Tony Awards Week – Will Trice

Trice at the 2014 Tony Awards

Trice at the 2014 Tony Awards

Though he has been referenced in every Tony Awards Week story this week, today’s entry is devoted to three time Tony winning producer Will Trice.

It is fitting he is a young, Tony winning Broadway producer.  When his mother, Little Rock actress and teacher Judy Trice, was pregnant with him, she was directing the Hall High production of The Pajama Game.  The original Broadway production of that title was produced by another young, Tony winner – Hal Prince.

Will Trice literally grew up on stage and backstage. In addition to his mother, his late father Bill Trice and his sister Kathryn Pryor have graced every conceivable stage in Central Arkansas.  Will, himself, has been an actor and entertainer.  Most recently, he and Kathryn performed their cabaret act for patrons at the Arkansas Arts Center’s Tabriz earlier this year.

Trice’s Tony Awards came for the 2014 Best Play All the Way, 2013 Best Play Revival Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the 2012 Best Musical Revival Porgy and Bess.  He also received a nomination for 2012 Best Play Revival for The Best Man.  At the 2014 Tonys, of the 26 awards presented, seven went to shows produced by Trice and his producing partner Jeffrey Richards.

This year Trice is nominated for producing Best Play nominee: Wolf Hall Parts One and Two and Best Play Revival nominee: You Can’t Take It with You.  Between those two productions and a revival of The Heidi Chronicles, Trice-produced projects earned fourteen Tony nominations this season.

Not ones to rest on their laurels, Richards and Trice have already announced revivals of Fiddler on the Roof and Sylvia for the 2015-2016 season.

It was fitting that Trice, a 1997 graduate of Central High, was a producer of the Tony-winning 50th anniversary revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 2012/2013.  Ben Piazza, a 1951 graduate of then-Little Rock High School, was involved in the development of the play in 1962 and performed in the original Broadway production over 500 performances.

Tony Awards Week – History of theatre in Little Rock

Joe E. Brown in HARVEY

Joe E. Brown in HARVEY

Little Rock existed as a theatre town for over 100 years prior to the Tony Awards.  But since this is Tony Awards week, “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” (words by my favorite lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II).

The first documented theatrical performance was on November 4, 1834, and in August 1838 the construction of the first theatre in Little Rock was announced.  Through Little Rock’s early years a variety of spaces were used for performances including the City Hall on Markham near Main Street which had been built in 1867.

The opening of the Capital Theatre in December 1885 would be Little Rock’s first large-scale, non-church space for performances and gatherings.  The Capital had a seating capacity of approximately 2,000 seats.  Designed to house theatrical productions, it also played host to civic events ranging from high school graduations (for both the white and African American high schools) to public memorials.  For instance, in 1901 it was the site of a public memorial for the recently assassinated President William McKinley.  In time, the Capital Theatre (which was situated on land that is now occupied by a portion of the Statehouse Convention Center) would be joined by a variety of other theatres, public houses, vaudeville houses and lodge halls.

The 1908 “temporary” City Auditorium probably played host to theatrical performances, but records do not exist for it.  The amphitheatre in Forest Park was home to many theatrical performances including appearances by Sarah Bernhardt.  Judy Baker Goss’s play Fond Farewell looked at one of Bernhardt’s visit to Little Rock.  (In the local production of that play, Bernhardt was played by Judy Trice, the mother of a three-time Tony winner Will Trice. His father, Bill Trice, played a Little Rock City Council member smitten with the actress.)

When Robinson Auditorium opened in 1940, it had space to host theatrical productions in the main music hall as well as in the lower level “little theatre.”  By that time, there were a variety of community theatre groups performing.  The first national tour to play in Robinson was Springtime for Henry starring Edward Everett Horton.

The first Tony winning production to play Robinson was the national tour of Harvey starring Joe E. Brown.  Brown, in fact, received a special Tony for starring in the national tour of the play.

Remembering 14 Cultural Figures from 2014

Little Rock lost several cultural luminaries in 2014. Some were practitioners, others were volunteers and donors.  All were passionate about the role the arts and culture play in not only everyday lives, but in making a city great.

While there are doubtless omissions to this list, these 14 are representative of the loss in 2014 but also the rich cultural legacy of the Little Rock area. They are presented in alphabetical order.

1414mayaThough never a Little Rock resident, Maya Angelou is linked to the City’s cultural life. Throughout her career, she would make appearances in Little Rock at a variety of venues. As an actress, dancer, poet and professor, she lived life to the fullest and encouraged others to do likewise.

1414jeffbJeff Baskin was more than a librarian in North Little Rock. He was a religious scholar, an actor, and an appreciator of many art forms. He was a regular fixture at cultural events on both sides of the Arkansas River. With his sly smile and quick wit, he put others at ease. His charm was disarming and his circle of friends was boundless.

1414BowenAttorney, banker, historian, author, Dean, advisor, raconteur. This was Bill Bowen. And so much more.  He helped build Little Rock and Arkansas into modern entities. As such, he realized the value of arts and culture to the big picture.  He was not only generous with money, he was generous with wise advice.

1414tcT.C. Edwards was far more than the lead singer of TC and The Eddies, TC and The Ponies and The Piranhas. One of the most familiar faces in the Little Rock music scene over the last 25 years, he was an icon. Much more could be said about him, but he’d prefer the music just keep playing.

1414lawrenceBroadway star Lawrence Hamilton. After conquering the Great White Way, he conquered the Rock. Whether with the Philander Smith College Choir, the Arkansas Rep, Arkansas Symphony, surprising Governor Beebe, or at an event, Lawrence was a consummate performer and warm and welcoming individual.

1414anneAnne Hickman was ever-present at the Arkansas Arts Center. For over forty years she gave time and money to make sure this museum could fulfill its mission. Her generous smile and ebullience were also part and parcel of many Arts Center events. In recognition of her dedication, she received the Arts Center’s Winthrop Rockefeller Award in 2008.

1414geraldGerald Johnson was a tenor saxophone player and Little Rock music scene mainstay. Whether headlining a concert or as a side man in a recording session, he brought the same level of cool excellence to his playing. He also mentored younger musicians and worked to instill love of music in many generations.

1414warrenWarren Law lit up Little Rock. For nearly three decades he was lighting designer and a teacher at UALR.  He designed the lighting for many Ballet Arkansas, Murry’s Dinner Playhouse and Arkansas Arts Center productions as well. At the time of his death, he was the lighting designer for Robinson Auditorium and the Little Rock School District.

1414barbaraBarbara Patty was a force of nature, especially when it came to support of music and art. As a singer, master gardener at museums, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra volunteer and board member, Arts Center docent, Aesthetic Club president, and general lover of the arts, she not only enjoyed the arts, she was a mentor and encourager of arts patrons and practitioners.

1414pennickBanker Edward M. Penick served on the Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees.  As a longtime leader at Worthen Bank, he was instrumental in helping establish many nascent cultural institutions such as the Arts Center, Arkansas Symphony and Arkansas Rep as they were getting established in the 1960s and 1970s.

1414TTheresa Quick, or “T,” was a founding member of the Arkansas Rep. She spent over three decades on stage as an actress. She also was a teacher and mentor.  In addition to usually stealing the show when she appeared at the Rep, she shone at Murry’s, the Arts Center and countless radio commercials.

1414kayKay Terry Spencer enjoyed being on stage, but also enjoyed volunteering to make sure others had the opportunities to shine in their artistic talents. After moving to Little Rock, she spent countless hours as a volunteer at the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and with the Fine Arts Club.

1414billTBill Trice. That name is synonymous with the arts in Little Rock. He was an actor, director, dancer, singer, teacher, student and mentor. From small blackboxes to large halls, bars to churches, his smile and talents left their mark. He was an expert attorney too. And a lover of music (all types), politics (Democratic), and his exceptionally talented family.

1414pollyCaroline “Polly” Murphy Keller Winter embraced the arts as she embraced all aspects of life – fully and without reservation. She served as board chair for the Arkansas Symphony and established the ASO endowment, which continues to grow.  She was an active supporter of the arts in Little Rock, south Arkansas and other states.