Chicago envy?

I spent an evening in Chicago once — if a trip to and from the airport and a concert venue counts. It was many years ago, and I made the journey with my youngest daughter after a foiled attempt to meet the Jonas Brothers during a Phoenix meet and greet.

The Phoenix concert venue erred in getting us the wristbands and details needed to attend the Phoenix meet and greet, an opportunity Lizabeth won through a contest sponsored by one of her favorite stores. So we tried again in Chicago, but fared no better.

I’ll spare you the details, although I have Chicago on the brain this weekend because Lizabeth, now a 17-year-old high school senior, is there visiting one of her top three college/conservatory choices — and seeing the play “God of Carnage.”

This poster (from All Posters) features a Richard Cummins photograph of the Chicago Theatre

When I think Chicago, I think museums. I think deep-dish pizza. I think Barack Obama. I think cutting-edge theater, and plenty of it. And sometimes I even get “Chicago envy” — wishing Phoenix had the same wealth of diverse theater options.

But I enjoyed a bit of an attitude adjustment Friday when I read some thoughts sent via e-mail by Tom Tiding, writer and sole performer in the 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival piece titled “Twisted: Greeting Card Moments Gone Bad.”

“I chose to debut ‘Twisted’ in Phoenix,” wrote Tiding, “partly because there’s such a can-do attitude in Arizona.” Then he added the following:

“Phoenix has this fantastic growing arts scene where it just feels like anything is possible. When I began researching the arts scene in Phoenix, I was blown away by the diversity of people’s experiences– I started reading your posts, and it’s just like a breath of fresh air. It’s so inclusive and positive.”

“I’ve got long-time friends in Arizona,” wrote Tiding, “so I know the past few years have been tough, but I think that can-do attitude is what will get everyone through the tough economic times and some of the divisions that go with that.”

I think I’d like this fellow even if he didn’t have such fine taste in blog posts. Seems he grew up in a family that always made homemade greeting cards for each other. “Mine,” he quips, “tended to be on the more sarcastic side.”

After seeing his cards displayed at an art exhibit, Tiding got requests from folks who wanted to buy them. Once retailers got ahold of the cards, they started asking Tiding how he ‘got so twisted.’ Tiding began sharing “snippets on the true stories behind the cards” — and the play “Twisted” was born.

There’s nothing like uncovering evidence to support one’s own convictions. So when Tiding shared the following, I felt vindicated in my advocacy for a crayon in every corner: “My family always made sure we had something we could draw or write with,” he wrote. “Mostly because it was cheaper and they didn’t have any money.”

Tiding, who nowadays works with a D.C.-based group called “Speakeasy,” includes plenty of family anecdotes during his “Twisted” piece. So those of you not whizzing off to Chicago for a show next weekend needn’t worry that you’re missing cutting-edge performance art.

Trust me when I tell you that his family is anything but typical. And that the only thing Chicago has on Phoenix when the Phoenix Fringe Festival comes around each year is the perfect pie.

— Lynn

Note: Twisted Tidings is “a greeting card company for people who want to throw up when they read greeting cards.” You can enjoy Tiding’s twisted theatrical performance April 8-10 at Modified Arts (as part of the 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival).

Coming up: Another cool artist who crafts poetic e-mails


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