Tag Archives: Venue 104

Musings on Mr. Marmalade

Don't click here. For tickets visit http://www.venue104.com.

Normally my daughter Lizabeth is the roving reporter, seeing shows on Broadway and sharing vivid details that help me feel like I was sitting in the seat right beside her.

Most recently, it was “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” She’d had a mildly heated discussion the day before with a classmate who’d seen the show and loved it. Lizabeth felt certain it wasn’t all that swell, but had a hard time making her case having never been to the show.

Soon she’d landed a discounted ticket, and off she went. When Lizabeth called home with her “review,” her dad got to the phone first — translating her take on “Spider-Man” to me as follows: “She felt wounded to the very depths of her theatrical soul.” Not good.

Tonight I was roving reporter for Lizabeth, heading to Venue 104 in Tempe for the debut, a preview really, of their very first theater season — a series of four works starting with a dark comedy by playwright Noah Haidle, who hails from Grand Rapids but has degrees from both Princeton and Juilliard.

It’s called “Mr. Marmalade” and it’s being performed at Venue 104 Fri, Sept 16 to Sat, Oct 1 (tonight was a “pay what you can” tech/dress rehearsal). It’s a mature audience work, so you’ll want to hire a babysitter – then hope she bears no resemblance to babysitter “Emily” in the show.

I was apprehensive going into “Mr. Marmalade.” Several reviews I’d read about the “dark comedy” stressed dark over funny. It’s full of disturbing themes including abuse and suicide — but it’s one of the funniest works I’ve seen in a long time. This production is directed by Tim Shawver.

Four-year-old Lucy has imaginary friends, and spends much of her time in pretend play that mirrors the lives of the adults who populate her world. But Lucy is different than her grown-ups. She’s assertive, standing up for both herself and others instead of playing the victim.

“Mr. Marmalade” is full of playful nostalgia — with songs, toys, fashion and sayings that’ll take you right back to decades your college-age kids aren’t old enough to remember but you’re still too young to forget. Nobody would actually snort cocaine off an Etch-a-Sketch anymore. That’s so 1980s.  

Venue 104 – dubbed a “performance cafe” by owner Michael Peck — is a perfect setting for such works. Audience members sit close to stage level, so you lose that “fourth wall” feeling. The wall we sometimes build between ourselves and other theater-goers falls away as well, making performance art a communal experience it’s hard to find in larger houses.

“Mr. Marmalade,” which runs just over an hour, features a seven member cast. All are superb. The material explores some serious questions. Whether loneliness or being alone is the lesser of two evils. Why playing doctor dissolves so easily into playing house. Still, the work feels more romp than requiem.

Maybe it was all that Kidz Bop music playing before the show. I sent Lizabeth a text with the names of a couple of the songs, picturing her rolling those baby blues behind new purple glasses. Seems similar music was blasting in the common suite near her dorm room at the time. At least now she feels grateful it’s not being sung by six year olds.

– Lynn

Note: For show information or tickets, visit Venue 104 at www.venue104.com. Please remember that this is a mature content play not suitable for young audiences.

Coming up: My brief brush with “American Idol”

View from Venue 104

Proof that Venue 104 is best for nights you have a babysitter

Tempe’s newest mix of performing arts magic, Venue 104 at the corner of Rural Rd. and University Dr., opened with a bang Friday night as patrons poured in for live bands, an art exhibition and apps of the edible versus digital variety. Permits making menu and liquor offerings possible are delayed, but no matter. It’s still a great place to hang with old friends or make all sorts of new ones.

Venue 104 is the brainchild of new father but seasoned actor Michael Peck (formerly of Chyro Arts in Scottsdale), which leaves me wondering which might be the tougher gig — changing diapers or booking artists. The Venue 104 Facebook wall’s got a wealth of photos showing the evolution from empty space to entertainment hub. Here’s a view from Venue 104 during the early hours of Friday night’s shindig…

Don’t let the empty stools fool you. Most folks were back enjoying the band…

Venue 104 has couches and bistro tables perfect for late-night conversation…

This mural by graffiti artist GriffinOne greets patrons as they enter Venue 104…

In another part of Venue 104, bands like Dearspeak took to the giant stage…

A separate room for music means patrons can choose to talk or enjoy tunes…

When we arrived there were already dozens of people listening to Dearspeak…

As one band played, another waited out front for their turn to load in gear…

A room that features work by local artists drew lots of thoughtful admirers…

“The (fabled) Tri-pod” by Edwin Allen Richards…

“What would YOU call it?” by Edwin Allen Richards…

“Missing Christmas” by Edwin Allen Richards…

If you ever want a bathroom to yourself, just waltz in shooting a camera…

– Lynn

Note: I took that last photo in honor of my friends over at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, who are finalists in a “best bathroom” contest taking online votes through Sept 19.

Coming up: Free Saturday event at ASU

Film finds

!Women Art Revolution is one of several current offerings at FilmBar in Phoenix

You can find much more than film fare at plenty of movie theaters these days. Even Shakespeare in Cinema works that seem to transport you straight to the Globe Theatre in London.

And film offerings seem to be finding their way to lots of places other than traditional cinemas. Think bookstores, museums, performing arts venues and more. Even stores like Hoodlums Music and Movies and Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, which presents “In Transition” during their next community movie night, scheduled for Fri, Aug 26.

When you have a hankering for films or movie venues that are just a bit out of the ordinary, consider making an afternoon or evening of it with one of these Valley options…

Finding film at a joint called FilmBar Phoenix is hardly a shocker, but their offerings are certainly out of the ordinary. In August alone featured works deal with martial arts, the culture of war, feminist art and changes wrought on nature by increasing industrialization.

The 2011-12 Talk Cinema series at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts opens in October. You can enjoy the surprise of not knowing what to expect or check the center’s website the day before each screening to explore the month’s offering. Each “Talk Cinema” screening is introduced and followed by “moderated conversations hosted by distinguished guest speakers.”

Performing arts venues like Tempe Center for the Arts and Mesa Arts Center sometimes present special movie screenings, so film buffs should watch the calendars of these venues to see what pops up throughout the season.

Several community colleges offer film series or festivals with diverse themes. Scottsdale Community College has partnered for many years with the Anti-Defamation League to present a film series with an anti-hate theme.

Paradise Valley Community College is focusing on “women in film” this season. The first film of the season is “Amelie” — a French film they’ll present on Wed, Sept 7. Other fall films in the series hail from Spain, China and the U.S. Offerings next year include films from Germany, Lebanon, India and Columbia.

Several Valley museums, including the Heard Museum in Phoenix and the Phoenix Art Museum, present intriguing film works — including some it’s hard to find anywhere else.

Several films being shown this month and next at the Phoenix Art Museum are Spanish-language films with English subtitles — including works about circus life, women matadors, immigration and more. My favorite is a one-hour film called “Biblioburro” about a one-of-a-kind library and librarian in a violence-ridden region of Colombia.

Cultural Centers like the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix sometimes offer screenings of independent works, as do other cultural resources like libraries.

The Arizona Humanities Council website offers event listings by region so its always easy to find film and other offerings in your area. Film screenings and discussions of “Johnny Guitar” take place later this month in Florence and Glendale — and they’ve got several “Borderlands” films listed for the coming months.

Films don’t need to include talking animals or non-stop explosions to be fun. You’ll even learn to love them without salty popcorn or sugary drinks. Leave the kids behind once and a while to expore a world where films foster adult conversations on fascinating topics other than organic baby food and homework wars.

– Lynn

Coming up: Film festivals in the Valley — and beyond, Lynn & Liz review “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie”

Theater by the numbers

This is the place to be on Aug 6

The fine folks of Space 55 Theatre Ensemble are readying to take their act on the road. They’re performing “The Unhappiness Plays” by Greg Kotis at the New York International Fringe Festival.

First they’re doing a final fabulous performance here in the Valley — Sat, Aug 6 at 8pm. 

Lots of folks know Kotis from a musical titled “Urinetown,” which has been performed by a couple of theater groups here in the Valley. The “Urinetown” tour hit ASU Gammage in 2004.

“Urinetown” is a tale of ‘haves’ versus ‘have nots’ in a world where water and toilets are scarce (think student travels in Europe, which inspired the work). It debuted at the New York International Fringe Festival and was performed Off Broadway in 2001.

“Urinetown” opened on Broadway in September 2001 and closed in January 2004. It earned three Tony Awards – one for best direction (John Rondo), one for best music and lyrics (Mark Hollman), and one for book and lyrics (Greg Kotis).

My point? See “The Unhappiness Plays” now. Keep an eye on the rest of Space 55′s season (with your grown-up friends or mature teens — they don’t do kiddie fare). And check out their education offerings. Think acting classes and private coaching, writing for the stage and more.

Those of you who follow the “Blue Bike Kids Show” will recognize at least one cast member if you hit “The Unhappiness Plays” Saturday night — Valley actor, director and playwright Steve Wilcox (who co-founded Space 55 in 2005). He’s also a member of the “Blue Bike” gang.

This is the place to be on Aug 19

Program your GPS now, so you can quickly jot back and forth between Space 55 and Venue 104, a “performance cafe” in Tempe celebrating its “grand opening” on Fri, Aug 19. Theater folk know owner and general manager Michael Peck from his Chyro Arts days in Scottsdale, and his work on various Valley stages.

Nowadays he’s booking all sorts of local emergent talent for Venue 104. Think live music, theater and independent film – coupled with grazing options like gourmet sandwiches, salads and baked goods. No worries if you’re without GPS because Venue 104 is just two blocks from the ASU light rail stop.

Venue 104 and NewBrave Arts and Entertainment recently announced the first offering in their “2011-12 Season of Theatre” – a Noah Haidle work titled “Mr. Marmalade” that featured Michael C. Hall (now the star of Showtime’s “Dexter”) in the 2005 Off Broadway production.

Like works at Space 55, this is an adult or mature teen offering, best reserved for a night out with pals or partner. Fond as I am of cheery musicals full of talent still sporting braces, it’s nice to enjoy grown-up options now and then.

– Lynn

Note: I’ll be blogging next week from the Utah Shakespeare Festival, which is offering a “Hot August Nights” deal through August 15

Coming up: Performing arts studio opens new West Valley location, A contemporary take on “Romeo and Juliet”