As 2019 comes to an end, it is a chance to reflect on cultural events, milestones, changes, and passages which happened since January 1, 2019. They are presented in no particular order. Here, in part one, are the first three.
1 – Tony winner Will Trice hired to lead Arkansas Repertory Theatre, and the return of Arkansas Rep to presenting productions. After a dreadful 2018 which saw the Rep suspended operations, cancel a production, lay off staff, and suffer the death of founder Clif Fannin Baker, 2019 was a much better year! Little Rock native (and former Rep actor) Will Trice, a Tony winning Broadway producer, was announced as the Executive Artistic Director in January. The next month, the Rep staged Chicago, which marked its return to presenting productions. With four mainstage shows (and a summer youth production), expanded educational offerings, and three shows announced for spring/summer 2020, the Arkansas Rep was certainly back in 2019!
2 – Arkansas Cinema Society youth programming. Presenting films has never been the sole mission of the Arkansas Cinema Society. In 2019, they expanded into educational offerings by launching two programs.
- The Filmmaking Lab for Teen Girls was presented in conjunction with the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas and JM Associates. If provides an opportunity for high-school junior girls between the ages of 16-18 to experience all aspects of the filmmaking process, from screenwriting to production to editing. No prior filmmaking experience is necessary and the lab is FREE. Guided by seasoned filmmakers the participants developed a 3-5 minute short film with an emphasis on women’s empowerment and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) over the course of the eight-week program. The finished short films were screened at the end of the program and during ACS’s annual FILMLAND.
- Arkansas Young Storytellers is an educational program where 10 local filmmakers mentor one-on-one with fifth graders from Jefferson Elementary in Little Rock. This nine-week mentorship program culminates in “The Big Show” which debuted 10 original scripts written by the kid-and-mentor teams, and then performed by local actors. Little Rock is one of a handful of cities in the US with this program (and the smallest city in population).
3. While 2019 saw the loss of many arts patrons and practitioners, the death of Matt DeCample stands out with me. He was an active participant in Little Rock’s film scene and improv scene. He was also such a fan of music of all sorts. The last time I saw Matt was at an Arkansas Cinema Society screening of an episode from HBO’s TRUE DETECTIVE (which had been filmed in Arkansas). Later in the year, to kick off the ACS Filmland, Kathryn Tucker’s documentary on former Governor Mike Beebe featured Matt prominently and was shown on his birthday. A tribute video to Matt was also screened that evening. It was a fitting tribute to the man who helped Kathryn and others establish the ACS and promoted it tirelessly with his special blend of knowledge, humor, and tenacity.