Laugh. Cry. Think. Act. with 2019-2020 season of The Weekend Theater.

The Weekend Theater’s 27th season kicks off with AVENUE Q (June 14-30).  The winner of the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical (as well as Tonys for Book of a Musical and Score), tells of life on Avenue Q for a group of twenty something humans and puppets.This is definitely NOT like puppet shows from childhood.

Next is the Arkansas premiere of Stephen Adley Guirgis’ Pulitzer Prize winning play BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY (July 26 to August 11).   Ex-cop and recent widower Walter “Pops” Washington and his newly paroled son Junior have spent a lifetime living between Riverside and crazy.

Anthony Mariani’s THE ROOSTER REBELLION (August 30 to September 8) is up next.  The story takes place in fall 2015 and summer 2016 in London. Reese Anne, a London teenager, runs away from home to help her ex-history teacher, Shell, who is homeless. They busk by day and at night seek to create a utopian homeless society, which falls apart on the eve of the Brexit vote.​​​​​

Cult classic SIDE SHOW (October 11 – 27) tells the story of Daisy and Violet. Conjoined twins, they are forced to be entertainers in a side show. As they struggle with very human emotions, they also must grapple with the fact that people see them as freaks.  With a lush score and colorful characters, it is a show that stays with audiences long after the lights come up.

2019 marks the 60th anniversary of Lorraine Hansberry’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN (December 5-21). It tells the story of the Younger family as they make decisions about the best way to use money left to them.  Each member of the three generations has their own dreams, and sometimes they clash with the wishes of others.    This moving, explosive, and often humorous play seeks to answer the question, “what happens when a dream is deferred.”

2020 gets going with GOOD KIDS. by Naomi Iizuka (January 9 – 26).  Something happened to Chloe after that party last Saturday night. Something she says she can’t remember. Something everybody is talking about. Set at a Midwestern high school, in a world of Facebook and Twitter, smartphones and YouTube,It explores a casual sexual encounter gone wrong and its very public aftermath.

Lynn Nottage’s SWEAT (Feb 14 – 29) won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017. It looks at the toll a factory closure has on a town and the friendships of the people who once worked in it.  Filial and familial bonds are tested as loyalties come into question and long-held beliefs are questioned. This gritty and compelling play has been described as one of the best ways to understand the different views voters held in the 2016 elections.

Regina Taylor’s CROWNS (March 20 – April 5) is a celebration of hats and the women who wear them.  Each hat holds a story of a wedding, funeral, baptism as a group of women share their stories of how they moved through life’s struggles. The hats aren’t just a fashion statement – they are testimonies of sisterhood – they are hard earned Crowns.

Paul Rudnick’s hilarious comedy of manners REGRETS ONLY (APril 24 to May 3) explores the latest topics in marriage, friendships and squandered riches. The setting: a Park Avenue penthouse. The players: a powerhouse attorney, his deliriously social wife and their closest friend, one of the world’s most staggeringly successful fashion designers. Add a daughter’s engagement, some major gowns, the president of the United States, and stir.

David Mamet’s RACE (May 15 – 24) explores and explodes various perspectives on race and justice.   Two lawyers find themselves defending a wealthy white executive charged with raping a black woman. When a new legal assistant gets involved in the case, the opinions that boil beneath explode to the surface. Mamet turns the spotlight on what we think but can’t say, dangerous truths are revealed, and no punches are spared.

More informaiton can be found at the Weekend Theater website.

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: 2014’s CLYBOURNE PARK

The Arkansas Rep kicked off 2014 with the Pulitzer and Tony winning CLYBOURNE PARK.  Both a prequel and sequel of sorts to A Raisin in the Sun, it looks at the life of a house and a neighborhood.

In 1959, a white couple sells their home to a black family (the fictional Younger family from A Raisin in the Sun), causing an uproar in their middle-class neighborhood. Fifty years later in 2009, the same house is changing hands again, but the stakes have changed.

As neighbors wage a hilarious and pitched battle over territory and legacy, Clybourne Park reveals just how far our ideas about race and identity have evolved.

In 2014, Arkansas Repertory Theatre brought the play to Little Rock in a production directed by the founder of the Rep, Cliff Baker.  The cast included Shaleah Adkisson, Ryan Barry, Katie Cunningham, Lawrence Evans, LeeAnne Hutchison, Robert Ierardi, Jason O’Connell, and David Tennal.

The creative team included scenic designer Mike Nichols, costume designer Yslan Hicks, lighting designer Yael Lubetzky, sound designer Allan Branson and properties designer Lynda J. Kwallek.

New Off Broadway play LITTLE ROCK opens tonight in NYC

Tonight in New York City, the new play Little Rock, about the events in 1957, officially opens.

Written and directed by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, eleven years ago, he was in a residency at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  During that time, he created It Happened in Little Rock, which was performed at the Rep in September 2007.  It was their contribution the community events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High.

Though Maharaj’s current production is different from the 2007 Rep production, it was inspired by his time in Little Rock and the connections he made during his residency.

The cast includes Rebekah Brockman, Justin Cunningham, Charlie Hudson III, Ashley Robinson, Stephanie Umoh (who starred in the Arkansas Rep production of Pal Joey), Shanice Williams, Peter O’Connor, Damian Jermaine Thompson (who starred in the Arkansas Rep productions of The Whipping Man and the Scottish Play), Kea Trevett and Anita Welch.

The production officially opens on June 6 and is scheduled for a limited run through September 8.

This production illustrates why theatre is important and Arkansas Repertory Theatre specifically is important.  One, theatre is a chance to explore and explain moments from our past and present.  The Rep saw a role it could play in telling a variety of stories and perspectives while molding a narrative about events in 1957 and progress that had been made (or not) since then.

Additionally, it is important that the Arkansas Repertory Theatre provided an artistic home for a playwright and director to learn.  In addition to working on It Happened in Little Rock, over the years Maharaj directed A Raisin in the Sun, Dreamgirls, and Intimate Apparel for Arkansas Rep.  It was through his experiences in Little Rock in 2004 and 2006, that he was inspired to collaborate with Bob Hupp, Leslie Golden and the Rep staff on It Happened in Little Rock.  Developing a play is not easy, cheap, or quick.  It is vital to the future of theatre to have artistic homes which can support these initiatives.

As the Arkansas Rep is preparing for its “Next Act” it is important to remember the impact it has had artistically and as an agent for community conversation on not only Little Rock but the state of Arkansas.  Sometimes theatre sparks ideas that no other art-form can, or no amount of reading or listening to speeches can.

Repertorium Praeter Theatrum

New play LITTLE ROCK, inspired by 1957 events, with roots at Arkansas Rep begins performances tonight in NYC

Tonight in New York City, a new play starts previews.  It is entitled Little Rock and is written and directed by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj.

Eleven years ago, Maharaj was in a residency at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre creating It Happened in Little Rock, which was performed at the Rep in September 2007.  It was their contribution the community events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High.

Though Maharaj’s current production is different from the 2007 Rep production, it was inspired by his time in Little Rock and the connections he made during his residency.

Here is the official description of Little Rock:

LITTLE ROCK tells the riveting true story of the Little Rock Nine, the first black students to attend their city’s formerly segregated central high school. What began as their quest for a better education soon became a national crisis, igniting the passions of a divided country and sparking a historic fight for justice in the Jim Crow South.

On the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement, a changing world watched as these nine children from Arkansas battled for their rights with only a book and pencil.

The cast includes Rebekah Brockman, Justin Cunningham, Charlie Hudson III, Ashley Robinson, Stephanie Umoh (who starred in the Arkansas Rep production of Pal Joey), Shanice Williams, Peter O’Connor, Damian Jermaine Thompson (who starred in the Arkansas Rep productions of The Whipping Man and the Scottish Play), Kea Trevett and Anita Welch.

The production officially opens on June 6 and is scheduled for a limited run through September 8.

This production illustrates why theatre is important and Arkansas Repertory Theatre specifically is important.  One, theatre is a chance to explore and explain moments from our past and present.  The Rep saw a role it could play in telling a variety of stories and perspectives while molding a narrative about events in 1957 and progress that had been made (or not) since then.

Additionally, it is important that the Arkansas Repertory Theatre provided an artistic home for a playwright and director to learn.  In addition to working on It Happened in Little Rock, over the years Maharaj directed A Raisin in the Sun, Dreamgirls, and Intimate Apparel for Arkansas Rep.  It was through his experiences in Little Rock in 2004 and 2006, that he was inspired to collaborate with Bob Hupp, Leslie Golden and the Rep staff on It Happened in Little Rock.  Developing a play is not easy, cheap, or quick.  It is vital to the future of theatre to have artistic homes which can support these initiatives.

As the Arkansas Rep is preparing for its “Next Act” it is important to remember the impact it has had artistically and as an agent for community conversation on not only Little Rock but the state of Arkansas.  Sometimes theatre sparks ideas that no other art-form can, or no amount of reading or listening to speeches can.

Repertorium Praeter Theatrum

UPDATE – on the afternoon of May 30, the producer announced that due to some technical difficulties, the production was being delayed a few days.

Pulitzers play Little Rock – CLYBOURNE PARK

Clybourne

While A Raisin in the Sun did not win the Pulitzer, it did inspire a sort of prequel AND sequel which did win that award.  Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park was inspired by the earlier play.  After an Off Broadway production in 2010, it won the 2011 Pulitzer for Drama. A subsequent Broadway production won the 2012 Tony for Best Play.

In 1959, a white couple sells their home to a black family (the fictional Younger family from A Raisin in the Sun), causing an uproar in their middle-class neighborhood. Fifty years later in 2009, the same house is changing hands again, but the stakes have changed.

As neighbors wage a hilarious and pitched battle over territory and legacy, Clybourne Park reveals just how far our ideas about race and identity have evolved.

In 2014, Arkansas Repertory Theatre brought the play to Little Rock in a production directed by the founder of the Rep, Cliff Baker (up next at the Rep with God of Carnage which closes out the 2017-2018 season).

The cast included Shaleah Adkisson, Ryan Barry, Katie Cunningham, Lawrence Evans, LeeAnne Hutchison, Robert Ierardi, Jason O’Connell, and David Tennal.  The creative team includes scenic designer Mike Nichols, costume designer Yslan Hicks, lighting designer Yael Lubetzky, sound designer Allan Branson and properties designer Lynda J. Kwallek.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Black History Month Spotlight: Phyllis Yvonne Stickney

mtcc nps stickneyPhyllis Yvonne Stickney is a world-class artist, producer, director, author, motivational speaker, clothing designer, community activist, businesswoman and surrogate mother to many.

Born in Little Rock, Stickney was raised in the various US cities to which her father, a YMCA executive, was transferred. However, she settled in Harlem, where her theater work began at the Frank Silvers Workshop, and the New Heritage Theater, under the late playwright/director Robert Furman.

Her theatrical performances were before sell-out crowds in the 1998 National Black Arts Festival, where she also served as performing arts curator and starred in Nathan Ross Freeman’s The Contract. She  made her national television debut as single mother Cora Lee in the ABC miniseries The Women of Brewster Place, which also starred Oprah Winfrey and Cicely Tyson. Her subsequent television credits include sitcoms New Attitude, The Cosby Show and A Different World, PBS ‘ Great Performances production of The Colored MuseumMs Stickney has also appeared on the silver screen in such notable movies as New Jack City Jungle Fever, Talkin’ Dirty, Malcolm X, The Inkwell; What’s Love Got To Do With It, Die Hard With A Vengeance and How Stella got Her Grove Back.

Ms Stickney’s Conscious Comedy Concerts have been featured in a number of venues across the country, including Harlem’s Apollo Theater, Concert show titles include, Live and in Chocolate, All That and Brains Too, and An Evening, With An Endangered Species. Her written work appears in an anthology of nine black comedy plays, edited by Pamela Faith Jackson. She also created The Crystal Pyramid, a chorepoem for children.

In addition, she served as the first solo female host for Essence’s 1997 Music Festival and was a speaker for the 1998 African American Women on the Tour.In 1983 she won the Audelco Award for her performance in Furman’s adaptation of Moliere’s Tartuffe, and later won a second Audelco for her original on-woman show, Big Mama an Nem

Though she has had success worldwide, she often returns to Little Rock to share her talents. She also played Lena in Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning play A Raisin in the Sun at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. The play was produced in January 2011 and received great reviews and exceeded box office expectations. Earlier this month, she headlined an event at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center highlighting the works of Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Ruby Dee and Beah Richards.

In 1998, she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  For more on Phyllis Yvonne Stickney and other inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, visit the permanent exhibit at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. That museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Laughter and Lyrics tonight featuring Phyllis Yvonne Stickney

mtcc nps stickneyThe Central High School National Historic Site and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center present a special program tonight.  The program is “Laughter & Lyrics” and stars acclaimed actress, comedienne and author Phyllis Yvonne Stickney.  The event starts at 6:30 pm tonight at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Drawing from the words of some of the leading African American female writers and thinkers in the second half of the 20th Century, Stickney has created an evening of thought provoking spoken word, social commentary, live music, and Conscious Comedy. This 90 minute theatrical presentation will draw on the body works of Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Ruby Dee and feature excerpts from Beah Richards’ “A Black Woman Speaks.”

Phyllis Yvonne Stickney is a world-class artist, producer, director, author, motivational speaker, clothing designer, community activist, businesswoman and surrogate mother to many. Ms. Stickney is best known and respected for her work in film, stage, television and comedy. Her portrayals range from articulate attorney to feisty comedy club diva, to a Jamaican mother of class. She is regarded as one of the most intelligently hilarious comic talents and was recognized by HBO in THE HISTORY OF BLACKS IN COMEDY. Her film credits include NEW JACK CITY, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK, THE INKWELL, WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?, MALCOLM X, and the “ABC Afterschool Special,” DADDY’S GIRL. She made television history by portraying an Afrocentric character on THE COSBY SHOW spinoff, A DIFFERENT WORLD.

She also played Lena in Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning play A RAISIN IN THE SUN at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. The play was produced in January 2011 and received great reviews and exceeded box office expectations.