The Arts & Science Center is kicking off its 2019-2020 theatre season this summer with Legally Blonde The Musical, opening Friday, July 26. The production is the first of four ASC productions of the season.Read More
Volunteer Night Set for Thursday, April 11
Like many nonprofit organizations, the Arts & Science Center could not serve its community and fulfill its mission without dedicated volunteers.
ASC’s Volunteer Night, set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11, is a celebration of the those who have given their time at the Arts & Science Center over the past year.
The event, sponsored by Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel Co., is free and open to the public. A reception will follow and is hosted by Art Krewe, a volunteer group of community art lovers who have hosted ASC’s receptions for more than 25 years.
“As a small staff museum with a lot to offer, our volunteers are essential to the success of ASC's events, programs, and day-to-day operations,” said ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller. “These community members' willingness to help wherever help is needed is absolutely invaluable. Their support and love of ASC and what we provide our community keeps us strong and relevant.”
The 2019 recipient of the Catherine M. Bellamy Award for the Performing Arts is Jonathan Hoover.
“Jonathan’s service to the Arts & Science Center is without limits,” said ASC Theater Education Coordinator Lindsey Collins. “Jonathan is, without a doubt, the man you call if you need help in the theatre. Whenever a production needs assistance, you can always depend on Jonathan to show up and help. Whether it’s directing a show or running a spotlight, he’s willing to pitch in anywhere the theatre needs it.”
Hoover regularly works with ASC’s theatrical programs and events such as Potpourri. He is a logistics analyst at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.
The 2019 recipient of the Margaret Spearman Memorial Volunteer of the Year award is Troy DeBill. “Troy has been an immense help over the years,“ Miller said. “She tends to volunteer herself without even being asked, and her love of ASC is evident through the selfless contributions of her time.”
DeBill, who is the past Chair of ASC’s Board of Trustees, regularly leads classes at ASC such as Canvas & Cork and Wood & Wine. She served as co-Chair for ASC’s biennial fundraising gala, Potpourri, in 2018. She is the EAST facilitator at White Hall Middle School.
ASC will also give out Good Egg Awards. “Those are people who also have really gone above and beyond for their volunteer work,” Collins said.
Good Egg Award recipients include Pam Holcomb and Donna Oates for their work on costumes for several ASC productions; Charlotte England for her work at receptions and special events; Bill Moss for his behind-the-scenes volunteerism and unwavering advocacy for ASC; and UAPB Merchandising, Textiles & Design faculty member Yunru (Rachel) Shen, for her volunteer work on Family FunDay and TinkerFest programming.
The Good Egg awards are crafted by glassmaker James Hayes.
The final award category is a bit tongue-in-cheek.
“This year, we’re adding a special recognition of a few men for their continued patience and willingness to be volunteered by their significant others for ASC events, productions, and programming,” Collins said. Those awards will go to Mike Kline, Michael Healey, Rich DeBill, Jeff Collins, Kenny Fisher, Mike Lake, and Scottie Abernathy.
During Volunteer Night, a video will be shown featuring interviews with volunteers who have donated their time over the past 50 years with the Arts & Science Center. Volunteers are asked to submit a video of 5 minutes or less of themselves sharing their volunteer contributions to ASC. The videos may be sent via email to email@example.com by Saturday, April 6.
“I can’t stress enough how important volunteers are, especially with the theatre and a lot of the things that go on here at the center. Volunteers are important. We need them,” Collins said.
Family-Friendly Programming Highlights African American, French, and CHinese Communities’ Contributions through Story, Music, Food and Film
By Shannon Frazeur
The Arts & Science Center invites the community to learn more about the area’s cultural heritage during the 2019 Crossroad Festival, ASC’s three-day, family-friendly cultural celebration. This multi-program event explores Jefferson County and Southeast Arkansas’s cultural heritage through the interpretive lens of story, music, foodways, and film.
All festival events are free and open to the public with no tickets or reservations required. Families are encouraged to attend.
Each year, the festival highlights different cultural groups that have made a lasting impact on the history, culture, and traditions of Southeast Arkansas. This year’s event features programming on the African American, French and Chinese communities’ regional cultural heritage.
“It’s not a festival in the contemporary sense with food and product vendors,” said ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller. “Instead, it’s a celebration.”
The festival kicks off Friday, March 1, at 7 p.m. with a program incorporating African American folktales and slave narratives into an interpretative performance involving musicians and actors from the community. Saturday, March 2, features two family programs featuring folklore and food, with hands-on activities. The event caps off Sunday afternoon, March 3, with a screening of the 2006 animated film The Adventures of Brer Rabbit, with director and Pine Bluff native Byron Vaughns.
The 2019 Crossroad Festival is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and sponsorships by the Pine Bluff Advertising & Promotion Commission and Simmons Bank.
This is the second year for the Crossroad Festival. Last year’s festival focused on the region’s Quapaw Indian, French, and African American cultural heritage.
The Crossroad Festival was inspired by ASC’s Heritage Detectives project. A historian and artist were placed in Pine Bluff, Dumas, McGehee, and Lake Village classrooms to work with students on uncovering and depicting the diverse cultural influences of Southeast Arkansas through pictorial histories.
The festival idea percolated after ASC staff attended cultural programs at other institutes.
“The event was first initially conceptualized after staff attended the FUSION: Arts & Humanities Arkansas festival hosted by the Clinton Presidential Center in February 2017,” explained ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller. “In discussion with members of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma Cultural Committee, it was determined that there would be an audience for a similar event, but specifically focusing on the Quapaw’s history and legacy in Jefferson County.”
Shortly thereafter, ASC staff attended a screening of the documentary film First Cousins: Cajun and Creole Music in South Louisiana documentary, and met with the film’s producer and scholar Dr. Elista Istre about influences of Cajun and Creole culture in Delta regional music.
“All agreed that Pine Bluff, a city originally settled by Joseph Bonne, who was half French and half Quapaw Indian, would be ideal central location to host a cultural event that explores the county's French and Quapaw roots through primary sources,” Miller said.
In June 2017, ASC hosted a free screening of the AETN documentary, Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th Street. “We received an overwhelming response from the audience to host more similar events that focus on the area's African American heritage,” Miller said. Subsequently, ASC reached out to Jimmy Cunningham Jr., executive director of the Delta Rhythm & Blues Bayous Alliance, about organizing an event exploring Jefferson County’s African American history through music.
Friday, March 1, 7-9 p.m. — Tricksters, Tall Tales, and Blues Notes
This year’s festival kicks off with a night of lore, music and interpretation with the program Tricksters, Tall Tales, and Blues Notes. The event will combine living history, folklore, and musical performance in exploring African American experiences in Southeast Arkansas. Jimmy Cunningham Jr., with whom ASC collaborated during last year’s festival, writes and directs this program featuring regional actors and musicians.
The program is presented in four parts, and will explore four themes: folk heroes, prison folk music, animal folktales, and urban folklore.
Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. — Folktales & Foodways Family Fun
The festival’s second day will comprise two family-friendly programs, with lunch available for purchase.
In the morning session, Heritage Studies and Living History Interpretation scholar Dr. Elista Istre will lead Folktales Family Fun — a family storytelling, hands-on program. She will share traditional French Creole stories of the characters of Bouki (a fox) and Lapin (a rabbit), which are similar to the “Brer Rabbit” tales. She will also explore the links between West Africa, the Caribbean, and the American South. The program will include a craft workshop in which the children can make a mask of Bouki or Lapin to take home with them.
Ilstre is the founder of Belle Heritage, offering consulting, programming, and tours that inspire individuals and organizations to celebrate the beauty of heritage. Last year, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press published her book Creoles of South Louisiana: Three Centuries Strong, which began as a dissertation during her time in Arkansas State University’s Heritage Studies program. She will have her books available for purchase at the festival.
She was also involved with the 2018 Crossroad Festival. She and her sister, Dr. Moriah Istre, screened their documentary film, First Cousins: Cajun and Creole Music in South Louisiana, and sat on a panel that discussed the French connections within Louisiana and Arkansas. She lives in Lafayette, La.
For the afternoon program, Istre will join Food Studies and Material Culture scholar Kevin Kim to expand the festival theme of cultural diffusion and adaption with Foodways & Tales. The program will provide a historical context for the foodways of South Louisiana’s Creole people, and Southeast Arkansas’s Cantonese communities, and address how both cultures have negotiated the fine lines between assimilation and isolation within the larger mainstream American culture.
Both scholars will share family stories and recipes. In a cooking demonstration, children from the Jefferson County 4-H Club will cook greens the Creole way to compare and contrast with how the Cantonese prepare greens as demonstrated by Kim.
Kim is a doctoral student in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he also teaches courses on material culture and popular culture. His research interests focus on the cultural politics of food in American life, with a special emphasis on Asian American foodways. His work has been featured on National Public Radio (NPR). He has held curatorial internships at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and has worked with the Southern Foodways Alliance. He was born in South Korea and has lived in Los Angeles and Little Rock.
Pop’s Place food truck will be at ASC from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. so visitors can enjoy lunch between the programs.
Sunday, March 3, 1-3 p.m. — The Adventures of Brer Rabbit Screening and Q&A with Director/Animator Byron Vaughns
Continuing the exploration of African American folktales, ASC will close the 2019 festival with a screening of the 2006 animated Universal Pictures film The Adventures of Brer Rabbit. A question-and-answer session will follow with the film’s director, Byron Vaughns.
A Pine Bluff native and a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Vaughns has worked on many classic animated television shows including Alvin & the Chipmunks, The Smurfs, Animaniacs, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. He won an Emmy in 1993 for directing Tiny Toon Adventures, which was selected for best animated daytime series. Vaughns lives in White Hall after residing in the Los Angeles area for more than three decades.
By Shannon Frazeur
Lindsey Collins has been running around for months, spinning the plates that is directing a theatrical production.
The musical Sister Act marks her 30th — that’s right, 30th — production at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. But it is her first time calling the shots.
Collins, her crew, and her cast of almost 30 are in final rehearsals for Sister Act, which opens at ASC on Thursday, July 26, runs until Sunday, July 29.
Sister Act tells the the story of a nightclub singer named Deloris Van Cartier, who witnesses her gangster boyfriend murder one of this cronies. She is put into protective custody at a convent full of non-singing nuns. Deloris uses her singing abilities to help the choir become a sensational singing group, all while learning valuable life lessons and the value of sisterhood, Collins explained.
“It’s a very fun little story.”
“The music is all original, written for the show,” Collins explained. “It’s actually written by Alan Menken, who did all the music for The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors, and a bunch of other very popular musicals. And it’s all ‘70s disco music. It’s set in the ‘70s, so it has that fantastic disco vibe to it.”
Sister Act is also a heavy ensemble show. “Usually you have a few ensemble numbers and mainly solos, but in this show, it’s mainly ensemble numbers and a few solos.”
It’s also music heavy, she said. “It’s probably 80 percent music, and 20 percent dialogue.”
NEWCOMERS AND VETERANS
For most of the cast, Sister Act will mark their first time on the Catherine M. Bellamy Theatre stage.
“We have a cast of 28. And 20 of the 28 have never been in a show before — this is their first time ever being in a play here,” Collins said. “And they all heard through word of mouth and through Facebook, through the marquee outside The Center, and they just decided, ‘Hey, I love Sister Act!’ The name drew them in. Everyone sees the name and thinks of the movie.”
A production with so many new actors might seem daunting, but not for the Sister Act cast and crew.
“They are very very committed to what they’re doing for this show, and that makes my job a whole lot easier,” Collins said. “They're all super talented. Pine Bluff has way more talent than I think we've ever knew, and we’re just scratching the surface with what we’ve done so far here.”
One of the newcomers is Monticello native Angelica Glass, who plays the lead role of Delores Van Cartier.
“She literally came out of nowhere,” Collins said. “We had a not-so-great turnout for our first round of auditions, so I decided to make an audition notice on all the swap shops on Facebook that I could think of. She just happened to see it go through her newsfeed and came to the audition that night.
“The minute she walked through the door, all three of us lit up like Christmas morning,” Collins said.
“She walked in, and she just embodied everything. And she’s one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met, and she’s super talented. As a director, you want someone who’s very easy to work with and takes direction really well.
“This voice comes out of her, and it’s just awesome.”
Collins pride in her entire cast is evident. “Everyone in this cast is so incredibly talented. We have a 17-year-old all the way up to 70-something.”
“There’s some people in this that just blew me away. They’re all very considerate of everybody else. It’s a very wonderful atmosphere to be a part of. We’re all working toward the same goal. There’s not anybody who feels like they’ve got too much on them. It’s a very cohesive unit, and we’ve been working together very well. I want everyone to leave this process, wanting to come back and do another show.”
While most of Sister Act’s cast is comprised of newcomers, the production crew are mostly ASC stage veterans.
Andee Book works alongside Collins as Sister Act music director. He an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he teaches applied voice, piano, music history, diction, vocal pedagogy, and music appreciation courses. He is also the assistant director of the Vesper Choir and departmental accompanist for various recitals and performances.
”He is amazing and I don’t know how we would have been able to have put this all together without his expertise because he is absolutely wonderful and gifted at being a music director,” Collins said.
Bethany Gere is choreographer. “She has this wonder vision, and she's able to get non-dancers to look like dancers, and that's a huge accomplishment in community theater,” Collins laughed.
“My choreographer and music director have been amazing,” Collins said. “We’ve had moments where we’ll have one thing going on on the stage, one thing going on in the studio, and one thing going on out in the hallway, just to keep things moving. I don’t like downtime, either. I don’t like people to sit there not doing something.”
Joel Anderson is assistant director. Sister Act is Anderson’s eighth ASC production. He played Edna Turnblad in ASC’s 2012 production of Hairspray. Anderson is also a pageant judge for the state of Arkansas. “He notices things I might have missed aesthetic-wise,” Collins said.
“It’s a very cohesive team. The crew is, the cast is. If we don’t all work together, it’s not going to work out right. And without them, I don’t think I would have my sanity left.”
Collins began working on or in ASC productions as a teenager in 2001, and Sister Act is her 30th production to be part of at the Arts & Science Center.
Previous ASC shows in which she has been in the cast or crew include:
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory ("Mrs. Gloop")
- Hairspray (“Velma VonTussle”)
- Gypsy (“Mama Rose”)
- Bye Bye Birdie (“Ursula Merkle”)
- Chicago (stage manager)
- Rebel Without A Cause (assistant stage manager)
- Alice in Wonderland (makeup and costumes)
- 42nd Street
- Mr. Scrooge (“Mrs. Fezziwig”)
- About a dozen Razzle Dazzle productions (she’s done so many that she’s lost count)
“I love theater. I’ve been a theater rat since I was 15. It’s like putting on a pair of pajamas that fits just right. It may not fit everybody, but it fits me!”
So taking on the role of director was a natural progression for her.
“I got to the point where I wanted to be more creative with what goes on and I wanted to call the shots and make sure we had a great summer production. I was excited when [ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller] asked me to do it. First, I messaged her and asked if I could direct, and then we when decided on the show, I was thrilled.”
In addition to its theater productions, Collins has had an hand in other ASC projects, such as the biannual fundraising gala Potpourri.
“If The Center calls me, I’m answering the phone to help.”
Collins also helped teach ASC’s after-school shadow puppet program this spring. “That was so much fun. We had a group of about nine kids and they were amazingly smart and well- behaved, and it was a great experience, and I got to work with Leonor [Colbert, ASC’s public programs coordinator], who is a blast to work with.”
“I love The Center. It’s my second home. I might as well have a tent here.”
Collins has a bachelor’s degree in theater from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and did several productions while a student. She is a Pine Bluff High School graduate, and except for the four years she attended UAF, has lived in Pine Bluff her entire life.
She works for CoOperative Life Insurance Company. Collins said that her boss, ASC board member Adam Robinson, is “super supportive” of everything she’s doing with the show. Her family — which includes her husband of 10 years, Jeff, son Dorian, and daughter Caylex — is also supportive. “There are times when it becomes consuming being in charge of something like this, but the outcome is so worth it.”
She has dedicated every show she has been a part of in honor of her father, John Byus III, since he died two years ago.
Collins has enjoyed the collaborative and creative process of bringing Sister Act to ASC.
“It’s a really awesome process. I like that we have a lot of new people because they’re able to share their talents with me, and our cast, and the rest of Pine Bluff. That’s exciting, to share your abilities and your talents, and your love and your passion and whatever it is. That’s why I wanted to direct something.”
July 26 (opening night-SOLD OUT!), July 27, and July 28 at 7:30 p.m., and July 29 at 2 p.m.
Director: Lindsey Collins. Music Director: Andee Book
Music by: Alan Menken. Lyrics by: Glenn Slater
Tickets are $18 for members, $22 for nonmembers, and $10 for students. Tickets may be purchased online, by calling 870-536-3375, or visiting the Center in person at 701 S. Main St. in downtown Pine Bluff.