CONWAY — The Ozark Living Newspaper Theatre and the University of Central Arkansas Schedler Honors College are partnering on a production of Clifford Odets’ 1935 one-act play Waiting for Lefty.
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday in the Baum Gallery Lecture Hall at UCA. A late-night performance will begin at 10 p.m. April 13 at The Public Theatre, 616 Center St. in Little Rock. All performances are “pay-what-you-can” — a $10 donation is suggested — and all proceeds will go to support OLN’s summer juvenile-court theater project, El Zócalo Immigrant Resource Center’s programs and other Arkansas social-justice nonprofits.
Directed by OLN’s artistic director and UCA faculty member Adam Frank, Waiting for Lefty follows a union meeting of New York City cab drivers as they debate whether to strike. Frank said the play is based on the actual yearlong cab-driver strike that occurred in New York in 1934-1935. Lefty was Odets’ first produced play for the Group Theatre, which was the company that popularized Stanislavski’s method-acting approach in the United States. Opening-night audience members rose to their feet yelling “strike” and marched out onto the street to support the out-of-work cabbies.
Frank said for the OLN/Schedler Honors College production, shadow puppetry and live performances of period-labor songs will “punctuate” the scenes of the play as they shift from the “present” of a contentious union meeting to the “past” of how individual union members ended up there.
OLN and the Schedler Honors College previously partnered with El Zócalo and the Conway Symphony Orchestra in 2016 to produce a full-length shadow-puppet and live-ensemble version of Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree.
“Ozark Living Newspaper was originally piloted a few years ago as part of a course I taught on theater and social justice,” Frank said. “About a year and a half ago, we incorporated as a nonprofit and obtained tax-exempt status. We use a lot of puppetry and masks in our work, and our overall mission is to present works for the stage that challenge audiences to take action to improve their communities.”
Frank said every one of OLN’s productions partners with local nonprofit organizations and splits the play’s proceeds with them to support their mission.
“So far, we’ve mostly done small projects — puppet slams, street theater to support immigrants’ rights and workshops focused on the #MeToo movement,” Frank said. Past projects have supported the UCA Feminist Union, Lucie’s Place and UCA’s chapter of Students for the Propagation of Black Culture.
The cast and crew of Waiting for Lefty are a mix of UCA students and other central-Arkansas performers. Waiting for Lefty is performed with the permission of Dramatists Play Service.
For more information on Waiting for Lefty and the Ozark Living Newspaper Theatre, contact Frank at (501) 908-9990 or email@example.com.