One of the presenters at Sunday’s 72nd Tony Awards is Mikhail Baryshnikov. Twenty-nine years ago, he himself was a 1989 Tony nominee for Actor in a Play (for playing a man-turned-cockroach in an adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis.
In 1985, Baryshnikov returned to Little Rock to perform again at Robinson Center under the auspices of Ballet Arkansas. He had performed here two years earlier, as well.
Among the dancers who joined him in the program was future Tony nominee Robert LaFosse. He would be nominated for a 1989 Tony as well. But he was up for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. Other dancers in the company were Cynthia Harvey, Susan Jaffe, Leslie Browne, Elaine Kudo, Cheryl Yeager, Amanda McKerrow, Deirdre Carberry, Bonnie Moore, Valerie Madonia, Ross Stretton, Peter Fonseca, Gil Boggs, John Gardner, and John Turjoman.
The company danced to pieces choreographed by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Marius Petipa, future Tony Award winner Twyla Tharp, Lisa de Ribere, and La Fosse. The music composers included George Gershwin, Jacques Offenbach, Frederic Chopin, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Hector Berlioz, as well as composers who wrote songs for Frank Sinatra.
While Ballet Arkansas did not have any dancers perform during the evening, the organization presented it and was able to receive the proceeds which exceeded the expenses. For several years in the 1980s, the Ballet would either commence or conclude their season with such an performance. In fact, the 1985 Baryshnikov program contained a promotion of a 1986 visit by Alvin Ailey’s dance company.
Whereas the 1983 Baryshnikov appearance had been sponsored by the Arkansas Democrat, this time, the rival Arkansas Gazette was the sponsor.
In partnership with the Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Ballet Arkansas is excited to present a three – year concert series, Ballet Arkansas in Concert, which pairs high profile works of classical & contemporary dance with musical accompaniment from world renowned musicians in the Spring of each year.
On May 4th – 6th at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Ballet Arkansas and Van Cliburn International Pianist Dr. Drew Mays take the stage for three stellar performances.
Pas de deux from Agnes de Mille’s The Other
Christopher Wheeldon’s The American
Contemporary World Premiere by Artistic Director Michael Fothergill
In between pieces, Dr. Mays will present an engaging and stimulating discussion that highlights the lives of the composers, the finer points of their music, and our collaboration. After the completion of the dancing, Dr. Mays will continue to play a solo concert for Ballet Arkansas audiences to enjoy.
Performances are Friday, May 4 at 7:00pm, Saturday, May 5 at 7:00pm, and Sunday, May 6 at 2pm. Tickets are $40 for adults, $25 for students/senior citizens. Tickets are available at the discounted rate of $30 (25% discount) for a group of 5 or more.
Stella Boyle Smith Trust
Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield
Janna and David Knight
Marci and Stephen Warren
CONCERT D STEINWAY PROVIDED BY
Steinway Piano Gallery Little Rock
As previously scheduled, Ballet Arkansas will present its “Ballet Arkansas in Concert” the weekend of May 4 through 6 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
Though the Rep is suspending operations effective immediately, that is not altering the Ballet’s planned performances.
Join Ballet Arkansas as they present paramount works by international choreographers, excerpts from beloved classics, and a collaboration with world renowned Van Cliburn award winning pianist, Dr. Drew Mays.
Featuring works by TONY AWARD winner Agnes de Mille, TONY AWARD winner Christopher Wheeldon, and Michael Fothergill’s WORLD PREMIERE
Tickets for the Ballet are still available for purchase on the Rep’s website.
And don’t forget Ballet Arkansas presents DanceWorks this Saturday from 10am to 4pm at the studio on Main Street.
DanceWorks is a free event that celebrates the impact of dance and the arts in the Little Rock community. Join them for open dance classes in a variety of disciplines, stop in for an open rehearsal and chat with the Artistic Directors, and enjoy a preview of Ballet Arkansas In Concert: With Drew Mays and a new work by Company Artist Paul Tillman to conclude the event. Visit balletarkansas.org to learn more!
Open Dance Classes 10 am- 3 pm
Open Rehearsal and Informal Chat with the Artistic Directors 3-4pm
LIVE Performance 3:30pm!
*Colonial Wine & Spirits will be generously providing celebratory libations at the performance preview!
On March 31, 1943, Alfred Drake sauntered on the stage of Broadway’s St. James Theatre and sang “Oh, what a beautiful mornin'” to launch OKLAHOMA! into not only theatrical history but popular culture as well.
In February 1948, as the original Broadway run was about to mark five years on Broadway, the national tour of Oklahoma! made its way to Little Rock for eight performances. The week-long stay it had in Little Rock at Robinson Center was a record for that building that would last until Wicked came in 2010. (Hello, Dolly! in 1966 and Beauty and the Beast in 2002 had both equalled the record.)
By the time Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s first show made it to Little Rock, they were working on their fourth stage show, South Pacific, which had a leading character from Little Rock.
To get Robinson Auditorium ready for Oklahoma!, the Auditorium Commission had to spend $2,000 on upgrades. That would be the equivalent of just under $21,000 today.
Oklahoma! opened at Robinson on Monday, February 9, 1948. With eight performances, approximately 24,000 tickets were on sale during the run of the show. There was a cast of 67 actors and 28 musicians. The cast was led by Ridge Bond, Carolyn Adair, Alfred Cibelli Jr., Patricia Englund, and David Morris. Mr. Bond had relatives who lived in Little Rock. He was a native of Claremore, Oklahoma, which was the town in which the story took place.
While they were in Little Rock, the stars of the show made an appearance at Reed Music on February 10. The music store (located at 112 and 114 East 7th Street–across the street from the Donaghey Building) was promoting the sale of the Oklahoma! cast albums, sheet music, and recordings of songs from Oklahoma! by other singers.
Both the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat carried reviews of the show. Another item, which appeared in the paper that week was a syndicated column which noted that the film rights for the show had been sold. It was speculated that the star would be Bing Crosby. It would actually be 1955 before the film was made, and Mr. Crosby had no connection to that movie. By the time it was made, the stars were Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones. Mr. MacRae would appear in Little Rock for the 1963 opening of the Arkansas Arts Center. Ms. Jones has made several concert appearances in Little Rock over the years.
Little Rock had seen its fair share of top Broadway shows on tour. Prior to Robinson’s opening and since then, many well-known actors and popular shows had played Little Rock. But just as it had been on Broadway, Oklahoma! in Little Rock was more than a show — it was an event!
Over the years, Oklahoma! has been performed by schools, churches, community theatres, dinner theatres, and colleges. National tours have come through Arkansas again. People have become jaded or dismissive of it, because they have seen it performed so often — and sometimes badly. So it is hard to understand the excitement that was felt by Little Rock audiences in 1948 when they first saw it on the stage of Robinson Center.
But 75 years later (and 25 years after it was commemorated by the US Postal Service with its own stamp), Oklahoma! is still doing fine. Countless new generations sing the songs and say the lines.
Two upcoming cultural events in Little Rock are a testament to the genius that helped create Oklahoma! In May, Ballet Arkansas will present a dance piece which was the final dance created by Agnes de Mille. Before choreographing Oklahoma!, Miss de Mille was already making her mark in the world of ballet. She alternated between the two for decades. At the 1993 Tony Awards, Miss de Mille accepted a special Tony upon the show’s 50th anniversary milestone.
The second connection to Oklahoma! will take place in February 2019. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra is bringing Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III, grandson of the beloved librettist and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, to host a celebration of some of America’s most cherished music from the stage.
In 2015, Kaki Hockersmith was honored at the Governor’s Arts Awards. She creates art as a designer. In addition, she promotes arts and heritage through her tireless efforts on behalf of numerous cultural institutions. This award was only one of many recognitions she has received.
In 2010, she was appointed to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for The Kennedy Center. In that capacity, she serves as a national ambassador for The Kennedy Center. She has also brought programs from The Kennedy Center to Arkansas to help established and emerging arts organizations. She also serves as a commissioner on the cultural committee of UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. For the past two years, she and Stephanie S. Streett have led the efforts for FUSION which creates an arts and humanities curriculum for Arkansas teachers.
In 1993, she redesigned the interior of The White House during the Clinton Administration. She was also appointed a member of the Committee for the Preservation of The White House. Her work on this American landmark was featured in Hillary Clinton’s book An Invitation to the White House: In Celebration of American Culture.
Locally, she has served on the Board of Trustees for the Arkansas Arts Center and the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Association. She is an active supporter of many cultural organizations in Little Rock. She and her husband Max Mehlburger open their home to host receptions and fundraisers for numerous cultural institutions and organizations. In 2014, she was recognized for this support at Ballet Arkansas’ Turning Pointe gala.
Professionally, she has been honored by the national ASID organization as well as the Washington D.C. chapter. Her projects have won 16 regional ASID awards, including seven gold awards.
Charlotte Gadberry has long been a supporter of Little Rock’s various cultural institutions. She has both served on boards and consulted with boards in strategic planning. Her major focus these past few years has been the founding of the ACANSA Arts Festival.
A trip to Charleston, South Carolina, amid it’s Spoleto USA arts festival inspired her to dream that Little Rock could play host to a similar endeavor. Using her fundraising prowess and connections, she started to raise funds, friends and awareness for this idea.
In September 2013, the inaugural ACANSA Arts Festival was announced for September 2014. Under her leadership, ACANSA (a name derived from an early Native American variation of what is now called Arkansas) incorporated both local cultural institutions as well as performers brought in for the event.
In the first four years ACANSA has featured theatre, dance, mime, puppetry, instrumental music, choral music, opera, jazz, painting, photography, history, lectures, and gallery tours. It has worked with the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas, Central Arkansas Library System, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, and Wildwood Park for the Arts as well as numerous galleries and performance venues.
Because of her efforts to found ACANSA and lead it, Charlotte is being honored with an Arkansas Arts Council 2018 Governor’s Arts Award on March 29, 2018.