Pulitzers play Little Rock – Arkansas Rep’s 2013 DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Rep SalesmanOne of the seminal plays of the 20th century, Death of a Salesman explored and exploded the post-war view of the American Dream.  Arthur Miller won his only Pulitzer Prize for this play.

In 2013, Robert Hupp directed a production at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, where he was Producing Artistic Director at the time. It starred TV and stage actor Robert Walden, who was living in Arkansas then, and Broadway veteran Carolyn Mignini.  Avery Clark (who had starred in several Rep productions), Craig Maravich, William Metzo, Jay E Raphael and Joe Menino were also featured in key roles.

Members of the cast and creative team appeared in a panel as part of the Clinton School Speaker Series.  A video of that panel can be viewed here.

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.

Arkansas Heritage Month – Little Rock’s Jeff Nichols at Cannes

NicholsLittle Rock native Jeff Nichols’ latest film, Loving, premieres at Cannes today. The film showed at 8:30 am and 11:30 am Cannes time. (That would be at 1:30am and 4:30am, Little Rock time). It also shows at 7pm Cannes time (12 noon, Little Rock).

Loving, which was written and directed by Nichols, tells the story of the Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial married couple who were sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958. It is set for national release in November and is being distributed by Focus Features.

Nichols was first brought the project by Martin Scorsese. A 1997 graduate of Little Rock Central High, he was intrigued by the story and the opportunities it provided him as a filmmaker.

The film stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the central couple. Others in the cast include Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll, and Bill Camp.  Edgerton, Shannon and Camp are part of Nichols’ informal repertory company of actors. Interestingly, Shannon and Camp are both nominated for Tony Awards in the same category (Featured Actor in a Play) for work they have done on Broadway this spring in American classics: Shannon in O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night and Camp in Miller’s The Crucible.

This is Nichols’ third film to screen at Cannes, following 2012’s Mud (which like Loving was in contention for the Palm d’Or) and 2011’s Take Shelter (which won the top prize at Cannes’ Critics Week).  His first feature film was 2007’s Shotgun Stories.

With Loving’s screening at Cannes, Nichols is in a select group of directors to have one film screen at the Berlin International Film Festival (where he showcased Midnight Special) and another at Cannes in the same year.

Robinson Redux – April

RCMH AprilWhile Robinson Center Music Hall is closed for renovations, the Culture Vulture is taking a monthly look at past performances. Today’s entry looks at Aprils from 1940 to 2010 in years that end in a “0” or “5.”

Edward Everett Horton kicked off April 1940 at Robinson Auditorium on the 1st with the comedy Springtime for Henry. The performance was marred by the sound of the new building’s air conditioning system, which was being used for the first time during a performance.  Five years later, on April 1, 1945, the auditorium was home to An Evening of Sigmund Romberg which featured the composer in person with performers singing some of his songs.  April 1945 also saw a performance of Earl Carroll Vanities (the 3rd) and Carmen featuring the Metropolitan Opera singers (the 16th.)

Tenor James Melton performed on April 25, 1950.  In April 1955, the lineup included William Bendix in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial on the 23rd. The next night the Spring Music Festival took place. It featured school children performing.

On April 25 1960, The Coasters, Bo Diddley, LaVerne Baker and others. The month ended with a youth concert aimed at children. April 1970 included a production of Arthur Miller’s The Price (the 6th), the Southwest Regional Ballet Festival (April 11) and drummer Buddy Rich (April 18).  In April 1975 (the 6th) Hair returned to Robinson for one performance. This time there was no controversy such as had met the first visit a few years earlier.

April 1985 was very busy. On the 13th, there was a Ballet Festival Gala. April 20 & 21 featured an Arkansas Symphony Orchestra classical concert.  A touring production of the musical Gigi performed on the 22nd.  It starred Louis Jourdan (who had appeared in the Oscar winning film, albeit in a different part), Betsey Palmer and Taina Elg. The ASO was back on April 28 with a children’s music concert.

Cathy Rigby flew into Robinson Center with a tour of Peter Pan from April 10 to 12.  On April 4, 1995, the Community Concert Association brought the Russian Seasons Dance Company for a performance.  The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performed Verdi’s Requiem Mass in Memory of Manzoni on April 8 & 9, 1995. Singer Millie Jackson wrote and appeared in the play Young Man, Older Woman, which played on April 30 of that year.

Several Contemporary Christian music acts performed on April 3. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra closed their 1999-2000 season on April 8 & 9 with a concert featuring Carolyn Brown on flute. On April 27, 2000, President Clinton headlined a memorial service for civil rights activist Daisy Bates.

April 2005 was full of a variety of performances. Natalie Cole was in concert on April 3 with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  On William Shatner narrated David Itkin’s Exodus with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra on April 9 & 10, 2005. Arkansan Kyle Dean Massey starred in the tour of 42nd Street which started its performances at Robinson Center on April 18, 2005. In conjunction with an exhibit at the Old State House Museum, a gospel concert featuring the Racy Brothers and the Hunter Brothers closed out April 2005 on the 30th.

David Itkin bid farewell to conducting the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in April 10 & 11, 2010, with a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.  On April 15, the Electrify Your Strings! concert took place. Comedian Gabriel Iglasias and his Fluffy Shop Tour stopped at Robinson on April 24.

ROCKing the TONY AWARDS – Barbara Loden and Elia Kazan

Rock the Tonys

William H. Alden/Evening Standard, via Getty Image

William H. Alden/Evening Standard, via Getty Image


Little Rock connection: The pair were married in 1967 in Little Rock at the home of Kazan’s son, who lived here at the time.

Tony Awards connection: Loden won a 1964 Tony for Featured Actress in a Play for her performance of a Marilyn Monroe-like character in After the Fall, Arthur Miller’s roman a clef about his marriage to Monroe. Loden was directed in the play by Kazan. He won Tonys for directing Miller’s All My Sons (1947) and Death of a Salesman (1949) as well as MacLeish’s J.B. (1959). He was nominated for directing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Sweet Bird of Youth. As a producer, he received Tony nominations for The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Strange Interlude and Tartuffe.

Ark Rep’s DEATH OF A SALESMAN this week!

Salesman (1)Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer, Tony and New York Drama Critics Circle winning Death of a Salesman opens at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre this week.  Previews are Wednesday and Thursday night before Friday’s opening night.  The production runs through May 12.

Death of a Salesman has been hailed as the greatest American play.  The central character, Willy Loman, has been compared to heroes in Aristotlean proportions.

But at the heart of all the hype is family bound by love and crushed by disappointments as they struggle to make sense of life.  Though set in the post World War II era, these themes resonate today.

Arkansas Rep Producing Artistic Director Robert Hupp is directing this production.  He has assembled a powerhouse cast led by Robert Walden as Willy Loman.  In her Arkansas Rep debut, Broadway vet Carolyn Mignini plays Linda Loman, his wife.  Their two sons are played by Avery Clark and Craig Maravich.  Clark has quickly become a Rep audience favorite through his performances in Hamlet, The 39 Steps and Henry V.  Maravich is making his Rep debut.

Others in the cast are Broadway vet William Metzo, Arkansas Rep vets Jay E. Raphael and Joe Menino, and Christopher Ryan and Kevin Sebastian, Stephanie Gunderman , Rachael Small and Andi Watson.

The design team includes Mike Nichols (sets), Rafael Colon Castanera (costumes), Allan Branson (sound), Lynda J. Kwallek (props) and Kenton Yeager (lighting).

Prior to the performances on Wednesday, April 24 and Thursday, April 25, a preshow talk will take place on the set with Hupp and members of the creative team. It will be from 6:15pm to 6:45pm.  There will be another opportunity to learn more about the production on May 1 at the Clinton School at 12 noon.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette presents The Rep’s “Pay What You Can Night” on Wed., April  24 Patrons can pay any amount they wish for their ticket. Tickets must be purchased in person at the Box Office at 601 Main Street the day of the performance. The Box Office will be open from 9 a.m. until curtain. Tickets are limited to (2) two per person. Offer is based on seating availability.

Performance times are Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7pm, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 7pm.

Arkansas Rep 2012-2013 season

It is Spring Break throughout Arkansas. So this is a good time to take a break from the current arts season and look ahead to next year.

Rich stories and rewarding shows are the bounty that awaits Arkansas Repertory Theatre audiences during the 2012-2013 season, the Rep’s 37th year. Robert Hupp, the Rep’s producing artistic director, recently announced the lineup.

The season kicks off on September 7 with William Shakespeare’s Henry V This will be the first of Shakespeare’s “History” plays to be staged at the Rep in its history.  Following the overwhelming success of Hamlet last season, it is pleasing to see the Bard return to the Rep’s lineup.  It will run through September 23, 2012.

Next up is the annual Young Artists’ production.  This edition of the revue is entitled Singin’ on a StarIt will run from October 24 through November 3, 2012. Though the show is still being written, it promises to feature Arkansas’ best and brightest students in songs and dances which will enchant audiences of all ages.

It is guaranteed that Little Rock will see a White Christmas in December 2012 because the Rep will be producing the stage version of the Irving Berlin classic White Christmas from November 30 through December 30, 2012.  In addition to the classic Berlin tunes from the film, a treasure trove of other Berlin classics is also included.

As 2013 kicks off, the Rep presents the play Gee’s Bend.  Set in the eponymously named Alabama town, it tells the story of the women who make quilts there. The play is not about the quilts themselves (though they are works of art which have been displayed in many top art museums), it is instead about the remarkable lives of the women who make them.  Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s play will run from January 25 through February 10, 2013.

As the Rep marches into the third month of 2013, it will present the world premiere of a new musical version of Treasure Island.  This production, which emphasizes the adventure and mystery of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, features a book by Brett Smock (who will also direct) and Carla Vitale with songs by Corinne Aquilina (who served as musical director/conductor for last season’s Hairspray at the Rep).  It runs from March 8 through March 31, 2013. (This world premiere is the reason the title of this entry is written in “Pirate.”)

Arthur Miller’s prize winning Death of a Salesman is up next at the Rep.  This classic tale explores the American Dream in the middle of the 20th Century as the Loman family copes with hope and despair.  During its original Broadway run, it received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Best Play recognition from the Tony Awards and the New York Drama Critics Circle.  “Attention must be paid” from April 26 through May 12, 2013.

Avenue Q is one of the smartest, funniest, and bawdiest musicals over the last decade. Written by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, it irreverently tells the story of a group of 20 and 30somethings in New York City as they cope with the onset of adulthood. Some of the characters are played by humans while others are portrayed by puppets — but this is not for the kids; it is definitely an adult show (it includes full puppet nudity).  This 2004 Tony winner for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score, ran for over 1000 performances on Broadway and is now enjoying a healthy Off Broadway run.  The Rep’s brand new production will run from June 7 – 30, 2013.