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.
It 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.
On 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.
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.
In 1980, Oscar winner Joanne Woodward came to Little Rock to film the TV movie Crisis at Central High. In the movie she played Elizabeth Huckaby, who was vice principal for girls at Central High during the desegregation of the school. Huckaby had written a book about her experiences which was published earlier in 1980.
The film, which aired on TV on February 4, 1981, also starred Charles Durning and Henderson Forsythe. Several local actors also appeared in the movie. While much of the interior scenes were shot in Dallas, there were exterior scenes shot at the Central High. Other Little Rock locations were also used.
Woodward was born on February 27, 1930. In the early 1950s, she split her time between theatre and TV, both based in New York City. In only her third year of making motion pictures, she won the Best Actress Oscar for her role(s) in The Three Faces of Eve. As she continued to make movies, she received three other Best Actress nominations over the decades.
In the past two decades, she has focused more on directing and producing theatre, with some voice work for films. Her last motion picture onscreen role was in 1993’s Philadelphia, where she played Tom Hanks’ mother.
Cleveland County, Arkansas, native Johnny Cash was the subject of the Oscar winning film Walk the Line. Although he never lived in Little Rock, he was a frequent visitor throughout his career.
Born on February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas, as a young boy he moved with his family to Dyess. After service in the military (in which he also had his first band), Cash moved to Memphis. It was there he broke into the music scene.
Among the venues Cash played in Little Rock were Barton Coliseum and Wildwood Park for the Arts. In one performance, he shared the stage with his friend and fellow Arkansan Glen Campbell. The largest crowd for which Cash performed in Little Rock was in 1989, when he appeared at a Billy Graham crusade at War Memorial Stadium.
Oscar winning director Elia Kazan married his second wife, actress Barbara Loden, in his son’s house on Alpine Court in Little Rock in 1967. Chris Kazan was, by that time, a copy editor for the Arkansas Gazette. He was also a Pulaski County Justice of the Peace and performed his father’s ceremony. (At the time, the Pulaski County Quorum Court had so many justices of the peace-467-that it was the world’s largest legislative body.)
Elia Kazan’s first wife had died in 1963. He and Loden had known each other for several years before the wedding. Kazan visited Little Rock frequently in the 1960s visiting his son. While here, he would go to War Memorial Park to play tennis.
Kazan won two Oscars for directing: Gentlemen’s Agreement and On the Waterfront. He was also nominated for helming A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden, and America America. On the latter film he was also nominated for producing the film and for being a screenwriter. All together, his films won 21 Oscars and received an additional 37 nominations.
In 1999, Kazan received an Honorary Oscar in tribute to his career. Because he had “named names” before the House Un-American Activities Committee thereby abetting in the blacklisting of people suspected of being Communists, this recognition was not without controversy. Approximately 250 people picketed that ceremony, and some in attendance did not applaud when he came out. Earlier in the ceremony, comedian Robin Williams made light of the controversy by opining “Let Lainie Sing” a joking reference to the singer and actress Lainie Kazan (no relation).