Pulitzers Play Little Rock: Lawrence Hamilton in THE PIANO LESSON at Arkansas Rep

LawrenceHamiltonAugust Wilson received his second Pulitzer for The Piano Lesson in 1990.   It was thirteen years later, that play would take the stage of Arkansas Rep in January 2003  And while he was not the lead, local favorite Lawrence Hamilton shone in the play.

Hamilton played Wining Boy, a musician and gambler who was smooth at hiding his secrets. (This being an August Wilson play, almost every character had secrets.)  Others in the cast were J. Bernard Calloway and Trish McCall as the brother and sister at the center of the play who were struggling about the future of a family heirloom.  Kevin E. Jones, Veronika G. Macon, Ron Scott, Dennis Bivings, and Marsha Murdock rounded out the cast.

The production was directed by Gilbert McCauley.  The design team included Mike Nichols (set), Yslan Hicks (costumes), Matthew Richards (lighting) and M. Jason Pruzin (sound).

Hamilton would revisit the role of Wining Boy in a production at Cape Fear Regional Theatre just a few weeks before his 2014 death.

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.

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.

August Wilson’s TWO TRAINS RUNNING is running in August at the Weekend Theater

twt-Two-Trains-Running_smNext up at the Weekend Theater is August Wilson’s Two Trains Running.  It opens tonight and plays Fridays and Saturdays through September 5.

The play is a story about love, hate, and the struggles that ordinary African Americans faced in a Pittsburgh neighborhood in 1969. The gossip, debates, philosophizing, and storytelling that take place in Memphis’ restaurant reflect the oral tradition of African American culture. Wilson’s characters appear engaged in talk that seems detached from the racial riots, assassinations, and antiwar protest that marked this era and damaged black areas economically. The restaurant and the neighborhood are on the brink of economic development.

Wilson explores their social and psychological manifestations of changing attitudes toward race. Seeking to escape from poverty, racism, and “Jim Crow” laws, many black Americans migrated to northern industrial cities during the early and mid-20th century where Wilson reveals simple truths, hopes and dreams for a community on the brink of change.

The play is directed by Jamie Scott Blakey and Margaret Parker.  The cast features Jermaine McClure, Rodney Ford, Eric Tate, Keith Harper, Kearie Saine, Ronald Coleman and Cherisse Coleman.  

Performances begin at 7:30pm.  The box office opens at 6:30pm. Seating is general admission and begins at 7:00pm.

Musicals and Plays on schedule for 23rd Season at Weekend Theater

WeekendTheaterThe Weekend Theater has recently announced their 2015-2016 season.  The 23rd season for this volunteer theatre includes seven plays, three musicals and a one-man show.

The Addams Family
By Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice and Andrew Lippa.  Based on characters created by Charles Addams.
June 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 2015
Directed by Tom Crone; Music Direction by Lori Isner

Two families with vastly divergent cultures, mores, and expectations collide when the Addams hosts a dinner for Wednesday Addams’ “normal” boyfriend and his parents. Trust and fear, love and truth, acceptance and forgiveness are just a few things on the menu in this magnificently macabre new musical comedy created by Jersey Boys authors, Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice and Drama Desk Award winner, Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party).

 

American Idiot
By Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day and Michael Mayer
July 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 31, August 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 2015
Directed by Frank O. Butler; Music Direction by Lori Isner

The two-time Tony Award-winning hit musical — based on Green Day’s Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum album – is an energy-fueled rock opera that brings us face-to-face with the perils of war, drug addiction, escapism, and the power of true friendship, as Will, Johnny, and Tunny struggle to find meaning in a post-9/11 world.

Contains adult language and situations.

 

Two Trains Running
By August Wilson
August 21, 22, 28, 29, September 4, 5, 2015
Directed by Jamie Scott Blakey and Margaret Parker

This is the 1960s chapter of the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright’s decade-by-decade saga of ordinary African Americans in this turbulent century. In Memphis Lee’s Coffee Shop we meet a local sage, an ex con, a numbers runner, a laconic waitress, and a mentally handicapped man through which, with Chekhovian obliqueness, Wilson reveals simple truths, hopes and dreams, creating a microcosm of an era and a community on the brink of change.

 

The Shape of Things
By Neil LaBute
September 25, 26, October 2, 3, 9, 10, 2015
Directed by Byron Taylor

This modern day retelling of the fall of man challenges our most deeply entrenched ideas about art and love. In The Shape of Things, Evelyn, a sexy, aggressive artist, and Adam, a shy, insecure student, become embroiled in an affair after meeting in a museum. Before long, Adam, under Evelyn’s steady influence, goes to unimaginable lengths to meet her approval, and the show veers into the kind of dangerous, seductive territory that LaBute does best.

 

God’s Man in Texas
By David Rambo
November 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 2015
Directed by Allison Pace

Faith and egos collide in the age of mass-market religion at Houston’s Rock Baptist Church. A search committee has been secretly formed to find a successor to Rock’s legendary pastor, and a young up-and-comer is asked to audition for the job. The Biblical struggle climaxes during Rock’s spectacular annual electrical Christmas parade.

 

The Foreigner
By Larry Shue
December 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 2014
Directed by Matthew Mentgen
Winner of two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play and Best Off- Broadway Production, this off-beat comedy demonstrates what can happen when a group of devious and bigoted characters, including a two-faced minister and his bigoted associate, must deal with a stranger who (they think) knows no English but who has heard more than he should of their unscrupulous plans.

 

Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays
By Mo Gaffney, Jordan Harrison, Moisés Kaufman, Neil LaBute, Wendy MacLeod, José Rivera, Paul Rudnick, and Doug Wright; Conceived by Brian Shnipper
January 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30, 2016
Directed by Duane Jackson

This collection of monologues and short stories celebrates the recent advances in winning marital rights for gay and lesbian couples, and how the changing laws are changing lives. This mostly genial and often funny omnibus holds a magnifying glass to the highs and lows, joys and fears, courage and silliness, of people bucking trends and making history.

 

Once on This Island: A Musical
By Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
February 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26 , 27, 28, 2016
Directed by Monica Clark-Robinson; Music Direction by Greg Robinson

From the Tony Award-winning songwriting team that brought you Ragtime, comes this Tony nominated, Olivier Award-winning musical set in the Caribbean Sea concerning a peasant girl on a tropical island, who uses the power of love to bring together people of different social classes. From the first song you will be enthralled by the music and engaging lyrics of this magical story which includees hints of Romeo and Juliet and the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Little Mermaid.

 

Vincent
By Leonard Nimoy; Based on the play “Van Gogh” by Phillip Stephens
March 18 and 19, 2016
Directed by Alan Douglas

In van Gogh’s lifetime, he sold only one painting and critics labeled his work madness. His story, however, is so much more than that of the misunderstood genius who cut off his own ear. In this play, Vincent’s brother, Theo, movingly reveals Vincent as few knew him, arguing the bigger meaning and significance of his brother’s life to all humankind. As seen through the eyes of Theo, Vincent van Gogh lives on as a symbol of inspiration, courage, passion, and the lust for life that art kindles in all of us.

This is a special presentation, not part of the regular season.

 

Driving Miss Daisy
By Alfred Uhrey
April 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10 15, 16, 17, 2016
Directed by Andy Hall

The place is the Deep South, 1948, just prior to the civil rights movement, where Daisy Werthan, a rich, sharp- tongued Jewish widow of seventy-two learns that she must rely on the services of a chauffeur, a thoughtful, unemployed black man. In a series of absorbing scenes spanning twenty-five years, the two, despite their mutual differences, grow ever closer, realizing they have more in common than they ever believed possible.

 

A Piece of My Heart
By Shirley Lauro
May 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 2016
Directed by Betty Fernau

This is a powerful, true drama of six women who went to Vietnam: five nurses and a country western singer booked by an unscrupulous agent to entertain the troops. The play which was recently been named “The most enduring play on Vietnam in the nation,” by The Vietnam Vets Association, portrays each young woman before, during, and after her tour in the war-torn nation, drawing attention to the largely unsung American women who served in Vietnam.

Black History Month Spotlight – Lawrence Hamilton

LawrenceHamiltonLawrence Hamilton, the son of the Dr. Oscar and Mae Dell Hamilton, 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.

For more on Lawrence Hamilton and other inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, visit the permanent exhibit at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. That museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

 

ROCKing the TONY AWARDS – Charles S. Dutton

Rock the TonyspscduttonCHARLES S. DUTTON

Little Rock connection: He was the opening speaker of the 2013-2014 Bless the Mic series at Philander Smith College.

Tony Awards connection: He received a 1985 Tony nomination as Featured Actor in a Play for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson.  In 1990, he was nominated for Actor in a Play for Wilson’s The Piano Lesson.