ROCKing the TONYS – Lynn Fontanne & Alfred Lunt

Rock the TonysThe LuntsLynn Fontanne & Alfred Lunt

Little Rock connection: Appeared at Robinson Auditorium in 1941.  The couple often toured the country in their Broadway plays. This appearance was probably in the Pulitzer Prize winning There Shall Be No Night which had been their 1940 Broadway success.

Tony Awards connection: The couple received a special mounted dual Tony Award in 1970.

Lunt received a 1954 Tony for directing Audrey Hepburn in Ondine. The next year he received a Tony for acting in the play Quadrille. In 1959, he received a Tony nomination for his performance in the play The Visit, his final Broadway appearance as an actor.

Fontanne was nominated for her performance in The Visit, which was her final Broadway appearance.

Most of this couple’s career predated the Tony Awards. Tony nominations weren’t announced until 1956, so it is unknown whether Fontanne received a nomination for Quadrille.

Little Rock Look Back: Lottie Shackelford, LR’s 68th Mayor

Mayor Lottie_ShackelfordOn April 30, 1941, future Little Rock Mayor Lottie Shackelford was born. Throughout her career in public service she has been a trailblazer.

Active in community activities and politics, she ran for the City Board in 1974 and lost.  But she was appointed to the Little Rock City Board in September 1978 to fill a vacancy.  This made her the first African American woman to serve on he City Board, and indeed on any governing board for the City (during Reconstruction, there were at least three African Americans on the City Council, but they were all men.) She was subsequently elected to a full-term on the City Board in 1980 winning 55% of the vote over three male candidates.

She was subsequently re-elected in 1984 (unopposed) and in 1988 (with 60% of the vote).

In January 1987, Shackelford became the first female mayor of Little Rock when she was chosen by her colleagues on the City Board to serve in that position. She was Mayor until December 1988.

From 1982 until 1992, she served as Executive Director of the Arkansas Regional Minority Purchasing Council.  She left that position to serve as Deputy Campaign Manager of Clinton for President.  She subsequently served on the Clinton/Gore transition team. She later served on the Overseas Private Investment Corporation from 1993 to 2003. She was the first African American to be in that position.

A graduate of Philander Smith College, she has also studied at the Arkansas Institute of Politics at Hendrix College and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Mayor Shackelford has also served on numerous boards including the Little Rock Airport Commission, Philander Smith College, Chapman Funds (Maryland) and Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation (Arizona).  She has been the longest serving Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Mayor Shackelford was in the first class of inductees for the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

ROCKing the TONYS – Nell Benjamin

Rock the TonysNellNell Benjamin

Little Rock connection – Wrote the lyrics and libretto for Because of Winn Dixie musical which had its world premiere at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Tony Awards connection – Received a Tony nomination for the score of the musical Legally Blonde.

Steve Wiesenthal FAIA discusses Architectural Heritage + Innovation at the University of Chicago

WiesenthalTonight the Architecture and Design network presents Steve Wiesenthal, FAIA discussing “Architectural Heritage + Innovation at the University of Chicago.”  He is currently Senior Associate Vice President for Facilities & University Architect at the University of Chicago.

The program begins at 6pm in the lecture hall of the Arkansas Arts Center. A reception precedes the lecture at 5:30.

The University of Chicago campus, rooted in the tradition of grey stone Collegiate Gothic and taking inspiration from the forward looking spirit of America’s premier city of architectural innovation, is in the midst of an historic transformation.

In the first two decades of the 21st century, the campus has undergone more change than it ever did in its 110 year history. Guided by principle and overarching planning themes, the University’s campus has buildings designed by a number of architectural luminaries – Helmut Jahn, Tod Willams, Billie Tsien, Jeanne Gang, Ann Beha, MIchael Van Walkenberg, Rafael Vinoly, Ricardo Legoretta among them. In spite of transformative physical changes to its campus, the University remains committed to its core values.

Weisenthal, who has been at the University since 2008, earned undergraduate degrees in architecture and urban studies at the University of Maryland and a Master of Liberal Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Subsequent employment included six years as an architect with Venturi Scott Brown and Associates, the internationally acclaimed architectural firm. Prior to coming to the University, he oversaw the development of the University of California San Francisco’s Mission Bay research and academic campus.

Supporters of the Architecture and Design Network, include the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture, the Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Arkansas Arts Center and friends in the community. All ADN lectures are free and open to the public. For additional information, contact

Arkansas Rep’s production of The Second City HAPPILY EVER LAUGHTER is focus at Clinton School today

SecondCityThe Arkansas Repertory Theatre works in partnership with the Clinton School of Public Service to participate in the UACS’s Distinguished Speaker Series, hosting educational panel discussions on various Rep productions. The latest in these takes place today, Tuesday, April 29 at 12 noon at Sturgis Hall in Clinton Presidential Park.

Join Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp as he hosts the hilarious cast of Second City’s Happily Ever Laughter tour to discuss the art of improv comedy.

Second City’s Happily Ever Laughter opens April 30 and runs through Saturday May 10.


ROCKing the TONYS – Marvin Hamlisch

marvin-hamlisch376x283.ashxRock the TonysMarvin Hamlisch

Little Rock connection: Appeared with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra at Robinson Center Music Hall. One of his appearances was conducting a concert version of the Tony nominated musical They’re Playing Our Song.

Tony Awards connection: Won a Tony Award for composing A Chorus Line.  Also nominated for Sweet Smell of Success.  Appeared as a presenter at the 1982, 1993, 2002 and 2007 Tony ceremonies.

Little Rock Look Back: Sam Wassell, LR’s 51st Mayor

IMG_5025On this date in 1883, future Little Rock Mayor Sam M. Wassell was born.  His grandfather John W. Wassell had been appointed Mayor of Little Rock in 1868.  He is the only Little Rock Mayor to be a grandson of another Little Rock Mayor.

Sam Wassell served on the Little Rock City Council from 1928 through 1934 and again from 1940 through 1946.  He is one of the few 20th Century Little Rock Mayors who previously served on the City Council.

Wassell was an attorney.  He practiced law privately and also served as an Assistant US Attorney.  In 1930, he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the US Congress representing the 5th Congressional District, which at the time included Little Rock.

Wassell ran for Mayor in 1947 and was unopposed in the general election.  He was unopposed in his bid for re-election in 1949.  During his second term, President Harry S. Truman visited Little Rock.  In 1951, he sought a third term as Mayor.  No Little Rock Mayor had sought a third consecutive term since 1923.  Though he received the Democratic nomination, the Republican party nominated Pratt Remmel who defeated Wassell by a 2 to 1 margin.

With a new USS Little Rock under construction, it is interesting to note that Mrs. Sam Wassell christened the previous USS Little Rock in 1944.  At the time, she was a City Councilor’s wife.

Mayor Wassell died on December 23, 1954 and is buried at Roselawn Cemetery in Little Rock.