Rock the Oscars 2019: Dick Powell

Oscars nominations are announced today.  In the days leading up to the ceremony, this blog will look at Arkansas to the Academy Awards.

First up is Dick Powell.  Though not born in Little Rock, he grew up here and graduated from Little Rock High School when it was on Scott Street (now the East Side Lofts).  He started earning money as a singer in Little Rock churches and masonic lodges before transitioning to nightspots which eventually led to him touring the country with dance bands.

When Hollywood beckoned, he first appeared in light musicals as a singer and dancer.  One of his first non-musical roles was in the  all-star A Midsummer Night’s Dream which earned four Oscar nominations and won two.  He starred opposite future Oscar winners Jimmy Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.  Eventually, he transitioned into film noir roles including playing Phillip Marlowe in 1945’s Murder, My Sweet.  

In 1948, Powell hosted the Oscars ceremony. Gentlemen’s Agreement won Best Picture and two other Oscars that year.  (He was not the first Arkansan to host the Oscars.  In 1938, Van Buren native Bob Burns hosted the ceremony.)  In 1959, he and his then-wife June Allyson were two of the presenters at the Oscars.  That ceremony came in at one hour and 40 minutes in length. It was under-time so the presenters and winners took to the stage floor with dancing as a way to fill time before NBC cut away and aired a documentary on target-shooting.

Powell was one of the stars of 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful.  The film won five Oscars but was not nominated for Best Picture.  It holds the record for the most wins by a film not nominated for Best Picture.

Spend Midsummer evenings at A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM this weekend

ACANSA Arts Festival presents Free Shakespeare this weekend!
Spend a mid-summer evening enjoying A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM July 20-22.  All performances take place at the Clinton Center Ampitheater, 6:30 pm.
The event is totally free- no tickets are required, audience members can just come as they are to any and every show.
“ACANSA is so pleased to be working with the Clinton Center to bring this wonderful show to the community,” noted ACANSA executive director Dillon Hupp.  “Shakespeare is timeless, and we are thrilled to offer three entirely free performances of a Midsummer Night’s Dream next weekend. We hope you will make your plans to join us and support some wonderful local artists!”
Image may contain: sky, grass, tree, outdoor and nature A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is a romantic comedy that follows young lovers on the run and a group of amateur actors on their journey deep into the forest of Athens where they unknowingly stumble into the fairy kingdom. When the worlds collide, chaos ensues and the fairies realize they’ve made a mistake that has to be corrected before sunrise.

What to Bring:
Picnic, bug spray & sunblock
Concessions will be available.

Seating:
The natural amphitheater overlooking the Arkansas River and Rock Island Bridge. Bring a blanket and pillows for the best seating locations.

Limited locations:
Camping chairs
Wheelchair accessible

Donate:
Donations will be accepted at the event to benefit Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Rock the Oscars: Dick Powell

The Oscars are on March 4.  In the days leading up to them, the Little Rock Culture Vulture will look at Little Rock connections to the Academy Awards over the 90 ceremonies.

First up is Dick Powell.  Though not born in Little Rock, he grew up here and graduated from Little Rock High School when it was on Scott Street (now the East Side Lofts).  He started earning money as a singer in Little Rock churches and masonic lodges before transitioning to nightspots which eventually led to him touring the country with dance bands.

When Hollywood beckoned, he first appeared in light musicals as a singer and dancer.  One of his first non-musical roles was in the  all-star A Midsummer Night’s Dream which earned four Oscar nominations and won two.  He starred opposite future Oscar winners Jimmy Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.  Eventually, he transitioned into film noir roles including playing Phillip Marlowe in 1945’s Murder, My Sweet.  

In 1948, Powell hosted the Oscars ceremony. Gentlemen’s Agreement won Best Picture and two other Oscars that year.  (He was not the first Arkansan to host the Oscars.  In 1938, Van Buren native Bob Burns hosted the ceremony.)  In 1959, he and his then-wife June Allyson were two of the presenters at the Oscars.  That ceremony came in at one hour and 40 minutes in length. It was under-time so the presenters and winners took to the stage floor with dancing as a way to fill time before NBC cut away and aired a documentary on target-shooting.

Powell was one of the stars of 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful.  The film won five Oscars but was not nominated for Best Picture.  It holds the record for the most wins by a film not nominated for Best Picture.

Creative Class 2016: Chad Bradford

cc16-bradfordActor and director Chad Bradford started appearing on Little Rock stages while he was still a student at Hall High School.  Since then, he has appeared Off Broadway, in national tours, and in numerous regional theatres throughout the U.S.  While often appearing in Shakespeare or other classical plays, he is equally at home in farce, musicals, and drawing room comedies.  In 2015, he played the title character in the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre production of Puss in Boots. In other words, he is a versatile actor.

Earlier this year, he directed Twelfth Night for Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre (while also appearing in their productions of West Side Story and A Midsummer Night’s Dream).  Twelfth Night was later remounted at Shake on the Lake Shakespeare in New York and returned to Conway for another appearance.  (This is not his first show to originate in Little Rock and be performed throughout the US. In 2013, he helmed David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries here before it played elsewhere.)  In 2015, National Arts Strategies named him a Creative Community Fellows recipient.

He is currently in rehearsals directing David Ives’s The Liar on the UCA Mainstage.  It plays October 20-22, and 27 & 28.

On Twelfth Night – Remember TWELFTH NIGHT is part of 2016 Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre lineup

AST 2016 TwelfthToday is Twelfth Night. (Or is it Tonight is Twelfth Night?)  It is a good time to remember that the 2016 the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre season will feature Shakespeare’s play of that name, as the one-hour Family Shakespeare adaptation.

Twelfth Night takes us to the island of Illyria, where shipwrecked Viola must disguise herself as a boy—causing complications in her love life.

Actual performance dates and casting will be announced later.

The other three titles for 2016 are:

The 2016 outdoor Shakespeare: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Directed by Robert Quinlan
A comic romp of epic proportions, this magical comedy and its lovers, fairies, and oh-so-Rude Mechanicals are the perfect company for an Arkansas midsummer night.

The 2016 tragedy: ROMEO AND JULIET
Directed by AST Producing Artistic Director Rebekah Scallet
Romance, intrigue, and adventure abound in Shakespeare’s timeless tale of the original
star-crossed lovers caught between their
warring families.

The 2016 musical: WEST SIDE STORY
Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Leonard Bernstein , Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed and Choreographed by Jeremy Williams
This beloved musical transplants the story of Romeo and Juliet to 1950s New York City, where the warring Jets and Sharks stand in the way of true love.

2016 season for Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre announced

AST 2016Last week, the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre announced the four titles for the 2016 season, their 10th season of bringing the Bard and more to Central Arkansas.

Actual performance dates and casting will be announced later.

The 2016 outdoor Shakespeare: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Directed by Robert Quinlan
A comic romp of epic proportions, this magical comedy and its lovers, fairies, and oh-so-Rude Mechanicals are the perfect company for an Arkansas midsummer night.

The 2016 tragedy: ROMEO AND JULIET
Directed by AST Producing Artistic Director Rebekah Scallet
Romance, intrigue, and adventure abound in Shakespeare’s timeless tale of the original
star-crossed lovers caught between their
warring families.

The 2016 musical: WEST SIDE STORY
Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Leonard Bernstein , Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed and Choreographed by Jeremy Williams
This beloved musical transplants the story of Romeo and Juliet to 1950s New York City, where the warring Jets and Sharks stand in the way of true love.

The 2016 Family Shakespeare: TWELFTH NIGHT
This one-hour Family Shakespeare adaptation takes us to the island of Illyria, where shipwrecked Viola must disguise herself as a boy—causing complications in her love life.

Back to School Cinema: DEAD POET’S SOCIETY

Dead_poets_societyWith students returning to school, this week the Culture Vulture will feature seven favorite films about the high school experience.  Up first is 1989’s Dead Poets Society.

While it can be a bit melodramatic, Peter Weir’s movie (from Tom Schulman’s script) captures not only the generational split between students and their teachers & parents, but also the seismic shifts that were happening in the US in the late 1950s. The movie takes place just prior to the JFK-Nixon election time.  It sets the stage for the dichotomy of feelings those candidates represented.

When it first came out, it had a tremendous influence on me.  I appreciated the references to history and literature, the Ralph Lauren designed clothing, the tremendous use of plaid in set decoration and the breathtaking scenery.  The actors playing the students were my age, though playing slightly younger (I was in college, they were playing prep school seniors).  Though I confess, I was not much of a Walt Whitman fan, and still am not.

Robin Williams is stellar as a combination Mr. Chips and Pied Piper who bucks the system at Welton Academy. Though the part was not written for him, he made it his own. It showcased not only his comic talents but also his ability to show pathos.  Even when he is hamming it up for his students, Williams shows a bit of restraint – he keeps his character grounded in 1959.

The actors playing the students had great chemistry – they functioned as a complete unit. They have gone on to varied levels of success.  Robert Sean Leonard has won a Tony and alternated between stage and TV with a few films.  Ethan Hawke was, for a while, a leading actor of his generation and has received Oscar nominations for acting and writing. Josh Charles has worked fairly steadily, especially on TV in shows like “SportsNight” and “The Good Wife.”  James Waterston has also kept busy in various acting roles.  Gale Hansen, who was so magnetic in this film, has disappeared from acting.  Allelon Ruggiero and Dylan Kussman, too, have had only a few credits.

The movie also proved to be a breakout for Kurtwood Smith. He followed up this hellish dad with a kinder version in “That 70’s Show.”  Norman Lloyd, who played the headmaster, celebrated his 100th birthday in November 2014.  He still takes a few acting roles and attends events.  (When I first watched it, I would never have predicted that 25 years later Williams would be dead and Lloyd would be turning 100.)  Several other character actors pop up as faculty members and parents.  (One of my favorites, John Cunningham, plays Ethan Hawke’s father.)

This being a movie that came out in the summer, I was was pleased when it received four Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Williams), Director (Weir) and Original Screenplay (Schulman).  On Oscar night, Schulman walked home with the trophy.

The ending of the film gives me goosebumps each time – even though I know it is coming.  There are so many other moments I enjoy – the kicking of the ball while reciting inspirational quotes accompanied by Beethoven is certainly another.  And I can still recite Puck’s final speech in A Midsummer Night’s Dream because I learned it from this movie.

I was fortunate to have teachers to inspire me at all levels of schooling.  Though none asked me to stand on desks, I was challenged, cajoled and even on a few times chastised.  And I am the better for it.