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Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase continues 

And much more.

click to enlarge ON CIVIL RIGHTS IN ARKANSAS: Clinton presidental diarist Janis F. Kearney hosts a conversation with Annie Abrams, Elizabeth Eckford and Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton at UA Pulaski Tech on Thursday evening. - ARKANSAS BLACK HALL OF FAME/LITTLE ROCK ANDERSON INSTITUTE ON RACE AND ETHNICITY
  • Arkansas Black Hall of Fame/Little Rock Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity
  • ON CIVIL RIGHTS IN ARKANSAS: Clinton presidental diarist Janis F. Kearney hosts a conversation with Annie Abrams, Elizabeth Eckford and Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton at UA Pulaski Tech on Thursday evening.

THURSDAY 2/8

A CONVERSATION WITH ANNIE ABRAMS, ELIZABETH ECKFORD AND DR. SYBIL JORDAN HAMPTON
6 p.m. UA Pulaski Technical College, Center for the Humanities and Arts. Free.

The voicemail of Annie Abrams is art. "Service is the rent we pay to stay on God's earth," she informs those who call. "I'm paying my rent. Do you have rent to pay today?" Abrams, a longtime Little Rock activist, gives that one-sentence explanation for her decades of work — labor that spans time from the desegregation of Central High to establishing the MLK Day parade to, a few weeks ago, when I saw her at a meeting on policing. She challenges you to join her. So, since she can do that with a voicemail, I'd recommend hearing her speak at length. Abrams will be joined by Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, and Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton, who was the first black student to attend all four years at Central High School and went on to head the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, in a panel discussion moderated by Clinton presidential diarist Janis F. Kearney. The women will discuss their part in the continuing struggle for civil rights. You may learn how to "pay your rent." JR

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THURSDAY 2/8

'ON THE ROW'
7 p.m. St. Mark's Episcopal Church. Free.

In May 2016 — a little less than a year before Arkansas's death row at the Varner Supermax facility near Gould would become the subject of international headlines — Kathy McGregor was there teaching a writing workshop. There was no table for the students to sit around, chatting about sentence structure and sipping coffee. Death row is an actual row — a hallway lined on either side by cells where the men live, "like an airplane," McGregor says, "except that there were cages and not seats." McGregor said she and other teachers would walk up and down the row talking about each person's writing. Twelve of the then 34 men on death row chose to participate, 10 in person and two simply slipping their pieces to McGregor without contact. McGregor's "Prison Story Project" ran from May to September 2016. In October, she and a group of actors returned to the row to perform a reading out of the words written by the men — an hour-long performance piece made up of exact quotes. The actors "performed in a row [too] ... moving up and down so [the death row inmates] could hear it," McGregor says. After the performance, the men on death row, the cast and teachers in the writing project held a small party, where inmates were served food from the outside, some for the first time in years. McGregor brought chocolate Yoo-hoo drinks, bagels and donuts. In 2016, Arkansas had not killed an inmate in over a decade. In 2017, Arkansas began again — planning to kill eight men in 11 days. The state followed through on four of those executions; the others were prevented by legal stays or clemency. Coverage of the planned executions could not include interviews with the prisoners, but at this event the words of at least two of the four men killed in April — Kenneth Williams and Jack Jones — will be read. In the performance for the inmates, all the actors wore white and no one was identified. For this performance, the words of Williams and Jones will be read by men wearing black shirts; you will know they wrote it. JR

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THURSDAY 2/8

ARKANSAS TIMES MUSICIANS SHOWCASE
8 p.m. Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack. $5.

The 26th Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, which kicked off last Thursday night, heard first from a Jonesboro quintet with early 2000s angst and tricks up its sleeve — like when the guitarist removed his axe and slipped on back to the drum throne mid-song, relieving the drummer to sneak around to center vocals. That was Laith. Then there was Black River Pearl, a straightforward rock 'n' roll trio with songs about video games and "making America drink again," and there was Princeaus, an electronic and performance artist who layers ethereal vocals on top of mixed-meter loops, blending sudden silences, dance, explosive entrances and elements of Korean culture. The Rios, though, took it home with solid soul, extended bass trickery and dirty, dirty solos that'd mix well with Curtis Mayfield and Laura Nyro on a playlist somewhere. They'll compete in the final round of competition against four other bands yet to be determined. To that end, the second round continues Thursday night, with sets from — in this order — Ten Penny Gypsy, Redefined Reflection, Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo, Yuni Wa and Couch Jackets. SS

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FRIDAY 2/9

LUNCH AND LEARN: WILLIAM GRANT STILL
Noon. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. Free.

The man some call the "Dean of African-American composers" grew up right here in Little Rock, and Central Arkansas residents have a few chances to hear some of his music this spring. First up: This free lunchtime program at Mosaic Templars gives a primer on William Grant Still's life and work. Still earned two Guggenheim Fellowships and honorary doctorates from Oberlin College and Pepperdine University, and he was astonishingly prolific, with five symphonies and eight operas, ballets and countless engagements as an arranger, conductor, instrumentalist and recording manager. Maybe more importantly, he was blowing some minds with his original material; until the 1950s, Still's first symphony was the most widely performed symphony by an American composer, and his "A Bayou Legend" was the first opera by an African-American composer to be performed on national U.S. television. He also wrote a piano concerto called "Kaintuck' " after taking a train trip through Kentucky in 1935, and that piece will be excerpted by Dr. Linda Holzer, professor of music at UA Little Rock. Organizers encourage you to bring a lunch along; beverages will be provided. Conway Symphony Orchestra Conductor and Music Director Israel Getzov gives a short talk about the CSO's upcoming homage to Little Rock composers — "Our Musical Heritage," to be performed at Second Presbyterian Church (600 Pleasant Valley Drive) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, at which "Kaintuck' " will be performed in full, transcribed for wind ensemble and piano by Dana Paul Perna. Mark your calendars, too, for May 4 and May 6, when Opera in the Rock puts up a staged version at UA Pulaski Technical College's Center for Humanities and Arts of Still's opera "Troubled Island," a work which, when the New York City Opera put it on in 1949, became the first opera by an African-American to be performed by a major opera company. SS

click to enlarge 'AMERIKA': Larry Crane (whose work is above), Michael Darr and Mike Gaines will open their studios in the Pyramid building for 2nd Friday Art Night.
  • 'AMERIKA': Larry Crane (whose work is above), Michael Darr and Mike Gaines will open their studios in the Pyramid building for 2nd Friday Art Night.

FRIDAY 2/9

2ND FRIDAY ART NIGHT
5-8 p.m., galleries and other venues downtown. Free.

The artwalk downtown adds a new stop this month: the second floor working studios above Gallery 221 in the Pyramid Building, where Mike Gaines, Michael Darr and Larry Crane (yes, the Pulaski County clerk) will welcome art lovers to their lairs. The gallery below will be open, as well. Once you're ready to leave Second and Louisiana streets for more art, you can go due north and hear the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's Quapaw Quartet playing at the Old State House Museum (6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) or east to the Historic Arkansas Museum to see biomorphic ceramics of Barbara Satterfield and botanical drawings of Kate Nessler, drink Lost Forty beer and listen to Fire and Brimstone. Farther east, the Butler Center galleries in the Arkansas Studies Institute open a show of historic photographs of White River communities taken by Dewitt photographer Dayton Bowers between 1880 and 1924 and shows a nine-minute film on Helen Spence, the "river rat" outlaw who was murdered in prison. Next to the Butler Center, the Cox Center continues its exhibits of photographs by Joshua Asante and Matt White. Folks opting to head south of Gallery 221 will find chocolates, ice cream, flowers and jewelry at Bella Vita in the Lafayette Building (523 Louisiana) and work by Arkansas artists at Matt McLeod Fine Art Gallery (108 W. Sixth St.), opposite McLeod's giant koi mural. LNP

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FRIDAY 2/9

MANDY MCBRYDE
8 p.m. The Undercroft. $10, beer available for donations.

Recent memory of Mandy McBryde's voice includes a Donna Summer-y cameo on a disco earworm for the soundtrack of the film "White Nights"; the crushing coal miner ballad she penned, "West Franklin," from The Wildflower Revue's self-titled debut; her pitch-perfect take on "The Last Time I Saw Richard" at pianist John Willis' Joni Mitchell tribute; and some lovely, wispy riverside tunes at last fall's Legends of Arkansas festival. If it's been a while or if you're yet to hear the songwriter, catch her here at this cave-like underground venue right downtown; it's a true listening room, the right kind of space for delicate, unfolding melodies like McBryde's. SS

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FRIDAY 2/9

MUNGION
9 p.m. Stickyz. $10.

This one's for fans of Snarky Puppy or Trey Anastasio, a Chicago jam quartet with amazing chops and Zappa-level complication to its arrangements. Mungion (pronounced "mung-yin") is bound to be a jaw dropper for jazz nerds; grab anyone you know who has the lyrics to "Bobby Brown (Goes Down)" memorized. The show opens with Deep Sequence, a Little Rock-based funk-ish group that will play in the third semifinal round of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase on Thursday, Feb. 15. SS

click to enlarge 'BLACK IRISH': Shannon McNally takes tunes from her latest album, produced by Rodney Crowell, to South on Main Saturday night.
  • 'BLACK IRISH': Shannon McNally takes tunes from her latest album, produced by Rodney Crowell, to South on Main Saturday night.

SATURDAY 2/10

SHANNON MCNALLY
9 p.m. South on Main. $10.

The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour in Oxford, Miss., was my first introduction to the spellbinding Shannon McNally, but most people probably found her music by way of the notable names in the performer's liner notes and stage bills: Dr. John, Bobby Charles, John Mellencamp, Son Volt and Arkansas's own Jim Dickinson. Last year, she put out a bluesy record called "Black Irish" with another notable name as producer: Rodney Crowell. Crowell wrote or co-wrote three of the songs, enlisted some Nashville cats to sit in on covers like The Band's "It Makes No Difference" and picked guitar on Emmylou Harris' "Prayer in Open D" (Harris herself sings elsewhere on the album) and Susanna and Guy Clark's "Black Haired Boy." For a primer, though, cue up "Banshee Moan," McNally's own smoky ode to the feminine experience, about which she says on the label's website: "I wrote that a ways back, previous to the rebirth of the women's movement we've seen of late. I'm thrilled to see women truly engaged and pissed off again." SS

SUNDAY 2/11

FUSION 2018: 'THE GREAT EXPEDITION: THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE AND ITS IMPACT ON ARKANSAS'
6 p.m. Clinton Presidential Center. Free; reservations required.

The Clinton Center's "The Great Expedition" exhibition features such things as original documents from the Louisiana Purchase that added Arkansas to the union for about 3 cents an acre, as well as artifacts from William Dunbar and George Hunter's expedition from northern Louisiana into Arkansas to explore the "Washita River" and Hot Springs' hot springs. Visitors will see Dunbar's journal, his eyeglasses and a replica of the boat the explorers used: the "Aux Arc" keelboat. But here's what this To Do is really about: The center's second "Fusion: Arts + Humanities Arkansas" symposium that accompanies the exhibition. There will be conversations with scholars, Cajun-Creole tunes by David Greely (founding fiddler of the Mamou Playboys) and costumed members of the Early Arkansas Reenactors Association (which provided the keelboat) will do their thing. (Since the event is indoors, maybe those guys will skip the musket firing, so you can stay inside your skin.) The Fusion series is meant to make history engaging by bringing art forms into the picture. The first Fusion centered on the Quapaw Tribe in Arkansas. LNP

click to enlarge 'LOVE IS LOVE': Rosalind Russell stars as ace reporter Hildy Johnson alongside Cary Grant in "His Girl Friday," to screen at the Ron Robinson Theater as part of a February love-themed series.
  • 'LOVE IS LOVE': Rosalind Russell stars as ace reporter Hildy Johnson alongside Cary Grant in "His Girl Friday," to screen at the Ron Robinson Theater as part of a February love-themed series.

TUESDAY 2/13

'HIS GIRL FRIDAY'
6 p.m. CALS Ron Robinson Theater. $3.

The American imagination loves a brassy "girl reporter": Brenda Starr, Lois Lane and Amy Archer, that fast-talking, hard-boiled newspaper woman Jennifer Jason Leigh played in The Coen Brothers' undersung 1994 gem, "The Hudsucker Proxy." Here, Howard Hawks flipped the script on bromance "The Front Page" and recast the second lead as a woman — one who's acknowledged as an equal in the male-dominated newsroom. The renamed Hildy Johnson — played here by Rosalind Russell, to great effect — is the quick-witted ex-wife of newspaper editor Walter Burns, delivered by Cary Grant with that strange, stilted city accent that seems to show up only in 1940s Hollywood. The movie's been praised for its lightning-fast, overlapping dialogue, its litany of jokes, its superb cinematography and for placing a badass female lead at the forefront of the action. The Central Arkansas Library System screens it here as part of a Tuesday night movie series, themed "Love is Love" for the month of February. SS


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