104 years ago today, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born. Celebrate her at special Arkansas Sounds screening

Image result for sister rosetta tharpeTonight (March 20) at 7pm at the Ron Robinson Theater. Celebrate the life, legacy and love of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Learn about the woman who Cleveland County native Johnny Cash called his favorite singer.

Arkansas Sounds presents American Masters Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll”

The director’s cut of the American Masters documentary profiles the newly inducted Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Sister Rosetta Tharpe, paying tribute to the Arkansas musical legend on what would be her 104th birthday. This longer version features more performance footage and a special introduction by filmmaker Mick Csaky.

This event is FREE and open to the public. Doors open at 7:00pm with general admission seating on a first come, first served basis.

Presented by Arkansas Sounds and AETN/PBS.

Sponsored by Friends of the Central Arkansas Library System (FOCAL), Acansa Arts Festival, FM 89.1 KUAR, Dr. Elizabeth Fletcher Dishongh Charitable Trust and David Austin at The Charlotte John Company.

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Johnny Cash’s Birthday

Cleveland County, Arkansas, native Johnny Cash was the subject of the Oscar winning film Walk the Line.  Although he never lived in Little Rock, he was a frequent visitor throughout his career.

Born on February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas, as a young boy he moved with his family to Dyess.  After service in the military (in which he also had his first band), Cash moved to Memphis. It was there he broke into the music scene.

Among the venues Cash played in Little Rock were Barton Coliseum and Wildwood Park for the Arts.  On more than one occasion, he shared the stage with his friend and fellow Arkansan Glen Campbell.   The largest crowd for which Cash performed in Little Rock was in 1989, when he appeared at a Billy Graham crusade at War Memorial Stadium.

He is a character in the musical Million Dollar Quartet which the Arkansas Rep is producing later in 2019.

2019 Season for Arkansas Rep is set

Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the state’s largest nonprofit professional theatre, announced its 2019 “Rebuild the Rep” Season. Beginning in February, the new season marks the return of The Rep after productions were suspended in April because of funding shortages.

“Storytelling will be our focus in 2019 at The Rep,” said Ruth Shepherd. “Our 2019 Season brings a diverse array of uniquely American stories.  We feel passionate about each and every one of these stories, and I am truly excited about the combination.”

The 2019 “Rebuild the Rep” season includes the following productions:

Chicago (Running February 20 to March 24, with opening night on February 22, 2019).
Director and choreographer Ron Hutchins makes a return to Arkansas Rep to helm this musical of murder, greed, corruption and show business. With a score by Fred Ebb and John Kander, this musical tells the story of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly as well as lawyer Billy Flynn, reporter Mary Sunshine, and the other colorful characters from the 1920s.

Native Gardens (April 17 to May 5, with opening night on April 19, 2019)
Written by Karen Zacarias, this comedy is about
 a young, up-and-coming Latinx couple who move in next door to an older, well-established white couple. Everything is downright neighborly until it’s discovered that the fence separating their backyards is over the property line — a property line that cuts right through a prize-winning flowerbed!

Million Dollar Quartet (September 4 to October 6, with opening night on September 6, 2019)  On December 4, 1956, in the studios of Sun Records in Memphis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis gathered to meet with legendary producer Sam Phillips. What happened next was pure rock and roll magic. The show has a collection of hit songs that includes “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and “Hound Dog.”  The show is written by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux from an original idea by Mutrux.  Directed by original cast member Hunter Foster (a Tony-nominated actor), 

It’s a Wonderful Life:  A LIVE Radio Play (December 4 to 22, with opening night on December 6, 2019)
Back by popular demand, The Rep brings this holiday classic back to our stage to close the 2019 season. Ring in the holidays with an entertaining spin on a familiar holiday favorite. Set in a 1940s radio station on Christmas Eve, enjoy a live radio version of Frank Capra’s classic 1946 film as the actors on stage transform into dozens of characters from Bedford Falls. 

 

NEW IN 2019 – EDUCATION AT THE REP ON THE MAINSTAGE

Willy Wonka Jr. (June 21 to 30, 2019)
Adapted for the stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy A. McDonald, it features a score by Bricusse and Anthony Newley.  
The scrumdidilyumptious adventures of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory light up the stage this summer at The Rep. Featuring many of the enchanting songs from the 1971 film, generations of candy lovers will delight in this devilishly delicious adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic tale, brought to life by a company of young artists. 

SEASON SUBSCRIPTIONS
Season Subscriptions are on sale online or by calling the Box Office starting November 14. At a cost of $88 (for students) or $155 (for adults), a subscription to The Rep is the most economical way to see all of the productions included in the 2019 Season. There is also a Pay-Your-Age subscription option for young adults ages 22-40. Season subscriptions provide one ticket to each of the four productions. Tickets to Willy Wonka Jr. are sold separately. Single ticket sales open in January 2019.

For more information about Season Subscriptions, call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., or visit www.TheRep.org.

 

ARKANSAS REPERTORY THEATRE 
Arkansas Repertory Theatre was founded in 1976 with a mission to produce a diverse body of work intended to illuminate the human condition through great storytelling and is the largest non-profit professional theatre company in the state. Having produced more than 350 shows (including 40 world premieres), the 377-seat theatre is located in downtown Little Rock where it serves as the anchor of the city’s Creative Corridor. For more information, visit www.therep.org.

Rock the Oscars: Johnny Cash

Cleveland County, Arkansas, native Johnny Cash was the subject of the Oscar winning film Walk the Line.  Although he never lived in Little Rock, he was a frequent visitor throughout his career.

Born on February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas, as a young boy he moved with his family to Dyess.  After service in the military (in which he also had his first band), Cash moved to Memphis. It was there he broke into the music scene.

Among the venues Cash played in Little Rock were Barton Coliseum and Wildwood Park for the Arts.  In one performance, he shared the stage with his friend and fellow Arkansan Glen Campbell.   The largest crowd for which Cash performed in Little Rock was in 1989, when he appeared at a Billy Graham crusade at War Memorial Stadium.

 

Little Rock Look Back: Billy Graham

bgpreaching-960x605With his death today at the age of 99, a look at two visits Billy Graham made to Little Rock.

In 1959, as Little Rock was still grappling with the issue of desegregation, Graham brought his crusade to Little Rock.  Held at War Memorial Stadium, Graham insisted that the seating be desegregated. That was always a requirement of his.  He refused to give in to the segregationist protests.  That was probably the first time War Memorial Stadium had been desegregated.

Thirty years later, he returned to Little Rock and War Memorial Stadium.  Among the performers he had at this time was Arkansan Johnny Cash.  Also in attendance was Governor Bill Clinton.  He remarked that he had been a fan of Rev. Graham’s since the 1959 crusade and his stance on requiring desegregation.

2018-19 Arkansas Rep Season includes MENAGERIE, Alcott, Shakespeare, and Rock & Roll History

ark repEarlier this evening (2/19) the Arkansas Repertory Theatre announced its 2018-19 Season. Beginning in September, the new season exemplifies The Rep’s mission of producing diversified work of the highest artistic standards. “Variety is, once again, the watchword at The Rep,” said Producing Artistic Director John Miller-Stephany.

The Rep’s 2018-19 Season opens with one of the most beloved American plays of the 20th Century. Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie is a delicate memory play about family life set in a Depression-era St. Louis tenement. While rebellious Tom Wingfield dreams of running away from his tedious existence, his stubborn mother Amanda elegizes romantically about her Southern debutante past. And in the midst of their disputes, Tom’s timid sister Laura escapes from the cruelty of the world by retracting into an imaginary realm populated by her collection of fragile glass animals.  Directed by John Miller-Stephany, it runs September 5 to 23 with opening night on September 7.

Next is the stage adaptation of the classic film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?  When Joanna decides to surprise her parents with an impromptu introduction to her new fiancé John, she overlooks one small detail – he’s Black. Despite their self-professed liberal political leanings, Mr. and Mrs. Drayton find themselves scrambling when their beliefs are put to the test. But Joanna has yet another bombshell in store – she has invited John’s parents over for the evening as well. The script is by Todd Kreidler, adapted from the screenplay by William Rose. Directed by Arkansas Rep founder Cliff Fannin Baker, it runs from October 24 to November 11 with an opening night of October 26.

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has been a beloved novel since it was first published.  Every generation it seems to inspire a classic movie, and in the mid 2000s, it became a Tony-nominated musical on Broadway.  While the Civil War rages far away from their humble New England home, tomboy Jo refuses to conform to the demands made upon her by “polite society.” As her mother and sisters patiently await the return of their father from the battlefield, Jo’s contagious optimism endures in the face of romantic confusion and personal tragedy.  With the opening scene set at Christmas, it is fitting that Little Women is the Rep’s holiday musical.  The book is by Allan Knee with a score by Mindi Dickstein and Jason Howland.  Directed by John Miller-Stephany, it runs from December 5 to 30, with opening night of December 7.

Containing some of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches, As You Like It is a comedy about love, exile, wit, and disguises all set in the Forest of Arden.  Orlando loves Rosalind. Rosalind loves Orlando. But Rosalind is disguised as Ganymede – who’s a boy! And Phebe loves Ganymede – who’s really Rosalind. Yet Silvius loves Phebe. And Rosalind’s best friend Celia loves Orlando’s brother Oliver. But Oliver hates Orlando. And Touchstone lusts after Audrey. Unfortunately, no one much cares for Jacques. Celebrate romance as Shakespeare’s timeless comedy takes center stage at The Rep!  Directed by Giovanna Sardelli, it runs from February 6 to 24, 2019, with an opening night of February 8, 2019.

 

On December 4, 1956, in the studios of Sun Records in Memphis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis gathered to meet with legendary producer Sam Phillips. What happened next was pure rock and roll magic. Million Dollar Quartet shows what happens when a casual introduction of Lewis to Perkins unexpectedly evolved into an epic jam session of country, gospel and rock classics, captured on tape but not released until 1981. The show has a collection of hit songs that includes “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and “Hound Dog.”  The show is written by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux from an original idea by Mutrux.  Directed by original cast member Hunter Foster (a Tony-nominated actor), the musical runs from March 27 to April 21, 2019 with opening night on March 29, 2019.

The season ends with the comedy Women in Jeopardy! Wendy MacLeod’s play tells the story of Liz who starts seeing a new man and throws caution (and her book club selections) to the wind. However, her friends can’t get over the fact that Liz’s latest beau is just plain creepy. What else are they supposed to think about a dentist with a Hannibal Lecter obsession and a bizarre collection of “antique” orthodontic contraptions in his basement? And then there’s the recent disappearance of his dental hygienist…  Directed by John Miller-Stephany, it runs from June 5 to 23, 2019. Opening night will be June 7, 2019.

Season Subscriptions are on sale now and start at $132. . For more information about Season Subscriptions, call The Rep’s Box Office at (501) 378-0405, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., or visit www.TheRep.org.

Founded in 1976, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre is the state’s largest nonprofit professional theatre company. A member of the League of Resident Theatres, The Rep has produced more than 350 productions including 40 world premieres in its 377-seat theatre located in its historic building in downtown Little Rock.

Under the Lights raises the barre for Ballet Arkansas

UndertheLights_ProgramCover_27july2015a-183x300Ballet Arkansas’ 2015-16 season concludes with the concert Under the Lights, currently on stage at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre through Sunday, May 22. In what has become a hallmark of Artistic Director Michael Bearden’s leadership, it offers an eclectic mix of styles of dance and music which not only highlight the strengths of the dancers, but also allow the dancers to push themselves in new directions.

The concert takes its name from Chris Stuart’s Under the Lights, which is set to the music of Johnny Cash. Created for Nashville Ballet, this piece receives its Arkansas premiere just one hour north of Cash’s birthplace in Kingsland. Being the scion of a longtime Cleveland County family, I grew up listening to Cash’s music. I approached this piece with a great deal of excitement, but also wondering exactly how ballet would meld with Cash. The answer is, they fuse very well.

Ballet is, at its heart, about expression. So are Cash’s songs. At Ballet Arkansas’ performances, the songs are performed live by Sugar + the Hi-Lows, which played them in the premiere. The central dancer, in black of course, is Toby Lewellen. He does not try to mimic Cash in any way, but instead combines lyricism and athleticism as he leads the company in “Walk the Line.” He and Amanda Sewell partner nicely on the piece’s penultimate song, “I’ve Got You Covered.

Deanna Karlheim and Paul Tillman perform a pas de deux to “Ring of Fire” which captures the raw longing of that song. Megan Hustel leads the company in a poignant “Hurt.”

After all the emotions of the piece, it ends in the joyous “Jackson” which allows each of the dancers a moment to showcase their talents. This is no balletic hoedown with forced folksiness; it is a true “let down your hair” moment of release for the dancers at the end of the piece and of the concert.

The concert starts with George Balanchine’s Glinka Pas de Trois which featured Justin Rustle, Megan Hustel and Lauren Bodenheimer at Friday evening’s performance. This 1955 piece requires the dancers to show not only classical ballet training, but also speed and subtle movements which are more inspired by modern dance. The three dancers perform alone and in various combinations. Intricate and challenging, the three dancers were up to the task.

Harrison McEldowney’s Group Therapy was an audience favorite. The four couples portrayed different sets of phobias, neuroses, or other problems. Set to pop standards of the 1930s and 1940s, each couple got a chance to display not only dancing prowess, but also a flair for comedy. In “Treat Me Rough” thankfully Toby Lewellen and Lynsie Ogden were not called upon to actually abuse each other that in this enlightened day would not be funny. But they aptly captured the on-again, off-again status of some couples with a comic edge. Justin Rustle’s uptight “Mr. Clean” was paired with Meredith Loy in a pas de deux set to Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” which was both witty but also filled with longing as Loy tried to break through Rustle’s veneer. His expert lift work was on display throughout the piece.

Megan Hustel dances not only with Tony Sewer but also with a peripatetic cigarette.   She constantly hides it from Sewer in a movement that never stops throughout the number. Sewer gets his chance to shine in a response to her, which is infused with equal parts jazz and ballet. Narcolepsy has never been so funny as when danced by Paul Tillman and Amanda Sewell in “Narcoleptic.”   Sewell goes limp in a variety of poses while Tillman tries to keep her up. This creates opportunities to show the gracefulness and strength of both dancers as Sewell sweeps and Tillman juggles her throughout the number.

The evening also contained two world premieres. The first, (e)motions by Ilya Kozadayev, was the winner of the 2015 Visions choreography contest. Featuring three couples, it was abstract and athletic. Yet each couple created a connection as they partnered. Deanna Karlheim and Paul Tillman, Meredith Loy and Toby Lewellen, and Lynsie Ogden and Tony Sewer, were definitely put through the paces on this piece.

Kiyon Gaines’ Memoryhaus was at its best when it created stark pictures whether it was Amanda Sewell alone in a spotlight, Paul Tillman approaching Deanna Karlheim, or the entire company dancing in unison. Its style is a blend of classical and modern, which is matched by the music of Max Richter.

Ballet Arkansas continues to be a company on the move. Less than a decade ago, the company was on life support existing to produce The Nutcracker in December. Now it is firmly establishing itself as an innovative member of Arkansas’ arts scene with a resident company which tours throughout the state. Not content to be a mediocre provincial dance troupe, Artistic Director Michael Bearden has programmed work that explores the depth and breadth of the ballet world and brings it to Arkansas.

The fact that the company has been granted permission to perform Balanchine selections two years in a row is no accident. It is a testament to the vision and hard work of Bearden and the dancers. Ballet Mistress Laura Hood Babcock and Production & Company Manager Erin Anson-Ellis aid Bearden in this effort. It is exciting to have seen dancers return over several seasons and have the opportunity to dance a variety of styles. Under the Lights is the culmination of a great deal of hard work, not only for the rehearsal process this season, but also for the company over several years.