There are plenty of reasons to like Arkansas. There’s the way, for one, that despite our football team’s less-than-stellar performance, we’re still SEC—which by definition means we’re better than most anyone else. Or the fact that we can get just about anywhere in the state within 2 1/2 hours, despite our plentiful “Crooked and Steep” road signs. Or even that our predictably erratic weather, which swaps in spring for winter before doubling back in quick succession, at least keeps things interesting.
But, of course, that’s not why we love it.
We love it for what we come across on a daily basis. Those not-so-readily visible truths hovering just below the surface. Because buried in those daily interactions at restaurants, theaters, stadiums and churches, there’s something to jar loose all those preconceived notions of what this state can be. You learn that a farm is never just a farm, a school is seldom just a school. And this year, for the second time, we’re offering a compendium of those people and places and observations that, while largely removed from the national radar, are all reason enough to love and appreciate the state more than ever.
Because our favorite fishing (and swimming and diving) hole more than merits its superlative status.
Hailed among the cleanest lakes in America, Lake Ouachita covers roughly 40,000 acres in the same-named mountains west of Hot Springs. Fashioned from the Ouachita River to control flooding and generate electricity in the 1950s, the lake is the largest one completely in The Natural State. Nearly 60 years after it was formed, Ouachita remains unique among Arkansas lakes. It’s the state’s flagship fishery for striped bass and a magnet for scuba divers, boasting a clarity indicative of its superior cleanliness that allows it to be one of the few homes in the U.S. for rare freshwater jellyfish and sponges. —JKJ
Because the Arkansas Repertory Theatre is center stage for the Broadway-bound.
As a general rule, Broadway shows don’t begin in the famed New York City theater district but at smaller, more intimate professional venues 100 or even 1,000 miles away, where the shows’ potential can be assessed and rough edges finessed before risking the high-dollar stakes of the Big Apple. Increasingly, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s willingness to embark on new ventures is attracting all-star Tony Award-winning creative teams who see Arkansas as a strong trial zone for their pre-Broadway shows. “They find a positive testing ground in Little Rock, where the audiences are passionate about the work and aren’t shy about voicing their opinions,” says Bob Hupp, The Rep’s producing artistic director. In 2013, the Rep staged world premieres of three musicals—a revamp of “Pal Joey,” and two originals, “Treasure Island” and “Because of Winn Dixie,” which became the second-highest-grossing show in the theater’s history. But while the road to Broadway isn’t linear, Hupp says, more and more it begins in the heart of Arkansas: “In the grand scheme of producing works meant for Broadway, we’re on the small end of the scale, so it’s really an honor to be singled out so often and so positively. It’s a testament to The Rep and to the city of Little Rock.” —RO
Because Have you heard Forrest City native Al green Sing “Love and Happiness”?