ATU Delegation Performs at Old State House

Four Arkansas Tech University students were part of the cast that performed a staged reading of the script for “Helaine and the Little War” by Dr. David J. Eshelman at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 21.

Shaylen Davis of Clarksville, Tenn., Colton Little of Gentry, Quazar Rone of El Dorado and Holly Willmon of Bauxite helped tell the story of the Brooks-Baxter War of 1874, an event that marked the conclusion of Reconstruction in Arkansas.

The performance was funded in part by an Arkansas Humanities Council Grant with additional support from the Old State House Museum Associates, the Arkansas State House Society and the Butler Center. It marked the first time the play had been performed with all of the songs included.

“The play poses significant questions for the audience of today,” said Eshelman, professor of communication at Arkansas Tech and director of ATU Theatre. “It urges us to look for moments of decision similar to what happened around Brooks-Baxter, to identify them in the present and to choose wisely. Race is perhaps the most significant issue that we face as a society. Theatre, as a social endeavor built on the presence of live actors, is uniquely positioned to deal with social issues.”

Individuals involved in the production include the songwriters, noted folk musicians Charlie T. Crow of Little Rock and Charley Sandage of Mountain View. The performance also featured Ronald Jensen-McDaniel and Satia Spencer, performers with many professional credits in the Little Rock area. Cherisse Jones-Branch of Arkansas State University, a scholar of African American history, served as script consultant. Holly Ruth Gale, associate professor of music at ATU, was musical advisor. Stephanie Freeman, visiting lecturer in communication and theatre at ATU, was stage manager. Kathy Cooper of Little Rock provided accompaniment on piano.

“The Old State House Museum was so excited to learn of the opportunity to present the first theatrical performance of ‘Helaine and the Little War,'” said Cary Cox, public relations and development associate for the Old State House. “Since the historical background for the play involved significant events in Arkansas’s history that actually occurred at the Old State House, we wanted to be involved in its first performance in Little Rock.”

Photographed (from left-to-right): Arkansas Tech University students Colton Little, Holly Willmon, Shaylen Davis and Quazar Rone.