31 Days of Arkansas Rep: Charles Portis’ DELRAY’S NEW MOON in 1996

When you’ve written one of the great American novels of the second half of the 20th Century and seen it turned into an Oscar winning movie, what do you do next?  You continue writing.

And if you are Charles Portis, you decide in the 1990s to try your hand at a play.  So in 1996, the Arkansas Rep offered a staged reading of Portis’ play Delray’s New Moon. 

Directed by Rep Artistic Director Cliff Baker, it was set in a honky tonk hotel halfway between Little Rock and Texarkana. Most of the people there are senior citizens awaiting their next location whether it be a nursing home or a relative’s house.

The cast featured Scott Edmonds played a father being shuffled each month between his daughters played by Judy Trice and Natalie Canerday.  Others in the cast included Danielle Rosenthal, Jean Lind, John Stiritz, Michael Davis, Graham Gordy, Stacy Breeding, Angel Bailey, Rhonda Atwood and Tom Kagy.

The production ran from April 18 to 28.  The normally reclusive Portis participated in talkback sessions following performances.

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LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

Shark Week remembrance of Roy Schneider

Actor Roy Scheider’s connection to Little Rock is a sad one.  He visited the City quite frequently during the last years of his life as he was getting treated at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.  Despite UAMS’s best efforts, Scheider died in Little Rock on February 10, 2008.

Though he starred in several iconic films in the 1970s and 1980s, he is probably best remembered for his role in the Jaws series of films.

In the 1970s, Scheider received two Oscar nominations. His first, for Best Supporting Actor, was in The French Connection.  While Scheider did not pick up the Oscar, the film itself was named Best Picture.  It won four other Oscars that night. (As a side note: it was the first R-rated movie to win Best Picture.  Though Midnight Cowboy was re-released as an R-Rated movie after winning the Best Picture Oscar, it was initially released as an X-rated movie.)

Scheider’s second Oscar nomination came for playing Bob Fosse’s stand-in in the movie All That Jazz.  It, too, won four Oscars, though Scheider’s nomination would not result in a win.

Movies in the Park continues tonight with ZOOTOPIA

The 2018 season of Movies in the Park continues with ZOOTOPIA.  The 2016 film, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, starts tonight at sundown at the First Security Amphitheatre in Riverfront Park.

In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy. The film features the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Batema, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, and Shakira

Little Rock’s Movies in the Park is sponsored by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Little Rock.  Movies are shown every Wednesday during the season and begin at sundown.

Families, picnics and pets are invited to the park to enjoy movies under the stars, no glass containers please. A parent or adult guardian must accompany all children and youth under the age of 18 and an ID is required. The amphitheater will open an hour before film showings and movies will start at sundown each week. For more information please visit http://moviesintheparklr.net.

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: ‘NIGHT, MOTHER on Arkansas Rep stage with Oscar winner Mercedes McCambridge

MercedesIt is not often that an Oscar winner has appeared in a play on a Little Rock stage.  But in the spring of 1986, Mercedes McCambridge starred in Marsha Norman’s ‘night, Mother at Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

She had moved to Little Rock a few years prior to live full time to be close to family. From time to time, she and Cliff Baker (the Rep’s founder) would have conversations about potential projects. But it was not until 1986, that the stars aligned.  By this point, she had moved away from Little Rock, but was still back from time to time to visit family.  (In an interview with the Arkansas Gazette, she also praised Fred Poe and noted that he was her travel agent for her many excursions.)

Appearing on stage with McCambridge in Norman’s two-hander was Rep veteran Cathey Crowell Sawyer.

Though noted for her film work, McCambridge had appeared on Broadway several times including opposite Little Rock native Ben Piazza in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and receiving a Tony nomination for her work in the play The Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks.

Prior to appearing at the Rep, she had recently toured in the play Agnes of God.  She related to the Gazette that she had been approached to do that play prior to Broadway but did not feel the character she was to play was believable.  When the national tour came about, a conversation with playwright John Pielmeier changed her mind.

Her last Broadway appearance was in Neil Simon’s Pulitzer Prize winning Lost in Yonkers.

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.

Rock the Oscars: John Legend

john-legendOn September 26, 2009, future Oscar winner John Legend headlined a concert at Robinson Center.

Born in Ohio, he graduated from high school at age 16 ranked number two in the class.  He attended college at the University of Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia during college, he started performing shows–eventually playing gigs up and down the eastern seaboard.  In 2001, he started performing with Kanye West.  His debut solo album was released in 2004 and was certified gold.  It won the 2006 Grammy for Best R&B album.

In addition to his own work, he has been a much-sought after collaborator.  Between both ventures, he continued to pick up accolades and release hit songs and albums.  At the time he visited Little Rock, he was promoting the album Evolver.

Since his time in Little Rock, he has toured extensively, released more albums, and continued to tour.  He won the Oscar for Best Song for “Glory” from Selma.  At last year’s Oscars, the film La La Land in which he appears, was nominated for several Academy Awards.  It won six but NOT Best Picture.

Rock the Oscars: Ruby Dee

Future Oscar nominee Ruby Dee was in Little Rock in 1992 for the filming of the Disney Channel movie The Ernest Green Story. The film was produced by Carol Ann Abrams, whose son J. J. Abrams is now an in-demand director and producer.

That Dee and her husband Ossie Davis would appear in this movie was probably no surprise.  Throughout their acting careers, each had been active in the Civil Rights movement and used their status as celebrated actors to advance the cause.

The film starred Morris Chestnut as Green.  The real Ernest Green served as the narrator of the film.  Many local actors also appeared in the film.  The world premiere was held at Little Rock Central High School.  The first airing on the Disney Channel was on January 17, 1993.  The film was introduced by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who would take the oath of office as President of the US three days later.

Dee was born in Ohio, but moved to New York as a child. After studying French and Spanish in college, she pursued acting as a way to continue her interest in languages.  In 1950, she starred in The Jackie Robinson Story, which brought her national recognition for her film roles.  She continued to alternate between film and theatre throughout her career.  While she often shared the stage with her husband, the two also pursued independent projects.

She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in Ridley Scott’s 2007 film American Gangster.   Dee continued working until a few months before her death in 2014.