Celebrating their sixth year as a festival and their first year as a multi-week event, the 2019 ACANSA Arts Festival of the South events will take place from Sept. 13 to Sept. 28.
A visual and performing arts festival, ACANSA is full of performances featuring world-class shows that are the product of collaborations between high-quality artists from all over the globe and local community venues and businesses.
“The beauty of the ACANSA festival is that there is something for everyone,” Executive Director Dillon Hupp says. “Whatever you like – we’ve got a really good version of it.”
Tickets start at $20 per person, but many events are free. Gold passes and flex passes are also available for those who want to get the best value and receive VIP access to all events.
“You get the most bang for your buck with the passes this year,” Hupp says.
Following a free reception at the Central Arkansas Library System Roberts Library on Friday, Sept. 13, the festival jumps right into the fun with comedian Stewart Fullerton performing her show, “Homecoming Queen: A Night of Intimate Storytelling and Standup” at the REP Annex, Black Box Theater later that night at 9:30 p.m.
The following night, Latin pop artist Gina Chavez will perform at The Rail Yard at 8 p.m. and the next week is full of everything from conversations with Oscar-winning actress Bette Davis to contemporary dance company BODYTRAFFIC to food historian Jessica B. Harris.
Many of the artists also stay in the community and do workshops with local students. In fact, the willingness to provide education and host workshops with the community is one of the big things that festival organizers look for when they are scouting talent for the festival, much of which they “find organically” while traveling or attending events.
“90 percent of these artists love doing [community education],” Hupp says.
The festival also features a show called “All Over the Map” by Hupp’s personal favorite, Bill Bowers, who also performed a show called “Under a Montana Moon” at the inaugural ACANSA festival, which took place Sept. 23 – 28, 2014. That show happened to be the first time Hupp saw him perform.
Hupp describes Bowers as “probably the greatest living mime in the world.”
Having watched his father help make decisions on which acts and artists would be featured at the first ACANSA festival, Hupp got to experience the festival in its early days.
“My dad said, ‘Son, you’re gonna go see [Bower’s] show, we need to get some people in there and you’re going to enjoy it’,” Hupp says. “I went and sat in this theater with maybe about 20 other people and I saw this show that Bill Bowers did, and it is the single greatest thing I have ever seen performed on stage in my entire career.”
To him, that’s the special thing about a festival of unique, uncommon shows.
“That’s the kind of little gem that I think people might be able to find at something like the ACANSA arts festival,” Hupp says. “You can walk into a 90-seat theater off of Main Street [in] Little Rock and sit down and see something truly incredible right here in your backyard.”
Finding these gems is also part of the inspiration for the “Curtain Up” initiative, which, according to their website, “allows all audience members 17 and under will be admitted to ACANSA ticketed events free of charge if accompanied by a ticket-buying adult.”
The festival is growing rapidly. Last year, the overall attendance was about 5,500 and the year before was 3,500. This year, they are expecting anywhere between 6,500 to 10,000 people. It’s also growing in other ways; this is also the first year that ACANSA will be producing a show rather than just helping to present them. Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire”, which will be performed for a number of shows at the Argenta Community Theater, was even casted here in Arkansas.
Other artists performing at the festival include Hot Jazz & Western Swing! Austin-based Hot Club of Cowtown, Grammy Award-winning guitarist and composer Bill Frisell, classical-crossover ‘man-band’ Tenors Unlimited, Tatiana Roitman Mann and Friends, the Bach-meets-Bon Jovi-style Dallas String Quartet, and the season-opening Arkansas Arkansas Symphony Orchestra show which will incorporate world-renowned conductor JoAnn Falletta and Time for Three.
More information about the artists and purchasing tickets can be found on their website.
Image courtesy of ACANSA Arts Festival