Creative Class 2016: Jason Willey

cc16-willeyJason Willey often has people howling with laughter when he performs with Red Octopus Theater.

As one of the movers and shakers behind this troupe for the past decade or so, Jason often writes and produces and directs for this topical sketch comedy troupe in addition to acting in it.  He can also usually be found cranking out press releases for it and doing whatever needs to be done.

In addition to appearing with Red Octopus, Jason has been a fixture on the local theatre scene. He has appeared in many productions with The Weekend Theater as well as on other local stages.

Jason has also appeared in numerous Arkansas-based films over the past few years.  He has lent his talents on many film crews as well.  He is an avid supporter of local film festivals as well.

In short, if it comes to an aspect of the acting profession in Arkansas, Jason has probably been involved.

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Creative Class 2016: Jason Wiest

cc16-wiestAfter a career in journalism and public relations, Jason Wiest is now focusing more on the entertainment side of Little Rock.  As the owner of Club Sway, he programs a variety of music and theatrical events.

While Club Sway operates as a bar, most nights there are special performances.  Jason provides SWAY as a staging area for locally produced parties created by GlitterRock as well as featuring nationally known entertainers.

For the second year in a row, Club Sway is producing The Rocky Horror Show during Halloween.  The final two performances are tonight and tomorrow at 8:30pm.

Jason has also been an active board member with Ballet Arkansas, giving special assistance as they planned their move downtown. He has also been a supporter of film festivals in downtown Little Rock.

Creative Class 2016: Werner Trieschmann

cc16-treischmannWerner Trieschmann is a playwright-teacher-writer-you could keep adding hyphens and words.

His numerous plays — including Dog Star, Wrought Iron, and Killers — have been staged by Moving Arts in Los Angeles, Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City, The New Theatre in Boston, Mobtown Players in Baltimore, and Red Octopus Productions in Little Rock. Werner was a resident at the Mount Sequoyah New Play Retreat in Fayetteville. His play Lawn Dart won first prize in the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans New Play Competition. He was the first playwright to receive the Porter Prize, an Arkansas literary award recognizing outstanding achievement by an Arkansas writer.

Werner’s play Disfarmer about Arkansas photographer Mike Disfarmer, was featured in Theatre Squared’s Arkansas New Play Festival. It was subsequently mounted at the first ACANSA Arts Festival.

His full-length comedy You Have to Serve Somebody is published by the Dramatic Publishing Company; several of his short plays are published by Playscripts, Inc.; his dark one-act comedy Killers is published through Original Works Publishing; and a monologue from Killers is included in the The Best Women’s Stage Monologues 1999, published by Smith & Kraus. Werner has an MFA in Playwriting from Boston University. He is a Theatre Arts professor at Pulaski Technical College and an adjunct faculty member at Hendrix College, his alma mater.  He has also served as a dramaturg at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and was a writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  

Creative Class 2016: Tod Switch

cc16-switchTod Switch  has worked as an architectural photographer since 1991.  In that capacity, he has had many artistic experiences while traveling throughout the US and eighteen countries around the world.

Making the transition to the fine arts in 2010, he started by using what came naturally to him, visualization. He saw intrinsic beauty in found objects and transformed them into his own vision with the addition of metal, wood, and stone. Composition, form, and perspective, concepts he utilized daily with photography, are now put to use in his sculptural work.

His sculptures often combine different materials and fabrication processes. Many works are one of a kind or unique in a series.  He currently is working on a series of keyholes as well as a series of city blocks, which are a variety of wood blocks, laser etched with architectural images that I have taken from around the world. They will be capped with copper, bronze, brass, or nickel.

Tod has shown at Sculpture at the River Market.  In 2015, he won the Best of Show Award and in 2016 received an Award of Merit.  His temporary installation was chosen for the Arkansas Arts Center’s Fountain Fest in 2015, as well.  He has also taught seminars for the Arkansas Arts Council.

His goals in public art are to appeal to the largest audience and have them say, “I wish I would have thought of that,” and to produce site – specific works of art that will stand the test of time.

Creative Class 2016: Kathryn Pryor

cc16-pryorWhile she may be a successful attorney by day, Kathryn Pryor, is also an accomplished singer and actor.

Having grown up appearing on stage, it is no surprise she continues to appear in productions throughout Central Arkansas.

Earlier this year she reprised her role of Hillary Clinton in the biennial political spoof Gridiron.   Over the years she has also played leading roles in GYPSY, CABARET, SWEENEY TODD, COMPANY, VICTOR/VICTORIA, SOUTH PACIFIC, and MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG.  

In addition, she has appeared in New York in a cabaret act with her brother Will Trice. For the 2015 edition of the Arkansas Arts Center’s Tabriz, she and Will reprised their act.

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.

Creative Class 2016: Bonnie Montgomery

cc16-montgomeryA true and multi-faceted artist,  Bonnie Montgomery has an artistic vision that transcends classification and genre.

Following the release of EPs “Cruel” (2012) and “Joy” (2013), Bonnie released her self-titled LP in December 2014 on Nathan Howdeshell’s (of Gossip) Portland/Arkansas label Fast Weapons.

Bonnie’s southern debut album showcases her powerful operatic voice while her music blends elements of classic country with spaghetti western and traditional Ozark folk song.  Backed by a rowdy, virtuosic hillbilly band, Bonnie has toured on her recent album extensively throughout the U.S.  The album’s critical acclaim alongside her wild and law-less live performances have earned Montgomery the title of the Ameripolitan Outlaw Female 2016.

A classically trained singer whose southern roots run deep, Bonnie has taken her raucous, high-art spin on golden-era country/western music through the U.S. and Europe.

Bonnie’s composition of the modern folk opera “Billy Blythe”, about the childhood of Bill Clinton, previewed in New York, and has earned her the attention of publications such as The New Yorker, The Economist, The Huffington Post and the London Daily Telegraph.  The opera had its official world premiere by Opera Ithaca in April 2016 in Ithaca, NY.  In September it was staged by Opera in the Rock, and an upcoming production is to be staged at Ouachita Baptist University.