Little Rock and VIRGINIA WOOLF

On October 13, 1962, Edward Albee’s first Broadway play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened on Broadway.

Though not in the original cast, Little Rock native Ben Piazza had participated in early readings of the play.  In fact the first time the script was ever read through aloud it was by Albee, Piazza, and producers Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder.

After original cast member George Grizzard left the show due to another commitment, Piazza joined the cast in February 1963.  He remained in the production throughout the rest of the run. Piazza holds the record of most performances of any Edward Albee play on Broadway.

The play was selected by the Pulitzer jury for drama to receive the prize in 1963. But because the award criteria still contained language about “moral example” the final committee rejected the choice and no play was recognized that year. The public hue and cry over the decision served to shake up the criteria for future play selection. Albee would receive the Pulitzer for A Delicate Balance, Seascape and Three Tall Women.

The New York Drama Critics Circle recognized the play as Best Play. It also won Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Producer of a Play (Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder), Actor in a Play (Hill), Actress in a Play (Hagen) and Director of a Play (Alan Schneider). Dillon, who received a Tony nomination for Featured Actress in a Play, received a Theatre World Award for her performance.

During the run of Virginia Woolf, Piazza was writing a novel called The Exact and Very Strange Truth. This would be a fictionalized account of his boyhood in Little Rock. Whenever he would stop writing on it, he would put the manuscript in the freezer of his refrigerator to keep it safe.

Piazza would go on to appear in several other Albee plays both on and off Broadway. He would direct and appear in other productions of Virginia Woolf? throughout the country.

Fifty years to the day after Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? first opened on Broadway, the production’s third revival opened. It starred Tracy Letts, Amy Morton, Carrie Coon and Madison Dirks.  It was directed by Pam MacKinnon.  Nominated for five Tony Awards, it won three: Best Revival of a Play, Actor in a Play (Letts) and Direction (MacKinnon).

One of the producers on stage accepting the Best Revival Tony was Little Rock native Will Trice. Like Piazza, he was a graduate of Little Rock Central High School. Now Trice is the Executive Artistic Director of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

In conjunction with ACANSA, the Clinton School presents a discussion of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE in context of #MeToo era

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Tennessee Williams was always disappointed that “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers” did not elicit the audience laughter he wanted in his Pulitzer Prize winning A Streetcar Named Desire.

In partnership with Argenta Community Theater, the ACANSA Arts Festival of the South is proud to present Tennessee Williams’ timeless masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire. Seeking solace from her crumbling world, Blanche arrives at her sister, Stella’s, apartment bringing her face to face with the menacing masculinity of Stanley Kowalski. Directed by Clinton School student Ben Grimes, the production is a raw exploration of family, sexuality, gender roles, and survival.

A Community Conversation will be led by Dr. Virginia O. Craighill, Professor of English from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.

The production opened on September 17 and runs through September 22.  Performances are at 7:30pm through Saturday with a 2:00 matinee on Sunday.

All Clinton School Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. Reserve your seats by emailing publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or by calling (501) 683-5239.

Memorial Day – Remember the Fallen

Today is Memorial Day – a time to pay tribute to the men and women in uniform who died in service to their country.

As a way to give this recognition, today would be a good day to visit a cemetery. One of Little Rock’s most storied cemeteries is Mount Holly Cemetery. There are numerous persons buried there who died while in service to their country.

One of them is 2Lt Carrick W. Heiskell, son of Arkansas Gazette editor J. N. Heiskell.  2Lt Heiskell died while flying for the Air Transport Command in the Himalayas during World War II.  He was posthumously the recipient of the Distinguished Unit Emblem, Purple Heart, and the Air Medal.

Founded in 1843, Mount Holly has been called “The Westminster Abbey of Arkansas.” Thousands of visitors come each year. Those interested in history come to see the resting places of the territorial citizens of the state, including governors, senators, generals, black artisans, and even a Cherokee princess. For others the cemetery is an open air museum of artistic eras: Classical, Victorian, Art Deco, Modern––expressed in gravestone styles from simple to elaborate. Some come to read the epitaphs that range from heartbreaking to humorous to mysterious.

Though a City of Little Rock facility, the cemetery is maintained by the Mount Holly Cemetery Association, a non-profit organization with a volunteer Board of Directors. The cemetery is located at 1200 South Broadway in Little Rock. Gates are open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the summer and from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the winter.

Laugh. Cry. Think. Act. with 2019-2020 season of The Weekend Theater.

The Weekend Theater’s 27th season kicks off with AVENUE Q (June 14-30).  The winner of the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical (as well as Tonys for Book of a Musical and Score), tells of life on Avenue Q for a group of twenty something humans and puppets.This is definitely NOT like puppet shows from childhood.

Next is the Arkansas premiere of Stephen Adley Guirgis’ Pulitzer Prize winning play BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY (July 26 to August 11).   Ex-cop and recent widower Walter “Pops” Washington and his newly paroled son Junior have spent a lifetime living between Riverside and crazy.

Anthony Mariani’s THE ROOSTER REBELLION (August 30 to September 8) is up next.  The story takes place in fall 2015 and summer 2016 in London. Reese Anne, a London teenager, runs away from home to help her ex-history teacher, Shell, who is homeless. They busk by day and at night seek to create a utopian homeless society, which falls apart on the eve of the Brexit vote.​​​​​

Cult classic SIDE SHOW (October 11 – 27) tells the story of Daisy and Violet. Conjoined twins, they are forced to be entertainers in a side show. As they struggle with very human emotions, they also must grapple with the fact that people see them as freaks.  With a lush score and colorful characters, it is a show that stays with audiences long after the lights come up.

2019 marks the 60th anniversary of Lorraine Hansberry’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN (December 5-21). It tells the story of the Younger family as they make decisions about the best way to use money left to them.  Each member of the three generations has their own dreams, and sometimes they clash with the wishes of others.    This moving, explosive, and often humorous play seeks to answer the question, “what happens when a dream is deferred.”

2020 gets going with GOOD KIDS. by Naomi Iizuka (January 9 – 26).  Something happened to Chloe after that party last Saturday night. Something she says she can’t remember. Something everybody is talking about. Set at a Midwestern high school, in a world of Facebook and Twitter, smartphones and YouTube,It explores a casual sexual encounter gone wrong and its very public aftermath.

Lynn Nottage’s SWEAT (Feb 14 – 29) won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017. It looks at the toll a factory closure has on a town and the friendships of the people who once worked in it.  Filial and familial bonds are tested as loyalties come into question and long-held beliefs are questioned. This gritty and compelling play has been described as one of the best ways to understand the different views voters held in the 2016 elections.

Regina Taylor’s CROWNS (March 20 – April 5) is a celebration of hats and the women who wear them.  Each hat holds a story of a wedding, funeral, baptism as a group of women share their stories of how they moved through life’s struggles. The hats aren’t just a fashion statement – they are testimonies of sisterhood – they are hard earned Crowns.

Paul Rudnick’s hilarious comedy of manners REGRETS ONLY (APril 24 to May 3) explores the latest topics in marriage, friendships and squandered riches. The setting: a Park Avenue penthouse. The players: a powerhouse attorney, his deliriously social wife and their closest friend, one of the world’s most staggeringly successful fashion designers. Add a daughter’s engagement, some major gowns, the president of the United States, and stir.

David Mamet’s RACE (May 15 – 24) explores and explodes various perspectives on race and justice.   Two lawyers find themselves defending a wealthy white executive charged with raping a black woman. When a new legal assistant gets involved in the case, the opinions that boil beneath explode to the surface. Mamet turns the spotlight on what we think but can’t say, dangerous truths are revealed, and no punches are spared.

More informaiton can be found at the Weekend Theater website.