorium.

The bonds for the auditorium would be $468,000 in general obligation bonds which would be paid off between 1940 and 1971. This was toward a total cost of $760,000 for the entire project.

The official campaign for the auditorium was sponsored by the Little Rock Forward Committee which was led by W. H. Williams. In campaign advertisements it showed the value of conventions in New York City which was estimated at $100 per convention attendee. Little Rock organizers were estimating a $10 a day expenditure by visitors, which the committee stressed was very conservative. The campaign committee emphasized the importance of acting at that time due to the federal government money involved.

Various committees and organizations endorsed the auditorium project including the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Little Rock Federation of Women’s Clubs, and the Young Business Men’s Association.

The thrust of the campaign focused on the economic benefit to Little Rock as well as the fact that the auditorium would be for all citizens. This message was picked up in editorials by both the Democrat and Gazette. In editorials on January 23 and 25, the Democrat opined that the benefits of the auditorium would be distributed among all classes of the citizenry. The next day, both papers ran editorials which touted the economic boon an auditorium would bring through conventions and meetings.

The Democrat’s approach broke down the current value of conventions to Little Rock with, what it termed, the city’s “existing inadequate” facilities. The paper emphasized a conservative estimate of what the added value to Little Rock’s economy would be with the new auditorium.

In expressing support for the auditorium the Gazette stressed the values for local, statewide and national groups. “An auditorium would provide a more convenient and better adapted community center for all kinds of local gathering,” and continued that it would make Little Rock “the logical meeting place for state conventions of every sort.” In discussing the value of state, regional and national meetings the paper stressed that the outside money spent by convention attendees has an impact beyond stores, hotels and restaurants.

Both papers also echoed the importance of the federal government financing to make this possible. The Democrat noted that the Public Works Administration grant and federal low cost loan made this an ideal time.


On January 26, 1937, Little Rock voters approved the auditorium bond by a vote of 1,518 to 519. It passed in each of the city’s 23 precincts. Little Rock Mayor R. E. Overman expressed his pleasure at the outcome of the vote and extended his thanks to the voters.

After the election, a Gazette editorial commented on the low turnout for the special election by commenting that the weather had been nice and there were no other barriers to voting. The editorial writer opined that those not voting in the election must not have been opposed to the endeavor.