Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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RobinsoNovember: Ben Piazza

benpiazza book coverAnother of the spaces in Robinson Center is named in memory of actor-director-playwright-author Ben Piazza.  He was born on July 30, 1933, in Little Rock, and 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.

After graduating from Princeton, he moved to New York City to become an actor.  He made his Broadway debut in 1958 in Winesburg, Ohio.  In April 1959, he starred in Kataki and received a Theatre World Award for his performance.

As the 1960s dawned, Piazza joined a small cadre of actors who had achieved status on Broadway who then also returned to acting Off Broadway.  Colleen Dewhurst, George C. Scott, and James Earl Jones were others in this select group who helped establish Off Broadway as an entity in itself, instead of being just a farm team for Broadway.

In February 1963, he took over the role of Nick in the original run of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Broadway.  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, Westside Junior High, Central High School, Immanuel Baptist Church and various stores and shops in Little Rock during that era.

In August of 1967, his play The Sunday Agreement premiered at LaMaMa.  This was Piazza’s first playwright output to be professionally staged.  In March 1969, a double bill of his one-acts: Lime Green/Khaki Blue opened at the Provincetown Playhouse.  It

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Piazza toured in many plays nationally and internationally. He also appeared in major regional theatres as an actor and a director.  As the 1970s progressed, he turned his focus to television and movies.

Piazza’s film debut had been in a 1959 Canadian film called The Dangerous Age. That same year, his Hollywood film debut came opposite Gary Cooper in The Hanging Tree.  Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared in a number of TV shows including Studio One, Kraft Theatre, Zane Grey Theatre, The Naked City and Dick Powell Theatre.

In the 1970s and 1980s, his appearances included I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, The Bad News Bears, The Blues Brothers, and Mask.  On TV, he appeared in Dallas, Dynasty, Saint Elsewhere, Barnaby Miller, Moonlighting and Family Ties. 

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.


Little Rock Look Back: Mrs. Adolphine Fletcher Terry

Photos from the collection of the Butler Center

Photos from the collection of the Butler Center

Adolphine Fletcher Terry was born on November 3, 1882 to former Little Rock Mayor John Gould Fletcher and his wife Adolphine Krause Fletcher.

Raised in Little Rock, in 1889 she moved into the Albert Pike House on East 7th Street, when her aunt transferred the title to her father. That house would be her primary residence the rest of her life.  Her sister Mary Fletcher Drennan never lived in Arkansas as an adult after marriage. Her brother John Gould Fletcher spent much of his adulthood in Europe before returning to Little Rock and establishing his own house, Johnswood.

At age 15, Adolphine attended Vassar. She later credited that experience as broadening her views on many issues.  After graduating at age 19, she returned to Little Rock.  Her parents both died prior to her 1910 wedding to David D. Terry, which took place at what was then known as the Pike-Fletcher House (and today is known as the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House).

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.

Adolphine formed the Little Rock chapter of the American Association of University Women, the Pulaski County tuberculosis association and the Community Chest.

In 1958, when the Little Rock public high schools were closed instead of allowing them to be desegregated again, she called Harry Ashmore the editor of the Gazette and exclaimed, “the men have failed us…it’s time to call out the women.”  With this, she formed the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools. This group played a major role in getting the four high schools open the following year.

From 1933 to 1942, David Terry served in the U.S. Congress. During that time, Adolphine alternated her time between Washington DC and Little Rock. But she spent much time in Little Rock raising her five children.

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.

Adolphine Fletcher Terry is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery alongside her husband. Three of her children are also buried in that plot.  Her parents and brother are buried in a nearby plot.

Her son William Terry and his wife Betty continue to reside in Little Rock. Their daughters and their families also carry on Adolphine Fletcher Terry’s commitment to making Little Rock better.


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Creative Class 2016: Werner Trieschmann

cc16-treischmannWerner Trieschmann is a playwright-teacher-writer-you could keep adding hyphens and words.

His numerous plays — including Dog Star, Wrought Iron, and Killers — have been staged by Moving Arts in Los Angeles, Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City, The New Theatre in Boston, Mobtown Players in Baltimore, and Red Octopus Productions in Little Rock. Werner was a resident at the Mount Sequoyah New Play Retreat in Fayetteville. His play Lawn Dart won first prize in the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans New Play Competition. He was the first playwright to receive the Porter Prize, an Arkansas literary award recognizing outstanding achievement by an Arkansas writer.

Werner’s play Disfarmer about Arkansas photographer Mike Disfarmer, was featured in Theatre Squared’s Arkansas New Play Festival. It was subsequently mounted at the first ACANSA Arts Festival.

His full-length comedy You Have to Serve Somebody is published by the Dramatic Publishing Company; several of his short plays are published by Playscripts, Inc.; his dark one-act comedy Killers is published through Original Works Publishing; and a monologue from Killers is included in the The Best Women’s Stage Monologues 1999, published by Smith & Kraus. Werner has an MFA in Playwriting from Boston University. He is a Theatre Arts professor at Pulaski Technical College and an adjunct faculty member at Hendrix College, his alma mater.  He has also served as a dramaturg at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and was a writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  


Creative Class 2016: Phillip Rex Huddleston

cc16-huddlestonRenaissance Man is probably the best way to describe Phillip Rex Huddleston.  He is a writer, a musician, a composer, an artist, a teacher, an arts promoter, and so many other things.

By day, he is the Visual Art Specialist for eStem Middle School.  There, he teaches his students a variety of styles of art.  His own visual art style varies from realistic sketches, to caricatures, to comic strips and witty distillations of epic literature into a few frames.

As a guitarist and pianist he can often be found performing with his many talented friends throughout Little Rock’s live music scene in formal settings and on front porches.  As a composer, he has contributed compositions and performances to a variety of films made in Arkansas. His most recent effort was in Mark Thiedeman’s White Nights, which premiered in August.

A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas with a BA in Philosophy and an MA in English Literature, he was an Adjunct Instructor at UCA in the English Department before beginning his stint at eStem.  While at UCA, he also worked with the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre.

For several years, he and friends and roommates would host regular Garland House Shows, named for the street on which their house was located. These combined visual art exhibits with live music in celebrations of the art they created and the friends who created and appreciated it.


Creative Class 2016: Ryan Harris

cc16-harrisRyan Harris serves as the Executive Director for the Oxford American Literary Project, having been named to that new position in January of 2016.

He joined the Oxford American Literary Project in February 2013 as Program Director, and has helped establish regular programs at South on Main (the restaurant and cultural venue owned and operated by Matthew and Amy Bell ) and in the Oxford American’s annex space. Along with free outreach programming to support local and regional musicians, writers, and visual artists, Harris has brought both renowned and emerging artists to Little Rock through the ticketed Oxford American Concert Series. The experiences created through this series have helped enhance the cultural offerings in the region and established South on Main as a desirable stop for touring artists.

In addition to continuing to bring outstanding programming to Little Rock, Ryan is currently focusing on plans for the 25th anniversary of the OA in 2017.  He is also leading efforts for the OA to partner with additional cultural and educational institutions in Central Arkansas.

Prior to joining the Oxford American Literary Project, Ryan served as Director of Facilities and Event Operations at The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries, a nonprofit arts presenter in St. Louis, Missouri. He holds a BSBA from the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis.


Creative Class 2016: Kevin Brockmeier

cc16-brockmeierIn addition to his most recent work, A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip, KEVIN BROCKMEIER is the author of the novels The Illumination, The Brief History of the Dead, and The Truth About Celia; the story collections Things That Fall from the Sky and The View from the Seventh Layer; and the children’s novels City of Names and Grooves: A Kind of Mystery.

His work has been translated into seventeen languages. He has published his stories in such venues as The New Yorker, The Georgia Review, McSweeney’s, Zoetrope, Tin House, The Oxford American, The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and New Stories from the South. He has received the Borders Original Voices Award, three O. Henry Awards (one, a first prize), the PEN USA Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an NEA Grant. In 2007, he was named one of Granta magazine’s Best Young American Novelists. He teaches frequently at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

A graduate of Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School and Missouri State University, he attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop program at the University of Iowa, studying under such names as Frank Conroy and Marilynn Robinson, and graduated in 1997 with an MFA degree.  He is probably the only author to have participated in every single Arkansas Literary Festival.


Creative Class 2016: Bryan Borland

cc16-borlandBryan Borland is the founder and publisher of Sibling Rivalry Press, an independent publishing house based in Little Rock.  Since 2010, SRP has published Poets & Writers Top Debut Fiction, a Poets & Writers Top 12 Debut Poet, a Pushcart Prize winner, a Lambda Award winner for Gay Poetry, a Lambda Award winner for Lesbian Poetry, eight Lambda Literary Award finalists, two Thom Gunn Award finalists, twenty-one American Library Association “Over the Rainbow” recommended LGBT titles, three American Library Association “Over the Rainbow” top 10 favorite picks, one of Library Journal‘s “Best New Magazines,” one of Flavorwire‘s 50 books that define the last five years of literature, and finalists for the Bisexual Poetry Book of the Year, the Oregon Book of the Year, and the Georgia Book of the Year.

SRP was also recognized as the 2013 Bisexual Publisher of the Year from the Bisexual Writers Association for dedication to quality literary content across the spectrum of sexuality. In 2015, the Library of Congress acquired all of SRP’s printed titles for housing in its Rare Books and Special Collections Vault, “housed among history’s greatest writers for all of perpetuity.”

As a poet, Bryan’s first collection of poetry, My Life as Adam was one of only five books of poetry selected by the American Library Association for its first annual “Over the Rainbow” list of recommended LGBT-themed publications. His second collection of poetry, Less Fortunate Pirates: Poems from the First Year Without My Father, was released in November 2012. He is a 2015 Lambda Literary Fellow in Poetry and winner of the 2016 Judith A. Marowitz Emerging Writer Award. His third collection of poetry, DIG, was published in September 2016 by Stillhouse Press.