A trio of offerings mark 2020 Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre season

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre (AST) has announced its 2020 season of professional theatre.

“The 2020 season will feature Shakespeare’s delightful comedy ‘As You Like It,’ the beautiful and intriguing musical ‘Into the Woods’ and the hilarious mashup ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged),’” said Mary Ruth Marotte, AST’s executive director.

Performances will take place on the UCA campus, both in Reynolds Performance Hall and outdoors on the lawn of McAlister Hall.

As she prepares for her ninth year as producing artistic director of AST, Rebekah Scallet said she wanted an exciting repertory season that would capture audiences’ imaginations and challenge them to think about their lives. She chose the three shows in the 2020 season based around the theme “Sweet are the uses of adversity,” a line from “As You Like It.”

Actors, directors, designers and crew members will arrive in Conway in early May 2020 to begin the process of creating the three shows in AST’s 14th season.

“We’ll open the season with ‘The Complete Works’ outdoors on the beautiful lawn of McAlister Hall. Our outdoor venue draws huge crowds, and our audiences look forward to the show and the entire experience of Shakespeare under the stars. We hope that theatre-goers in Arkansas and around the region will recognize AST for its dedication to the cultural and artistic growth that is currently underway in our state,” said Marotte.

The remaining two productions will be performed in UCA’s Reynolds Performance Hall.

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre is the state’s only professional Shakespeare company and is proud to make its home on the UCA campus. Each summer, AST offers full productions of Shakespeare’s works, as well as other plays and musicals that help fulfill AST’s mission to entertain, engage and enrich the community. For more information, visit arkshakes.com or call (501) 852-0702.

AST Tonight – “Performing Shakespeare’s Women” with Paige Martin Reynolds

Paige Martin Reynolds's Profile PhotoThe Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre continues to expand its offerings.

Following the model of other acclaimed and established Shakespeare festivals in the country like Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Utah Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre is thrilled to offer educational prep sessions, workshops, lectures, and talk-backs to enhance theatregoers’ understanding of the plays produced during our 13th summer season on the campus of UCA.

In utilizing academic leaders, professional actors, and other members of our creative team, we will enrich exploration of themes and ideas in both the Shakespeare plays and in our musical this season as a way to both facilitate reflection and expand understanding of the plays produced at AST during our summer festival. (Sponsored by Conway A&P Commission.)

Their first lecture will be by Paige Martin Reynolds, AST Actor, Artistic Collective Member, and Director of Dramaturgy: “Performing Shakespeare’s Women”
Why might what happens to Shakespeare’s women matter to us today?

Join AST Artistic Collective member Paige Martin Reynolds for a discussion of what is at stake for Shakespeare’s female characters (and the actors who play them), based on her recent book, Performing Shakespeare’s Women: Playing Dead (Bloomsbury Arden, 2019).

It takes place from 5pm to 6pm in the Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center.

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS kicks of 2019 Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre season

AST2019_TheComedyOfErrors_FinalLogo.pngThe Comedy of Errors launches the 2019 season of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre.

A tragic shipwreck, two sets of twins divided at birth, mistaken identities, and unrequited love provide the perfect recipe for fun in this Shakespearean farce. The fates bring the brothers and their long-lost father Aegeon together in the land of Ephesus with hilarious results.

Performances started last night (June 7) and continue tonight (June 8), June 9, June 23, June 26, June 29, and July 4. They take place at 7:30pm on the lawn at UCA, across from the President’s House.

The cast includes Paige Reynolds, Chad Bradford, Benjamin Reed, Chris Firtzges, Keith Illidge, Rebecca Brudner, Verda Davenport, Justin Jones, Kyle Clark, Chris Farrell Jr., Corrie Green, Charlotte Mae Ellison, Jack Hradecky, and Saxon Whitehead.

The production is directed by Jack Young.  He is the Artistic Director of Houston Shakespeare Festival, and leads the University of Houston’s MFA Professional Actor Training Program.

Rebekah Scallet is the Producing Artistic Director and Mary Ruth Marotte is the Executive Director.

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.

ODE TO JOY and Spoken Word winners presented by Arkansas Symphony Orchestra this weekend

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Music Director and Conductor Philip Mann present the fourth concert of the 2018-2019 Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks season, Beethoven’s 9th: Ode to Joy on Saturday, February 23rd and Sunday, February 24th at the Robinson Center.

The concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. The program opens with a spoken word performance presented in partnership with the Central Arkansas Library System. After the spoken word segment, more than 300 singers from eight Arkansas collegiate and professional choirs will take the stage with ASO for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which also features vocal soloists soprano Maria Fasciano, mezzo soprano Christin-Marie Hill, tenor Vernon Di Carlo, and bass Adam Cioffari.

All concert ticket holders are also invited to Concert Conversations, a pre-concert talk one hour before each Masterworks concert in the Upper Tier Lobby of the Robinson Center. These talks feature insights from the Maestro and guest artists, and feature musical examples to enrich the concert experience.

Tickets are $16, $36, $57 and $68; active duty military and student tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org; at the Robinson Center street-level box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 100. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at https://www.arkansassymphony.org/freekids.

Philip Mann, conductor

Spoken Word Performers
Osyrus Bolly
Brooke Elliott
Rosslyn Elliott
Red Hawk
Kristy Ikanih
Jamee McAdoo
Dariane LyJoi Mull
Marvin Schwartz

Beethoven Soloists 
Maria Fasciano, soprano
Christin-Marie Hill, mezzo soprano
Vernon Di Carlo, tenor
Adam Cioffari, bass

Arkansas Intercollegiate and Professional Chorus
Arkansas Chamber Singers, John Erwin, director
Arkansas State University, Cherie Collins, director
Harding University, Cliff Ganus, director
Lyon College, Michael Oriatti, director
Ouachita Baptist University, Gary Gerber, director
Southern Arkansas University Magnolia, David DeSeguirant, director
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Jerron Liddell, director
University of Central Arkansas, John Erwin, director

Program
VARIOUS – Spoken Word Performances
BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125

Rock the Grammys – Jimmy Driftwood

Image result for jimmy driftwoodThe 61st Grammy Awards are tonight.  Over the years, many Arkansans and those with Arkansas connections have been Grammy winners and nominees.

But the first Arkansan to win a Grammy took place at the second Grammy ceremony on November 29, 1959 – Jimmy Driftwood.

Born in Timbo as James Morris in 1907, he later studied what is now John Brown University before graduating with a teaching degree from what is now the University of Central Arkansas.

In his 20s, he alternated between teaching school and traveling the country as a drifter.  In 1936, he both got married and returned to Arkansas as well as wrote the song “The Battle of New Orleans” to help explain history to a class he was teaching.

By 1957, he had changed his name to Jimmy Driftwood, both publicly and legally.  That year, a Nashville, TN, song publisher learned of him and offered him his first record deal.  That first record did not sell particularly well.  But he did start getting notice.

Driftwood left Arkansas for Nashville and became popular by his appearances on programs including the Grand Ole Opry, Ozark Jubilee, and Louisiana Hayride. He was invited to sing for Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev as an example of traditional American music during the leader’s 1959 state visit to the United States. He became a member of the Opry in the 1950s.

In 1959, he had six songs on the popular and country music charts including Johnny Horton’s recording of “The Battle of New Orleans.” It was that recording that was named “Song of the Year” by the Grammys. That award goes to the songwriter, which meant Driftwood took home the trophy.  He later won three other Grammys.

By the 1960s, he alternated his time between touring and spending more time in Northwest and North Central Arkansas.  In April 1963, he held the first Arkansas Folk Festival in Mountain View.  He later helped established the Ozark Folk Center, which is now part of the Arkansas State Park system. He was also active in defeating the plan to dam the Buffalo River and in efforts to establish the Buffalo National River and the preservation of the Blanchard Springs Caverns.

Due to his knowledge of folk music, Driftwood served on the Advisory Committee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and worked with the National Geographic Society.

His final years were spent in Fayetteville. He died there of a heart attack in 1998.

The Oxford American Jazz Series presents Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE tonight

Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE [Jazz Series]The Oxford American welcomes Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE to Little Rock! This is the second show in their 2018-19 Jazz Series. Doors open at 6:00 PM at South on Main, with dinner and drinks available for purchase at that time. The series is made possible in part by presenting sponsor UCA College of Fine Arts & Communication.

Additional season partners include Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Chris & Jo Harkins, J. Mark & Christy Davis, EVO Business Environments, Downtown Little Rock Partnership, Stacy Hamilton of Pulaski Heights Realty, Margaret Ferguson Pope, Arkansas Arts Council, Department of Arkansas Heritage, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Capital Hotel, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Rosen Music Company, and Steinway Piano Gallery of Little Rock.

Tickets are $35 (General Admission), $42 (Reserved), and $44 (Premium Reserved). Please take a look at this very important ticketing and seating information before purchasing your tickets (view reserved seating chart). Full season ticket pricing and options are also available in a consolidated format, here.


Sarah Elizabeth Charles is a rising vocalist/composer based in New York City. She has worked and studied with artists such as George Cables, Geri Allen, Nicholas Payton, Sheila Jordan, Jimmy Owens, and Carmen Lundy and released her debut record, Red in September of 2012 with her band SCOPE. As the active vocalist in a number of bands (including SCOPE, AJOYO, Manner Effect, Transient Beings, Enoch Smith Jr., and Benjamin Rando), Charles has performed at many venues throughout her career. These have included The White House, Carnegie Hall, the first annual Culture Summit in Abu Dhabi, The Kennedy Center, the Bern International Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival, the Sicca Jazz Festival in Tunisia, the Blue Note in New York City, Gillette Stadium as a National Anthem singer for the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival, the Burlington Jazz Festival, the Apollo Music Café, Le Poisson Rouge, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the Rose Theatre with Jazz at Lincoln Center, and many more.

In addition to her performances, Charles is also an active educator. She works as a teaching artist with Carnegie Hall’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Lullaby, and Future Music Project Youth workshops, has a private lessons studio in New York City, and is developing an early childhood music education program with Rise2Shine, a non-profit organization based in Fond Parisien, Haiti.

Charles’s musical output has been described as a “genre of one” (DownBeat Magazine), “soulfully articulate,” (New York Times) and “an unmatched sound” (Jay Z’s Life+Times). Her critically acclaimed sophomore project, Inner Dialogue, released in 2015 on Truth Revolution Records, features her band along with co-producer/special guest Christian Scott. Her third album, Free of Form, was released in the fall of 2017 on Ropeadope/Stretch Music, and featured SCOPE as well as Scott as co-producer and special guest. One can only look to the future for more unique and boundary-pushing music from this one-of-a-kind artist.