Small But Mighty: Message of ‘Matilda’ is kids can change the world

Small But Mighty: Message of ‘Matilda’ is kids can change the world
LARA JO HIGHTOWER/Special to the Free Weekly

On June 2 and 3, a huge field on the outskirts of Prairie Grove will hold the largest selection of open-air flea market booths in the Northwest Arkansas area. From polished antiques to funky vintage treasures to rusty farm finds, shoppers should be rewarded with just about anything they’re looking for at the Junk Ranch, which boasts 150 vendors and more than 200 booths.

We asked a few vendors what they’re bringing to the event, how they got involved in junking, and what their best find ever was.

Don Wilkinson

Don Wilkinson found his way to junking the way a lot of vendors do: he kept finding great stuff while shopping for his own collection of vintage Speas Vinegar bottles. So when he retired in his mid-50s after 35 years with the Arkansas Highway Department, he threw his hat into the flea market ring and got a booth at one of the largest flea markets in the country in Canton, Texas. After 10 years of selling at Canton, he moved up to an even bigger venue — Round Top, Texas, the Holy Grail of flea markets.

“It was a lot of work on my part,” he says. “We would haul seven or eight trailer loads down between shows, store them, and then we’d go down and set up and stay two weeks, selling. We sold to people from everywhere — California and everywhere. They got to buying from me, and they actually got to buying too much. It became too much of a job, and age took over.”

Wilkinson is 85 now, and he was thrilled when the Junk Ranch opened up so near his home in Mountainburg. Though the main product he sells are chicken laying houses — he estimates he’s sold around 30,000 over the course of his junking career — the booth he runs with his son is an eclectic mix of auction, estate and farm sale finds.

Wilkinson’s best find ever was deceptively simple: a box full of old bottle caps.

“I told my wife, ‘I found the Holy Grail,’” he remembers. “They were unused, cork-lined Dr Pepper bottle caps from 1907. The first bottle caps ever used on a Dr Pepper bottle.”

When he put them on eBay, he says, “people went crazy.”

Stacey Murphy

The Weathered Pearl

Stacey Murphy’s relationship with the Junk Ranch started off as a shopper.

“I loved the eclectic mix of old, used, collectible items and the vendor inspired pieces! I thought to myself, ‘I could do this,’” she recalls. “I applied the next year, and junk has been my livelihood ever since.”

Murphy advises yard sale shoppers to look for the signs with a torn piece of cardboard with the word “sale” scribbled across it as a marker.

“Often these sales are not advertised on social media, so it increases your chances of finding a hidden treasure,” she says.

She also hits the widely advertised sales, like the Oklahoma 100-mile Yard Sale. That’s where she found her favorite find: a 13-foot late 1800s banquet table discovered in a barn in Cleveland, Okla.

“I have done several shows all over Oklahoma and Arkansas, and I would say what sets the Junk Ranch apart from the others is the venue itself, the friendly vendors, the amazing shoppers, but most of all how well [Junk Ranch founders] Amy [Daniels] and Julie [Speed] have it organized,” Murphy says.

Tracy Davis

Rusty Heart Relics

“I have always loved old things as long as I can remember,” says Tracy Davis of Rusty Heart Relics. “My mama had an eye for the ornate and passed it along to me. We spent many a weekend traveling the roads for that elusive treasure.”

For her booth, she stocks a wide variety of items.

“I love vintage and antique garden items, primitive and antique furniture, and holiday decor,” she says. “I loved MCM before it was cool.”

Her favorite find is an antique child’s bedroom suite she found at the famed Texas flea market Round Top.

“It is a beautiful faded robin’s egg blue with a painted design, and it’s to die for,” she says.

Davis has had a love affair with the Junk Ranch since the first year.

“From the live music and food trucks to the mountains of treasures and lovely vendors, I knew this was the show that I wanted to be a part of,” she says. “Amy and Julie are the best and treat us like family.”



Junk Ranch

WHEN — 9 a.m.-3 pm. June 2; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. June 3; tickets go on sale at 8 a.m.

WHERE — 11195 Centerpoint Church Road in Prairie Grove

COST — $10


“Matilda the Musical,” based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 book, burst on to the theatrical scene in 2011 with a West End production, which opened to widespread critical acclaim. It transferred to Broadway in 2013, where New York Times critic Ben Brantley called it “the most satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain.”

“’Matilda’ is as much an edge-of-the-seats nail biter as a season-finale episode of ‘Homeland,’” Brantley’s review continued. “Above all, it’s an exhilarating tale of empowerment, as told from the perspective of the most powerless group of all. I mean little children.”

The story of 5-year-old genius Matilda Wormwood, rejected by her family and terrorized at school by the villainous Miss Agatha Trunchbull, was adapted for the stage by playwright Dennis Kelly and composer/lyricist Tim Minchin.

“Even if you’re little, you can do a lot, you/ Mustn’t let a little thing like, ‘little’ stop you/ If you sit around and let them get on top, you/ Might as well be saying/ You think that it’s OK/ And that’s not right!/ And if it’s not right!/ You have to put it right!” sings Matilda in “Naughty.”

And, boy, does Matilda figure out how to put things right.

“I think the message is, even though there’s going to be really bad people, aka Miss Trunchbull, in your life, and they’re going to try and push you down, you’re always going to be able to find at least one person that’s going to be there through thick and thin,” says 13-year-old Leanne Parks, who shares the role of Matilda with actor Piper Wallace. (Wallace and Parks, along with the other underage cast members, perform on alternate nights as the “Blue” and “Green” cast.)

For Matilda, that one person is Miss Honey, the kind and gentle teacher who befriends her. In T2’s production, the role is played by Elisabeth Evans, last seen at T2 as “Girl” in “Once.”

In a melding of two of Northwest Arkansas’ favorite institutions, “Matilda the Musical” will be produced in the new Fayetteville Public Library’s event space. Producing “Matilda” at the library doubles the company’s potential seating and allows a seamless transition between “My Father’s War” and “American Mariachi” back at their home theater, says T2’s Marketing Director Joanna Sheehan Bell, who adds that the library and the University of Arkansas theater have both contributed to help transform the equipment and capacity of the new space to work with the unique technical requirements of the show. (Courtesy Photo/Wesley Hitt for T2)

“The storytelling and the music are so woven together,” says Evans. “There’s no song that is just like, ‘And now we need a song.’ It’s all very motivated. I think a lot of people coming to ‘Matilda’ are expecting, ‘This is for kids!’ And it is; it’s very family friendly. But there’s a lot of heart, and there’s a lot of meat in there. It’s not surface level at all. When you see it, you get so much more than you bargained for in the story — it just pierces right through your heart. You connect to it immediately. And to see these kids sing about things that we as adults understand very differently — there’s so much for kids in it, and there’s so much for adults in it, and I think that is what is truly revolutionary about it. That it takes this musical that stars a kid and makes it really meaningful and impactful for everyone in the audience.”

If Miss Honey is, as Evans calls her, “maybe the least cartoonish of all the adults,” psychotic teacher Miss Agatha Trunchbull is the exact opposite. Capable of the most diabolical punishments for even the mildest of transgressions, she takes pleasure in terrorizing the children at Matilda’s school. Drew Johnson, last seen in “Shakespeare in Love,” plays Trunchbull in a first for the prolific actor: While he has scores of credits on his resume, including multiple Shakespearean roles, this will be the first time he’s sung on a professional stage .

“It’s a big challenge,” Johnson admits. “Aimee [Hayes], our director, co-directed ‘Shakespeare in Love’ a couple of years ago, which I was in, and, among other roles, I played Lady Capulet in the sort of play-within-a-play. I think she knew that it was really important to me that the joke of Trunchbull is not that it’s a man playing a woman. … I think she knew that I would take care with that. As far as the sort of over-the-top nature of Trunchbull, it’s like actors always say — you kind of have to tap into the ‘Why?’ ‘Why is this villain doing these things?’ and try to understand them.”

In the end, says Piper Wallace, the production’s co-Matilda, despite Trunchbull’s devious machinations, the message of the show is a positive one.

“I feel like the basic topic of the show is ‘Even if you’re little you can do a lot,’” says Wallace. “No matter who underestimates you or puts you down, you just have to know that you can come back up, you can make things right. …With Matilda, nobody really understands her. And a lot of people don’t understand you, either. And so you’ve just got to find people that you love and trust and make things as good as possible.”


‘Matilda: The Musical’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2 & 7:3o p.m. Saturday; and 6 p.m. Sunday, through July 25

WHERE — In the auditorium at the Fayetteville Public Library

COST — $34-$54

INFO — 777-7477,

Categories: Theater