LR Women Making History – Mimi Dortch

Madalyn “Mimi” Breitzke Dortch, was known for getting worthwhile projects off the ground.

She was a founder along with dear friend Cliff Baker, of the Arkansas Repertory Theater; hosted the first Arkansas Opera Theatre outdoor perforomance at her home Marlsgate, was a founder along with Helen Walton of Arkansas Committee of National Museum of Women in the Arts, and was the Director of AIC Choir Camp at Subiaco for 22 years.

When Baker had the idea for the Rep, she made use of her personal connections and helped form the first Board of Directors.  She served as an ambassador for the Rep and theatre in general.   Throughout the rest of her life, she would be a stalwart supporter of the Rep.  Her interest in theatre had been nurtured while she was in college.  Her interest in founding community endeavors had been inherited from her father who founded the North Little Rock Boys Club.

The AIC Choir Camp was originally founded by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.  She oversaw the transition to it being under the auspices of the Arkansas Interfaith Conference of Churches and Synagogues, which she led.

There were few art forms or art organizations in Little Rock and Arkansas that Mimi Dortch did not attend or support.

Black History Month – Lawrence Hamilton and Robinson Center

LawrenceHamiltonAnother notable former Little Rock performing artist who is memorialized at Robinson Center is Lawrence Hamilton.

The son of the Dr. Oscar and Mae Dell Hamilton, he was born in the small southwest Arkansas town of Foreman With an interest in music stemming from childhood, Hamilton earned a music scholarship to attend Henderson State University in Arkadelphia where he studied piano and voice He graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

From Arkansas, Hamilton traveled to Florida to work as a performer at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida where he would meet talent manager, Tommy Molinaro. This fateful meeting would prove to be a life-changing encounter, as Molinaro would invite Hamilton to come to New York to audition for the famed actor/director Geoffrey Holder. This marked the beginning of Hamilton’s bold and creative career in the performing arts, leading to performances on Broadway and on tours in Sophisticated Ladies, The Wiz,Uptown – Its Hot, Porgy and Bess, Big River, Play On!, and Jelly’s Last Jam among others. Perhaps his crowning achievement was starring in Ragtime.

Hamilton has been a member of the Southern Ballet Theater, Brooklyn Dance Theater, Ballet Tap USA, and the Arkansas Opera Theater He has performed in concert with the legendary Lena Horne at the White House for President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, and at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. Hamilton’s career also led to a stint as musical director for the renowned opera legend Jessye Norman, as well as vocal coach/arranger for the pop group New Kids on the Block

Upon his return to Arkansas, Hamilton served for several years as director of choral music at Philander Smith College. He also appeared in several plays at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and made numerous appearances on the stage of Robinson Center with the Arkansas Symphony and other groups.  In addition, he performed at countless concerts, benefits and galas throughout Arkansas.  In 2003, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  In 2008, he was appointed to the Little Rock Mayor’s Task Force on Tourism.

Hamilton died in New York in April 2014 due to complications from surgery.  Just weeks prior to the surgery, he had appeared in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson in Cape Fear, North Carolina.  He had also starred in that play at Arkansas Rep a few years earlier.

RobinsoNovember: Lawrence Hamilton

LawrenceHamiltonAnother notable former Little Rock performing artist who is memorialized at Robinson Center is Lawrence Hamilton.

The son of the Dr. Oscar and Mae Dell Hamilton, he was born in the small southwest Arkansas town of Foreman With an interest in music stemming from childhood, Hamilton earned a music scholarship to attend Henderson State University in Arkadelphia where he studied piano and voice He graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

From Arkansas, Hamilton traveled to Florida to work as a performer at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida where he would meet talent manager, Tommy Molinaro. This fateful meeting would prove to be a life-changing encounter, as Molinaro would invite Hamilton to come to New York to audition for the famed actor/director Geoffrey Holder. This marked the beginning of Hamilton’s bold and creative career in the performing arts, leading to performances on Broadway and on tours in Sophisticated Ladies, The Wiz,Uptown – Its Hot, Porgy and Bess, Big River, Play On!, and Jelly’s Last Jam among others. Perhaps his crowning achievement was starring in Ragtime.

Hamilton has been a member of the Southern Ballet Theater, Brooklyn Dance Theater, Ballet Tap USA, and the Arkansas Opera Theater He has performed in concert with the legendary Lena Horne at the White House for President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, and at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. Hamilton’s career also led to a stint as musical director for the renowned opera legend Jessye Norman, as well as vocal coach/arranger for the pop group New Kids on the Block

Upon his return to Arkansas, Hamilton served for several years as director of choral music at Philander Smith College. He also appeared in several plays at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  In addition, he performed at countless concerts, benefits and galas throughout Arkansas.  In 2003, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  In 2008, he was appointed to the Little Rock Mayor’s Task Force on Tourism.

Hamilton died in New York in April 2014 due to complications from surgery.  Just weeks prior to the surgery, he had appeared in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson in Cape Fear, North Carolina.  He had also starred in that play at Arkansas Rep a few years earlier.

LR Cultural Touchstone: Mimi Dortch

Mimi DortchMadalyn “Mimi” Breitzke Dortch, was known for getting worthwhile projects off the ground.

She was a founder along with dear friend Cliff Baker, of the Arkansas Repertory Theater; hosted the first Arkansas Opera Theatre outdoor perforomance at her home Marlsgate, was a founder along with Helen Walton of Arkansas Committee of National Museum of Women in the Arts, and was the Director of AIC Choir Camp at Subiaco for 22 years.

When Baker had the idea for the Rep, she made use of her personal connections and helped form the first Board of Directors.  She served as an ambassador for the Rep and theatre in general.   Throughout the rest of her life, she would be a stalwart supporter of the Rep.  Her interest in theatre had been nurtured while she was in college.  Her interest in founding community endeavors had been inherited from her father who founded the North Little Rock Boys Club.

The AIC Choir Camp was originally founded by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.  She oversaw the transition to it being under the auspices of the Arkansas Interfaith Conference of Churches and Synagogues, which she led.

There were few art forms or art organizations in Little Rock and Arkansas that Mimi Dortch did not attend or support.

 

LR Cultural Touchstone: Ann Chotard

Ann P ChotardAnn Chotard grew up in Little Rock singing.  After graduating from Little Rock High School, she attended Henderson State University and received a Bachelor of Music degree.  She would later receive her a master’s and doctorate in music from the University of Colorado.  In 1966, she returned to Henderson on the music faculty.

In 1973, she formed Arkansas Opera Theatre in Little Rock. By 1976, it was a full-time focus for her as she left Henderson.  From 1973 to 1990, she led the AOT as it performed at various venues around Little Rock and the state.  As the state’s only professional opera company, it presented operas in English in an effort to be accessible to a broader audience.

By the late 1980s, she started looking for a permanent home for the AOT.  Settling on land west of Little Rock, in 1990, Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts was established.  Instead of doing year-round programming, it now presented opera and other arts in a month-long festival format.

The first few years, performances took place in a black box space in the park.  (It later became the backstage area.) In June 1995, the Cabe Festival Theatre opened.  With a thrust stage and over 700 seats, it set performers near the audience.

In 2007, she retired from Wildwood after 34 years leading a professional opera company.  By the mid 1990s, arts education and youth training were capturing more of her attention.  After retirement, she founded the Chotard Institute. It specializes in offering college preparatory training for aspiring young classical singers.