VICTORIAN MAGIC LANTERN SHOW
7 p.m. Old State House Museum. Free.
The long, essentially untraceable prehistory of film has been variously expanded over the years to include drama, dance, stage magic and (why not?) an earthen bowl dating back to 3200 B.C. (the dancing goats painted on the rim constitute, according to scholars, a kind of early animation). The clearest, most direct ancestral line, though, is in the rich tradition of optical toys and mechanical illusions beginning before the time of Christ with the development of the camera obscura. The king of these devices was the magic lantern, to be demonstrated at the Old State House, a kind of proto slide projector that often looked something like a steam locomotive or an ornate cabinet or a small cannon. They were developed in the 17th century and later modified and tricked out as the Thaumatrope, the Zoetrope, the Praxinoscope, the Phenakistiscope, the Kinematoscope and a whole succession of other scopes until the invention of celluloid and the motion picture camera.
Magic lanterns were once associated, for reasons that might be obvious, with magic and more specifically the devil. Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens called his version the "lantern of fright," and another innovator, Thomas Walgensten, named his the "lantern of fear." They were used to raise the dead in parlor seances, to conjure real-time ghostly apparitions given body by literal smoke and mirrors. In the 18th and 19th centuries, theatrical productions called phantasmagorias relied entirely on magic lanterns to present nightmarish and visually ambitious collective hauntings. As the innovator Étienne-Gaspard Robert put it, "I am only satisfied if my spectators, shivering and shuddering, raise their hands or cover their eyes out of fear of ghosts and devils dashing towards them." (Robert's fans included Charles Dickens.) His colleague Johann Georg Schröpfer became so convinced by his own show that he shot himself after promising an audience he'd be resurrected. He never was, but wouldn't that have been something? WS
2ND FRIDAY ART NIGHT
5 p.m.-8 p.m. Downtown galleries. Free.
The Historic Arkansas Museum (200 E. Third St.) will mark the monthly after-hours gallery walk by opening two new exhibitions and serving up beer and music as well: Art fans will be able to see "Public Face," paintings by John Harlan Norris, and "She," ink and watercolor by Lisa Krannichfeld, while listening to Whale Fire and sipping on chocolate stout by Stone's Throw Brewery. The Butler Center (401 President Clinton Ave.) is opening an exhibit of photographs from its permanent collection and continues shows of painting and sculpture by Robyn Horn and photographs of Arkansas's vernacular architecture by Geoff Winningham. There, the Rolling Blackouts will perform. Maura Miller will be the featured retail shop artist. The Arkansas Society of Printmakers exhibition is at the Cox Creative Center just around the corner (120 River Market Ave.), and "Life by Design," paintings by Elizabeth Weber, Dan Thornhill and Ashley Saer, continues at the Capital Corp. Group a block south (200 River Market). Gallery 221 (Second and Center) is celebrating Valentine's Day eve with its show, "Love and Romance of Art," featuring work by Tyler Arnold, Kathi Couch, Jennifer "Emile" Freeman, Brenda Fowler, Greg Lahti, Sean LeCrone, Elizabeth Nevins, Mary Ann Stafford, Gino Hollander, Siri Hollander, Fire Flies Metal Art and Rae Ann Bayless jewelry. The Old State House Museum (300 W. Markham) will offer chamber music by Geoff Robson and Felice Farrell from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; the museum will be open until 8 p.m. LNP
'MAXWELL'S URBAN HANG SUITE' TRIBUTE
9 p.m. Afrodesia Studio of Performing Arts. $10.
The recent deification of D'Angelo by the media-industrial complex is exciting and well deserved, but there's also a hint of genre tokenism to the whole thing, an ahistorical implication that D'Angelo was a sui generis talent too good for a genre ('90s R&B) that was otherwise preoccupied with the lowest common denominator. This is unimaginative and sour and probably classist. More to the point, why is nobody awaiting the "redemption" (Rolling Stone's word) of Maxwell? "Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite," Maxwell's 1996 debut, is every bit as seminal and era-defining as "Brown Sugar," and while he's often been well reviewed and admired (I think I remember Hilton Als once comparing him to Joni Mitchell and E.E. Cummings in the same breath), he's so far largely been denied the iconic-visionary-auteur status accorded to his more famous and less prolific colleague. This weekend, Afrodesia Studio of Performing Arts (at 9700 Rodney Parham Road) does its part to correct this imbalance, staging a tribute concert dedicated to the classic album and featuring Tim Anthony, Alvin Ayers, Tiko Brooks, Mr. Eye Candy, Ryan Davis and more. WS
FRIDAY 2/13-SUNDAY 3/1
'THE SOUND OF MUSIC'
7:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. Sundays). The Weekend Theater. $20.
The Weekend Theater is not known for treacle, but sometimes you've got to leaven your season — one that includes dramas about mothers with bipolar disorder and AIDS — with a musical everyone can sing to. So the theater follows up the existentialist torment that is Sartre's "No Exit" with "The Sound of Music." It's an ambitious production, this multiple-award-winning, movie-history-making Rogers and Hammerstein classic, since the actress in the role of Maria von Trapp will be up against the seraphic voice of Julie Andrews embedded in the minds, and they will be many, of "Sound of Music" fans in the audience. But lots of children, a love story involving a postulate and a stern widower, and the sinister sweetness of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" can make for a good night at the theater. The theater adds two Thursday performances to its regular Friday-Sunday lineup for this production: Dates are Feb. 13-15, 19-22 and 26-March 1. Elizabeth Reha directs the cast of 30; Samantha Fish plays Maria and Jimmy Walker plays Capt. Georg von Trapp. LNP
9 p.m. White Water Tavern.
The last time Malcolm Holcombe came through Little Rock I went to see him at White Water and was surprised by how funny he was. Surprised, because Holcombe's music is decidedly unfunny. He's a great, vivid songwriter of fugitive struggle and Southern disaffection, expert at telling shattering dive-bar stories in quick, sad scenes. His voice is so hoarse you feel like you're getting secondhand smoke just by hearing it. He also has awful posture and long hair and is more than anything else a physical performer, sliding back and forth in his chair and twisting his guitar around and kicking up his legs. "I didn't think Malcolm would make it out," Justin Townes Earle once said of him, after years of grinding and service industry anonymity in Nashville. "I was afraid that he was going to become another one of those famous-after-death songwriters. Malcolm's whole thing was always unpredictable. He'd disappear for a week, then come back and do something insane." He still says and does things that are insane, but he has "made it out." And yeah, he's funny. He filled the gaps in his set with these incredible absurdist parables, which reminded me of Charles Portis or Eugene Ionesco. He told stories that began normally and inevitably U-turned into profound incoherence. There were also aphorisms, which he might have been inventing on the spot. "The moral of this story," he said before one song, "is if your dog tells you what to do and his lips aren't moving, don't do it." And later: "Maybe you've got too big a glass if it's half empty." WS