Baby Orang born at Little Rock Zoo

The Little Rock Zoo is proud to announce the birth of a baby female Northwest Bornean orangutan born to mother Berani and father Bandar on July 28. This is the first infant born to Berani and the fifth born to Bandar.

The baby can be seen at the great ape habitat with Berani. She carries the baby with her while she’s outside but does often shield the baby from public view by turning her back.

The birth comes at the recommendation of the Orangutan Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a program that cooperatively manages orangutan species in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to further conservation goals. Developed in 1988, this SSP Program coordinates species conservation, research, husbandry, management and educational initiatives. The Little Rock Zoo also participates in the AZA SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) program for orangutans. AZA SAFE programs combine the collective strength of AZA organizations to help save species in the wild.

Native to the Borneo, Northwest Bornean orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning there is a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future. Their vulnerability is mainly caused by habitat loss and fragmentation of their home. It is estimated that between forty-five and sixty-nine thousand (45,000 and 69,000) Northwest Bornean orangutans remain in the wild.

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THE HELP concludes the 15th season of Movies in the Park tonight

The Help PosterMovies in the Park finishes its 15th season tonight with THE HELP.

Based upon the novel of the same name, The Help follows a young white woman and her relationship with two African-American maids during the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson, Mississippi in the year 1963. In an effort to legitimize her writing career, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan decides to write a book from the maid’s viewpoints, exposing the racism they face from the white families that employ them.

It stars Octavia Spencer (in a performance very worthy of the Oscar she earned for it), Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, and Cicely Tyson.

Families, picnics, and leashed pets are invited to the park to enjoy movies under the stars, but no glass containers. Don’t forget the bug spray! An adult must accompany all children under the age of 18 and an ID is required. Chaperoned youth, sports, church and other groups are welcome!

The First Security Amphitheater will open an hour before film showings (approx. 7:30) and movies with begin at sundown each week (approx. 8:30).

For more information about Movies in the Park and to see which films will feature live performances or other activities before the showings, visit www.rivermarket.info or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lrrivermarket

Tonight’s Sessions at South on Main features Surprise Jazz All Stars

Sessions :: Surprise Jazz All Stars Acclaimed saxophonist, MarQuis Hunt, is curating and hosting the month-long “Jazz in July All-Stars” Sessions series at South on Main each Wednesday in July.

Tonight’s concert is a surprise.  MarQuis has not released the names of the artists, but given the caliber of musicians he knows and has already featured, it is guaranteed to be an evening of hot jazz!

The shows begin at 8 PM. Tickets are $10 at the door. Dinner and cocktails are available before and during the show. Your ticket guarantees admission, but does not guarantee a table. Call 501-244-9660 to reserve a table. These shows are expected to sell out; call today to avoid disappointment.

Celebrating Henry Moore’s Birthday with a look at Large Standing Figure, Knife Edge

British sculptor Henry Moore was born on July 30, 1898.  He became connected with Little Rock 80 years after his birth.

It was 1978, Bill Clinton was making his first run for Governor, Dallas and Robin Williams both made their TV debuts, disco was dominating the music scene, and Little Rock received its first major piece of public art.

Arguably Little Rock’s most famous piece of public art is Henry Moore’s 1961 creation Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, which is known locally as “The Henry Moore Sculpture.”

The original model was created in 1961; this sculpture was cast in 1976 and purchased in June 1978 by the Little Rock Metrocentre Improvement District.

The purchase price was $185,000 — a princely sum at the time but now a bargain for a Henry Moore sculpture. (Adjusted for inflation, that amount would be the equivalent of $727,000 today.)

A committee consisting of Townsend Wolfe (then the director and chief curator of the Arkansas Arts Center), James Dyke and Dr. Virginia Rembert traveled to England to meet with Moore about the sculpture.

It was originally placed on Main Street when the street had been bricked over as part of the Metrocentre Mall pedestrian mall plan. As portions of the street became unbricked and reopened to vehicular traffic, it was moved to the intersection of Capitol and Main. Finally, when the last segment was reopened to vehicular traffic, it was put at its current location of the southeast corner of Capitol and Louisiana.

In March 2018, ownership was transferred to the City of Little Rock.  Plans call for it to be relocated to the Arkansas Arts Center when it reopens in 2022.

A replica of the sculpture is featured in the 1980s classic The Breakfast Club.

HIDDEN FIGURES closes out July’s Space Cinema events on CALS Ron Robinson Theatre screen

Image result for hidden figures movieThe 2016 film Hidden Figures is being shown tonight  (July 30) at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater as it closes out Space Cinema events.

As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers”,  Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Gobels Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.

The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, and Aldis Hodge.  Directed by Theodore Melfi, it was based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book.  It was nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Spencer), and Adapted Screenplay.

The screening starts at 7:00pm.

 

86 years since Ben Piazza was born

He shared the screen with Cher, Tom Hanks, John Belushi, Gary Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Judd Nelson, Liza Minnelli, Ken Howard, Shirley Jones, George C. Scott, Karl Malden, and Walter Matthau.

His stage co-stars included Jane Fonda, Shirley Booth, Dyan Cannon, William Daniels, Uta Hagen, Mercedes McCambridge, and Arthur Hill.

Ben Piazza spent his entire adult life earning money solely through work in the arts. (Except for a very brief, failed stint as a waiter for a few weeks after he graduated from Princeton.)  Few in the acting profession can make that claim.

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.

Piazza attended college at Princeton University and graduated in 1955.  While there he continued acting, including an appearance in a Theatre Intime production of Othello.

In February 1958, he starred in Winesburg, Ohio sharing the National (now Nederlander) Theatre stage with James Whitmore, Dorothy McGuire, and Leon Ames. In April 1959, Piazza starred in Kataki at the Ambassador Theatre.  For his performance, Piazza received one of the 1959 Theatre World Awards.

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.

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.)

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.

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, West Side 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.

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, his one-acts: Lime Green/Khaki Blue opened at the Provincetown Playhouse.  Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Piazza toured in many plays nationally and internationally. As the 1970s progressed, he turned his focus to television and movies.

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.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared in a number of TV shows.  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 . 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.

In November 2016, a room at the Robinson Conference Center was dedicated to his memory.