CALS announces new name, new focus for Literary Festival

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) is announcing a new name for the Arkansas Literary Festival: Six Bridges Book Festival. Named for the iconic six bridges that cross the Arkansas River, the festival will have a new focus, bridging communities and bringing people together. The library will actively solicit input from a variety of demographic groups with the goal of offering a more widely appealing festival.

“We want to involve many people from our community in the selection of presenters and activities, so they know their reading interests and the stories that fascinate them are central to the festival and they are an integral part of shaping the content of the Six Bridges Book Festival each year,” said Nate Coulter, CALS executive director.

“The Six Bridges Book Festival is a diverse, energetic celebration of all kinds of stories and topics, both literary and mainstream, and we feel the new name reflects the festival’s nature more accurately. Our goal is to draw a wider audience by removing any barriers of perception that this event is only for highbrow tastes.”

Previously known for 16 years as the Arkansas Literary Festival, the four-day event in April celebrates reading, literacy, stories, and wordsmithing. Scores of nationally known authors converge on the city to offer panels on a wide variety of topics, from cooking demonstrations to award-winning comedy.

A slate of programming for children and teens includes hands-on crafts and music, animal visits, poetry contests, and more. Authors also venture out into the community for efforts such as Writers in the Schools (WITS), bringing the joy of writing to hundreds of students in the Little Rock area. Concerts, films, readings, and author parties enhance the festive atmosphere across venues in downtown Little Rock, where events are held in museums, restaurants, the Clinton Presidential Library, and the CALS Ron Robinson Theater as well as in many library buildings.

Brad Mooy, the coordinator of the festival, looks forward to making the variety of the festival’s offerings and presenters more widely known to the community. “The diversity of presenters has greatly expanded over the years,” said Mooy. “We want to let people know that everyone is represented here, with topics and interactive activities that appeal to all age levels, cultural backgrounds, and reading tastes.”

Since the festival’s inception, the event has always been an important showcase for writers known nationally and internationally as well as locally based talent. Presenters from past festivals include 5-time James Beard Award winner Dorie Greenspan, Sebastian Junger, Catherine Coulter, Congressman John Lewis, Issa Rae, and critically acclaimed Arkansas authors such as Kevin Brockmeier and Trenton Lee Stewart.

The 17th annual festival now known as the Six Bridges Book Festival will take place April 23-26, 2020. The festival will feature author Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried) as part of the NEA Big Read: CALS.

For more information about the Six Bridges Book Festival, please contact Brad Mooy at bmooy@cals.org or (501) 918-3098, or see the website at sixbridgesbookfestival.org.

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31 Days of Arkansas Rep: 1999’s DRACULA

The Rep went batty in February 1999 when it presented Steven Dietz’s retelling of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA.

Directed by Brad Mooy, the show starred Vincent Lamberti as the titular Count.

Others in the cast were Joy Schiebel, Christopher Zorker, Eva Kaminsky, Ronald J. Aulgur, David Heckel, Colly Carver, Stephanie Crenshaw, Lakeetra Gilbert, Paula Isbell, and Daryl D. Minefee.  All in the cast except Schiebel had previously appeared in shows for the Rep.

The angular set was designed by Mike Nichols. The costumes (including a velour cape lined in purple satin) were designed by Patricia Martin. David Neville provided the lighting design, while Ryan C. Mansfield was the sound designer.

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: PETER PAN in 1994

Peter Pan flew into the window of the Darling’s nursery in December 1994 on the Arkansas Rep stage.  With a cast of thirty-six, Peter Pan was one of the Rep’s larger productions.

Directed by Brad Mooy, the production featured Steve Wilkerson in the title role. It gained some national press attention, because the role is usually played by women, so Wilkerson’s casting was a bit of a novelty.

Others in the cast were Ed Romanoff, Angie Ohren, Dustin Alford, Matthew Block, Peggy Billo, Tanya Duggar, Gary Taggart, Angie Foresman, and Linda Sue Sanders. The Lost Boys were played by Adam Napper, Bernie Baskin, James Knight, Brian Jones, Kale Ludwig, and Kyle Ludwig.

The pirates were played by Mark Hansen, Joel Gordon, Derek Reid, Shannon E. Farmer, Tony D. Owens Jr., DeJon Mayes, Kenneth Elins, Matt Patton, Eric Harrison and Tom Kagy. Taking on the roles of the indians were Suzan Hart, Rusty Miller, Mikel Brown, Ryan Martine, Patrick McNally, Christina Boatwright, Leslie Goodwin, Tori Petrus and Dennis Glasscock.

Glasscock was the production’s choreographer. Flying for Pan and others was created by Foy, the same firm which was responsible for Mary Martin’s flying in the role on Broadway in 1954. Hans Stiritz was the musical director, Mike Nichols was set designer, and Don Bolinger provided costume design.

The production was so successful, it was nearly sold out before it opened.  Two years later, the Rep reprised it.  There were some different design elements as well as a largely different cast. Wilkerson returned as did Ohren, Dugger, Gordon, Knight, Napper, Alford,  Petrus, and Kagy.

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: ANGELS IN AMERICA (1996 and 1997)

In 1996, the Arkansas Rep presented Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.  It was one of seven professional theatres granted the rights to do the show that season.  The production ran from February 29 to March 17 of that year.

Directed by Brad Mooy, the production came about due to lobbying of the Broadway producers by Rep Artistic Director Cliff Baker.  There was skepticism in New York as to how Little Rock audiences would respond. And, to be honest, there was skepticism in Little Rock, too.  But the rights were granted, and Little Rock embraced the play.

The next season, the Rep brought Part I back to be joined by Part II for the opportunity experience a theatrical marathon.  The Rep’s production was unprecedented in Little Rock. It was not just a rarity for the Rep, such an undertaking had never been done by any theatre in town.

Directed by Brad Mooy, the 1997 dual production required five weeks of rehearsals (more than the usual amount).  Six of the eight actors from the 1996 production returned for the second go around.

As it had been in 1996, the cast was led by Rep favorite Steve Wilkerson. Others in the cast were Caitlin Hart, Jo Anne Robinson, Jonathan Lamer, Jonna McElrath and Ray Ford. The two new additions were Christopher Swan and Ken Kramer.  They played the roles which Barry Stewart Mann and Fred Baker had played the prior year.

The design team included Mike Nichols (sets), Don Bolinger (costumes), David Neville (lighting), Melissa Wakefield (properties), Rob Milburn (sound), and ZFX Inc. (flying).

The Twenty-First Day of the Month of September: A Remembrance of LITTLE SHOP at Arkansas Rep

Because it is referenced in the script, September 21 is “Little Shop of Horrors” day.  That brought back memories of productions I have seen and in which I have been involved.

But it also brought back a memory of a production I nearly did not get to see.  In September 1996, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre was preparing to open its season with LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.  When horror struck.

During the Wednesday, September 4, preview performance, actor Kaleo Griffith injured himself severely enough that surgery would be required. He had no understudy.  The show was set to open on Friday, September 6.  The September 5 preview and opening night were cancelled.

Rep Founder/Artistic Director Cliff Baker, production director Brad Mooy and Rep staff sprang into action to try to find someone who could play the part on short notice. Howard Pinhasik, who had played the part before and was available, arrived in Little Rock, rehearsed with the cast, and the show opened one day late on Saturday, September 7.

Others in the cast were Joseph Conz, Kathrynne Haack, Tim Reynolds, David Johnson, Ericka Cooper, Tracey Lee and Tammi Phillips

The show played the rest of its run through September 29, 1996, without incident.  Well other than people getting fed to a talking plant every night.

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: ANGELS IN AMERICA at Arkansas Rep

AIA RepTwenty-five years ago (1993), Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It was joined on Broadway in late 1993 with its second half Angels in America: Perestroika.

In 1996, the Arkansas Rep presented Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.  The next season, the Rep brought Part I back to be joined by Part II for the opportunity experience a theatrical marathon.  (The show is currently revived on Broadway and again offering audience members the chance to see both parts in one day.)

The Rep’s production was unprecedented in Little Rock. It was not just a rarity for the Rep, such an undertaking had never been done by any theatre in town.

Directed by Brad Mooy, the 1997 dual production required five weeks of rehearsals (more than the usual amount).  Six of the eight actors from the 1996 production returned for the second go around.

As it had been in 1996, the cast was led by Rep favorite Steve Wilkerson. Others in the cast were Caitlin Hart, Jo Anne Robinson, Jonathan Lamer, Jonna McElrath and Ray Ford. The two new additions were Christopher Swan and Ken Kramer.

The design team included Mike Nichols (sets), Don Bolinger (costumes), David Neville (lighting), Melissa Wakefield (properties), Rob Milburn (sound), and ZFX Inc. (flying).

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.

2016 Arkansas Literary Festival dates and lineup announced

ALF 2016_textPrestigious award-winners, screenwriters, comedians, an expert witness, artists, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet are among the diverse roster of presenters who will be providing sessions at the thirteenth annual Arkansas Literary Festival, April 14-17, 2016. The Central Arkansas Library System’s Main Library campus and many other Little Rock venues are the sites for a stimulating mix of sessions, panels, special events, performances, workshops, presentations, opportunities to meet authors, book sales, and book signings. Most events are free and open to the public.
     The Arkansas Literary Festival, the premier gathering of readers and writers in Arkansas, will include more than 80 presenters including featured authors from approximately 24 different states and guests hailing from Canada, England, Russia, and Singapore. Each year, several of the attending authors have not visited Little Rock, Arkansas, or even the South.
     Presenters come from a wide range of backgrounds including: journalist, documentary filmmaker, economist, editor, microbiologist, national bank examiner, essayist, photographer, sports reporter, psychological examiner, musician, actress, reporter, and professor. One is co-producing Keanu Reeves’ new television show and writing an adaptation of his own book for Warner Bros. and Bradley Cooper.
     Special events for adults during the Festival include a cocktail reception with the authors, a tour of the Governor’s Mansion gardens with a wine and cheese reception, an escape room, and Readers’ Map of Arkansas launch party. Panels and sessions include genres and topics such as literary fiction, barbecue, Monopoly, female rocket scientists, travel, graphic novels, science fiction, classic literature, and a story told in playing cards.
     Children’s special events include a session by Nikki Grimes, activity hour, concert by the Kinders, and the play How the Camel Got His Hump. based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Festival sessions for children will take place at both the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, 4800 10th Street, and the Youth Services Department at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street. Special events for teens include North Little Rock High School Readers Theater, a teen poetry competition, and a panel with three authors of books for young adults.
     Through the Writers In The Schools (WITS) initiative, the Festival will provide presentations by several authors for central Arkansas elementary, middle, and senior high schools and area colleges.
     Author! Author!, a cocktail reception with the authors, will be Friday, April 15, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $40 at the door, and go on sale at ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org beginning Monday, March 15.
     This year’s Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards and fellowships including: Pulitzer Prize, James Beard Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Hugo Award, Coretta Scott King Award, Will Eisner Comic Industry Award, National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, Dashiell Hammett Prize, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Houghton Mifflen Literary Fellowship, Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship.
     The work of this year’s Festival authors has been featured in notable publications including: New York Times, Details, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Forbes, the Paris Review, theHuffington Post, Women’s Health, Gourmet Magazine, the New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian, the Daily Telegraph UK, VICE, the New Yorker, Harper’s, the Atlantic, Slate, Time, Popular Science, Salon, the Best American Travel Writing, Outside Magazine, Esquire, USA Today, Reader’s Digest, Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, Penthouse, the Nation, Best American Poetry, the Washington Post, Town & Country, the Economist, the Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Rolling Stone, GQ, Sports Illustrated, and Vogue
     The Literary Festival is presented by the Central Arkansas Library System. Sponsors include Arkansas Humanities Council, Friends of Central Arkansas Library System (FOCAL), Clinton Presidential Center, Fred K. Darragh Jr. Foundation, KUAR FM 89.1, ProSmartPrinting.com, Rebsamen Fund, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas Times, Gibbs Elementary School, Hendrix-Murphy Foundation Programs in Literature and Language, MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, Museum of Discovery, Otter Creek Elementary School, UALR Department of English, Windstream, Arkansas Library Association, Christ Episcopal Church, East Harding Construction, Hampton Inn, Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, Henderson State University, Hendrix College Project Pericles Program, University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, Greater Little Rock Council of Garden Clubs, Capital Hotel, City of Little Rock, Et Alia Press, Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest, Literacy Action of Central Arkansas, Mayor Mark Stodola, Mollie Savage Memorial/CALS, North Little Rock High School, Plum Street Publishers, Inc., Pyramid Art Books & Custom Framing/Hearne Fine Art, Sibling Rivalry Press, Stickyz Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicken Shack, UALR Department of Rhetoric and Writing, and Whole Hog. The Arkansas Literary Festival is supported in part by funds from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
     The Festival’s mission is to encourage the development of a more literate populace. A group of dedicated volunteers assists Festival Coordinator Brad Mooy with planning the Festival. Committee chairs include Kevin Brockmeier, Talent Committee; Susan Santa Cruz, Festival Guides; and Amy Bradley-Hole, Moderators.
     Visit the Festival Facebook and Twitter pages to get the latest news about the Festival. For more information about the 2016 Arkansas Literary Festival, visit ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org, or contact Brad Mooy at bmooy@cals.org or 918-3098. For information on volunteering at the Festival, contact Angela Delaney at adelaney@cals.org or 918-3095.