Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Women’s History Month – Charlie May Simon

Charlie May Simon is known today for being the eponym of a children’s literature award. But during her lifetime she was a prolific author for children and for adults.

Born in South Arkansas, she was raised in Memphis and then resided in Chicago and Paris. With her then-husband (who would serve as illustrator for her books even after they divorced) she moved to Perry County in the 1930s. She returned to writing, with Robin on the Mountain being published in 1934.  In 1936, she married longtime friend and Arkansas poet John Gould Fletcher. The couple resided in Little Rock.

Following his 1950 death, Simon continued to live in Little Rock, though she traveled all over the world. Her books for children and adults covered a variety of topics and themes.

In 1971, the Arkansas Department of Education named its annual Children’s Literature Award the Charlie May Simon Award.

After her death in 1977, she was buried next to her husband in Mount Holly Cemetery.


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Women’s History Month – Phyllis D. Brandon

While today, Phyllis D. Brandon is best known for being the first and longtime editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette‘s High Profile section, she actually holds two historic firsts in Arkansas history.

In 1956, she became the first woman to report news on an Arkansas TV station when she appeared on KTHV.  Later, she was the first woman chosen to serve on the Pulaski County Election Commission.

 

A journalist since her junior high school days in Little Rock, Brandon has also been a witness to history.  As a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas, Brandon returned to her alma mater, Little Rock Central High, to cover the events in early September 1957 for the Arkansas Democrat.  Eleven years later, she was in Chicago for the contentious and violent 1968 Democratic National Convention as a delegate.

From 1957 until 1986, she alternated between careers in journalism and the business world, as well as being a stay-at-home mother.  Upon becoming founding editor of High Profile, she came into her own combining her nose for news and her life-long connections within the Little Rock community.  As a writer and photographer, she created art in her own right. A look through High Profile provides a rich historical snapshot of the changes in Little Rock and Arkansas in the latter part of the 20th Century and start of the 21st Century.


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Women’s History Month – Faith Yingling Knoop

Faith Yingling Knoop was the first Little Rock First Lady during the City Manager era.  Her husband, Werner Knoop, served as Mayor from November 1957 until December 1962.

She was a nationally known author of children’s books.  She also wrote short stories, THE Arkansas History Book which was used for decades in the state, and more than 250 articles.  Viewing her writing as a hobby instead of a career, she nonetheless was a dedicated author who spent hours researching her books. Many of her books were biographies.  One of her most notable one was 1950’s Zebulon Pike, which was reviewed in The New Yorker magazine.

At the time a school teacher, she wrote Arkansas: Yesterday and Today in 1935 after not finding an adequate Arkansas history textbook.


Women’s History Month – Adolphine Fletcher Terry

Photos from the collection of the Butler Center

Adolphine Fletcher Terry did not rely on her pedigree for her identity.  She made her own impact on Little Rock, on Arkansas, and on the US.  For over 40 years, she served on the Little Rock Public Library Board.  Not only is she the longest serving female on Library Board history, she is likely the longest serving female on any City of Little Rock board or commission.

The daughter of a Little Rock Mayor, daughter-in-law of a congressman, wife of a congressman, she was raised in Little Rock and spent most of her life here.

She is perhaps best known today for establishing the Women’s Emergency Committee in 1958 and for her subsequent deeding of the family house to the City for use by the Arkansas Arts Center.  But her entire life was based on civic engagement.  She was instrumental in establishing the first juvenile court system in Arkansas and helped form the first school improvement association in the state. She was long an advocate for libraries, serving 40 years on the Little Rock public library board.  Through her leadership, the library opened its doors to African Americans in the early 1950s. Today a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System (the successor the Little Rock public library) is named after her.  Another branch is named after her Pulitzer Prize winning brother.

After her husband’s death in 1963, she continued to remain active in civic affairs. In the 1960’s, she and her sister deeded the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House to the City of Little Rock for use by the Arkansas Arts Center upon both their deaths.  Following Adolphine Fletcher Terry’s death in 1976, Mary turned over the title to the City.


Comedies, Dramas and Musicals mark the 2017-18 season at Arkansas Rep

ark repA Southern story that is a favorite, a modern take on a classic comedy, a new musical based on a timeless Christmas tale, a contemporary drama of familial relationships, a joyous romp of a musical, a darkly comic tale of manners (without the manners), and a biting look at the madness of the holidays compose the 42nd season of the Arkansas Rep!

Under the leadership of new Producing Artistic Director John Miller-Stephany, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the state’s largest nonprofit professional theatre, announced its 2017-18 Season.

Beginning in August, the new season exemplifies The Rep’s mission of producing diverse work of the highest artistic standards for its Arkansas audience.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Aug. 23 – Sept. 10, 2017; Opening Night on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017
By Rebecca Gilman | Based on the novel by Carson McCullers
Directed by John Miller-Stephany

Based on Carson McCullers’ celebrated debut novel, this haunting Southern drama tells the story of a handful of misfits in a 1930s Georgia mill town. Deaf-mute John Singer becomes confidant and confessor to four of the town’s most colorful eccentrics, forever changing their lives by his sympathetic and gentle presence. Rebecca Gilman’s poignant adaptation for the stage captures all of the loss and longing of the original novel and combines it with a graceful theatricality.

 

The School for Lies
Oct. 11 – 29, 2017; Opening Night on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017
By David Ives | Adapted from The Misanthrope by Molière

Based upon Molière’s classic 17th Century comedy, The Misanthrope, The School for Lies feels surprisingly relevant as it exposes the hypocrisies of polite high society with a sharp wit and even sharper observations about human nature. Comic master David Ives (All in the Timing, Venus in Fur, Is He Dead?) adapts this wicked farce for contemporary audiences, contrasting the high-brow characters with low-brow humor and employing present-day language that breathes fresh air into this rollicking satire.

 

The Gift of the Magi
Nov. 29 – Dec. 24, 2017; Opening Night on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017
A new musical by Jeffrey Hatcher, Maggie-Kate Coleman and Andrew Cooke
Directed by John Miller-Stephany

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre is proud to present the world premiere of a new chamber musical based upon O. Henry’s beloved holiday story. Unwrap a new tradition in this tender tale of love and sacrifice, told with fresh intimacy on The Rep stage. Acclaimed playwright Jeffrey Hatcher (Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Tuesdays with Morrie, Three Viewings) is joined by composer Andrew Cooke and 2017 Jonathan Larson Grant recipient Maggie-Kate Coleman (lyricist).

 

The Call
Jan. 24 – Feb. 11, 2018; Opening Night on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018
By Tanya Barfield

Annie and Peter are a childless couple in their late 30s who have decided to adopt a baby from Africa. But when they receive some surprising news about their potential bundle of joy, anxiety and doubt threaten to tear their world apart. Middle-class cultural sensibilities and global divisions come crashing in on their comfortable existence as they are forced to confront their own preconceived notions about what makes a family a family. As they reach out to friends and neighbors for advice, Annie and Peter become mired in indecision and second thoughts.

 

Mamma Mia!
March 14 – April 8, 2018; Opening Night on Friday, March 16, 2018
Music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus
Some songs with Stif Anderson | Additional material by Martin Koch
Book by Catherine Johnson
Directed by John Miller-Stephany

Young bride-to-be Sophie desperately wants her father to walk her down the aisle. But there’s a catch – she’s not sure which of her mother’s old flames is “the one.” So, she invites all three, hoping she’ll learn the truth, which unleashes an out-of-control flood of memories – and irresistible pop music – into all of their lives.

 

God of Carnage
June 6 – 24, 2018; Opening Night on Friday, June 8, 2018
By Yasmina Reza | Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Cliff Fannin Baker

A simple playground scuffle between their young sons thrusts two sets of affluent parents into an uproarious maelstrom of epic proportions. As they meet to provide a positive example of conflict resolution, what begins as a civil conversation over cocktails and canapés soon devolves into a juvenile war of words and unexpected ferocity.   Winner of three Tony Awards, including Best Play, God of Carnage is a contemporary comedy of manners – minus the manners. From the fertile imagination of playwright Yasmina Reza (Art) comes this hilarious and terrifying descent into the heart of darkness – a searingly dark comedy for uncertain times.

 

PRODUCTION AT THE BLACK BOX THEATRE, The Rep Annex, 518 Main Street
New this Season, The Rep will run concurrent productions throughout the Christmas holiday. With the productions running on different stages and at staggered curtain times, patrons are encouraged to see both productions back-to-back.

 

The Santaland Diaries
Dec. 6 – 24, 2017; Opening Night on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017
By David Sedaris

Crumpet is just your average department store Christmas Elf. He’s your average, every day, chain-smoking, martini-swilling, foul-mouthed, Santa-denying department store Christmas Elf. What starts out as a mundane seasonal job to pay the bills becomes a darkly absurd quest through the grey and slush-filled streets of New York City at Christmastime. If the holidays make you feel more like Scrooge than Cratchit, more Grinch than Cindy Lou Who, more Abominable Snow Monster than Rudolph, then The Santaland Diaries is the perfect show for you!

 

Season Subscriptions are on sale now and start at $132, making subscribing to The Rep the most economical way to see all of the productions included in the 2017-18 Season.

 

For more information on Season Subscriptions, call The Rep’s Box Office at (501) 378-0405, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., or visit http://www.TheRep.org.


Black History Month – Maya Angelou and Robinson Center

1414mayaOn February 23, 1998, Maya Angelou appeared with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in a concert at Robinson Center.  The evening featured Dr. Angelou narrating Joseph Schwantner’s tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “New Morning for the World.”

Dr. Angelou, a former resident of Stamps, Arkansas, was not a stranger to Little Rock. She had appeared before at Wildwood Park and would later appear at the Clinton Presidential Center.

A former Poet Laureate of the United States and Tony nominated actor, she won a Grammy Award for her reading of “On the Pulse of the Morning” which had been written for the first inauguration of Bill Clinton as President of the United States.

A poet, author, educator, dancer, singer, actor, and activist, she wrote seven autobiographies. The most notable was arguably I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  Born in St. Louis, she spent part of her childhood in Arkansas before moving to California.  She led a peripatetic life both geographically and career-wise ending as a professor at Wake Forest and residing in North Carolina.  It was there that she died in May 2014.


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Black History Month – Danny Glover and Robinson Center

danny-glover-new-headshot-2010On Saturday, February 3, 2001, actor Danny Glover narrated Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra at Robinson Center.

The Culture Vulture had the privilege of spending part of the day with Mr. Glover while he was here in Little Rock. (At Mr. Glover’s request for good Soul Food, they went to Kitchen Express. When the parking lot was still full at 2:45 on a Saturday afternoon, Mr. Glover remarked “That’s a good sign.”  He enjoyed the food so much, he apparently went back the next day before leaving town.) They also discussed college and NBA basketball and went by the UA Little Rock campus where then-Lakers star Derek Fisher had played his college ball.

While Danny Glover may well be best-known for his role in the Lethal Weapon movies, his distinguished acting career has taken him to Broadway and Off-Broadway, motion picture screens and TV.  He is also well-known for his political and social activism. He is not afraid to speak his mind, and to make donations to causes in which he is a believer.

As he concludes his fourth decade of acting, Glover shows no signs of slowing down – nor does he appear to be softening his stance on social issues.