Tag Archives: Arizona Women’s Theatre Company

Spilling secrets

The real playwrights of Arizona will be spilling secrets this weekend as they present the 6th annual Pandora Festival, dubbed “Secrets Revealed.” It’s a three-day event featuring diverse works about everything from teen misfits to gripes with the corporate world. Even lack of privacy in the digital world and memories of a failed marriage.

ASU alumna Jennifer Giralo’s first play is part of this weekend’s “Pandora Festival” in Scottsdale

It’s “idealism versus realism” as Patty Hackmann directs Jennifer Giralo’s “Married to Marriage.” Seems characters Andy and Kim try to work through differing world views “in a late night bet they will never forget.” Something tells me they’re not wagering over who’s better at separating whites from brights.

Micki Shelton’s “Holly,” directed by Kate Hawkes, imagines a woman lost in Utah struggling to balance GPS, a Native American Park Ranger and a man on a horse. It’s all good, I suppose, assuming she doesn’t add texting while trailblazing.

Shelton notes that while she’s written plays starting with characters (“Circles”), theme (“Discovery: The Lost Gospel of Judas” — still a work in progress), and basic plot (“Fred and Mary”), she hadn’t “written a play beginning with setting” until a trip to Hovenweep National Monument about 18 months ago inspired her to write the work that became “Holly.”

Folks who enjoy “Holly” can experience more of Shelton’s work this July as “Fred and Mary: An Unconventional Romance” makes its world premiere at the historic Elks Opera House in Prescott. While others watch “Holly” come Saturday night, Shelton will be attending her daughter’s graduation in California. Some babies are penned, others born.

The Pandora Festival of New Works 2012 looks like this:

  • Ten short plays. Fri, May 18 at 7pm.
  • “Duty & Duplicity,” a full-length play by Michelle Lambeau (directed by Barbara Aker). Sat, May 19 at 2pm.
  • Four one-act plays. Sat, May 19 at 7pm.
  • “Father’s Ashes,” a full-length play by Esther Blumfield (directed by Kandyce Hughes). Sun, May 20 at 2pm.

All works are being performed at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. It’s one of many gems you’ll discover by exploring a section of their website dubbed “Events Presented by Visiting Groups” (others include “Swan Lake…The Big Splash” presented by Dance Theater West).

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is located right next to Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, which has plenty of its own intriguing offerings — including this weekend’s first-event SMOCA “Teens Night Out” Sat, May 19, from 7-11pm in front of the museum.

“Teens Night Out” is free for teens with school I.D. or drivers license, and features everything from break dancing to painting performance. Think four bands, outdoor community chalk mural, hands-on art activities, free raffles, DJ and more. Reminds me of a recent dance party enjoyed at the Brooklyn Museum in NYC.

Let the kids party while you Pandora. Click here to learn more about the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company, which presents the Pandora Festival plus other opportunities for playwrights and lovers of the new. Then tell a friend, because some secrets are fine to share.

— Lynn

Coming up: Ten ways to celebrate International Museum Day, Arts meets women’s rights, From Brooklyn to Scottsdale

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Once upon a “Showcase”

Pandora Showcase runs through Nov 19 in Scottsdale

I was pleased to see a good crowd of both women and men at Friday night’s “Pandora Showcase” presented by the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company — mostly young professionals, but some with several more years of life and theater-going under their belt. “Showcase 1,” which will be presented again Fri, Nov. 18, runs about 2 1/2 hours and includes five short works.

The venue — a small theater inside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — is intimate and polished. Clever song choices played before and after each “Pandora” work enhance each piece while tying them all together. Several of the plays share common themes — identity, relationships, destiny and the travail of making art.

The first is a sweet look at a young professional’s visit with her elderly grandmother and two aunts, but I prefer a tad more dysfunction in my on-stage families. I readily admit to being skewed forever by the biting combination of real life and Estelle Parson’s performance in “August: Osage County.” So “Family Recipes” wasn’t my favorite thing on the “Pandora Showcase” menu.

I found the second work, titled “Me,” infinitely more enchanting. It’s the tale of a writer who stumbles into a room where a sort of future self, her destiny, awaits. They banter back and forth about the relative merits of knowing, or not knowing, what’s coming down the road. The play ponders a serious question without pontificating and the actors deliver a solid performance.

To the same degree that “Family Recipes” feels a bit flat, the third play in “Showcase 1” feels somewhat frenetic. “Seeking Destiny” seems to be asking one central question: “If a hand is offered, would you take it?” But other questions flying too far afield dilute the focus of the work, and it would benefit from additional editing of ideas. The play left me wondering whether poetry might be the better vehicle for this particular vision.

The fourth work, titled “The Procedure,” is a playful look at medical bureaucracy with a brief foray into the politics of health insurance. The audience rewarded each actor’s prowess in physical comedy with genuine laughter. I’d love to see this playwright string together a series of similar works treating other political topics of the day.

The final piece in “Showcase 1” was far and away my favorite. I don’t know how plays make their way from Arizona to L.A., Chicago or NYC, but “Prism” deserves to start that journey. It’s an honest, unflinching look at what each person brings to the therapeutic relationship. It’s funny beyond belief, with writing honed to near perfection.

Playwright Debra Rich Gettleman performs one of two roles in “Prism,” which functions well with both therapist and client characters. But it’s also easy to imagine “Prism” as a one-woman play depicting only the woman talking to her therapist. Audience reactions to the work made clear the fact that Gettleman “gets it” in the therapy department.

Gettleman’s “Prism” reminds me of “No Child” by Nilaja Sun, but with psychotherapy rather than education the topic du jour. I asked Gettleman after Friday’s “Pandora Showcase” just how many plays she’s written, because she’s cleary got a gift for it — but counting doesn’t seem to be her thing.

Maybe plays are like children and it’s hard to pick a favorite. Still, Gettleman’s got an awfully precious baby on her hands with “Prism.” I can’t wait to watch it grow.

— Lynn

Note: Another “Pandora Showcase” work will be performed Sat, Nov 12 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts (and all the works are being repeated next weekend).

Coming up: When couples collide, This little piggie…

Let’s play therapist

Get off the couch for a bit of girlfriend therapy as new plays written by Arizona women make their way to Scottsdale Center for the Arts this weekend

Time with a real therapist can set you back hundreds of dollars, but Arizona playwright Debra Rich Gettleman promises “a hilarious romp through the unexplored regions of your therapist’s subconscious” for a fraction of the price.

Her play, titled “Prism,” is part of this year’s “Pandora Showcase” — which actually features “Showcase 1” (Nov 11 & 18 at 7:30pm) and “Showcase 2” (Nov 12 & 19 at 7:30pm). Tickets for a single showcase are $15/each and you can attend both for $25.

“Prism,” which is directed by Judy Rollings, is one of five short works on the Friday night roster. The others are as follows:

  • “Me,” written by Mala Akiva and directed by Jan Williams — featuring a writer’s encounter with her destiny.
  • “Family Recipes,” written by Bernadette LaMazza and directed by Kandyce Hughes — featuring a comedic mixture of family traditions with sweetness, sarcasm and senility.
  • “The Procedure,” written by Diane Grant and directed by Daniela Crispo Talarico — featuring an exploration of ironies surrounding health insurance.
  • “Seeking Destiny,” written by Mary Caroline Rogers and directed by Susan Assadi — featuring questions of identity in a world where society defines relationships.

“Showcase 2” features a full-length play titled “What You Don’t Know.” It’s written by Larissa Brewington and directed by Pamela Sterling — and features “a typical Sunday dinner at the Bridges home.” Think anxiety and avarice, secrets and sedition. But in a lovely twist, none of your own family members are involved.

All “Pandora Showcase” offerings are being presented by the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — a lovely location for an evening out with friends, because it’s close to several restaurants and winding paths perfect for conversation.

Sometimes that’s all the therapy a girl really needs.

— Lynn

Note: Debra Rich Gettleman writes a blog called “Unmotherly Insights” published by Raising Arizona Kids Magazine. Click here to start enjoying her posts.

Coming up: Black Friday — arts & culture style

Supporting women playwrights

Playwright Debra Rich Gettleman

Debra Rich Gettleman is one of many Arizona playwrights whose works, developed during previous “Pandora Festivals,” will be full staged as part of this month’s “Pandora Showcase.” Her play titled “Prism” is being performed this Friday evening at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The 2nd annual “Pandora Showcase” takes place Nov, 11, 12, 18 and 19. It’s your first chance to see plays that may one day make their way to much larger audiences. “A Conversation with Edith Head,” which opened the current season for Actors Theatre of Phoenix at the Herberer Theater Center, was part of the inaugural 2004-2005 season for Arizona Wowen’s Theatre Company, which specializes is producing contemporary works by women playwrights.

Susan Claassen as Edith Head (Photo: Tim Fuller)

“A Conversation with Edith Head” was written by Paddy Calistro and Susan Claassen, both affiliated with Invisible Theatre in Tucson, which is performing Annie Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation” through Nov. 20.

Colleen Jennings Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage, recently attended opening night for playwright Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” on Broadway. When last we spoke, Jennings Roggensack shared her delight with seeing the work of women on Broadway, but also noted that we need more of it.

Folks who share her enthusiasm for supporting the work of women playwrights have plenty of opportunities in coming days as ten fully-staged works make their way to Scottsdale. More new works will be featured at the 6th annual “Pandora Festival,” being presented by Arizona Women’s Theatre Company May 18-20, 2012 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Playwright Katori Hall

The Arizona Women’s Theatre Company recently issued a call for original scripts written by Arizona women playwrights — and will present staged readings of those selected during the May festival. Playwrights can submit up to two works, and there is no submission fee.

They’re calling for submissions of ten minute, one act and full length plays. Neither plays that have previously been fully produced nor obvious first drafts will be accepted — but “plays that have had workshops and other readings are eligible.”

Thankfully, you don’t have to write these babies to enjoy them. Folks who like to watch are just as valuable in theater world.

— Lynn

Playwright Annie Baker

Note: Playwrights Baker, Hall and Regina Taylor are among five playwrights recently selected to participate in a residency program with the Signature Theatre Company in NYC. Click here for details.

Coming up: Arizona welcomes the “Pandora NBC Skating Series,” More scoop on “Pandora Showcase” offerings, Pearls from Prescott

Update: I spent part of the afternoon with a lovely group of art folks from Prescott, including one who suggested I alert readers to an upcoming call for plays written by youth in the metro Phoenix area, and another who’s had several works read during previous “Pandora Festivals.” Stay tuned for details in upcoming posts…

Playing favorites?

Works by Nicholas Bernard previously exhibited at the Scottsdale Art Festival

My virtual in-box gets plenty of “vote for me” messages, which I rarely run with because I hate to play favorites. I didn’t push the potty at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts when it was nominated for a top bathroom prize a while back, and still feel wracked with guilt each time I think about those other people taking the prettiest potty prize.

Hence I’m passing along the latest plea from my friends over at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — who hope we’ll all vote in the “2012 Top 10 Fairs and Festivals” contest now underday on the “AmericanStyle Magazine” website.

Votes are being accepted at americanstylemagazine.com, and those who vote are entered to win a cool cash prize. I’m told that Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts has placed in the top ten each year the magazine has held this competition, often making the top five — and securing the top slot in 2005. Last year it was rated #2.

Gerber Daisy Brooch by Michele Friedman

The center’s “Scottsdale Arts Festival” is one of three Arizona nominees, along with the “Celebration of Fine Art” in Scottsdale and the “Sedona Arts Festival.”

Happily, the magazine’s lovely ballot lets you choose up to three fairs and festivals, so the faint of heart needn’t pit one Arizona festival against another.

I was miffed about the lack of Shakespeare festivals in the pack before discovering that all the nominees are art fairs and festivals. So glad the lightbulb went on before I whipped out all my magnificent Shakespearean insults.

If you’ve never seen the beautiful bathrooms at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, this is a good week to take the plunge. There’s a “Harlan Jacobson’s Talk Cinema” event at 7pm tonight, and a “Pandora Showcase” this weekend featuring the works of Arizona women playwrights — including Debra Rich Gettleman, who writes the “Unmotherly Insights” blog published by Raising Arizona Kids Magazine.

If Gettleman hasn’t yet written on the topic of beautiful bathrooms, she certainly needs to. Even the ugliest parts of daily life are transformed through the prism of her pen.

— Lynn

Note: I’m looking for American flag art for an upcoming Veterans Day post. If you have something to share, please send it to me at rakstagemom@gmail.com before Friday at noon — thanks!

Coming up: Musings on Mannheim Steamroller, Valley art meets Veterans Day

A pair of pandoras

David Archuleta performs in a holiday show coming to Grand Canyon University Arena

When my daughter Lizabeth studied ballet as a child, I spent far too much time worrying that something outside the dance studio might cause some sort of injury.

High heels and ice skating were taboo in the months preceding “The Nutcracker” (she danced several children’s roles in the Ballet Arizona production). Too much potential for spraining an ankle, I thought.

Though Lizabeth rarely took to the rink, a schoolmate named Maddie invited her every year, for several years, to see ice skaters perform in elaborate arena shows. Lizabeth loved watching the ice skaters, having a holiday tradition to look forward to and spending time with Maddie.

I thought of Lizabeth and Maddie when I learned that the “Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice” show, part of the “Pandora NBC Skating Series,” is coming to the new Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix on Sat, Nov 12. It’ll be taped for national broadcast by NBC on Sun, Nov 27 at 4pm EST.

Kristi Yamaguchi inspires ice skating dreams

The event features Olympic champion Brian Boitano skating to a live holiday music performance split between American Idol alum David Archuleta and Mannheim Steamroller, a group well loved by Lizabeth’s grandparents. Olympic ice skaters Ekaterina Gordeeva, Kimmie Meisner and Michael Weiss are also skating in the show. It’s being hosted by Kristi Yamaguchi, inspiration for many a little girl’s ice skating dreams.

Recently I spoke with Archuleta, who shared that his mother “drug him out on the dance floor” just a few days before. Archuleta grew up in a house full of music and dance — with mom dancing salsa and dad playing jazz.

He’s known to many for achieving top two status on “American Idol” during the show’s seventh season, where he broke young hearts and captured several older ones by singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

So how did Archuleta’s own musical journey begin? “It was musicals that got me into music,” he recalls. Archuleta recalls singing along at home with a recording of the 10th anniversary performance of “Les Miserables.” After his mom printed out some sheet music from the show, says Archuleta, he learned his very first song. It was “Castle on a Cloud.”

Archuleta will be performing holiday music during the “Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice” show. He recalls his own early attempts at ice skating at an outdoor rink in Utah, where he grew up. It’s tough to find those outdoor rinks in Florida, where Archuleta was born.

“The first time I was afraid I might fall and slip,” recalls Archuleta. But on a recent ice skating adventure just a few months ago in California, he managed to stay on his feet the whole time — probably because he spent a fair amount of time roller blading in his teens.

Archuleta says he’s excited about performing with so many national and Olympic skating champions because his family always watched the Olympics on television when he was growing up. Ice skating was one of their favorite Olympic events to enjoy together. “The Olympics,” reflects Archuleta, “brings everyone together.”

I don’t expect much ice skating from the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company, which presents its second annual “Pandora Showcase” at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Nov 11, 12, 18 and 19. Their thing is presenting original works by women playwrights. It’s a whole other type of balancing act.

The “Pandora Showcase” features fully-staged favorites from previous “Pandora Festival” offerings. Fans of new theater works will also want to mark their calendars for the 2012 festival, taking place May 18-21 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

My daughter, by the way, no longer takes classical ballet classes five or more days a week. She’s off in New York City, doing her B.F.A. in acting — where ankles still matter, but not so much that she can’t enjoy a bit of rink time down at Rockefeller Plaza.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the GCU Arena at www.gcuarena.com and the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company at www.azwtc.org. Visit www.davidarchuleta.com for details on Archuleta’s “Pandora” performance and his “Constitution Week” concert in Gilbert this weekend.

Coming up: The fine art of bugs?, A trio of tenors, Honk if you love Hans!

Pardon my Pandora


Required reading for students at Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix

First, apologies to my two daughters — whose time spent with Edith Hamilton’s classic “Mythology” was a source of much wailing and gnashing of teeth during high school.

Ask them about the evils unleashed when Pandora opened her box and they’ll likely tell you it was those heartless teachers who made them memorize the names of all those Greek gods and goddesses.

Mention the word “Pandora” to my college-age son and you’ll get an entirely different response — a detailed description of the Internet radio service that offers “personalized stations” thanks to something called “The Music Genome Project.” And yes, there’s “an app” for that.

Just last August, their blog boasted of Pandora’s “10 billionth thumb.” The rest of us have some catching up to do. I prefer being thumbed over thumbing, so it’s unlikely I’ll spend much time with the service.

Still, I was eager to learn of Pandora’s philanthropic efforts — in which they “team up with GlobalGiving…to support students and classrooms that are using music to make a difference.”

For some, a mention of Pandora’s box unleashes thoughts of evils that feel more personal. So it seems with some of the playwrights featured in this year’s Pandora Festival, taking place May 20-22 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The Pandora Festival hits Scottsdale this weekend

The 5th Annual Pandora Festival features “staged readings of selected new plays for women playwrights.” It’s presented by the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company, which is entering its seventh season of producing contemporary plays by women playwrights.

The festival opens this Friday evening with the first of two full-length plays — “The Fire in Minerva” by Larissa Brewington of Arizona. The second full length play, “Remnants of a Dream” by New Mexico’s Ruth Cantrell, will be performed Saturday evening.

Three one-act plays are being performed Saturday afternoon — “After Life at the Cinema” by Hannah Lillith Assadi of Arizona, “Me” by Maia Akiva of California and “Out of Focus” by Carol K. Mack of Connecticut.

Sunday’s line-up features a selection of ten-minutes plays, including several by Arizona playwrights — “Despair of a Cheerleader” by Shayanna Jacobs, “A Shared View” by Mary Caroline Rogers and “The Secret” by Kristy Westphal.

Other works being presented Sunday include “Firewall” by Rita Kniess Barkey (Montana), “Close Enough” by Kellie Powell (New York), “Jesse Rode a Bicycle Today” by Sara Israel (California), “Jinxed” by K. Alexis Mavromatis (Rhode Island), “The Procedure” by Diane Grant (California) and “Nephrology” by Sara Ilyse Jacobsen (Maryland).

We all deal with our own Pandora’s box, and I’ll pardon your Pandora if you’ll pardon mine. Maybe one day we’ll join the gifted women using pens to transform Pandoras into performance art.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for festival details and ticketing information. Click here to learn about an “Introduction to Myth Making” summer camp for grades 9-12. It’s being offered the week of July 11 by the University of Arizona Poetry Center, which has a lovely assortment of programs for youth.

Coming up: All hail the dancing queen!