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Folk Tales and Foxtrots: 5 Stage Performances to See in Central Arkansas this January

Image by David Hohn

Did this season's wonderful holiday performances (including "Elf" at The Rep and "The Velveteen Rabbit" at the Children's Theatre!) get your family excited about live theater experiences? Keep everyone's interest piqued this January with five shows opening in central Arkansas. Plan an adult-only date night to the Rep's thought-provoking production or round up the whole kid crew for one of the family-friendly shows!

Opening Jan. 16

"Frost Bite Me!" at The Joint in Argenta: Beat the winter blues with this hilarious comedy revue by The Main Thing, a trio of comedic actors. The show is loaded with sketches, funny songs, and commercial parodies targeting cold weather, driving on snow and ice, the flu, and everything else that makes winter dreary. The show is suitable for all ages. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fri. & Sat. $22. For info: (501) 372-0205, TheJointArgenta.com.

"Ballroom with a Twist" at Maumelle Performing Arts Center: Ballroom with a Twist features Cheryl Burke, of Dancing with the Stars fame, in a dancing and singing spectacular. Professional dancers bring a frenzy of sizzling dance moves, including the Samba, Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, and Jive. As if the dancers aren’t enough to keep you entertained, several of your favorite American Idol finalists will also be joining the bill with their hit songs. Audience Recommendation: Celebrity Attractions recommends Ballroom with a Twist for audiences of all ages. This is only to be used as a suggestion as every child is different. $42-$63. Showtimes are: 8 p.m. Jan. 16, 2 & 8 p.m. Jan. 17, 2 p.m. Jan. 18. For info: (501) 244-8800, CelebrityAttractions.com.

Opening Jan. 21

"The Whipping Man" at Arkansas Repertory Theatre: An extraordinary tale of loyalty, deceit and deliverance, "The Whipping Man" by Matthew Lopez 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. The play takes place 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. One of these homes sits in ruins. As Jewish confederate officer Caleb DeLeon returns from the war, badly wounded, to find his family missing and only two former slaves remaining, Simon and John—the two men are forced to care for him. Note to parents: some elements are graphic; recommended for ages 12 and older. $30-$40; Pay What You Can Night is 7 p.m. Jan. 19. Showtimes are Jan. 21-Feb. 8: 7 p.m. Wed., Thu. & Sun.; 8 p.m. Fri. & Sat; and 2 p.m. Sat. & Sun. For info: (501) 378-0405, TheRep.org.

Opening Jan. 22

ASO Presents: Mozart's "The Magic Flute" at Albert Pike Memorial Temple: The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, in partnership with Opera In The Rock, and sponsored by Landers FIAT, opens the 2014-2015 Intimate Neighborhood Concerts series with Mozart’s two-part opera, "The Magic Flute." The fully staged performance includes a full cast and exciting performances in an acoustically-unique venue. The production has an estimated length of 2 hours and 30 minutes including intermission. $25; students are $10. Performances are: 7 p.m. Jan. 22 & 23. For info: (501) 666-1761, ArkansasSymphony.org.

Opening Jan. 23

"Rumpelstiltskin" at the Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre: Once upon a time, a miller had a lovely daughter who was kind and good, but one day she did a very bad thing: She made a promise she could not keep. The greedy king is angry, the miller is frightened, and a dwarf is simply out of control. Wheels spin and straw flies as the miller's daughter works madly to make things right again, but the only way she can is by discovering the mean old dwarf's secret true name. In that search, she discovers the only power that will help her: love. "Rumpelstiltskin" is adapted from the Brothers Grimm by Keith Smith in this musical especially for youngsters! $12.50 for children and adults & $10 for AAC members; Pay What You Can Night is 7 p.m. Jan. 22. Showtimes are Jan. 23-Feb. 8: 7 p.m. Fri. and 2 p.m. Sat. & Sun. For info: (501) 372-4000, ArkansasArtsCenter.org.

For more events, browse our full online calendar here.

Loblolly and The Rep's Relationship Keeps Getting Sweeter

Image by Tyler Rosenthal

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We don’t know about you, but we’ve been pretty upset at the thought of the end of Loblolly Creamery’s run at The Rep. We just didn’t know how we’d go on without their delicious ice cream at intermission. 

Those dreadful thoughts are a thing of the past. The Arkansas Repertory Theatre just announced that Loblolly flavors will be served for the rest of the season! 

You won’t find the Elf-specific Rep-permint Chunk, but you’ll be able to partake in some of their other crowd fave flavors for “The Whipping Man,” “Mary Poppins" and “August: Osage County.”

As if THAT wasn’t enough good news for one day, The Rep also announced that they will be pairing with Loblolly for another flavor-naming contest for “Mary Poppins!” Be on the lookout for more details on how you could win this time around.

We can only imagine what sort of unbelievable treat they’re dreaming up right now. Spoonfuls of sugar? Supercalifragilisticexpialidelicious? Chimney sweets? We can’t wait.

To get your hands on some of their ice cream, you can always stop by Loblolly Creamery. And don’t miss The Rep’s upcoming show, The Whipping Man.

Don't Miss the Grand Opening of the Clinton Center's Charles Schulz Exhibit

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Good grief, this is exciting!

The Clinton Center is giving Snoopy the presidential treatment. They’re celebrating the 65th anniversary of Charles Schulz’s famous pup and the rest of the crew with their newest exhibits, “Pigskin & Peanuts” and “Heartbreak in Peanuts.”

The grand opening will take place Jan. 17, from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. with a day full of family-friendly festivities. Guest will learn all about the artist from Corry Kanzenberg of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, with lost of Peanuts-themed activities throughout the afternoon. 

Plus, a little yellow bird told us there’d even be photo ops with Snoopy himself.

The night before, on Jan. 16, the Center will host a grand opening reception complete with some of guest host Snoopy’s favorite foods: pizza, chocolate chip cookies, hot chocolate, and root beer. Bring the kids at 6 p.m. and enjoy a discussion with executive director at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center Karen Johnson.

The program is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To do so, email LRevent@clintonfoundation.org.

Q&A With the Cast of 'The Whipping Man'

Image by John David Pittman

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The Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s latest upcoming production, “The Whipping Man,” is the story of Confederate officer Caleb DeLeon who comes home at the end of the Civil War badly wounded, but just in time to celebrate Passover with the rest of his Jewish family. When he arrives, he finds them missing and only two former slaves remain, Simon and John, who are forced to take care of him. What unfolds as they wait for their loved ones’ return is full of pain, faith, horror, strength and secrets. 

We got a chance to sit down to discuss the show with returning director Gilbert McCauley, who you might remember from 2013’s Gee’s Bend; Michael Shepperd, who plays Simon; and Damian Thompson, who plays John.

“The Whipping Man” opens Jan. 23 at The Rep. For tickets or more information, click here.

 

Give me an idea of the background of the story of the whipping man, where it came from and how it ended up at The Rep.

Gilbert McCauley: It’s been done quite a bit around the country.

Michael Shepperd: It’s one of the top regional shows produced in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons.

GM: I think because it deals with the ending of the Civil War, the change that the whole country went through at that time, and it talks about that larger story by looking very closely at the lives of these three men, two former slaves and their former master. It really questions ideas about what freedom really is and how you create a future out of the ruins of the past. I think it’s really intriguing because of that. We see these three men trying to create these futures for themselves in very different ways and with very different goals and desires, and I think that the characters are very compelling. 

I think that’s what makes the show so good. If you get really good actors, which we do have, it makes the show that much more rich because we get a chance to watch these men realize that they can’t go back but they don’t know how to go forward, and we watch them try to figure it out right in front of us. Really good actors make that really interesting.

 

What topics and messages from “The Whipping Man’ and from this period in time do you think we can learn from in 2015?

Damian Thompson: I would put this show in the category of a relationship play. I feel like when the audience comes and sees it, that will be the biggest impact: just examining your relationships with others regardless of race or culture or sex. In the play, that’s the key thing among the three characters is how we relate to each other, the obstacles, the love, the distaste and all the stuff that we have between us and how that plays out.

MS: I really liked what Gilbert said: “…how you create a future out of the ruins of the past.” Even in 2015, there’s the repercussions of holding  on to secrets and not being able to express yourself fully because you have to keep something protected because someone may not like you if they found this out. It’s the same thing we go through every day. We keep some of our true selves secret. I can’t tell you this because you’ll dislike me, but I can tell you because you find it titillating. It really speaks on that.

GM: The playwright wrote it in a way that, even though it’s fairly historical accurate, it’s written with kind of a contemporary feel to it. I feel he’s trying to make the point that as human beings, we’re all kind of wrestling with the things that enslave us, always wrestling with our own ability or inability to do the things that will free us. We’re always struggling with how we treat other people. That’s a constant thing we deal with. It didn’t just start with slavery, it’s man’s inhumanity to man that we’ve had to deal with. The story keeps changing, but the ideas and the themes remain the same. 

DT: The idea of the future and what we want as individuals and how to get there, it’s exactly what these characters go through and what we go through in our everyday lives. 

 

So the play takes place in one setting. It’s burned out and falling to pieces. What kind of relationship do you think that has with the story itself?

GM: I think [set designer Mike Nichols] did a great job of capturing that sense of ruin that the place has to have. It was someone’s home, a place where somebody made a life. Now we can tell by the way it looks that it’s going to be really difficult to make a life there, so something has to change. These three man come into this place and you watch them go about trying to make that change. That’s where the country was at that point, it was in ruins, right before the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The possibilities of where the country could go have shifted dramatically. 

The playwright is very specific about where and when it happens. It’s in Richmond, essentially the seat of the Confederacy, just after the fall. He’s put everything at this crucial tipping point and he’s put these men here for us to watch them deal with that. It’s very well crafted. 

DT: The key thing is that when you look at that set, it’s not a place of comfort. You know that something has to change, the house, the people.

MS: And the crew here, their attention to detail is amazing. No one thinks they can get away with anything that’s 1872  and not 1865. They’re very specific, and it’s great to be in that sort of environment. When people create that world around you, it’s so much easier as an actor to put yourself in that world. I have to commend them. Their commitment to creating not just good, but great theatre makes me excited about working here at The Rep.

I mean, they spent hours on Caleb’s jacket because the epaulettes for the Confederate Army have to be in a very specific place. The wool that they got is from the actual factory that created the uniforms in the Civil War.

DT: Something else I’d like to mention is that it is a drama and it does deal with slavery and it does deal with these issues, but I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. It’s not a tragedy. You’re not just going to sit there and weep the entire time. It’s a very well-balanced show. It has lightness, it has humor.

MS: People as us if this is anything like “Elf.” Well, no. I feel like most of the time with musicals, there’s a pretty bow wrapped around it and you walk out feeling good. With this, you’re going to walk out and feel like you need to talk about this. This is a conversation that needs to happen. 

 

Tell me more about the balance of light and dark.

DT: For me, my character is dealing with a lot of heavy stuff, but within that, he’s a very clever guy. He does plays on words, he tries to crack jokes, lighten the mood, escape whatever’s going on inside of him.

GM: I think the thing about it is that that balance is through the depth of the piece. All those things are there. It’s up to us to make it all work. That’s why it’s so fun working on it. We have to get in alignment with what the play’s trying to do, and it’s always exciting for artists to do that. There’s a lo more exploration and things to bring to it. It’s really an actor’s play. The Rep has pulled some great people here to do it, and I think people here are really going to enjoy watching them.

 

Is it difficult personally to throw yourselves into a character, but not get bogged down by the heaviness of a message?

DT: That’s the thing, I don’t think that’s it. There’s a difference between an important subject and a heavy subject. I’ve never felt heavy from this. In general, it’s a play that deals with a very important subject matter, but I don’t feel people will leave feeling guilty, that’s not the point. The point is to open our minds to the world that is around us and just experience that in a more positive way. 

MS: For me as an actor, bring on the drama. Actors love throwing themselves into someone else. 

DT: I think what’s so great about this show is that it doesn’t seem very foreign, it doesn’t seem like I need to become this completely different person. There’s so much of it that’s relatable to today’s life that you find yourself in a lot of these parts because it’s so accessible.

GM: The title may kind of throw people off, but we never actually see “the whipping man” in the play. The play deals with what that represents, that physical domination of another human being. It’s more about the symbol of that and how it actually plays out in people’s lives in a real way.

 

Have there been any moments so far that stood out to you, that you connected with in a meaningful way?

GM: The fact that this is a Jewish family makes you look at the way in which people’s faith affects their culture and the way they do things, how they look at the world, how they grapple with the world, I think that’s what has stood out to me.There’s a line in the play that says “You don’t lose your faith by not getting answers, you lose your faith by not asking at all.” I think the play really does a good job of asking questions. These men are wrestling with really deep questions. 

We’ve all learned so much already. We went to a seder the other night and the conversation was just really rich and all about asking questions and learning from each other. This play allows that opportunity.

MS: For me, one of the moments that strikes me to my core, because I’ve never thought about this person in this way, is President Lincoln. I get to do a monologue about him and it’s just like wow, to have that weight placed upon you that he had and what that means. You’ve made this declaration that you know will cause 49 percent of the population to hate you, but you still do it because that’s your belief. There’s just a different meaning for me because of the way I speak about him in the play. 

GM: I’ve known some artistic directors who say Civil War plays are some of the most powerful things you can do because it was kind of what created the United States. It’s a great tool to help recognize how it changed the country and has us asking the questions we’re still asking today. 

Also, when we did the photo shoot at the State House,  we read about how Arkansas was really divided on the issue of slavery. The state lost a great deal of people to the war on both sides; it decreased the population by almost half. It was something that affected the place here. It’s always good to think about these historical things in this contemporary context. Arkansas actually wrestled with this just like the men in the play are wrestling with it.

 

What do you think the audience will walk away with?

DT: I think they’re going to walk away with kind of what I did. I walked away a little bit in awe, it just sat on me for a bit and had me thinking. I feel like you’re going to walk away from this play and then after maybe a day, two, three, four, it’s just going to hit you. You start thinking about the play in a more in-depth way. 

GM: I think it’ll hit everyone in different ways. You have three different characters who are wrestling with it and trying to create their future in very different ways. When people come to see it, different aspects of the play are going to hit them. The different questions that the play asks will touch people in different ways. It makes you seek to answer those questions for yourself. I think it’ll be a really rich experience for people. 

 

The Story Behind the Art of Virmarie DePoyster

Gallery by Jason Masters

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Right-brained: having the right brain dominant, therefore being more adept at spatial and nonverbal concepts and being more creative and emotional than logical and analytical

“Happiness is using the right side of the brain,” says Virmarie DePoyster. And for her, the right hemisphere is drenched in vivid colors.

DePoyster grew up in Puerto Rico with lush, tropical surroundings, iguanas, orchids and the like. A strict household banned all mass media, so she entertained herself by talking to imaginary friends and making art, not so difficult for a colorful creative surrounded by inspiration.

Then everything changed.

At 15, DePoyster moved to El Dorado with her mother and two siblings to live in the upstairs bedroom of a friend’s home.

Calling it a drastic change of scenery would be an understatement.

DePoyster admits her mother’s choice was the best thing that could have happened, but that didn’t mean it was easy. They knew no English. The local paper even did a news story on them because they were the second Hispanic family in town. 

“We were this oddity to everybody,” DePoyster says, “but we just wanted to hide.”

It wasn’t until a year later, after carrying a Spanish-to-English dictionary everywhere, that DePoyster was able to carry on a conversation and the family moved out of the one-room living space.

Help from a family friend allowed her to attend college. Drawn to textures and colors, she graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in fashion design and merchandising. Soon after graduating, DePoyster did a stint in retail management and soon realized this was not the direction she was intended to go. Instead, she decided to make a move and take some classes at the Arkansas Arts Center’s Museum School, where it didn’t take long for her to get hooked.

“I immediately fell in love with pastel,” DePoyster says. “It’s pure pigment, lush. I just love the immediacy of it, the dance of the paper and the pastel and trying to see how far you can push it.”

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She loved it so much, in fact, that she’s now been teaching at the AAC for three years, mostly pastels, of course. She works with multiple age groups on a variety of skill levels, a challenge in its own right, but there is one thing for which you’ll never hear her correct her students.

“When I first started painting, all of my teachers would tell me, ‘Your color is too bright; you need to tone your color down; for a color to glow, you have to have gray color around it.’ But gray color bored me and there was nothing I could do about it.”

She started doing her own research on the psychology of color, learning about the effect it has on people from tropical climates. That’s when she decided her art was to make her happy, no one else, and DePoyster embraced her infatuation with bright hues.

“Color just speaks to me,” DePoyster says. “When I get up in the morning, I look in my coffee and I see red. At lunch, I see the pink in the leaves of my lettuce. At night, when I put my daughter to sleep, she’s got this golden color in her eyes that just twinkles a little bit.”

It’s this fascination with the tiniest, brightest details that make DePoyster so interesting. Leaving such vivid surroundings for endless rows of red brick houses and scrubbing toilets to help with expenses, these things gave her a unique drive to not only work hard, but to want to work hard. 

Whether it’s in her relationships or her artwork, she’s a self-proclaimed fighter. What may seem like the “magic” that seasoned artists have to throw anything on a canvas and it turn out beautifully actually comes from a series of failures, a confidence in difficult lessons learned while clinging to the notion that there will be a next time, another painting, no matter what.

Part of what makes DePoyster so dauntless is being uncomfortable with comfortability. When the rules seem too cozy and no one is questioning them, she does. When an obstacle seems odd and scary, she demystifies it. 

There’s a large painting on the wall of her studio, gleaming with oranges and yellows, as well as strips of her shredded wedding dress.

“Truly meaningful art has a story behind it. Art brings me happiness, material things don’t,” she says. “That dress doesn’t mean I have a successful relationship with my husband. I can’t attach that meaning to it. We’re great without the wedding dress.”

And DePoyster’s art definitely has a story behind it. Inspiration can come from anything: her surprising love of Arkansas’ landscape, open spaces that make you feel small, a memory from her past life or the pigment of her current one. Combining these with a minimalistic mindset and a relentless optimism give her the drive and the grit it takes to be an artist.

For this woman who finds perfect joy in how the right colors sing next to each other, who still has that tattered dictionary in a drawer and who isn’t satisfied with painting any old tree, there’s really no telling what project will snare her curiosity next. What is for certain is that once she’s done with it, it will be a most uncommon thing, just like the smile that spreads across her face when she says:

“There’s nothing I can’t do.”  

Arkansas Brides Reveal Their 9 Favorite Wedding Presents

Image by Kati Mallory Photo & Design
Katie Fredrickson & Adam Bennett | May 7, 2014 • BoBrook Farms • Little Rock

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We asked former brides to tell us which wedding gift they loved getting the most. Here are nine great wedding gift ideas, leading off with our Reader's Choice item:

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Runner-up:

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Editor's choice:

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Other favorites:

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Like a nest egg fund or a honeymoon travel expense collection...

@mkdeloney
“Love it! I prefer to get someone something I know they need/want (plus I’m doing this for my own wedding).”
 @amygadentaylor
“If one can’t afford a honeymoon or home, maybe one should reconsider what type of honeymoon and what type of home.”
@catherinedaniels
“I had a friend do a neat one; they already purchased a home and didn’t need any new gadgets, so they registered for add ons to their honeymoon, like bottles of champagne or desserts sent to their hotel room,
parasailing, tour tickets, etc.”

@teenycrowley
“That’s what my fiancé and I did via #honeyfund, as well as a couple of local registries in our town! It was great and people seemed to really like giving that way!”

Arkansas Engagement: Lindsay Farris & Tyson Privett

Gallery by Megan Burges Photography

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Lindsay Farris of Jonesboro and Tyson Privett of Kennett, Missouri, are engaged to be married on Sunday, Apr. 4, at the First Baptist Church and Centennial Hall in Jonesboro.

We're crushing on this dreamy session by Megan Burges. Feast your eyes while you check out this cute couple's story.

After dating only 6 months, Tyson had asked Lindsay to go to dinner with him and a few clients. Lindsay was tired but agreed to go. After Tyson arrived to pick her up for dinner, Lindsay could tell Tyson was a little nervous. He was telling her how much he loved her and what a good person she was, this did not surprise her or peak her attention as he told her this type of thing all of the time! Finally, he asked Lindsay to stand up and give him a hug, as she did, he fell to one knee and asked her to marry him. Lindsay was in complete shock but ecstatic and so, so happy.

Congratulations, Lindsay and Tyson!

To see more engagements ...

To submit engagements ...

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January Party Pics Now Online

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So you went to that event a while back, but you forgot to take any pictures, or maybe those weird Instagram filters didn’t do it justice.

Good news, partygoers! 

With each new print issue of Soirée, the edition’s Party Pics are also posted on LittleRockSoiree.com. We just uploaded the newest batch for the January issue, so just go to the Party Pics tab at the top left of this page, find the name of your event and you’re there. Or you could just click here.

Go ahead and share the links on your Facebook page, or tag yourself in our photos. Now when your poor grandmother asks what you’ve been up to lately, show her that you’re doing the family proud and look good doing it. 

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About The Author
What’s new in shopping, the arts, music, travel, fun parties and delicious food in Arkansas? Let Lauren James of InArkansas.com be your guide. An avid shopper, traveler and lover of everything-arts-related, she will show you the best of what Arkansas has to offer. Make InArkansas.com your go-to spot every day to learn the latest in entertainment, dining, attractions, activities and more.
Featured Post
For this special Reader's Choice edition, we wanted to put a fun little spin on the traditional Editor Favorites feature. Instead of simply showcasing the editorial team's favorite bridal portraits and couple shots, we added décor, ideas and more into this mix. We hope these inspire you to create something fresh, unique or simply gorgeous for your weddings.

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