Tag Archives: Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre

Little Rock Look Back: Townsend Wolfe

Townsend Wolfe, who led the Arkansas Arts Center for 34 years, was born on August 15, 1935.  He was hired to lead the Arkansas Arts Center 50 years ago this month.

Though not the founding director of the Arkansas Arts Center, Wolfe was the director for well over half of the institution’s 57 year history. Hired in 1968 at the age of 32 (making him one of the youngest art museum directors in the US at the time), he retired in 2002.  That year he was honored with the Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Arkansas Arts Council.

A native of South Carolina, Wolfe held a bachelor’s degree from the Atlanta Art Institute and a master’s degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He also received a certificate from the Harvard Institute of Arts Administration, and honorary doctoral degrees from two other institutions.  After teaching some classes and seminars at the AAC in the early 1960s, he was recruited to return full-time to the Arkansas Arts Center by Governor and Mrs. Winthrop Rockefeller.

During his tenure at the Arts Center, he first was responsible for creating financial stability. After drastic cost-cutting measures, he refocused programming which led to the creation of the current Museum School, a focus of works on paper for the collection, cultivating a thriving collectors group, establishment of a children’s theatre, expansion of statewide services, and several additions to the physical structure.  He encouraged others to collect art and expanded Arts Center programming into Little Rock neighborhoods.

In addition to serving on the National Council of the Arts, Wolfe was a member of the National Museum Services Board and the board of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York. He was curator for an exhibition in the First Ladies’ Sculpture Garden at the White House in 1995, and was the recipient of the 1997 Distinguished Service Award (outside the profession) by the National Art Educators Association.

Over the years, Wolfe has served in a variety of capacities for the Association of American Museums, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Wolfe, who died in 2017, was posthumously honored by the Arts Center earlier this year with one of its Portrait of a Patron awards.  In 1973, he received the first Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award from the Arkansas Arts Center.

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The late Bob Dorough, Arkansan and musical genius, named a 2019 NEA Jazz Master

Earlier this week, the National Endowment for the Arts announced the 2019 Jazz Masters.  Among them was the late Bob Dorough, who died on April 23 of this year.  The other three recipients are big band leader Maria Schneider, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, and writer Stanley Crouch.

Dorough’s career spanned more than 70 years in jazz as a singer, pianist, composer, and arranger. His distinctive vocals, clever lyrics, and strong melodies were well-known in the jazz world even before his compositions and vocals for the animation series “Schoolhouse Rock!.”

Born in Arkansas and raised in Texas, hepivoted toward jazz after hearing Benny Goodman and Harry James recordings. During a three-year-stint in the U.S. Army from 1943-45, he worked as an arranger and musician in a Special Services band, then earned a bachelor’s degree in composition at North Texas State Teachers College (now known as the University of North Texas) in 1949.

Dorough relocated to New York City to continue his studies at Columbia University and immersed himself in the vibrant local jazz scene.  After spending six months working at the famed Mars Club in Paris, France, he returned to the U.S. and settled in Los Angeles, performing as pianist-vocalist in clubs and as supporting act between sets for comedian Lenny Bruce. Dorough’s first album, Devil May Care, was released in 1956.

In 1962, Dorough was working on the East Coast when he received a call from Miles Davis who he had met several years before in Los Angeles, asking him to write a Christmas song for him to record. Dorough composed “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)” and sang it with Davis as well as another track, “Nothing Like You,” used as the closing track of Davis’ album Sorcerer in 1967.

In 1972, Dorough was hired by a New York advertising firm to set the multiplication tables to music to make them easier to learn. It was decided that the songs would make good animation, and Tom Yohe put artwork with the music to create Schoolhouse Rock! Dorough became the musical director of the television series, enlisting other well-known jazz musicians to help write and perform the songs. The animated educational series became a staple of the ABC network’s children’s programming for more than two decades.

In 1998, he was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame.  The Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre has performed the stage adaptation of “School House Rock Live!” (which was created by Arkansan and AAC alum Scott Ferguson and performed all over the country).

On April 15, 2019, the NEA will host a free concert celebrating the Jazz Masters at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Beginning in 1982, NEA has bestowed the Jazz Master honor on more than 150 people connected to the jazz genre, including Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Dianne Reeves and George Wein. Individuals first are nominated by the public, with an NEA-convened panel assessing the nominations before the National Council on the Arts reviews the recommendations and forwards them along to the NEA chairman, who makes the final decision.

Putting the LIT in Pulitzer

two_medalsThe 2018 Pulitzer Prizes are announced later today.  Over the years, there have been several Pulitzer winners with connections to Little Rock.

In 1939,  Little Rock native John Gould Fletcher, a scion of a politically prominent family, won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his work Selected Poems.  He appears to be the first Pulitzer Prize winner with Little Rock connections.

The 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama went to South Pacific. With a leading lady who is from Little Rock, this Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Joshua Logan musical explores race against the backdrop of World War II.  It is based on James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, which won the 1948 Pulitzer for Fiction. (Because it was a collection of interrelated short stories, the category was changed from Novel to Fiction from that year onward.)  But in the Michener book, Forbush is not from Little Rock.  In fact, she is not even from Arkansas, but hails from Alabama.

The Arkansas Gazette made Pulitzer history in 1958 by winning both the Public Service and Editorial prizes in the same year. This was the first time that one organization had received both awards in the same year.  These were for the coverage of and response to the 1957 integration of Central High School by the Little Rock Nine.  J. N. Heiskell was the paper’s owner and editor, while Harry Ashmore led the editorial page.  Relman Morin of the Associated Press received the Pulitzer for National Reporting for his coverage of the events at Central.  Apparently Will Counts of the Arkansas Democrat was the jurors’ choice to receive the Pulitzer for Photography. But the Board opted to give the prize to another photographer.  Some speculate that the Pulitzer Board did not want to give four prizes in the same year for the same story.

Current Little Rock resident Paul Greenberg won the 1969 Pulitzer for Editorial Writing.  at the time, he worked for the Pine Bluff Commercial.   In 1986, he was a finalist in the same category.  Greenberg moved to Little Rock to join the staff of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 1992.  While no longer the Editorial Page Editor, Greenberg continues to write columns for the newspaper.

Former Little Rock resident Richard Ford received the 1996 Pulitzer for Fiction for his novel Independence Day.  As a young boy of eight, and for several years after, Ford spent much time at Little Rock’s Marion Hotel with his grandparents.  In making the presentation, the Pulitzer Board noted it was, “A visionary account of American life, Independence Day reveals a man and country with unflinching comedy and the specter of hope and even permanence…”

The Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2001 went to David Auburn.  A 1987 graduate of Hall High School, Auburn was recognized for his play Proof.  The Pulitzer Board described Proof thus: “This poignant drama about love and reconciliation unfolds on the back porch of a house settled in a suburban university town, that is, like David Auburn’s writing, both simple and elegant.”  Auburn also served as a 2014 juror for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  While a student in Little Rock, Auburn participated in theatre at the Arkansas Arts Center.

The Elves and the Shoemaker up next at Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre

The Elves and the ShoemakerThe Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre will bring the spirit of the holiday season to the stage in The Elves and the Shoemaker, a musical adapted from the folktales of the Brothers Grimm. The show will run December 2 through December 18.

The holiday reimagining of the Grimm’s folktale tells the story of a poor cobbler with a good heart and a grateful spirit. Jack Shoemaker and his family have fallen on hard times. Jack’s debts are coming due with the new year, and his family’s chances of a happy Christmas are looking bleak. But just when he seems to be losing all hope, he receives a strange visit in the night. Elves grant a magical gift that reminds him what is truly important in life: family. And when that family gratefully returns the elves’ kind gesture, they are doubly blessed with the happiest, most love-filled Christmas ever. This traditional family favorite is ideal for the holiday season of giving.

The Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre performance of The Elves and the Shoemaker is directed by Keith Smith. Bradley D. Anderson is the artistic director. The sets are designed by Miranda Young, costumes are designed by Nikki Webster, technical direction by Drew Posey, lighting design by Mike Stacks, choreography by Erin Fowler and musical direction by Lori Isner. Rivka Kuperman is the stage manager.

The cast includes:

  • Aleigha Morton as Herself
  • Jeremy Matthey as Himself
  • Barlow Brenner as Slumber
  • Connor Hadden as Chimney
  • Brady Chandler as Pantry
  • Collete Crochet  as Emily
  • Katie Campbell as Anna
  • John Isner as Jack
  • Mark Hansen as Man
  • Simon Gess  as Boy

Tickets can always be purchased in person, online or by phone.  Prices are $10 for AAC members; $12.50 for non-members.

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.

Have Fun and Learn as SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE! takes stage at Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre

AAC CT SchoolhouseThe Schoolhouse Rock cartoon may be decades old now, but this fresh, live-theatre adaptation will spark the wide-eyed wonder of new discovery in our youngest generation while inviting smiles of toe-tapping, lip-synching nostalgia from the rest of us. Get ready to relive those fun-filled afternoons in front of the TV; Schoolhouse Rock Live! is coming to the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre March 4-25.

From “Just a Bill,” “Conjunction Junction,”  “Interplanet Janet” and more, every song in this live musical performance of the classic, Emmy Award-winning cartoon series “Schoolhouse Rock” is sure to please.  With performances Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., March 4-25, and 2 p.m. matinee performances March 22-25, there are plenty of opportunities to see this show which makes learning grammar, science, math and history a delight!

The Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre performance of Schoolhouse Rock Live! is directed by Katie Campbell. Costumes are designed by Erin Larkin, lighting design by Mike Stacks, scenic design by Miranda Young, choreography by Erin Fowler and Rivka Kupperman is the stage manager. Nicole Jovanovic and Cathleen Gleason are part of the run crew.

The cast includes:

  • Nick Spencer of Nashville TN. as Tom;
  • Jeremy Matthey of North Little Rock as George;
  • Samantha Harrington of Little Rock as Shulie;
  • Aleigha Morton of Beebe as Dori;
  • Geoffrey Eggleston of Sioux Falls, SD as Joe and
  • Paige Carpenter of Little Rock as Dina.

Schoolhouse Rock Live! was originally adapted and produced for the stage by Theatre BAM, from the series created by George Newall and Tom Yohe, based on an idea by David McCall; book by Scott Ferguson, George Keating and Kyle Hall. Music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, Kathy Mandry, George Newall and Tom Yohe.

Schoolhouse Rock and the accompany play have strong ties to Arkansas. Robert Dorough, born in Cherry Hill, Ark., wrote and performed many of the original songs for the cartoon and the play. Scott Ferguson is the original director and author of Schoolhouse Rock Live! Not only is he a native of Sherwood,, but he is also an alumnus of the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre.

Get ready for the ultimate Throwback Thursday event with Schoolhouse on the Rocks—an adults-only singalong performance of Schoolhouse Rock Live! on Thursday, March 10. Before the play, enjoy a reception at 6 p.m. featuring themed cocktails, a cereal and Hiland Dairy milk bar with some of your favorite breakfast treats and a grownup spin on other classic childhood snacks. Tickets are $10 for members, $20 for non-members and include the reception and ticket to the show.

The Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre will once again offer “Pay What You Can” preview performances. “Pay What You Can” tickets are available for the 7 p.m. Thursday preview performance of each Main Stage production. Tickets for the Schoolhouse Rock Live! preview on Thursday, March 3 must be purchased in person at the Arkansas Arts Center (501 East 9th Street) from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Stephens Inc. Visitors Center, or from 6-6:45 p.m. at the Children’s Theatre Box Office, Lower Lobby Level. The maximum ticket purchase of six tickets per person. Additional tickets can always be purchased in person, online or by phone at regular ticket pricing.

Schoolhouse Rock Live!

March 4-25, 2016

Show times: Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Spring Break Matinee Performances:  March 22-25, 2016 at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices: $12.50 General admission, $10 for Arkansas Arts Center members, $10 per person for groups of 10 or more

Best enjoyed by all ages.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit ArkansasArtsCenter.org/theatre.

13 CLOCKS next at Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre

AAC CT ClocksThe Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre invites you to join the brave Prince Zorn on a whimsically impossible fantasy quest from the ever-surprising, always entertaining imagination of James Thurber. The 13 Clocks will run January 29 – February 14.

In The 13 Clocks, Thurber tells the story of Princess Saralinda and her evil uncle, the Duke, who holds her prisoner in a tower, refusing to let her marry. That is until Prince Zorn arrives to rescue her. But first, he must complete an impossible task: deliver 1,000 jewels to the Duke just as the 13 castle clocks strike five o’clock.

The cast is led by Samantha Harrington and Geoffrey Eggleston.  Adapted for the stage by Keith Smith from the story by James Thurber, it is directed by Bradley D. Anderson, AACCT artistic director. Costumes are designed by Nikki Webster, technical direction and set design by Drew Posey, lighting design by Mike Stacks, properties design by Miranda Young and Sarah Gasser is the stage manager.

Performances are Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

 $12.50 General admission, $10 for Arkansas Arts Center members