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'Life Is Beautiful' Dance Party at Cajun's 

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THURSDAY 1/12-SUNDAY 1/15, THURSDAY 1/19-SUNDAY 1/22

'NOVEMBER'
Various times. Studio Theater. $14-$16.

David Mamet's "November" is set in the Oval Office just prior to a presidential election, and for that reason alone, Community Theater of Little Rock's decision to include the play in its 2016-2017 season must have seemed like a predictable choice. If ever there were a time to put aside the dank psychological despair of the more-often-performed "Glengarry Glen Ross" in favor of political laughs, Inauguration 2017 would be the time, right? Given the upheaval of the 2016 election season, though — and the uncertainty in which an impending Trump presidency is shrouded, it might not come across so predictably. The jokes Nathan Lane lobbed at the audience in the play's 2008 premiere have taken on an unforeseen absurdity now that the play's nine years old. Take, for example, the moment when unpopular incumbent Charles Smith (played by Marcus Vowell, in CTLR's production) asks his lawyer why he can't build a fence to keep out illegal immigrants: His lawyer replies, "You need the illegal immigrants to build the fence." That line rings a little differently than it did in 2008, as do the bits of the play in which Smith's speechwriter, Clarice Bernstein, a lesbian (played by Patrice Phillips in CTLR's production), petitions the president to legalize gay marriage. CTLR's production of the play, which the New York Times' Ben Brantley called "a David Mamet play for people who don't like David Mamet," is bound by sheer virtue of its timing to elicit a more complex response from its audience than a one-note laugh; ideally, the production will allow for momentary escape into an alternate presidential reality. If it can do that meaningfully, perhaps ticketholders will uncover something new about real life post-inauguration, and hey, isn't that what community theater's for? The show runs for two consecutive weekends, and you'll get $1 off admission if you bring along a pair of gently used running shoes. Sunday performances are at 1:30 p.m.; all others begin at 7:30 p.m. SS

click to enlarge BLOCK PARTY: Rodney Block brings his Edwards Generation X-series trumpet to Cajun's Wharf Friday night for a dance party and social featuring guest vocalist Bijoux, 9 p.m., $5.
  • BLOCK PARTY: Rodney Block brings his Edwards Generation X-series trumpet to Cajun's Wharf Friday night for a dance party and social featuring guest vocalist Bijoux, 9 p.m., $5.

FRIDAY 1/13

'LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL' DANCE PARTY
9 p.m. Cajun's Wharf. $5.

Rodney Block plays an Edwards Generation X-series trumpet, an adaptation of the famous Monette model, and the same mode played by Trombone Shorty — when he's not playing trombone, that is. "The horn is heavy, which contributes to the nice warm sound," Block told us last week. "Hopefully people recognize my sound like one would a person's voice." Despite working a full-time day gig in the field of medical equipment sales, which he says is "a great contrast and complement to my musical side," Block's one of the most prolific performers in town. He and his band — Jonathan Burks on drums, Joel Crutcher on bass and, as of the New Year, Khaleel Tyus on keyboards — play enough to warrant making a barber, Andre Talbert, as an essential crew member. "He always makes sure I look fresh," Block said. The band mixes originals from albums like their latest EP, "Eyes Haven't Seen/Ears Haven't Heard" with danceable, singalong-inducing covers, and incorporates guests like vocalist Bijoux Pighee, who joins the Rodney Block Collective for this show. SS

FRIDAY 1/13

2ND FRIDAY ART NIGHT
5-8 p.m. Downtown galleries. Free.

The Historic Arkansas Museum (200 E. Third St.) is breaking the Art Night mold on a Friday the 13th by offering a curator's tour of its exhibition "A Diamond in the Rough: 75 Years of Historic Arkansas Museum," which features art and objects from the permanent collection. Interim Director and Chief Curator Swannee Bennett will talk about such things as the symbolism crafted into Gov. James Sevier Conway's rifle and tell stories of collecting by the first Arkansas Made team (Bennett and retired Director Bill Worthen). After you've taken the tour, have a Winter Warmer beer by Stone's Throw Brewing and hear music by Charles Woods. At the Butler Center Galleries (401 President Clinton Ave.), two new exhibitions, "The American Dream Deferred: Japanese American Incarceration in WWII Arkansas," objects from the Rosalie Santine Gould-Mabel Jamison Vogel collection from the internment camps, and "Arkansas Committee Scholars Exhibition," work by Beverly Buys, Maxine Payne and Robin Miller-Bookhout, open, and the duo Das Loop will provide music. The Cox Creative Center (120 River Market Ave.) is hosting an Arkansas Pastel Society show, and Arkansas Capital Corp. (200 River Market Ave.) features "Subtle and Bold," artworks by Susan Chambers and Sofia Gonzalez. Matt McLeod Fine Art Gallery (108 W. Sixth St.) will feature works by gallery artists. At the Old State House Museum (300 W. Markham), where "True Faith, True Light: The Devotional Art of Ed Stilley" continues, hear the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Community Orchestra perform selections by Haydn and Holst.

FRIDAY 1/13

'THE REAL REASON BEHIND THE REFUGEE CRISIS'
6 p.m. Clinton School of Public Service, Sturgis Hall. Free.

Chances are good that you've seen the photo of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, his body washed up on the beach shore near Bodrum, Turkey, or that you saw the photo of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, covered in dust and blood, sitting in the back of an ambulance after being pulled from the rubble following an airstrike in Aleppo. We probably learned more about the nature of the humanitarian crisis in Syria — at least in terms of emotional intelligence — from those photos than we have from listening to experts explain the convoluted web of factions involved in the violence, and there are thousands more images where those came from. In July of 2014, a military photographer code-named Caesar who'd been tasked with photographing war victims — most of their bodies showing signs of torture or starvation — defected, reportedly after he spotted people from his own village among the dead. He testified before Congress that same summer, and a video made by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum titled "I Had the Job of Taking Pictures of the Dead" shows a sampling of what the museum cites as over 55,000 images taken between 2011 and 2013. In this photography exhibition and panel discussion, the Clinton School's guests examine the nature of the conflict that the U.N. now estimates has killed 400,000 people and displaced over 11 million. The panel members are Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force and political director for United for a Free Syria; Stephen Rapp, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues; and Jim Hooper, former managing director of the Public International Law and Policy Group. Reserve a seat by calling 683-5239 or by emailing publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu, or watch the Clinton School livestream of the event on its website. SS

click to enlarge TEACHING TOLERANCE: Club Sway holds a community fundraiser Friday night to remember LGBT rights leader John Schenck (on the right, pictured next to his late husband of over 40 years, Robert Loyd) who passed away in December.
  • TEACHING TOLERANCE: Club Sway holds a community fundraiser Friday night to remember LGBT rights leader John Schenck (on the right, pictured next to his late husband of over 40 years, Robert Loyd) who passed away in December.

FRIDAY 1/13

REMEMBERING JOHN SCHENCK
8 p.m. Club Sway.

LGBT rights leader and hairdresser John Schenck passed away in December, almost exactly a year after his partner of over 40 years, Robert Loyd (a Damascus native and Vietnam vet) died of a heart attack. The couple, who met in West Palm Beach and moved to Arkansas in 1978 to care for Loyd's ailing mother and to Conway in 1986, where their bright pink house served as the starting point for the annual Pride Parade, as the locus for the couple's hairdressing business and as a safe space for LGBT youth who found themselves in crisis as a result of their sexual identity. Schenck and Loyd were married in Canada in 2004 and were vocal in the struggle for gay marriage to become legal in Arkansas, challenging the ban on gay marriage that Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ultimately ruled was unconstitutional. Later, they became one of the first couples to obtain a marriage license in the state of Arkansas following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. To help raise funds for Schenck's funeral, Sway is holding a community fundraiser celebrating his life and the impact he and Loyd had on LGBT youth in Conway, and on the community at large. SS

SATURDAY 1/14

50-CENT CORNED BEEF DAY
11 a.m., post time 1 p.m. Oaklawn Racing & Gaming, Hot Springs. Free admission.

When food writer Kat Robinson spoke with Chef Bill Graham around this time in 2010, before the opening weekend of horse racing at Oaklawn, his projections for an estimated Saturday crowd of over 70,000 people required a quantity of corned beef weighing between 3 and 4 tons. That's roughly the weight of a blue whale calf. Or two Toyota Camrys. They ship the stuff in from a place called the Kelly Eisenberg Co. in Chicago, slice it, boil it up in huge cauldrons, pile it high on a light, untoasted rye and sell it for 50 cents a sandwich. The corned beef — technically more pickled than corned — has been served there since 1904, when Windy City tastes made their way down to Hot Springs along with the visiting tourists. For this second day of the racing season, it's served at the 1904 price point, alongside 10 cent sodas. You'll wait in line, sure, but there are nearly two dozen concession stands cranking out these sandwiches along the concourse, and you won't care anyway, because you were smart enough to multitask with a friend in another adjacent line, and the beer she brought over is so, so cold. Also, you've been entertaining yourself with a booklet full of racehorse names: "Majestic Megan." "Ready to Confess." "Academic Break." The first of nine races is at 1 p.m., one with a $125,000 purse: the Pippin Stakes. SS

click to enlarge 'THE INFINITE': Nicholas Mainieri reads from his debut novel, "The Infinite," to kick off the monthly Argenta Reading Series at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at The Joint 421 Main St., North Little Rock. Anushah Jiwani will give the opening reading and Phillip Rex Huddleston and Daniel Moody will provide music at the free event.
  • 'THE INFINITE': Nicholas Mainieri reads from his debut novel, "The Infinite," to kick off the monthly Argenta Reading Series at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at The Joint 421 Main St., North Little Rock. Anushah Jiwani will give the opening reading and Phillip Rex Huddleston and Daniel Moody will provide music at the free event.

SATURDAY 1/14

ARGENTA READING SERIES: NICHOLAS MAINIERI
7 p.m. 421 Main St., North Little Rock. Free.

Little Rock's newest reading series opens with a visit from New Orleans author Nicholas Mainieri, who will read from "The Infinite," a teenage love story set against the backdrop of Mexico's drug war and a post-Katrina New Orleans. It's been praised by The New York Times as a "propulsive debut, a double coming-of-age story that spans the border ... Mainieri is ever sincere, eager to show how borders carve up land and families, and how the dislocated can be tempted by any semblance of human connection." Anushah Jiwani opens the reading with her essay "Birthday Cake," and early birds can catch music from Phillip Rex Huddleston and Daniel Moody before the readings begin. Argenta Reading Series hopes to continue the series on a monthly basis, with the mission to "connect writers directly with their audience, to appreciate the written word, and understand better the person behind those words." The reading takes place in the meeting space in the Argenta United Methodist Church, but organizers emphasize on the event's Facebook page that the readings series is not affiliated with the church. SS

SUNDAY 1/15

WRITE OUR WAY OUT
3 p.m. Vino's. Free.

If the erection of religious monuments on the Capitol grounds or the proposed changes to Medicare really chap your hide, this one's for you. Our Arkansas, a PAC that seeks to elect Democrats to office, is holding a public letter-writing session, so if you'd like to voice your opinion to a federal or state representative, they'll give you the envelopes, paper and pen with which to do it. Our Arkansas states that "information and issue briefings" will be available, and emphasizes the power of a handwritten letter to government representatives (as opposed to an email or text) in affecting public policy. SS

MONDAY 1/16

MLK CHALLENGE
8 a.m. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. Free.

If you're a kid between 12 and 18 and want to serve the community, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center has made it easy for you. Just show up at the museum, at Ninth and Broadway streets, at 8 a.m. and group leaders will take you to one of several service sites, including the Arkansas Foodbank and the Pulaski County Humane Society. After projects are completed, staff will bring volunteers back to the museum for lunch and other activities, including a closing ceremony. The yearly event was created to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday is celebrated Monday and who encouraged service. The challenge answers King's words, "Everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace." LNP

TUESDAY 1/17 -WEDNESDAY 1/18

'HARRY BENSON: SHOOT FIRST'
6 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $5.

Harry Benson is an 87-year-old Scottish photographer, and whether or not you know his name, he's probably impacted the way you imagine The Beatles, and maybe how you visualize iconic moments in the last few decades in general. He took the famous photos of the Fab Four having a pillow fight in their hotel room shortly before they went gangbusters in America, and of the group clowning around with Muhammad Ali in a gym in Miami. He's photographed every president since Dwight Eisenhower. He took shots at the refugee camps in Somalia and in the poor neighborhoods of his birthplace, Glasgow. He took that intimate 1992 shot of Hillary Clinton leaning over her husband's face as he reclined in a hammock. He photographed Bobby Fischer nude in the shower. He photographed Donald Trump throughout his career — on the roof of one of his buildings when he was a real-estate upstart on the rise; again in the money cage of the Atlantic City Taj Mahal, cradling a million dollars in his arms; again at Trump's wedding to Melania. Benson admits to suggesting to Trump a couple of years ago that he consider running for president. (Thanks.) He was with Robert F. Kennedy the night of Kennedy's assassination, and Sharon Stone once admitted to being "about half a bump away from being in love" with the photographer. In this documentary, screened two consecutive nights at the Ron Robinson Theater, Benson speaks retrospectively about his own work, and about the beginnings of his career, when his father — the director of the Glasgow Zoo at the time — gave him a camera to keep him out of trouble when he was expelled from school at age 13. SS

click to enlarge MATRIARCHY AND MIGRATION: Arkansas Times Film Series presents the 25th anniversary restoration of Julie Dash's 1991 film "Daughters of the Dust" at Riverdale 10 Cinema, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, $8.50.
  • MATRIARCHY AND MIGRATION: Arkansas Times Film Series presents the 25th anniversary restoration of Julie Dash's 1991 film "Daughters of the Dust" at Riverdale 10 Cinema, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, $8.50.

TUESDAY 1/17

'DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST'
7 p.m. Riverdale 10 Cinema. $8.50.

It may have taken a quarter century and a thematic homage from Beyoncé herself, but Julie Dash's pan-generational indie film "Daughters of the Dust" is finally earning the recognition it wasn't afforded — from mainstream Hollywood, anyway — when it was released in 1991. Narrated by a character called Unborn Child, Dash's film tells the story of the Peazant family, former West African slaves on St. Simon's Island off the coast of Georgia who are pulled toward the U.S. mainland in 1902, tugged along by two urbanized members of their extended family who want to organize the northern migration. Over the course of a series of non-linear vignettes with rich imagery, conversations in Gullah creole expose the gravity of each character's decision to leave the island or to stay behind. "I really wanted to see an African-American historical drama that took me places that I had never been to before, just like I was taken places when I was watching foreign films or even some American epics," Dash told Rolling Stone in November. "Films I was seeing at the time weren't really made for African-Americans — they were made to explain our history to others." In partnership with Riverdale 10 Cinema and Film Quotes Film, this 25th anniversary restoration of "Daughters of the Dust" is the first in 2017's Arkansas Times Film Series. SS

WEDNESDAY 1/18

DYLAN LEBLANC

South on Main. 7 p.m. $13-$20.

Dylan Leblanc's debut album featured a duet with Emmylou Harris on a languid tune called "If the Creek Don't Rise," and it's about as rainy-day as it gets. He comes by his sound honestly; after his parents divorced, his father — a country music songwriter — relocated him to Muscle Shoals where, as a pre-teen, he shadowed his dad's club gigs, hung out with the likes of Spooner Oldham and collected new material for that first record, "Pauper's Field." Since 2010, LeBlanc's been touring with Lucinda Williams and Bruce Springsteen, quietly earning comparisons to Neil Young — whether by dint of his vocal timbre or his hunched-over posture. He reminds this listener of a "Green"-era Michael Stipe in a perpetually minor key, or a moodier Greg Spradlin, and his third album "Cautionary Tale," released almost exactly a year ago, is drawing his distinctive voice out of its shell. "I wanted this record to move a little more than my earlier records," he told NPR. "I was tired of writing 'sad bastard songs.' I wanted to write about what's going on in the world today, instead of lamenting on the past, and I thought, 'A groove and a powerful message go a long way.' So we focused on our rhythm section and added a lot of strings, and we wound up with a pretty honest record." Smokey and the Mirror, the duo comprised of former 3 Penny Acre members Bryan and Bernice Hembree, opens the show. SS


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