Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
7 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. Free.
The screenplay for "Jaws" was a collaboration between the novelist Peter Benchley (author of the film's source material), Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Howard Sackler, comedy writer Carl Gottlieb, mercenary screenwriters Matthew Robbins and Hal Barwood and filmmaker John Milius ("Conan the Barbarian" and "Red Dawn"). Steven Spielberg, then 26, also contributed substantially. It's a little baffling that it took so many people to write this movie, the rare film that can be effectively summarized in one word: shark. But the whole production process, the more you read about it, sounds like a catastrophe. "We started the film without a script, without a cast and without a shark," the actor Richard Dreyfuss has joked. The actors and crew were seasick for much of the filming; the three pneumatically powered prop sharks — nicknamed "Bruce," in honor of Spielberg's lawyer — rarely worked; Dreyfuss and Gottlieb were both almost killed in accidents (by a steel cage and a boat propeller, respectively); Robert Shaw binge-drank and ran off occasionally due to tax problems. As Spielberg later admitted, "I was naive about the ocean, basically." The film has been celebrated and over-analyzed and ripped-off and bemoaned ever since, but Spielberg's line still pretty much sums up its most provocative point: We are naive about the ocean.
7:30 p.m. The Joint. $20.
Thursday night, as part of its monthly Argenta Acoustic Music Series, The Joint will host the renowned Brazilian jazz singer and guitarist Badi Assad, who was born in Sao Paulo and grew up in Rio de Janeiro. She's performed with Yo-Yo Ma, Bobby McFerrin, Joe Cocker, Sarah McLachlan and Seu Jorge. She has been recognized as one of the world's best guitarists by Guitar Player magazine, and Jon Pareles of the New York Times has cited her "imaginative virtuosity, moving from gauzy delicacy to vigorous propulsion, from dreaming to dancing and back." In performances on YouTube, she fingerpicks on a nylon string guitar, while also humming complex melodies and simultaneously performing a kind of mouth percussion (clicking and thumping, more or less beat-boxing). It's pretty gripping.
ARKANSAS TIMES MUSICIANS SHOWCASE
8 p.m. Stickyz. $5.
Congrats to Little Rock garage punk band The Uh Huhs, winners of last week's semifinal round of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase. Round 4 will be Thursday night, featuring The Whole Famn Damily, the Conway-based Americana collective; Southern rock jam band Vintage Pistol from Fayetteville, and Little Rock alt-rockers Jay Jackson and Sattakota. This round's winner will join The Uh Huhs, SOULution and Sean Fresh & The Nasty Fresh Crew at the showcase finals, which will be held at Revolution on Friday, Feb. 26. The winning band will receive a prize package that includes headlining spots at Valley of the Vapors, the Arkansas State Fair, Riverfest and Legends of Arkansas; gift certificates to Jacksonville Guitar, Blue Chair Studios, State of Mind Clothing and Trio's Restaurant; a photo shoot with the Times' Brian Chilson, and a celebration party and personalized drink courtesy of Stickyz and Revolution.
FRIDAY 2/19-SUNDAY 2/21
'TORUK: THE FIRST FLIGHT'
7:30 p.m. Fri., 4 and 7:30 p.m. Sat., 1:30 p.m. Sun. Verizon Arena. $37.50-$132.50.
If you're looking for an event this weekend perfect both for kids and psilocybin mushrooms, look no further than the new Cirque du Soleil production, "Toruk: The First Flight," a live, multimedia circus-extravaganza inspired by James Cameron's "Avatar." One interesting thing about "Avatar" is that it's among the highest-grossing films ever made (the first movie to make over $2 billion). Another interesting thing is that I don't remember anything about it, nor did just about anyone else informally polled about this: One of Hollywood's most unstoppable behemoths has nevertheless somehow slipped through the cracks of our collective cultural memory and vanished. Which, it turns out, is good news for Cirque du Soleil, the middle-brow, acrobatic theater company founded by Canadian street performers in the 1980s. From the production stills I've seen, I can tell you "Toruk" is something like "The Lion King" on Broadway, if all the parts were performed by the Blue Man Group and soundtracked by the World Music section of a Barnes & Noble.
FRIDAY 2/19-SUNDAY 2/21
7 p.m. Arkansas Repertory Theatre. $35.
"I grew up in the fertile world of storytelling," Rebecca Wells has written, "filled with flamboyance, flirting, futility and fear." More prosaically, she grew up in Alexandria, La., studied theater in college at Baton Rouge, worked as a cocktail waitress (and at Yellowstone National Park) and, later, did a stint in advertising, during which period she says she discovered Tibetan Buddhism. She studied at the Naropa Institute in Boulder Colo., where she was tutored by Allen Ginsberg and a Tibetan monk named Choyum Tringpa Rimpoche. She is best-known, however, for a book series she began publishing — with great commercial success — in the late 1990s, starting with "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." It's about a life-long group of female friends and a troubled relationship between a mother and daughter; it was adapted into a film in 2002 starring Sandra Bullock and Ellen Burstyn. The Washington Post called the book "a very entertaining and, ultimately, deeply moving novel about the complex bonds between mother and daughter." Wells will be in town this weekend performing what the Rep calls a "debut performance of a new solo work for theater," based on her best-selling books. She's known as a compelling and energetic performer; "outside of an orgasm," she writes on her website, "there is no better experience than laughing and crying at the same time."
FRIDAY 2/19-SUNDAY 2/21
Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts. $8-$10.
Wildwood Park for the Arts' annual winter festival, scheduled to coincide with the first full moon of the lunar new year, returns this weekend with three nights of food, live entertainment, gardens and vivid lights. Guests walk through various trails and gardens, elaborately decorated according to international themes (with accompanying cuisines) that vary from year to year. This year's list includes Brazil, China, Greece, Hawaii, Australia, the U.K. and, intriguingly, the moon. How do you decorate a garden to resemble the moon? Maybe lots of sand and rocks? What sort of food will they serve there? All of these questions and more will be answered at this year's Lanterns! Festival, at which — it seems worth mentioning — alcohol will be served. Parking is limited at Wildwood; park at Kroger on Chenal Parkway and take a shuttle; shuttles begin at 6 p.m. nightly and will run 30 minutes after the festival closes.
WATOTO CHILDREN'S CHOIR
9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 6 p.m. Geyer Springs Baptist Church.
The Watoto Children's Choir was founded in 1994 as a touring choir composed of children from Uganda who had lost one or both parents to war or the AIDS epidemic. They perform around the world, blending contemporary gospel and African pop, to raise awareness about the plight of Uganda's orphans. (According to UNICEF, 11 percent of children in Uganda are orphans, and 8 percent more are "critically vulnerable.") They've performed at the White House, Buckingham Palace and the United Nations. They are based out of an English-speaking church in Kampala City, and their message is explicitly Christian; a press release sent to the Arkansas Times cites 1 John 3:1: "See what kind of love the father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are." Currently on a six-month U.S. tour, the crew will be traveling through Arkansas this weekend, performing at First Baptist Church in Kensett on Friday; Grace Baptist Church in Scott on Saturday; Geyer Springs First Baptist Church in Little Rock on Sunday; Salem United Methodist Church in Benton on Tuesday, and United Lutheran Church in Bella Vista on Thursday.
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