‘Love’s Labour’s’ Found: UA stages play 18 months in the making

‘Love’s Labour’s’ Found: UA stages play 18 months in the making
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

INFO — thejunkranch.net

Paul Barnes, guest artist in the University of Arkansas Theatre Department, says the show he’s directing — William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” — is a good choice for the first live show since March 2020. First of all, the light-hearted romantic comedy might help theatergoers take their minds off the last 18 months of the pandemic.

“It’s based in very beautiful language,” says Barnes. “It’s an early play of Shakespeare’s, and I think he was kind of showing off, because of the number of puns and the amount of rhymed couplets. There’s a lot of rhyming that goes on in the play, and it’s his way of getting to the male characters being showoffs about their expertise with language, but also really enjoying being good with language. It’s like rap is today for young people — really being able to take words and express them in new and different ways that are really fun and playful.”

And performing it outside — the show will be mounted in the mini Greek theater adjacent to the Fine Arts Building — means audience members can enjoy the fall weather while limiting their chances of covid-19 transmission in the open air.

“People might want to dress warmly and bring a stadium blanket — but I understand the theater has rented some blankets that will be available,” says Barnes. “But it’s a beautiful setting — open to the sky and the stars, and we’ve been visited by the moon. It’s really been gorgeous to be out there.”

Barnes’ home base is in Oregon, where he worked for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for many seasons before accepting a position as associate artistic director at the Pacific Conservatory Theatre in Santa Maria, Calif., where he worked for a decade. For the past two decades, though, he’s been traveling the country, working as a freelance director. His UA production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is a year-and-a-half in the making; the show was cast and headed to production when live performances in the department were canceled. Barnes says he’s happy to finally be bringing the show and its actors to the stage.

“People have a tendency to fear Shakespeare, that they’re not going to be able to understand it,” he notes. “I think ‘Love’s Labour’s’ is a play that, although some of the language is complex, is a pretty clear story.

“My thing about theater is that, unlike television, it involves active listening on the part of the audience. You have to kind of lean forward and really listen, while television and film tend to do all the work for us. But the wonderful thing about plays and the spoken word is that it really engages our imagination, and it invites us to be active in our listening I think people will get the hang of the language in the verse after the first 10 minutes of the play. There’s a little bit of natural adjustment for audiences, but, like anything, if you just hang in there, everybody is fully capable of understanding his plays.”



‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1-3 and 6-10

WHERE — Mini Greek Amphitheatre, UA Fine Arts Center, 340 Garland Ave., Fayetteville

COST — Free, but tickets must be reserved online.

INFO — uark.universitytickets.com

Categories: Theater