THE COLOR PURPLE shown and explored tonight as part of Banned Books Week

cals bbweek purpleThe Arkansas Literary Festival will celebrate Banned Books Week with an interview reenactment, a film, and a writing contest. A program based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award-winning novel, The Color Purple, will be presented on Wednesday, September 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Ave. After the presentation, the 1985 film will be shown. The event is free and open to the public.

Actresses Verda Davenport Booher and Vivian Norman will reenact part of an interview with Alice Walker. The interview touches on Walker’s inspiration for the book and on the success it has had, as well as the film and the musical.

Written as a series of letters, the 1982 novel been challenged repeatedly because of language, sexuality, and violence. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and nominated for eleven Academy Awards. A successful musical based upon the book opened on Broadway in 2005, and was nominated for ten Tony awards. Oprah Winfrey, nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actress in the film, was one of the producers of the musical. A pared-down revival of the musical is slated to open on Broadway in December, 2015.

Banned Books Week (September 27−October 3, 2015) is an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association celebrating the freedom to read. It highlights the value of free and open access to information and the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship and books that have been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.

The Festival’s celebration of Banned Books Week is sponsored by the Fred K. Darragh Foundation. This is the Festival’s fifth annual Banned Books Week presentation. Other titles that have been featured include The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby, A Clockwork Orange, A Doll’s House, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The Arkansas Literary Festival is a program of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS). For more information about the 2016 Arkansas Literary Festival, visit ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org, or contact Brad Mooy at 918-3098. For information on volunteering at the Festival, contact Angela Delaney at 918-3095.

The Studio Theatre offers six musicals in 2015-2016; one show still remains in current season

studioThe Studio Theatre has announced the shows for their second season.

Up first, however, is Dogfight which will close out the first season.  Adapted from the 1991 movie of the same name, Dogfight is a story of compassion, heartbreak and redemption. Winner of the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical in 2013, Dogfight runs August 20- August 23 at The Studio Theatre located at 320 West 7th Street in downtown.

The 2015-2016 season includes six musicals.  Four of them will be making their Little Rock premieres. One of the other musicals will have its first non-touring production in Little Rock.

The new season kicks off on October 22 with a show filled with scary tales about the evils of doing bad. It is the satire Reefer Madness based on the non-satirical but unintentionally hilarious 1936 movie of the same name.

This musical, written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, premiered in Los Angeles in 1998 and Off Broadway in 2001.  The Studio Theatre production will be directed by Ryan Whitfield.  The show will run from October 22 until October 31.

The Studio Theatre had a hit in 2015 with Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years.  In January 2016, they will present his first musical Songs for a New World.  This song cycle premiered Off Broadway in 1995 and has become a popular show throughout the US.  The musical style of the score varies broadly. The thing that unites the songs is the concept of making a choice or taking a stand.

The production will be directed by Monica Clark Robinson.  Songs for a New World will run January 21 to 24.

Once upon a time, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine wrote a musical based on the Grimm Brothers’ folk tales.  Into the Woods will be the third show next season.  Opening on Broadway in 1987, it may have lost the Tony for Best Musical to The Phantom of the Opera, but it has not suffered as a popular musical.

This production of Into the Woods will run from March 10 to 26.  It will be directed by Rafael Castanera, who beautifully directed Nine earlier this year.

Based on the Alice Walker novel and the Steven Spielberg movie, The Color Purple will be the fourth musical of the season.  Running from May 12 to 22, it will be directed by Crystal Mercer.

After it premiered in Atlanta in 2004, it made it to Broadway the following year.  The show has a book by Pulitzer winner Marsha Norman. The songs are by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.  The show was nominated for 11 Tonys and won one.

The 1980s hair bands will be honored by the 5th show as Rock of Ages takes the stage. Directed by Justin A. Pike, it will run from July 14 to 24. With a book by Chris D’Arienzo, the musical features songs from Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe.

Rock of Ages first played Off Broadway before transferring to Broadway.  It closed in January 2015 after playing more than 2300 performances on Broadway.

The final musical of the 2015-2016 season is James and the Giant Peach. Based on the Roald Dahl book, this musical features a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.  The pair were nominated for a Tony for their score of the musical version of A Christmas Story.

This show will run from August 11 to 21.  It will be directed by Mark Burbank.  He is also directing Dogfight which features a score by Pasek and Paul.

(This is not connected to the production offered by the Arkansas Arts Center a few seasons back.)

ROCKing the TONY AWARDS – Larry Payton

Rock the TonyspaytonLARRY PAYTON

Little Rock connection: Founder and longtime leader of Celebrity Attractions which has brought Broadway shows to Little Rock since 1998. Though he died in 2013, the firm continues to bring shows to Little Rock.

Tony Awards connection: Nominated for producing the revivals of Peter Pan and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

He was a partner in the Independent Presenters Network which won Tonys for producing Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002), Spamalot (2005), and La Cage aux Folles (2010). It also was nominated for producing The Color Purple and Leap of Faith as well as revivals of Guys and Dolls and Ragtime. Last season, it won Tonys for producing Kinky Boots and Pippin.

Larry was also served on the Board of Governors for The Broadway League, the presenter of the Tonys, and was a Tony voter.