Smart Talk Feb. 2 

Behemoth of Bentonville goes musical

Already the biggest company in the world, Wal-Mart just keeps on growing, and so does the criticism of Wal-Mart. In Madison, Wis., the Arkansas-based retailer is now the unwilling star of a new musical comedy called “Walmartopia.” According to an article by Elizabeth DiNovella in The Progressive magazine, the show challenging what DiNovella calls “the behemoth of Bentonville” opened to good reviews, and the playwrights, Catherine Capellaro and Andrew Rohn, hope to take it on a national tour. This is not Capellaro and Rohn’s first venture into political theater. They previously wrote a musical about temporary workers called “Temp Slave.”

The show focuses first on a divorced, single mom, “a typical Wal-Mart employee: hard working, committed to the company, but going nowhere fast,” and two of her co-workers who want to form a union. Later, it forecasts an ominous future in which Wal-Mart runs just about everything — “School-Mart,” “Wal-Art,” etc. — before ending with a musical promise from cast members to fight what DiNovella calls “the big box mentality.” The show’s songs are “melodic and memorable,” she says. If that national tour materializes, Arkansans might get a chance to judge for themselves. According to the show’s web site, www.walmartopia.com, anyone interested in producing the show locally can reach the playwrights at rohn@chorus.net. They say they can negotiate reasonable royalties.

Mark your calendars

Something there is in the average person that likes to see a big structure come down.

Another chance is coming in Little Rock Sunday, Feb. 19. On that day, at 9 a.m., the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences plans to destroy its old student dormitory.

The 10-story structure, which is being replaced by a new structure on the north side of the hospital, will be imploded, or made to collapse inward by controlled explosions. Mostly a shell will be all that remains. Interior walls and the like are being removed now to reduce dust from the blast. A safety zone will be established around the building, but some areas several blocks west, toward War Memorial Stadium, should provide good vantage points for the 10-second demolition. Some patients in the hospital will be moved that morning, filters will be placed over vents and a roadblock of the Mills Freeway is planned. The last is not because of expected danger from flying debris but to avoid alarming unwitting motorists with the sight of a sudden collapse of a tall building. An adjoining two-story student union will also be demolished, but by more conventional means.

And in other Wal-Mart news …

A group called The Ruckus Society has been harassing Wal-Mart by using industrial projectors to cast messages and images critical of Wal-Mart onto buildings and other structures around the country, including some Wal-Mart stores. One example is a take-off on Wal-Mart’s “Always low prices, always” slogan — “Wal-Mart never respects communities, never.” The group boasts of its work at www.ruckus.org.



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