Little Rock Look Back: John Houseman visits Arkansas Arts Center

Image result for john houseman paper chaseOn March 13, 1968, future Oscar winner John Houseman visited the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.

Mr. Houseman was here to audition actors for his new acting conservatory at Lincoln Center. Though media accounts did not identify it at the time, this became the new Drama Division of Julliard, which he led until 1976.

He had been aware of Dugald MacArthur’s acting program as part of the Arkansas Arts Center School of Art and Drama.  When he learned that it would be closing in May 1968, Mr. Houseman decided to come to Little Rock to audition actors to be part of his initial 20 member class.  Five actors from the Arkansas Arts Center were chosen to be part of that original class.

Mr. Houseman would again be connected with Arkansas. His Oscar came for THE PAPER CHASE which was directed by University of Central Arkansas alum and Arkansas native, James Bridges. The two had known each other when Bridges worked at Houseman’s UCLA theatre. Bridges recruited Houseman to make the film, his first screen work in decades.

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Tonight at CALS Ron Robinson Theater: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is a “Movie Meant for the Big Screen”

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl PosterAs part of its “Movies Meant for the Big Screen” series, tonight (March 12) the CALS Ron Robinson Theater will be showing the 2003 film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. 

Inspired by the amusement park ride at several Disney properties this movie stars Johnny Depp (channeling his best Keith Richards), Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Geoffrey Rush. Also on hand are Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook and Zoe Saldana.

Blacksmith Will Turner (Bloom) teams up with eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow (Depp) to save his love, the governor’s daughter (Knightley), from Jack’s former pirate allies, who have returned from the dead.

The film is directed by Gore Verbinski. It was nominated for five Oscars and spawned three sequels to date.

Admission is $5. The screening starts at 7pm.

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.

Rock the Oscars 2019: BlacKkKlansman

The Oscars are tonight.  One of the films nominated for Best Picture is BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee.  Though previously nominated for Best Screenplay (Do the Right Thing) and Docmentary (4 Little Girls), this is the first time Lee has been nominated for producing a Best Picture nominee and for Best Director.

There are at least three Little Rock connections to the film.  First, it opens with vintage news footage of members of the Little Rock Nine being escorted into Central High in September 1957 (even though the film erroneously says August 25, 1957).

Second, Adam Driver stars in the film, and has earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination.  His father now lives in Little Rock. Driver also participated in the 2017 Arkansas Cinema Society’s “Premiere” event. Following a screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Driver and ACS founder Jeff Nichols took part in a discussion.

Third, Little Rock native and Hendrix College alum Ashlie Atkinson appears in the movie. She is also a former intern at Arkansas Times.

Rock the Oscars 2019: John Houseman

Image result for john houseman paper chaseIn March 1968, future Oscar winner John Houseman visited the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.

Mr. Houseman was here to audition actors for his new acting conservatory at Lincoln Center. Though media accounts did not identify it at the time, this became the new Drama Division of Julliard, which he led until 1976.

He had been aware of Dugald MacArthur’s acting program as part of the Arkansas Arts Center School of Art and Drama.  When he learned that it would be closing in May 1968, Mr. Houseman decided to come to Little Rock to audition actors to be part of his initial 20 member class.  Five actors from the Arkansas Arts Center were chosen to be part of that original class.

After sporadic acting appearances, he was cast in 1973’s The Paper Chase. It was for this performance, as a demanding contract law school professor, that Mr. Houseman won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  The film was directed by University of Central Arkansas alum and Arkansas native, James Bridges. The two had known each other from Houseman’s UCLA theatre days. When several name actors declined the role, Mr. Houseman was approached and set up an audition.

Rock the Oscars 2019: Roy Reed

It is possible that journalist extraordinaire Roy Reed appears in archival footage of the Oscar winning documentary “Nine from Little Rock” (Documentary, Short-1964) and Oscar nominated Eyes on the Prize: Bridge to Freedom 1965 (Documentary, Feature-1988).  First for the Arkansas Gazette and then for The New York Times, Reed was an eyewitness to history being made.  What is not in doubt is that he is a character in the Oscar winning film Selma.  In that movie, he was played by actor John Lavelle.

Roy Reed was born on February 14, 1930, in Hot Springs and grew up in Garland County. After attending Ouachita Baptist College and the University of Missouri (from which he would receive a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Journalism), Reed worked for a newspaper in Joplin and served in the US Army.  In 1956, he returned to Arkansas to work for the Arkansas Gazette.

While he did not specifically cover the integration of Little Rock Central High in 1957, he was part of the paper’s coverage of civil rights. He later was assigned to cover the Faubus administration.  In 1965, he was hired by The New York Times and covered the South. He covered the historic Freedom March to the state Capitol in Montgomery in March 1965.  After spending 1965 and 1966 in the South, he was assigned to the Times’ Washington DC bureau.  In 1969, he moved to New Orleans to open a Southern bureau for the paper.  He remained in the Crescent City until 1976, when he was transferred to the London bureau.

After retiring in 1978, he moved to Northwest Arkansas and taught journalism at the University of Arkansas until 1995.  Reed continued to write essays and books including Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal (1997),  Looking Back at the Arkansas Gazette: An Oral History (2009) and Beware of Limbo Dancers: A Correspondent’s Adventures with the New York Times (2012).  Reed died in December 2017.

Today at Clinton School – the Arkansas Rep production of CHICAGO

Image may contain: indoorThe Arkansas Repertory Theatre works in partnership with the Clinton School of Public Service to participate in the UACS’s Distinguished Speaker Series, hosting educational panel discussions on various Rep productions.  Now that the Rep is back in production (!), this partnership is back in full force.

The latest in these takes place today, Thursday, February 21 at 12 noon at Sturgis Hall in Clinton Presidential Park.  It focuses on the Rep’s upcoming production of the Kander and Ebb musical Chicago.

Originally a play in the 1920s, it was adapted as a musical in 1974 and 1975 by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse.  Opportunity knocks when a crime of passion earns Roxie Hart the kind of notoriety that slick-talking attorney Billy Flynn can exploit for her dreams of fame and his hunger for fortune. Roxie’s story captures the imaginations of newspaper readers and reporters who fall hook, line and sinker for Billy’s clever manipulation. Roxie quickly overshadows previous murderess, media darling, and fellow Cook County inmate – vaudevillian Velma Kelly.

Set in the Jazz Age, Kander and Ebb’s legendary, Tony Award-winning musical takes a tantalizing look at how the times may change, but the allure of fame remains a fundamental motivation for those willing to sacrifice their scruples for the spotlight.

The original Broadway production was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and ran for 936 performances. The 1996 Broadway revival is still running (9,251 performances as of this past Sunday) and won 6 Tony Awards.  The 2002 movie won 6 Oscars including Best Picture.

Join the Clinton School for a panel discussion about this production with Ron Hutchins, who is directing the production, and members of the cast and creative team.

The play opens officially on Friday evening and runs through Sunday, March 24.