Since today is Elizabeth Eckford’s birthday, the past Arkansas Rep production that is featured is 2007’s The Legacy Project: It Happened in Little Rock.

Culled from three years of research and over 80 interviews, playwright and director Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj created a multi-faceted play with music that explored stories past and present of Central High’s desegregation and the legacy the events of those years have provided citizens of Little Rock, of Arkansas and of the United States.

The cast featured Destan Owens (playing parallel roles of a 1957 Harlem reporter and a 2007 artist (a stand-in for Maharaj) as well as nine other actors who played multiple roles of diverse ethnicity — from current Central students to the Little Rock Nine, from elected officials to blue-collar workers.  Those actors were J. Bernard Calloway, Mary-Pat Green, Taifa Harris, Shannon Lamb, Vanessa Lemonides, Arthur W. Marks, Gia McGlone, Nick Petrie and Julian Rebolledo.

The creative team included Sybil Roberts Williams (dramaturg), Michael Susko (choreographer and assistant director), Charles Creath (musical director) Steve Hudelson (musician), Mike Nichols (scenic design), Matthew Webb (lighting design), Leslie Bernstein (costume design), M. Jason Pruzin (sound design) and Lynda Kwallek (properties). Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp and Education Director Leslie Golden were also involved in shepherding the project over the years.

Funding for the production came, in part, from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The production ran from September 14 to September 30, 2007, in conjunction with other events commemorating the 50th anniversary.

In 2008, Maharaj directed a play called Little Rock Off Broadway. While a separate piece of drama, it was based on the research he conducted and infused by his experiences creating The Legacy Project: It Happened in Little Rock.


Wiz Biz at Ark Rep

Melson, Williams, Stewart and Alexzander (photo by Cindy Momchilov, courtesy of the Arkansas Rep)There will be a whirlwind of activity as the Arkansas Rep opens The Wiz tomorrow night. This Tony Award winning super soulful retelling of The Wizard of Oz features a witty book by William F. Brown and a score by Charlie Smalls that is infused with blues, R&B, gospel, disco, jazz and good old fashioned razzmatazz.

This production (which runs through April 1 – no fooling, it closes that day) is directed by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, who has directed A Raisin in the Sun and Dreamgirls at the Rep.  The cast includes Carla Stewart at Dorothy, Nik Alexzander as the Scarecrow, Tony Melson as the Tin Man, Darryl Jovan Williams as the Lion, and Baci as Toto.  Sinclair Mitchell plays both Uncle Henry and the title character, while Zoie Morris plays both Aunt Em and Glinda.  Jennifer Leigh Warren, who was in the original New York casts of Little Shop of Horrors and Big River will be playing Addapearle (a good witch) and Evilene (the wicked witch).

The creative team for this production includes Set Designer: Mike Nichols, Lighting Designer: Douglas Cox, Costume Designer: Rafael Colon Castanera, Properties Designer: Lynda J. Kwallek, Sound Designer: M. Jason Pruzin, Music Director: Charles Creath and Choreographer: James Harkness.