Collected: May 7 event introduces new theater company

Collected: May 7 event introduces new theater company
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


Executive Director Rachel Mills and Artistic Director Stephanie Whitcomb say the idea for Theatre Collective of Northwest Arkansas was incubated where all great ideas should be born: a party.

“Our dear friend Kailey Erwin wanted to get a group of people together and put on a show,” recalls Whitcomb. “And so we got together at the holidays, we had a little party, had some food, and had a brainstorming session.”

By the next day, she says, they were all asking each other two questions: Why stop at one event? Why couldn’t this be a brand-new theater company?

After all, the group of friends was made up of experienced performers and production crew. Whitcomb has been involved in community theater since 1994, when she was cast in an Arts Center of the Ozarks production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” Mills’ theater experience started when she was in kindergarten, cast as a reindeer tasked with keeping Santa Claus buckled in safely to his sleigh. Both have been in numerous productions — and have worked behind the scenes — at several local theater companies, even serving on the board.

And although they give glowing recommendations for the theaters they’ve lent their time and support to, Mills says she felt like there was definitely room for one more.

“People like performing with Arkansas Public Theatre, like performing with Arts One,” she says. But sometimes it feels like if you’re not in the one show that’s happening right now, you’re not really getting to do anything. And so the idea of creating the opportunity for even more art and performance in the area was really appealing.”

“Our goal is really to get anyone who wants to be involved in theater in any capacity to come play with us,” says Whitcomb. “‘Theatre Collective of Northwest Arkansas’ is really the best name for our group, because we do want to be a collective. One thing that sets us apart from other organizations is that our members have a direct hand in choosing the programming that we end up doing.”

That programming, the duo agree, will include full productions, musical revues, maybe even festivals — they’re keeping all options open and hoping to provide some opportunities that are not currently available on the community theater scene.

Their first production is coming up fast: “Collected” will be an evening of musical performances with a few theatrical monologues and poetry readings thrown in. Performed as part of the “Sunday Night Social” programming at TheatreSquared, the evening will be free and family friendly.

“We’ve got such a wide range of funny, uptempo numbers and ballads,” says Mills. “Our musical director and accompanist Kailey [Erwin] is also performing, so she’s getting to show off her skill and talent, as well. And we’re all going to do a couple of group numbers to celebrate the sense of collaboration.”

TheatreSquared’s Sunday Night Social event happens once a month and is free and open to the public. The programming is eclectic and has, in the past, included spoken word performances, musical concerts, children’s theater, stand-up comedy, drag shows, and play readings.

“Sunday Night Social is part of T2’s community-driven mission,” says Mills, who also serves as T2’s Ticketing and CRM Director. “Having low barriers to access was really important to us — we wanted to get as many people involved in the audience as possible. Also, TheatreSquared is really well-established, it’s a familiar place to invite people to, and the space itself is wonderful and welcoming and open.”

‘“There’s so much freedom that comes with it, too, because T2 doesn’t say, ‘Hey, you have to do this,’” adds Whitcomb. “They say, ‘Hey, we want to give you a performance opportunity.’ And our group kind of ran with that. The freedom for a performer to say, ‘Hey, I can choose to sing any song that I want, or any monologue that I want to do … maybe I’ll sing a song from that dream role that I don’t know if I’ll ever get to play.’ That gives you the opportunity and the freedom to express yourself.”



An Evening Of Theater

WHEN — 5-7 p.m. May 7

WHERE — The Commons at TheatreSquared in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — Visit Theatre Collective of Northwest Arkansas on Facebook

Categories: Cover Story