Creative Class 2016: Christen Burke Pitts

cc16-pittsDancer and choreographer only defines two of Christen Burke Pitts‘s involvement with the arts.  She and her family are also active supporters of the Arkansas film industry and are patrons of all of the performing arts.  But it is in dance that Christen probably makes her largest impact.

Since 1996, she has been the founder and director of the NLRHS Dance Program.  In that capacity, she teaches scores of students each year as well as choreographs musicals, plans workshops, and produces dance performances.  She received the 2012 Governor’s Arts in Education Award from the Arkansas Arts Council and was also named the 2012 Arkansas Communication and Theatre Arts Association Teacher of the Year.

Christen holds her MEd from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a BA in Drama/minor in Dance Performance from the University of Arkansas. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, modern, pointe, and musical theatre with various instructors across the country and trained at workshops/intensives with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, MOMIX, Pilobolus, Luigi, Frank Hatchett, Finis Jhung, Bill Hastings, and many others.

Christen has performed in over fifty shows throughout the South including Damn Yankees at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the Shoji Tabuchi Show and The Crystal Gayle Show in Branson, and numerous industrial shows. She has appeared in local and national commercials, “The Ernest Green Story” on The Disney Channel, and in television specials on The Family Channel. Christen was a company member of the Memphis Dance Ensemble and the University of Arkansas Dance Company.

She has taught dance workshops for the ARC National Performing Arts Camp, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre (Summer Theater Intensive-Camp Rep), Arkansas Communication and Theatre Arts Association, and Arkansas Dance Network. A co-founder of the Arkansas Dance Network, she has also served been affiliated with ACANSA Arts Festival, the THEA Foundation, Arkansas Festival Ballet, and Argenta Community Theatre, among others.

Three shows closing this weekend in Central Ark

Fiddler ACTTonight, Fiddler on the Roof continues at the Argenta Community Theatre.  It runs through Sunday evening.  Tickets range from $30 to $50.  Directed by Bob Hupp of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Fiddler on the Roof is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The show opened on Broadway in September 1964. Choreographers are Christen Burke Pitts and Kristof Waltermire, with Kurt Kennedy as music director.

 

Rent CTLRTwo other productions are closing this weekend.  Community Theatre of Little Rock’s Rent closes on Sunday at the new Studio Theatre space.  Winner of both the 1996 Pulitzer Prize and Tony for Best Musical, Jonathan Larsen’s musical is an updated version of La Boheme.  Directed by Frank O. Butler with music direction by Matthew Tatus, tickets for this production range from $8 to $18.

 

Next-to-Normal_smThe Weekend Theater’s Next to Normal, also a Pulitzer Prize winner, closes on Sunday, as well.  The story of a family dealing with the mother’s mental illness, it is both heart-wrenching and humorous.  Directed by Ralph Hyman, with music direction by Lori Isner, tickets range from $16 to $20.

TONY AWARDS tonight — Some Arkansas connections

TonyAwards-328x253.328.254The American Theatre Wing and Broadway League present the 67th Antoinette Perry Awards – also known as the Tony Awards – tonight. They will be aired on CBS (THV11 in Central Arkansas) at 7pm CDT.

There are a few Arkansas connections to this year’s nominees of the best of Broadway.

Arkansas natives and previous Tony winners Will Trice and Remmel T. Dickinson are each nominated again this year for producing. Trice is one of the producers of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, nominated for Best Revival of a Play. Dickinson is a producer of Best Musical nominee Matilda. Both of those productions received multiple Tony nominations.

Tony winner Roger Horchow of Texas was married for nearly 50 years to Little Rock native Carolyn Pfeifer, until her 2009 death. Horchow and his daughter Sally are both nominated for producing the revival of Annie which is currently pleasing crowds on Broadway.

Chet Walker is nominated for his choreography for the revival of Pippin. Walker’s parents live in Maumelle. He has been a guest instructor for the Arkansas Dance Network. (Thanks to Christen Burke Pitts–herself an outstanding choreographer–for pointing out this Arkansas connection.)

Japhy Weideman is nominated for Best Lighting Design of a Play for his work on the new play The Nance. This is his first Tony nomination and his first season to be lighting plays on Broadway. He has previously received acclaim for his work Off Broadway. Weideman has been a lighting designer at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in the past.

One final nominee with an Arkansas connection. A couple of years ago, the Clinton School of Public Service brought actor Holland Taylor to Little Rock to discuss her play Ann about Texas Gov. Ann Richards. At that point in time, Ms. Taylor was performing the play throughout the country, but she did not know if it would be performed in New York. It made it to Broadway this season, and she received a Tony nomination for Actress in a Play for her work.

Whether these nominees win or lose tonight, it is a testament to Little Rock’s cultural richness that there are several nominees this year with connections to The Rock.

Governor’s Arts Awards

Governor Mike Beebe and the Arkansas Arts Council will present the Governor’s Arts Awards at a ceremony and luncheon at noon, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, at The Peabody Little Rock.

Sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council, the Governor’s Arts Awards recognize individuals and corporations for their outstanding contributions to the arts in Arkansas. The recipients were nominated by the public and then selected by an independent panel of arts professionals from around the state. Each recipient will receive an original work of art created by glass artists Charles and Michael Riley of Hot Springs, owners of Riley Art Glass Studio in Hot Springs. The following is the list of 2012 recipients. Click HERE to read each recipient’s bio.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Zeek Taylor – Eureka Springs

ARTS COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AWARD
Jeff Baskin – North Little Rock

ARTS IN EDUCATION AWARD
Christen Burke Pitts – North Little Rock
Clayton Scott – Fayetteville

CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP OF THE ARTS AWARD
TRUE Marketing − Jonesboro

FOLKLIFE AWARD
Marty Phillips – Crossett

INDIVIDUAL ARTIST AWARD
John Jeter – Fort Smith 

PATRON AWARD
Drs. Mack and Vern Ann Shotts – Paragould

JUDGES RECOGNITION AWARD
Jim D. Johnson – Little Rock

Start Celebrating with CABARET

Argenta Community Theater's CabaretThe Argenta Community Theatre is inaugurating producing its own productions with the Tony winning Cabaret.  Unfortunately, if you don’t already have a ticket, you won’t be able to “come to the Cabaret” because this production has been sold out for over a week.

Cabaret, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1967, is a musical adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s “Berlin Stories” and John van Druten’s I Am a Camera.  It features a book by Joe Masteroff and score by John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Producer Vince Insalaco and director Robert Hupp have assembled a cast and creative team to transform the Argenta Community Theatre into the Kit Kat Klub.  The choreographers are Marisa Kirby and Christen Burke Pitts with Kurt Kennedy serving as musical director.

Kirby leads the cast as tragic heroine Sally Bowles. Cipher-like scribe Cliff Bradshaw is played by Michael Klucher.  Brandon Higdem is the leering MC of the Kit Kat Klub.  Also starring are Tricia Spione and Alan Rackley as a mismatched pair of older Germans struggling with their relationship in the midst of the onset of the Third Reich.

Others in the cast are David Weatherly, Jessica Smith, Carl Carter, Matt Morley, Kris Waltermire, Dylan Dugger, Sydney Ippolito, Emily Karnes, Bailey Lamb, RaeLeigh Narisi, Rachel Powell and Brittany “Sparkles” Rorie.

Insalaco hopes to produce a musical and a play at the Argenta Community Theatre each year.