Tag Archives: Debra Rich Gettleman

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…

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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

The smell of childhood?

Orange blossom soap from Athens Locally Grown

When I connected recently with Tempe mother and journalist Amy Silverman, she shared a bit with me about her Arizona childhood.

Seems she’d recently purchased a bar of soap with an orange blossom scent. “It literally made me sick,” Silverman told me. “It smelled like my childhood.”

In a sentence, sometimes less, Silverman conjures detailed images that transport readers to other places and perspectives.

Orange blossom cheesecake from Atlanta Cheesecake Company

Hence her many accolades and awards. She’s been twice honored by the Arizona Press Club with the Virg Hill Journalist of the Year award.

For 18 years she’s worked for Phoenix New Times — serving the last six as managing editor.

Still, Silverman finds time to share her talents with others. She’s co-founder, along with Deborah Sussman Susser, of a “Mothers Who Write” class that helps women find and share their voices.

A public reading by “Mothers Who Write” participants (past and present) takes place Sat, May 7 from 2-4pm at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. It’s free and open to the public, though some material may not be suitable for children.

Orange blossom gift basket from LadyBug Great Gifts

I’d like to see Silverman pen a children’s book. Perhaps something about Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain — a Valley landmark Silverman says she’s always thought of as “the camel’s eyelash.”

Silverman and her husband have two daughters, so she’s got plenty of pearls about both parenting and poising the pen. Registration for the next 10-week “Mothers Who Write” workshop will begin July 1 through the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Orange blossom cocktail from Science of Drink

The workshop offers “support and advice for writing mothers (of all ages) who want to develop their craft and receive feedback on their work.” Though all genres are welcome, the main focus is creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction.

Visit the “Mothers Who Write” website to learn more about classes, readings and the many adventures of “Mothers Who Write” alumni — including Deborah Rich Gettleman of Theatre Artists Studio and Raising Arizona Kids Magazine.

And keep an eye out for the June 2011 issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine — because the ever-fascinating Silverman and her family are profiled in the “AZ Generations” column.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for a list of journalists who’ve won 2010 Arizona Press Club awards — which includes two mothers who write for Raising Arizona Kids magazine. Winners will be recognized May 21 at the Arizona Press Club Awards Party in Phoenix.

Coming: More mothers who write

Math problem

I’ve always sucked at math. But I’m feeling particularly inept this weekend because there are more shows I want to see than hours I have for taking them all in. Now that is a serious math problem.

Tonight I could stay close to home and enjoy “Six Characters in Search of an Author” performed by the NYC-based Aquila Theatre at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, or head downtown for opening weekend of “Lost in Yonkers” performed by Arizona Theatre Company. “Yonkers” has special appeal because it features two young actors, one of whom goes to school with my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth. It’s always fun to support young actors in our midst!

If I head to Phoenix College, I can enjoy the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company production of “My Name is Asher Lev.” I’m intrigued by this piece because of the subject matter (art and Jewish identity), the fact that it’s being directed by Layne Racowsky (whose work I know best from their youth theatre productions) and because I was so smitten with the last work I saw the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company perform (“Hard Love” — also a work about Jewish identity).

I’m seriously tempted to head to Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale (near Paradise Valley Mall) to see a Lee Blessing play titled “Eleemosynary.” The cast includes Maureen Watson (known to many for her work with Childsplay in Tempe and her producing director gig at Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale) and another student Lizabeth knows from Arizona School for the Arts, 16-year-old Tasha Spear — as well as Judy Lebeau.

From a mere math perspective, compelling reasons to hit “Eleemosynary” are starting to add up. Theatre Artists Studio counts Debra Rich Gettleman, who writes and blogs for Raising Arizona Kids magazine, among its members. Her work is brainy and biting, and always leaves me wanting more. I love the vibe of the venue, which I last enjoyed during the Scottsdale Community College performance of “The Diviners” (they used the studio while their on-campus digs were being renovated). And “Eleemosynary” features lots of fun words, something it’s hard for a wanna-be-wordsmith to miss.

Sure, I could wait to hit most of these tomorrow night (Aquila Theatre is a one night gig). Or head out Saturday night to see Arizona artists ages 15-18 perform for the chance to win a $1,000 first prize in this year’s “Arizona Young Artists Competition” at the Herberger Theater Center. Finalists in acting, dance and voice will be competing for top honors. It doesn’t take a math whiz to know that this is a seriously good thing.

But I’ve already got tickets to see Betty Buckley perform “Broadway by Request” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Considering how much time we spend in the teen taxi listening to musician and comedian Seth Rudetsky on the Sirius XM “On Broadway” channel, Lizabeth would be heartbroken to miss anything involving Rudetsky, who’s accompanying Buckley on piano.

Once again, the math just isn’t in my favor — because tomorrow is the final night of Southwest Shakespeare Company’s performance of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” I can feel less bummed (and guilty) about missing that one, though, since it’s already sold out. I hope the same isn’t yet true for the Scottsdale Community College production of “The Bald Chairs,” which I’m also eager to see should the math ever work in my favor — it opens March 31 so the odds are more in my favor. 

Chances are, I’ll give up on the math entirely. English was always my better subject, so I suppose most of the weekend will find me writing about theater rather than enjoying it firsthand. So I hope the rest of you will do me a favor. Pick at least one of the shows I’m longing to see and get yourself a ticket (or more if you want to take along family or friends). Then drop me a note about your experience. Who knows — I might even ask you to elaborate for a “guest blog” so you can spend some time in the “reviewer” chair. It beats the heck out of sitting at home snuggled up with a calculator.

— Lynn

Note: Those of you seeking performing arts options for younger children can always consult the print or online calendar from Raising Arizona Kids Magazine.

Coming up: Choosing a college theater program, Baggage — with wings

Puppetry & playwriting

Playwright Geoffrey Gonsher found early inspiration in Howdy Doody, pictured here with Buffalo Bob

I’ve accompanied my three children to well over a hundred birthday parties through the years, but the memory of one party in particular still makes me smile.

It was for a young boy named Aaron who, along with his older brother Charles and the rest of the family, loved spending time at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix.

“For years it was our Saturday morning home,” recalls their father Geoffrey Gonsher.

I learned from Gonsher just yesterday that Aaron is now in New York studying and practicing the craft of theater criticism, while Charles works in the financial sector in Boulder, Colorado.

Their dad is a playwright who’ll present his latest work tonight (Sat, Nov 6) at Playhouse on the Park in Phoenix.

I met Gonsher when our children attended Desert View Learning Center in Paradise Valley — where children love reading in the desert, performing for peers and parents each Friday, and taking all sorts of arts-related field trips.

They even study art with Sonja Saar, Valley fiber artist and wife of Childsplay founder David Saar.

I reconnected with Gonsher after seeing his name on the list of playwrights participating in tonight’s “An Evening of New Works” (hosted by Phoenix Theatre in association with the Dramatists Guild of America) and called him Friday morning to ask about his work.

He’s presenting “Dinner at Six” — a short comedic piece that grew out of a larger dramatic play.

“Above all,” shares Gonsher, “it is a play about relationships.” Gonsher urges playwrights young and old to write what they know, and he’s followed his own advice here by writing about middle-aged men and their mothers.

His own favorite playwrights include Rod Serling, best known for the original “Twilight Zone” television series.

If you’re even a fraction as intrigued as I am, head to the Playhouse on the Park tonight to enjoy this — and several other short works — for yourself.

An audience discussion and Q & A session will follow the performance of each work, so patrons can offer input and playwrights can benefit from audience feedback.

The esteemed list of playwrights participating this evening also includes Theatre Artists Studio member and Raising Arizona Kids magazine contributor Debra Gettleman, who’ll present a work titled “I Just Killed Mickey Rooney.”

Gettleman honed her writing craft during a “Mothers Who Write” class with Amy Silverman (Phoenix New Times) and Deborah Sussmann Susser (Jewish News of Greater Phoenix), and she’s especially skilled in dry wit and “unmotherly insights.”

I asked Gonsher about other works he’s written — which include “The Twelve Nights of Political Christmas” and “Border Patrol.” His first work, it seems, was a puppet show written on the occasion of his own 60th birthday.

The piece, titled “Dilly Dally,” was a gift to his two sons — and it was coupled with a monetary gift that became the “Dilly Dally Fund” managed by Arizona Community Foundation.

Gonsher admits there weren’t many folks in attendance for the puppet show, held at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater (which Gonsher describes as “one of the treasures of Arizona”).

But he filled the empty seats with stuffed animals and puppets his sons enjoyed during their youth. The stars were his own original Howdy Doody puppets.

I shared with Gonsher my most recent trip to the Great Arizona Puppet Theater — during which I enjoyed 14 short puppet shows written by students in grades 2 through 8 at Kenilworth Elementary School in Phoenix.

The show, titled “Imagine This!,” took place Thursday evening and it was a true delight. You can enjoy it yourself through Sun, Nov 7.

A giraffe teased by others for his unusually long neck. A worm named “Lulu” that cut back to just one cupcake a day in order to make it through a tunnel in the ground. A mischievious bear who came alive at night only to leave his young owner’s toys in complete disarray. A competition of sorts between a real chicken and a robotic one.

Bigotry and bullying. Nature versus machine. Healthy habits and wellbeing. These students tackled some pretty big topics with a playful innocence that trumps the preachiness of some adult works.

I felt honored to be among some of the Valley youngest, and greatest, playwrights.

I’ll share a bit more about my “Imagine This!” experience in a future post. For now, I leave you with Gonsher’s advice for playwrights young and old.

“Write,” says Gonsher. “Write no matter what it is or how good it is, and do it as often as possible.”

“Write what you know,” adds Gonsher. Don’t struggle to research something far from your own life. “Write about your own life, your own struggles, your own relationships,” he says.

“There are stories there,” muses Gonsher, “and this is what people can relate to.”

— Lynn

Note: Valley resources for aspiring playwrights include a playwriting contest presented by East Valley Children’s Theatre, one of several resident performing arts companies of the Mesa Arts Center. A new Valley resource for puppet performance art is Puppet Works at Theater Works in Peoria, which mounts its first show in December.

Coming up: Playwriting opportunities for children and teens