EVITA comes to Robinson Center this weekend

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award winning musical Evita returns to Little Rock for performances this weekend.

The musical is at Robinson Center Performance Hall tonight (March 15), two performances on March 16, and on the afternoon of March 17.

Eva Duarte Peron rises from poverty to become an Argentinian actress and the wife of powerful President Juan Peron. Through a series of flashbacks, Eva transforms from an impoverished teenager into a woman of influence and power. After the death of her father, Eva travels to Buenos Aires and begins a string of relationships with powerful men before she meets Juan. Eva’s ultimate power and influence earn her both admiration and hatred.

The production includes such hits as “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” and “High Flying, Adored” as well as the song “You Must Love Me” which was written for the film version.



50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s on the Arkansas Symphony bill for the weekend

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The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Philip Mann, Music Director and Conductor, presents the third concert of the 2018-2019 Acxiom Pops Live! season: Classical Mystery Tour: Sgt. Pepper’s, Saturday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 10 at 3:00 p.m. at the Robinson Center.

The four musicians in Classical Mystery Tour look and sound just like The Beatles, but Classical Mystery Tour is more than just a rock concert. The show presents more than two dozen Beatles tunes performed exactly as they were originally recorded. Concertgoers will hear “Penny Lane” with a live trumpet section, experience the beauty of “Yesterday” with an acoustic guitar and string quartet, and enjoy the classical/rock blend on “I Am the Walrus.”

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Classical Mystery Tour has added a special “Sgt. Pepper’s” section to their concert, featuring the title track plus such iconic songs as “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “She’s Leaving Home,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” “When I’m 64,” and “A Day in the Life.”

The Pops Live! Series is sponsored by Acxiom. The media sponsor for the Pops Live! Series is The Point 94.1.


Stories of moments that changed lives are the focus of The Moth tonight from Robinson Center stage

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The Moth, a nonprofit based in New York City dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling, is in Little Rock tonight! (February 28)

Robinson Center Performance Hall will play host to The Moth’s Mainstage event featuring storytellers as they take the stage to share a true, sometimes heartwrenching, story about their life.

Get ready for an evening of stories, shared live at Robinson Center Performance Hall as five storytellers, several of whom are very well known locally and nationally, take the stage and share a true, personal story from their life:  joy and heart, in equal measures. Stories of glory and defeat, taunting fate, laughing in the face of danger, and the moments that forever changed the course.

Doors open at 6:30pm.  Storytelling begins at 7:30pm.

Alistair Bane
Korto Momolu Briggs
Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton
Monte Montepare
Danusia Trevino 

Purchase your tickets here.

The Storytellers:

Alistair Bane is a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Nation of Oklahoma and currently resides in Denver Colorado. Besides being a storyteller he is also a visual artist. He makes dance regalia, quilts and paints. In 2016 he was a resident artist for the Denver Art Museum’s Native American Arts Program. In his spare time he enjoys rehabilitating feral rez dogs, which is a much more relaxing hobby than it might sound like, as long as you don’t mind a tiny bit of growling.

Korto Momolu Briggs  Liberian-born fashion designer and stylist Korto Momolu (pronounced Cut • Toe – Mo • Mo • Lu) is stamping her global brand on fashion-forward women’s wear and accessories. Korto is inspired by her African roots and celebrate the essence of her rich heritage through the use of traditional, luxury fabrics; skins; mixed prints, etc. A graduate of the L’Academies des Couturiers Design Institute in Ottawa, Ontario, Korto also studied at the renowned Parsons School of Design in New York City while working as an independent fashion designer. Prior to arriving in Canada in 1990, Korto and her family had to flee Liberia following a civil war. In 2014, she competed on the third season of Project Runway All Stars and finished in second place. Most recently, Korto unveiled her spring/summer 2019 collection during New York Fashion Week – which was a tribute to her late friend, and former Project Runway All Stars castmate, Mychael Knight, who passed in 2017. Momolu was highlighted as a ‘Top 5 Designers to Watch’ by New York Magazine, and presently makes her home with her husband and two children in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton, Ed. grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas and was a member of the second class of African American students entering Little Rock Central High School in 1959. Dr. Hampton has participated in numerous professional and civic organizations over the years, including the Georgetown Foundation for Educational Excellence and the Eastern Association of College Deans and Advisors of Students. Some of Dr. Hapton’s awards include 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award, Teachers College, Columbia University; 2017 Award of Excellence and the Little Rock Central High School Tiger Foundation. Her latest professional pursuits center on consulting with foundations, nonprofits and colleges/universities, public speaking, and volunteering in her home community

Monte Montepare is a comedian, storyteller and improviser originally from Breckenridge, Colorado. For the last year he has been performing regularly in the thriving Denver comedy scene. Prior to that, Monte spent a decade guiding wilderness adventures in remote Alaska and is co-owner of Kennicott Wilderness Guides. He recently moved to Los Angeles to study at the UCB theatre. Monte’s a 3x Moth StorySLAM winner and has performed at The Moth GrandSLAM in Los Angeles.

Danusia Trevino is an actress and a storyteller. Born and raised in Poland. She toured the United States and Europe with the New York City band FUR. As an actress, she performed with the Black Lips Performance Cult and Anohni ( Pyramid Club and PS122) SITI Company (NATL tour) HB Ensemble (HBPF) Solo show
( 59E59st, Theater Row, TNC, Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Most recently she performed with The Wooster Group in A Pink Chair at the Performing Garage and with Nowy Teatr (Warsaw) also at the Performing Garage. Film work: Acts of Worship, Where is Joel Baum, Metamorphosis, and Xenophilia. Web series: The Louise Log.
She was a part of the New York literary salon, Women of Letters and at Joe’s Pub and appeared at Cornelia Street Cafe’s Liar’s Show. A Moth double Grand SLAM winner, she lives with her husband Xavier in Washington Heights.

Little Rock Look Back: First Elvis performance in LR

Sixty-four years ago today, on February 20, 1955, Elvis Presley made his first appearance on stage in Little Rock. He performed at Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

He was billed as “an added attraction” to a Grand Ole Opry Show headlined by the Duke of Paducah.  Others on the bill included Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, Charlie Stewart, the Singing Hardens, Sammy Barnhart, Bob Neal, Uncle Dudley and Smilin’ Mac Cyclone. (It is interesting to note that at least some of the advance tickets billed it as The Elvis Presley Show, though the newspaper ads billed the Duke of Paducah as the headliner.)

This concert was part of a weeklong tour of Arkansas and Louisiana.  There were two shows that day – one at 3p.m. and the other at 8:15p.m.  Tickets on the day of the concert were $1.00 for adults and fifty cents for children.  Advanced tickets had sold for 75 cents at Walgreens.

The night before, Elvis played the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.  Following his Little Rock appearance (for which he and his band were paid $350 instead of their usual $200), they played in Camden, Hope, and Pine Bluff.

It is believed that Elvis’ parents attended this concert in Little Rock. Gladys Presley was a big fan of the Duke of Paducah. Elvis apparently also wanted his parents to meet with Colonel Tom Parker, who would become inexorably linked with Elvis’ career.

Rock the Oscars 2019: Robinson Center Performance Hall

Over the years, Robinson Center Performance Hall has played host to numerous Oscar winners and Oscar nominees.

Stage actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne made only one movie, but each were Oscar nominated for their performances in The Guardsman.  Over the years, they made several appearances in Little Rock in plays.  Their first visits were to the Little Rock High School auditorium. Once Robinson opened, they appeared on that stage. In There Shall Be No Night, they shared the stage with future Oscar nominee Montgomery Clift.

Two time Oscar winner Helen Hayes appeared on stage at Robinson.  At the time, she was only a single Oscar winner (Best Actress for The Sin of Madelon Claudet).  Later she would pick up her second statuette for Supporting Actress in Airport.

Four time winner Katharine Hepburn graced the stage of Robinson in the 1940s.  Her first Oscar was for Morning Glory.  By the time she appeared at Robinson she had that award.  Later she would pick up Oscars for The Lion in Winter, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and On Golden Pond.

Charles Boyer never won an Oscar in a competitive category (though he was nominated).  He did however win an Honorary Oscar in the 1940s for his promotiono of French culture during World War II.  He appeared on stage at Robinson in the early 1950s as part of the tour of Don Juan in Hell (written by Oscar winner George Bernard Shaw — yes Shaw won an Oscar for the screenplay of Pygmalion.)

Multiple Oscar nominee, and special Oscar recipient, Mickey Rooney appeared on stage at Robinson in 1986 in the national tour of Sugar Babies.

Little Rock Look Back: Opening of Robinson Center Performance Hall

On February 16, 1940, after three years of planning and construction including several delays due to lack of funding, the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium officially opened. It was a cold, rainy night, but those in attendance did not care.  (The concept of a municipal auditorium for Little Rock had first been raised in 1904, so this evening was truly a long time in the works.)

Searchlights painting arcs in the sky greeted attendees. They were borrowed from the Arkansas National Guard. Newspaper accounts noted that only a few of the men who attended were in tuxedos, most were simply in suits. The work to get the building opened had been so harried, that it was discovered there was not an Arkansas flag to fly in front of the building. Mayor Satterfield found one at the last minute courtesy of the Arkansas Department of the Spanish War Veterans.

The weather delayed arrivals, so the program started fifteen minutes late. Following a performance of Sibelius’ Finlandia by the fledgling Arkansas State Symphony Orchestra, Mayor J. V. Satterfield, Ewilda Robinson (the Senator’s widow), Emily Miller (the Senator’s sister-in-law and a member of the Auditorium Commission) and D. Hodson Lewis of the Chamber of Commerce participated in a brief ribbon cutting ceremony. Mrs Robinson cut the ribbon on her second attempt (once again proving that nothing connected with getting the building open was easy).

The ceremony was originally set to be outside of the building but was moved indoors due to the inclement weather. The ribbon cutting took place on the stage with the ribbon stretched out in front of the curtain. The opening remarks were broadcast on radio station KGHI.

Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Miller and Mayor Satterfield look on as Mrs. Robinson cuts the ribbon

Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Miller and Mayor Satterfield look on as Mrs. Robinson cuts the ribbon

Tickets for the event, advertised as being tax exempt, were at four different pricing levels: $2.50, $2.00, $1.50 and $1.00.

The estimated attendance was 1700. Following the ribbon cutting, the main performance took place. The headliner for the grand opening was the San Francisco Opera Ballet accompanied by the new Arkansas State Symphony Orchestra (not related to the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra). The featured soloist with the ballet was Zoe Dell Lantis who was billed as “The Most Photographed Miss at the San Francisco World’s Fair.”

Auditorium Commission chairman E. E. Beaumont, a local banker, noted that while event planners knew the evening of ballet and classical music would not appeal to everyone, it was intended to show the wide range of offerings that would be suitable in the new space.  Earlier in the week, children’s theatre performances had been offered to school groups through the auspices of the Junior League of Little Rock.

At the same time that the gala was going on upstairs in the music hall, a high school basketball double-header was taking place in the downstairs convention hall. North Little Rock lost to Beebe in the first game, while the Little Rock High School Tigers upset Pine Bluff in the marquee game.

Little Rock Look Back: Public facilities in Little Rock ordered to be integrated

Following the March 1962 lawsuit by twenty-two (22) African Americans seeking the integration of public facilities in Little Rock, Federal Judge J. Smith Henley issued a order on February 15, 1963.  Judge Henley ordered the end to segregation in City parks, playgrounds, golf courses, tennis facilities, community centers, and Robinson Auditorium.

Regarding the auditorium, the order allowed for single event, short-term leasing of wholly private meetings for membership and immediate friends of members.  But it did stress that there could be no racial discrimination in the selection of or terms of leases.

The judge’s order did not cover “other facilities not identified in the record.”  Which meant, the order did not apply to swimming pools.  At the time, War Memorial pool was operated for whites and Gillam Park pool was operated for African Americans.   The judge wrote that he saw no reason to extend it to facilities not mentioned, but did not rule out the ability for future lawsuits.  In asking for a summary judgement in January 1963, the defendants had listed many types of facilities but not swimming pools.

Judge Henley’s decision did not mean that a municipality was required to integrate.  It just could not enforce segregation.  As with many other court decisions at the time, it was narrow in scope.

The end result was that Little Rock facilities were now integrated.  Except for the swimming pools.  Those would have their own story.  It would take the 1964 Civil Rights act and more legal actions for that to happen.