Tag Archives: Jeffrey Oakley

Award winning THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING at Weekend Theater

TWT Member WedNext at the Weekend Theater is The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers unflinching yet heart-warming look back at the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Winner of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the Donaldson Award in 1950 for best play, The Member of the Wedding is based on the Carson McCullers multi-award winning novel by the same name. The play set during World War II takes place over a few days in late August, 1945.

It tells the poignant story of 12-year-old tomboy, Frankie Addams, who, like many prepubescents, feels disconnected from everything in the world; in her words, an “unjoined person.” Frankie’s mother has died in childbirth, and her widowed father is a distant, vacuous figure who has no idea of the anxiety his daughter is experiencing. Her closest companions in her small racially divided hometown are the family’s African American housekeeper and surrogate mother to Frankie, Berenice Sadie Brown, and her six-year-old pesky cousin, John Henry West. She has no other friends in her deeply southern birthplace and dreams of going away with her soldier brother and his bride-to-be on their honeymoon in the Alaskan wilderness. Frankie Addams desperately wants to become “joined” with the newlyweds in The Member of the Wedding.

Directed by Margaret Pierson Bates, the production opens tonight and runs through May 30 on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The cast includes Danette Scott Perry, Ellis Golden, Alex Harkins, Barry Clifton, Elizabeth Bartyzal, Peter Emery, Amanda Oxford, Stacy Williams Jr., Eric Tate, Akasha Hull, Allison Filbert, Claire Green, Jeffrey Oakley, Hannah Smith, Nikolai Gordeev, Drew Ellis, Keith Harper, Tommie Tinker, Alexander White, Terry White and Ryan Whitfield.

 

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Sleeping Beauty Brought to life at Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre

The Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre will bring the enchanted Sleeping Beauty to life from April 25 – May 11.

AAC SLeep Beauty“This production is filled with colorful characters brought to life by a talented group of actors in this magical journey,” said Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre artistic director Bradley Anderson. “Share this classic fairytale of love, courage and the triumph of good over evil with the whole family.”

For years, the king and queen have wanted a child. So when their sweet princess is finally born, they invite the entire kingdom with the exception of one bad fairy. What follows is sure to leave audiences of all ages feeling happily ever after. Sleeping Beauty is written by Alan Keith Smith and is based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.

The cast for Sleeping Beauty includes:

  • John Isner of Little Rock, as Melon the Fool
  • Katherine Kuli, of Little Rock, as Memory
  • Mark Hansen, of Little Rock, as the King
  • Memory Apata, of Little Rock, as the Queen
  • Courtney Bennett, of Little Rock, as Twelfth Fairy
  • Paige Carpenter,  of Lonsdale, as the Thirteenth Fairy
  • Veronica Lowry, of Charlottesville, Va., as Rose
  • Jeremy Matthey, of Little Rock, as The Prince
  • Ben Fish, of Little Rock; Timothy Rhodes, of Cincinnati, Ohio; Kate Kelly, of Little Rock; Jeffrey Oakley of Sherwood; Nina Sharpley, of North Little Rock; and Diondre Wright, of Little Rock are in the  Court

Bradley D. Anderson is the artistic director and director for the production. Musical direction by Lori Isner, costume design by Nikki Webster, technical direction by Drew Posey, lighting design by Penelope Poppers, scenic design by Mary Alyce Hare, properties by Miranda Young and Sarah Gasser is the stage manager.

Presenting sponsors are Landers FIAT in Benton, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and in honor of Dorothy and Fallon Davis by Dr. Scott and Shannon Davis. The production is also sponsored by Dr. Loren Bartole, ‘Family Foot Care.’ The Media Sponsor for this production is The Point 94.1.

Recognized by The Drama League as one of the best regional theatre companies in America, the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre is the only professional company in Arkansas that produces children’s literary works for the stage. Since 1979, Children’s Theatre has been creating unique experiences for family audiences. During the 2012-13 season, nearly 43,000 children and families enjoyed Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre productions which included more than 200 schools across Arkansas.

Guests are invited to experience a night full of merriment and magic at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre Sleeping Beauty Ball on Saturday, May 10 from 6 – 8 p.m. Admission to the event is $20.

For more information, visit arkansasartscenter.org or call (501)372-4000.

 

Lucky 13

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13 is a musical about one of the most awkward ages known to mankind in western civilization: turning thirteen. When it originally ran on Broadway five years ago, it was not a success. (More about that later.). Upon its closure, many felt that the show was through forever. But a funny thing happened over the last five years–the show has become a success in community and secondary school theatres.

The original production used tweens and early teens as actors and musicians but was lost in the scale of a huge Broadway production. It needed intimacy so that the audience and the actors can connect. This show needs actors who can seem vulnerable, naive, quixotic, and selfish without seeming polished or cartoonish. In order to achieve this, 13 needs a smaller space.

It is hard to get much smaller a space than the Weekend Theater. While sometimes that theatre is over ambitious in the scale of its production choices, 13 is the right size and type of musical for the space. Luckily, it was chosen to kickoff the 2103-14 season; it runs through Sunday, June 23.

As written by Rick Elish & Robert Horn (book), 13 is reminscent of an afterschool special or “very special episode” of a sitcom. It deals with acceptance, bullying, first love and a plethora of teen issues. In an 100 minute show, it hardly gives any topic much depth or explores too much character motivation. This facile approach, however, ensures that the actors are able to play their characters with honesty. They are not out to wow the audience with polished bravura performances that border on cute or cloying. It would not be reasonable to ask young actors to carry a show the length of Les Mis, but asking them to carry this length of show is reasonable.

What depth the musical does have comes in the form of the score by Jason Robert Brown. While Brown has written a score in a style and range that works with voices in that awkward transition on the cusp of maturity, he has also imbued it with emotional honesty. His songs capture the horrors, humor and heartbreak of being in junior high. This score is not necessarily “Broadway” but it is also not the Broadway concept of a rock score (which very rarely approaches rock). These are casual art songs, heartfelt ballads and peppy numbers reminiscent of kids TV.

The central character in 13 is Evan, played at the Weekend Theater by Will Frueauff. One cannot teach comic timing–a person has it or doesn’t. Frueauff has it. With an arched eyebrow, tilted head or slight gesture, he masterfully captured the numerous funny moments which keep this character from being pathetic. The audience feels his awkwardness but also his kindness and remorse . Through Frueauff’s performance, the audience roots for him to succeed, not out of pity but because he is a decent guy. He also displayed a nice singing voice as he handled a veritable parade of songs and emotions.

Casey Labbate and Ethan Patterson play two other outcasts–though less concerned with fitting in than Evan. These could be dour, sour, pitiful characters. Instead Labbate and Patterson flesh them out. They had a nice chemistry with each other and Frueauff. If there were a contest to see which of them has the most deadpan delivery, it would probably end up like most soccer games–a tie.

As the BMOC, Ryan Owens was goofily charming. He exhibited a nice flair for physical comedy and was able to turn on a dime from bashful to bully. Stephanie Schoonmaker displayed a pleasant singing voice as the cheerleader captain. She was honestly sweet without being syrupy. Khloe Richardson’s mean girl was a force with which to reckon. She was manipulative without being obvious. Though the closest thing to a villain in the show, Richardson still evoked sympathy or at least empathy.

Each of the other cast members had a chance to shine whether through acting, singing or dancing. Brian Earles, Diondre Wright, Autumn Romines, Madeleine Robinson, Rachel Caffey, Matthew Glover and Jeffrey Oakley ably populated this mythical world known as adolescence.

I have had the chance to see many of these performers on stage in other productions or in forensics competitions. It is always a pleasure to see them in a different arena. Rarely do tweens and teens get to play parts their own age. While obviously still playing characters, these actors seemed very comfortable in these roles. They know these people–they see them every day.

The cast was directed by Hannah M Sawyer. As a junior high speech and drama teacher, she knows something about how kids this age behave. Sawyer ensured that the performers were honest to the situation, the script and the score. A talented actor in her own right, she tapped into the actors’ talents and focused them on serving the story. In so doing, the show reminds the audience that “fitting in” does not end after one reaches the age of 13.

Watching this production caused a few flashbacks to junior high. They weren’t to bad moments or even good moments–just moments, feelings, that sense of possibility. Theatre is supposed to transport the audience–back, forward, elsewhere. I would not want to go back to junior high or high school (and this musical underscores that once is enough for adolescent angst). It is nice to be reminded of a time when getting into an R rated movie was one’s biggest concern and to reflect on the journeys made by my classmates and myself since those days.

Given the talent on the stage, it is also nice to enjoy the performances and contemplate future performances these actors may deliver.

The Weekend Theater’s production of 13 is, indeed, a lucky convergence of place, actors and director which serve the piece well.

Arts Center Children’s Theatre geared for Adults Tonight

jamesgiantadultThe Arkansas Arts Center is hosting an event tonight featuring the Children’s Theatre production of James and the Giant Peach.  The twist is that this event is for adults 21 and over.

Billed as “Giant Peaches and Fuzzy Navels” the event starts at 7pm with a reception.  It will feature refreshments (including adult beverages which use peaches as ingredients) and a musical performance by Paul Morphis.

At 8pm, the production of James and the Giant Peach will start.

The title character is played by Jeffrey Oakley.  Mark Hansen and Aleigha Morton play his horrible aunts.  Others in the cast are Garrett Flood as Old Green Grasshopper, Anna Tess Frost as Spider, Jeremy Matthey as Centipede, Jhonika Wright as Ladybird and Cassandra Nary as Earthworm.David Wood has adapted Dahl’s story for the stage.  The production is directed and designed by Alan Keith Smith.  Erin Larkin designed the costumes, and Penelope Poppers is the lighting designer.

James and the Giant Peach opens tonight and runs through May 12.  Public performances are Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Bradley Anderson is the artistic director of the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre. Dr. Todd Herman is the executive director of the Arkansas Arts Center.

James and the Giant Peach at AAC

aac_childrens_theatre_james_peach_lgA magical peach! An incredible journey! Young orphan James escapes the clutches of his horrible Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker when he finds an enormous peach growing in his yard containing talking insects. James, the wise Old-Green-Grasshopper and the pessimistic Earthworm begin a wild adventure to an unknown destination.

This magical tale comes to life at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre.

Broadway audiences are paying a small fortune to see a stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.  But Little Rock audiences can see Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach for $12.

The title character is played by Jeffrey Oakley.  Mark Hansen and Aleigha Morton play his horrible aunts.  Others in the cast are Garrett Flood as Old Green Grasshopper, Anna Tess Frost as Spider, Jeremy Matthey as Centipede, Jhonika Wright as Ladybird and Cassandra Nary as Earthworm.

David Wood has adapted Dahl’s story for the stage.  The production is directed and designed by Alan Keith Smith.  Erin Larkin designed the costumes, and Penelope Poppers is the lighting designer.

James and the Giant Peach opens tonight and runs through May 12.  Public performances are Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Bradley Anderson is the artistic director of the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre. Dr. Todd Herman is the executive director of the Arkansas Arts Center.