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.

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY in 2015

Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County closed out the Arkansas Rep’s 2014-2015 season.

Rep founder Cliff Baker, who starred in the Rep’s first production of The Threepenny Opera returned to the stage as an actor to portray the mysterious patriarch of the Weston clan.

Joining him were Susanne Marley as matriarch Violet and LeeAnne Hutchison, Kathy McCafferty and Brenny Rabine as their three daughters.  Marc Carver, Michael McKenzie,  and Mary Katelin Ward are family members of the three daughters.

Natalie Canerday, Richard Waddingham and Michael Patrick Kane played another branch of the family. Grant Neale and Cassandra Seidenfeld were two other residents of Osage County who are drawn into the family drama.

The design team includes Mike Nichols (set), Marianne Custer (costumes), Yael Lubetzky (lighting), Allan Branson (sound) and Lynda J. Kwallek (props).  Other members of the creative team include fight director D. C. Wright (and there is plenty of physical sparring in addition to the verbal sparring) and dialect coach Stacy Pendergraft.

August Osage Casto

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

August Osage CastoTracy Letts won the Pulitzer for his sprawling family tale August: Osage County.  It was brought to life in Little Rock on the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage.

Rep founder Cliff Baker, who starred in the Rep’s first production of The Threepenny Opera returned to the stage as an actor to portray the mysterious patriarch of the Weston clan.  Joining him were Susanne Marley as matriarch Violet and LeeAnne Hutchison, Kathy McCafferty and Brenny Rabine as their three daughters.  Marc Carver, Michael McKenzie,  and Mary Katelin Ward are family members of the three daughters.  Natalie Canerday, Richard Waddingham and Michael Patrick Kane played another branch of the family. Grant Neale and Cassandra Seidenfeld were two other residents of Osage County who are drawn into the family drama.

The design team includes Mike Nichols (set), Marianne Custer (costumes), Yael Lubetzky (lighting), Allan Branson (sound) and Lynda J. Kwallek (props).  Other members of the creative team include fight director D. C. Wright (and there is plenty of physical sparring in addition to the verbal sparring) and dialect coach Stacy Pendergraft.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Last Chance in Osage County this weekend

THEREP_AUGUST (no credits)-page-001Before it was a movie, Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County was a Pulitzer and Tony winning play.  Running for over 600 performances on Broadway, it first enraptured audiences in Chicago.  Now, Little Rock audiences have the chance to laugh, cringe, be surprised and nod knowingly as the Weston family gathers to comfort and confront each other.

Directed by Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp, August: Osage County runs through June 21.

When the patriarch of the Weston clan disappears one hot summer night, the family reunites at the Oklahoma homestead, where long-held secrets are unflinchingly and uproariously revealed, dramatizing three generations of unfulfilled dreams and leaving each family member changed forever.

Rep founder Cliff Baker, who starred in the Rep’s first production of The Threepenny Opera returns to the stage as an actor to portray the mysterious patriarch of the Weston clan.  Joining him are Susanne Marley as matriarch Violet and LeeAnne Hutchison, Kathy McCafferty and Brenny Rabine as their three daughters.  Marc Carver, Michael McKenzie,  Mary Katelin Ward, Natalie Canerday, Richard Waddingham, Michael Patrick Kane, Grant Neale and Cassandra Seidenfeld play others who are drawn into the family drama.

The design team includes Mike Nichols (set), Marianne Custer (costumes), Yael Lubetzky (lighting), Allan Branson (sound) and Lynda J. Kwallek (props).  Other members of the creative team include fight director D. C. Wright (and there is plenty of physical sparring in addition to the verbal sparring) and dialect coach Stacy Pendergraft.

Prize winning AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY now on stage at Arkansas Rep

August Osage CastoBefore it was a movie, Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County was a Pulitzer and Tony winning play.  Running for over 600 performances on Broadway, it first enraptured audiences in Chicago.  Now, Little Rock audiences have the chance to laugh, cringe, be surprised and nod knowingly as the Weston family gathers to comfort and confront each other.

Directed by Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp, August: Osage County opens tonight and runs through June 21.

When the patriarch of the Weston clan disappears one hot summer night, the family reunites at the Oklahoma homestead, where long-held secrets are unflinchingly and uproariously revealed, dramatizing three generations of unfulfilled dreams and leaving each family member changed forever.

Rep founder Cliff Baker, who starred in the Rep’s first production of The Threepenny Opera returns to the stage as an actor to portray the mysterious patriarch of the Weston clan.  Joining him are Susanne Marley as matriarch Violet and LeeAnne Hutchison, Kathy McCafferty and Brenny Rabine as their three daughters.  Marc Carver, Michael McKenzie,  and Mary Katelin Ward are family members of the three daughters.  Natalie Canerday, Richard Waddingham and Michael Patrick Kane play another branch of the family. Grant Neale and Cassandra Seidenfeld play two other residents of Osage County who are drawn into the family drama.

The design team includes Mike Nichols (set), Marianne Custer (costumes), Yael Lubetzky (lighting), Allan Branson (sound) and Lynda J. Kwallek (props).  Other members of the creative team include fight director D. C. Wright (and there is plenty of physical sparring in addition to the verbal sparring) and dialect coach Stacy Pendergraft.

Go see the show and decide for yourself “who’s in charge” of this family.

Today at Clinton School – Ark Rep production of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

THEREP_AUGUST (no credits)-page-001The 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.

The latest in these takes place today, Thursday, June 4 at 12 noon at Sturgis Hall in Clinton Presidential Park.  It focuses on the Rep’s upcoming production of Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre producing artistic director, Bob Hupp, will host a panel discussion on the upcoming production of August: Osage County, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award for Best Play, New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play, and virtually every other theatre award possible.

The play focuses around the large Weston family when they unexpected reunite after dad disappears and their Oklahoman family homestead explodes in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling secrets. Mix in Violet, the drugged-up, scathingly acidic matriarch, and you’ve got a major new play that unflinchingly – and uproariously – exposes the dark side of the Midwestern American family.

August: Osage County opens officially on Friday evening and runs through Sunday, June 21.

Thrills and Chills, Fun and Dysfunction all part of Arkansas Rep 2014-2015 season

ark rep

A large and dysfunctional family, a flying nanny, a tall elf, a menacing thief, a post-Civil War trio and a Rock & Roll pioneer await audiences at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s 39th season in 2014-2015.

“The stories we’ll tell speak to the power of live theatre,” says Robert Hupp, Producing Artistic Director at Arkansas Repertory Theatre. “It’s a season of entertainment, for sure, but it’s also a season of firsts for The Rep and our audience: The new season features engaging plays and musicals, many brought to life for the very first time in our state, all created in our intimate home on Main Street. Three popular and crowd pleasing, over the top musicals complement three amazing plays that embody the best our art form.”

The season kicks off with a regional theatre premiere of a Tony winning Best Musical. Memphis will run from September 5-28. It features a Tony-winning tuneful score by David Bryan which melds rock, blues, gospel and soul. The Tony-winning book is by Joe DiPietro.

“When I first saw Memphis on Broadway, I couldn’t wait for the day we could tell this story on our stage,” says Hupp. “Imagine how pleased I was when the producers contacted us about creating one of the first regional theatre productions of Memphis in the country. It’s a story we all know; it’s the telling of it that will get you on your feet: brash and exciting with music and dancing that will reach and grab you from start to finish.”

Next up, is Frederick Knott’s classic thriller Wait until Dark from October 24 through November 9. Though perhaps best known for the film version starring Audrey Hepburn, it first starred Lee Remick on Broadway (earning her a Tony nomination).

A sinister con man and two ex-convicts are about to meet their match. They have traced the location of a mysterious doll to the Greenwich Village apartment of Sam Hendrix and his wife, Susy. With murder afoot, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, as Susy discovers the only way to play fair is to play by her rules.

“It’s been years since we’ve had a thriller in our line-up,” says Hupp. “This retro suspense classic still packs a punch, still brings a gasp, still gets you clutching the arm of the person sitting beside you. Wait Until Dark is scary fun.”

A recent addition to the canon of holiday classic films has been turned into a musical. At the holiday season, Elf will be on stage from December 5 through the 28th. With a book by Tony winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers) and Bob Martin (The Driwsy Chaperone) and a score by Tony®-nominated songwriting team of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), Elf turns one of Hollywood’s most beloved holiday hits into a hilarious and heartwarming musical that towers above the rest.

“Funny and touching, Elf is a musical with a big heart that is just perfect for families this holiday season,” says Hupp.

The year 2015 marks the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War. The Rep kicks off 2015 with Matthew Lopez’s award winning play The Whipping Man from January 23 through February 8.

An extraordinary tale of loyalty, deceit and deliverance, The Whipping Man opened off-Broadway in 2011 to critical acclaim, winning the 2011 John Gassner New Play Award from the NY Outer Critics Circle and becoming one of the most produced plays in the country.

On Passover, 1865, the Civil War has just ended and the annual celebration of freedom from bondage is being observed in Jewish homes across the country. A Jewish confederate officer returns from the war, badly wounded, to find his family missing and only two former slaves remaining. As the three wait for the family’s return, they wrestle with their shared past as master and slave, digging up long-buried family secrets as well as new ones.

“Make The Whipping Man a new discovery. It will challenge your assumptions about our history, and the plot twists and turns will keep you on the edge of your seat,” says Hupp. “You’ll want to see why The Whipping Man has established itself as one of the most produced plays in the country.”

Everyone’s favorite British nanny will arrive at the Rep as Mary Poppins takes the stage from March 6 through April 5. With songs by the Academy Award-winning Sherman Brothers (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book) and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe it has a book by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park). Disney’s stage musical Mary Poppins is based on the similarly titled series of children’s books by P. L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film.

The Broadway production opened in November 2006 and received nominations for seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It won a Tony Award, a Theatre World Award and two Drama Desk Awards. The Broadway production ran formover 2600 performances.

“Bringing Mary Poppins to the stage for the first time for Central Arkansas audiences is a special thrill,” says Hupp. “Like most of us, Mary Poppins has been a part of my life since I was a kid; we all remember the first time we met her and, even today, how many times do we wish someone would drift in from the sky to set everything right? Mary Poppins will be one of the biggest musicals we’ve ever undertaken, and will be a special treat in our intimate theatre.”

The dysfunctional family to end all dysfunctional families will conclude the Rep’s season when the Pulitzer and Tony winning August: Osage County runs from June 5 through 21, 2015.

One of the most bracing and critically acclaimed plays in recent Broadway history, August: Osage County is a darkly comedic portrait of an extended family coming apart and trying to hold itself together. Written by Tracy Letts, August: Osage County was the recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It won five 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Play, three 2008 Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Play, the 2008 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, the 2008 Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Play and the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Broadway Play.

“In my opinion, August: Osage County is the best play written in the last ten years,” says Hupp. “We’ve had the rights for a few years but feel we’re now ready to bring this dynamic, funny and powerful new play to life for our audience. Maybe you saw the movie, but you need to meet this family at The Rep.”

In between Mary Poppins and August: Osage County, the stage at the Rep will feature both performances by Ballet Arkansas as well as the Rep’s educational program’s Project Élan.