Tag Archives: downtown Phoenix

Art meets asphalt?

The Weekend Pilots perform during the 2012 Phoenix Fringe Festival

Art meets asphalt next weekend as Asphalt Arts performs “Food for Thought” — a work featuring spoken word, drama, dance and audience participation — at Warehouse 1005. It’s part of the 2012 Phoenix Fringe Festival that kicks off Fri, March 2 — and includes more than 20 original works performed at five different venues.

“Food for Thought” was created in collaboration with homeless youth served by the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development. Asphalt Arts also collaborates with ArtsWork: The Kax Herberger Center for Children and the Arts, a program of the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, to bring “the expressive power of the theatre and digital story-telling” to Tumbleweed youth.

Actors Alchemy also performs three short plays during this year’s festival. Their “Short Play Festival” consists of “The Yard Sale,” “Holly,” and “Make This Go Away.” Sounds like a tour of my garage, though I’m certain it’s something more. “Short Play Festival” is being performed March 2-4 at Space 55.

Come Thurs, March 8, you can enjoy a performance of “The Weekend Pilots’ Musical Comedy Show,” the only other Fringe offering at Space 55 that looks tame enough to mention here (though looks can be deceiving). These three snappy dressers (pictured in pink above) promise a “fusion of comedy, rock, rap, electronica, dancing, and costumed characters.” Let’s hope they leave a certain politician’s new hairdo out of the mix.

The 2012 Phoenix Fringe Festival (March 2-11) features theater, dance, music and poetry

This year’s Phoenix Fringe Festival has a pair of offerings particularly well-suited to dance and music lovers. Dulce Dance Company performs March 2 & 4 at Warehouse 1005. The venue welcomes “Cool Like That: A Tribute to Miles Davis” March 2, 3 & 10. It’s “a poetic narrative by and about Miles with chronological sequencing that reflects upon the social and political climate of his time.” Think poetry/spoken word, live music, vocals and dance.

Five works are being performed at Modified Arts and three at the FilmBar in Phoenix. The four works being presented at The Studio at Phoenix Center for the Arts include “The Other Side of History,” written and performed by The Soul Justice Project and “SWAN dubstep” performed by SWAN (Devan Martinez).

The Soul Justice Project describes their work as a piece of hip hop theatre that fuses poetry, dance and music to “address key political issues facing the AZ community.” Martinez is “on a mission to educate the world about common misconceptions” surrounding pop music (think Top 40 tunes).

Learn more about the 2012 Phoenix Fringe Festival, and their projects supporting Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, at www.phxfringe.org.

— Lynn

Note: Many Phoenix Fringe Festival works include mature content and language suitable for adults rather than youth. Review the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine calendar in print or online to find family-friendly fare.

Coming up: Five festivals for families, The fine art of Freud?, Celebrating World Theatre Day

Update: The Soul Justice Project performance has been cancelled. Click here to find this and other updates on the Phoenix Fringe Festival Facebook page.

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Walking with Waddell

Detail of the John Waddell Dance installation in downtown Phoenix

I pause each time I pass a work by sculptor John Waddell, whose pieces meld metal with movement to evoke emotion and reflection. Waddell is being honored Friday evening at the Herberger Theater Center, home to his “Dance” works created between 1969 and 1974.

Detail of Dance by John Waddell

I first encountered Waddell’s work when my children attended schools housed at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix — the church where we took our son Christopher to Gymboree classes as a toddler. It was designed by Blaine Drake, a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The UUCP has lovely meditation and memorial gardens, which I strolled through on Wednesday before paying a visit to several of my children’s former teachers at Desert View Learning Center.

A winding path with a border of small stones on either side leads from the church parking lot to a Waddell piece titled “That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham, 1963” — created in reaction to a Sunday school bombing in Alahama that killed four young girls.

That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham, 1963 by John Waddell

The UUCP has a long tradition of promoting social justice, and is active in several areas — including immigration, health care, the environment, education, homelessness and gender equality.

John Waddell sculpture at the Burton Barr Central Library

Still, it’s the Waddell work exhibited at the Burton Barr Central Library that I walk by most often, as I make my way from their @ Central art gallery back to my car with an armload of books or goodies from the Friends’ Place shop.

Folks who’ve enjoyed similar walks with Waddell can join fellow appreciators of his work Friday evening as Waddell becomes the 2011 inductee into the Herberger Performing Arts and Broadcast Arts Hall of Fame.

The Nov. 18 ceremony includes an hors d’oeuvres and cocktails reception, a performance by the Phoenix Boys Choir and screening of a Marlo Bendau work titled “Rising: The Art and Life of John Waddell.” Also coffee and desserts, a silent auction and the unveiling of Waddell’s “The Gathering.”

Photograph of sculptor John Waddell taken by Michel Sarda

Recently I enjoyed a photograph of Waddell exhibited in the Herberger Art Gallery titled “Retrospective Exhibition of the Art Photography of Michel Sarda.” Sarda has authored several books, including “John Henry Waddell: The Art and the Artist” — which features more than 400 illustrations.

Sarda is chairing Friday’s event, which benefits the Herberger Theater’s arts education and outreach initiatives. These include the Arizona Young Artists competition, the Wolf Trap program serving preschool and Head Start students, and a multicultural theater camp for homeless, abused and neglected teens.

— Lynn

Note: Other weekend events at the Herberger Theater Center include the iTheatre Collaborative production of Mamet’s “Race” and the Arizona Theatre Company production of “God of Carnage.” Center Dance Ensemble opens “Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen” Dec. 3. Also note that the Herberger Theater Festival of the Arts takes place Oct. 6, 2012.

Coming up: Bella does bridal, ThesCon tales

Tourist tale

New York City is swarming with tourists — especially in the area near Zuccotti Park, home to the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the 9/11 Memorial. I’m one of them, of course, though I do my best to blend in. I like to think it’s only my frequent use of the words “thank you” and “excuse me” that give away my “not-from-around-these-parts” status.

It’s not that I think New Yorkers are rude. On the contrary, my experiences with native New Yorkers have been delightful. But the tourists are starting to get on my nerves. I paused at New York Comic Con yesterday to wait for a tourist who seemed to be having trouble deciding which way she wanted to turn.

She stood for a long time, eventually turning and running smack dab into me. I’m not the quickest thing off the block anymore, but I mean well — and would have been happy to apologize had she not cussed me out and dashed away from the scene. It seemed a fluke until a little-run in I narrowly escaped in a Lower Manhattan coffee house — one of 172 of this particular brand in the city, I’m told.

I'm going local in search of the fine art of customer service (Photo is from a lovely local joint near the Burton Barr Central Library in downtown Phoenix)

Fearing my feet were quite literally about to give way, I sought out a seat after getting my coffee. Two seats had been empty for 15 minutes as I waited in line, so I asked a couple, tourists with heavy German accents, if I could use the chairs. They’d been guarding them like the people version of a pit bull for all that time.

I went in search of other options after they told me the seats were saved. Soon a heavy downpour started to fall, and there were a lot more people in search of coffee and a place to sit for a spell. I watched as the couple, in their 60s I suppose, turned away other people who politely requested the seats.

I headed back to the counter and asked, very nicely, for a manager. I explained that a couple had been saving two seats for well over 20 minutes and that I really needed to sit down. He came out from behind the counter to ask them about the seats — then told me they were saving them for friends who were in the bathroom.

“The bathroom line gets really long here,” the manager told me. There was no line, and I’m guessing no friends. “First come, first served,” he shouted at me. Then he hurried back behind the counter. No “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you miss” or “Can I help you find another solution?” He couldn’t have cared less.

I returned to the couple and asked, again very nicely, whether I could just borrow one chair until their friends finished in the bathroom. But they turned nasty in a hurry. A gentleman sipping coffee with his wife at a nearby table quipped, “That’s why we had a second World War — Germany wanted more space.” I didn’t tell him my birth mother hailed from Germany.

Again, they refused — and the other couple, sensing my very real physcial pain — suggested I simply sit down. Nobody owns the chairs, they told me. So I tried that, explaining that I’d be happy to get up once the bathroom buddies returned. The older couple yelled at me, appalled by my so-called rudeness, until the more gracious couple noted that they had an extra chair at their table.

I was happy to move. I didn’t want to make a scene. I only wanted to get off my feet before they gave out. I’d take up a lot more space if I collapsed. I chatted with the friendly couple for a bit, who shared that they too have found New Yorkers to be perfectly civil — but that they’ve had similar encounters with other tourists in New York.

I can’t do anything about people who guard public spaces like they own them, but I can choose to get my coffee elsewhere at every opportunity. You can make the finest coffee in the world, but I won’t have anything to do with it until I get the sense that the people on your “team” really care about their customers.

After resting for ten minutes or so, I watched a lone man in his 20s politely ask the couple if they were using the two empty chairs. Half an hour later, they still refused to share. So I offered him my seat, explained that the couple sitting at the table were truly lovely — and that I was about to head out the door.

I’d have enjoyed a bit more time off my feet and out of the rain, but it seemed a nice way to end the experience. I wanted to pay the couple’s kindness forward — and New Yorkers need to know that not all tourists are tyrants.

— Lynn

Coming up: The art and soul and New York Comic Con

Arts & culture — festival style

Valley Youth Theatre (pictured above, performing Annie) is scheduled to perform at 4:05pm during Saturday's Herberger Theater Center Festival of the Arts

I’m heading out Saturday to enjoy the Herberger Theater Center “Festival of the Arts,” a one-day festival in Phoenix featuring music, dance, theater, visual art and film. It takes place from 1-5pm, which means I have plenty of time to coffee and catch up on other things ahead of time.

The festival is $5 (free for those under 12), but I’m taking a little extra cash along too so food vendors can feel the love. Think hots dogs, gourmet tacos and more. I’ll be visiting vendor booths, enjoying performances both indoor and out, and exploring the work of more than a dozen featured artists.

Folks who attend with children can enjoy the festival’s “Kids Zone,” featuring various art and science activities, demonstrations, play areas and more. Think Free Arts of Arizona and the Arizona Science Center. Even the APS Clowns are joining the fun.

The Arizona Jewish Theatre Company All Rights Reserved teen improv troupe is scheduled to perform at 2:55pm on Saturday at the Festival of the Arts

It looks like there will be about two dozen vendor booths, where you can meet all sorts of artists and those who love them. Theater groups doing the booth thing include Arizona Broadway Theatre, Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, Arizona Theatre Company, Grand Canyon University, the Scottsdale Community College Theatre Arts Program and Spotlight Youth Theatre.

I love the fact that several hail from parts other than downtown Phoenix so you can get a feel for the true breadth and depth of Valley art offerings. This is a great way to chat with folks who offer programs for children and gather information about their camps and such. (Yes, you should also watch for the 2012 Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Camp Fair.)

The Arizona Girl Choir is one of several arts organizations who will have a booth at Saturday's Herberger Theater Center Festival of the Arts

Dance groups joining the vendor booth fun include Arizona Youth Ballet, Center Dance Ensemble and Scorpius Dance Theatre. Music will be well represented too — thanks to the Phoenix Boys Choir and Arizona Girl Choir. Also keep an eye out for various art studios and others who offer family-friendly fare (like bobbles for wayward hair).

Several of the folks noted above will also perform at some point during the event on one of the Herberger Theater Center’s many stages. As will plenty of other groups — the Dance Shoppe Performance Company, EPIK Dance Company, Grand Canyon University Dance Ensemble, Theater Works and more.

An outdoor stage will feature music by the Bald Cactus Brass Band, Chicks with Picks and Take Cover! Porangui and String Serenade will perform inside Bob’s Spot, a lovely lounge adjacent to the Herberger Theater Center’s upstairs art gallery.

Performers who participate in the Herberger’s “Lunch Time Theater” series will also be on hand to entertain you. Think New Carpa Theater, Grey Matters Productions, Annie Moscow and Friendly People Productions. Sounds a bit like a smorgasbord, only sexier somehow.

Theater Works is scheduled to perform a scene and song from The King and I at 2:20pm during the Herberger Theater Center's Festival of the Arts

Film shorts run a little later than other festival offerings, starting at 4pm on The Kax Stage and wrapping up at 6pm. They’ll be introduced by emcee Ricky Faust, who will facililate Q & A sessions between films.

If critical body parts don’t give out (for me this means feet and knees), I might also hit the Rainbow Festival taking place Oct 1 & 2 from 10am-6pm at historic Heritage Square. It’s a “free admission street fair that celebrates the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” The event features “an international food court, artists, vendors and entertainment.”

If your city or town is offering festival-style fare with arts and culture flair, please comment below to let our readers know.

— Lynn

Note: The “Arizona Humanities Festival: Stories of Us” takes place Sat, Oct 22 from 10am-6pm at Civic Space Park in Phoenix. The festival features storytelling, children’s activities, author readings, dance performances, live music and film screenings. Info at www.azhumanities.org.

Coming up: Festivals featuring multicultural fare

Photos from organization Facebook pages

A playwright’s journey

Arizona playwright, performer and director Kim Porter

“I was an actor first,” recalls Kim Porter, a Valley mother of two whose play titled “Munched” opens next month at Space 55 in Phoenix. It’s the tale of a mother with Munchausen syndrome and the grown daughter who asks “Why?”

Porter says she began “noodling around with writing” in high school, fantasizing that she’d one day write novels while wearing sweaters in New England. “I’d turn out a few pages,” muses Porter, “then crap out.”

“No one ever taught me to write,” shares Porter. Instead, she learned by doing. Porter toyed with sketch comedy before tackling solo shows. “I had funny ideas, but no conflict.” Porter recalls needing a “writing 101 class” but instead taught herself how to write.

Soon Porter, living in San Francisco at the time, became the “go to person” for theater folk eager to pen their own plays. She’d found her “niche” in teaching and coaching others. “By watching others make mistakes, I learned more about writing,” reflects Porter. “That’s my heart’s work,” she says.

When career opportunities opened for her husband here in Phoenix, and the “arcane process” of choosing the best school fit for daughter Colette felt too frustrating, Porter and her husband headed to Arizona — where Porter is now a member of the Space 55 ensemble. Porter will be performing the lead role in “Munched,” a work first conceived shortly after her daughter was born.

“Munched” originated during wee hour (think 1 am) nursing sessions. “I had one arm underneath the baby,” recalls Porter, “and another clicking arond on the mommy boards.” She discovered “all these stories of judging mothers, but also anger towards the medical establishment.”

The mommy blogs were full of birth stories — Porter calls them “horror stories” — in which the childbirth experience so many expected to be perfectly blissful went awry. But Porter read more than mommy blogs. One book, titled “Geek Love,” stuck with her. “I was moved and horrified,” she recalls, “by all those people who had self-mutilated.”

“What kind of person,” wondered Porter, “mutilates themselves or others?” Each time Porter encountered a story of mutilation, medical malpractice or maternal misconduct, she found herself going back and forth about whether the person at the heart of the story was innocent or guilty.

Porter coupled these musings with her belief that everyone yearns “for a time when they were a lap baby.” Even grown-ups, she says, feel a primal longing to be cuddled by their mothers. “What,” Porter wondered, “would the loss of a mom or child feel like?” She wanted to explore the interconnectedness of mother and child “in all its healthy and unhealthy” ways.

Munched by Kim Porter is meant for mature audiences

The result was “Munched,” which Porter describes as “a who-done-it and a love story.” She’s careful to halt her description there, preferring that parents experience the work for themselves rather than hearing her take on what they’re likely to think or feel while encountering it.

The Space 55 production of “Munched” is directed by Duane Daniels, who previously directed the work in Los Angeles. Shawna Franks, a Space 55 founder who serves as artistic director, praises Daniels for being open to his actors while keeping his own vision.

Franks credits a series of Tuesday night dinners she once hosted for fellow playwrights with launching Space 55. The company will revisit their very first production, “7 Minutes in Heaven,” for its seventh anniversary next June.

Franks hails from theater-rich Chicago and, like Porter, is a proud mother of two. So what does Franks think of Porter’s work? “I’m deeply committed,” shares Franks, “to her writing, her talent and her voice.” Franks sees “Munched” as the perfect fit for Space 55, noting that the ensemble-based company favors “new, original and rarely seen” works.

Like Porter, Space 55 is on a journey. During the next several years, Franks hopes to increase funding for Space 55, give birth to offshoots producing fresh new works and help launch works like “Munched” onto the national stage.

They’re off to a good start. The Space 55 production of playwright Greg Kotis’ “The Unhappiness Plays” was part of this year’s New York International Fringe Festival, and “Munched” will be performed by Sugar Valley Theatricals at Manhattan Theatre Source come November.

Porter’s days of “crapping out” seem well behind her, replaced by the ability to steadfastly shepherd an idea from conception to maturity. How lovely to travel the joint journey of parenting and playwriting with the sheer joy and terror that each can bring.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Munchausen syndrome by proxy, here to learn more about Space 55 and here to learn more about playwright Kim Porter.

Coming up: MLK takes center stage, Opportunities for young writers

Art adventures: Phoenix Public Market

I headed to downtown Phoenix with my son Christopher last Saturday, eager to check out the the Blue Bike Kids Show booth and other offerings at a festive farmers market-style event at the corner of Central & Pierce in downtown Phoenix.

We found all sorts of cool vendors — sharing fresh foods, arts and crafts, unique gift items and more. It reminded me of a similar morning spent many years ago in the French Market District in New Orleans. There was even a live band on the scene.

The Phoenix Public Market is a program of a non-profit organization called Community Food Connections. The market consists of Urban Grocery and Wine Bar plus Open-Air Markets held Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. It’s located just three blocks south of the Roosevelt/Central light rail station.

It was our first visit, so we just made the rounds with camera in tow — but we’ll have to return one day for some grub. The Urban Grocery and Wine Bar menu, which you can explore online, includes egg dishes, pastries, smoothies, sandwiches, soups, salads and more.

The market works to increase access to fresh and healthy foods in an underserved area, to help micro-businesses launch and increase capacity, to create jobs and family self-sufficiency, to help farmers stay on the land and to create a vibrant gathering place for community members.

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The Open-Air Market, in existence since 2005, features in-season fruits and vegetables, flowers, jams, baked goods, dried beans, free-range eggs and honey. Also live plants and local arts & crafts wares. Even hot foods and plenty of things to sample. Everything there is made by the person selling it.

You can find a vendor list online too — which includes several with whimsical names that caught our eye. Alley Cat Art Studio. Art and Soul Designs. Dirty Bird Soap. Fresh From the Goddess. Happy Snappy Dog Treats. Horny Toad Farms. Life Lemons. Mom’s Gone Nuts. Pat on the Back. Tiny Tater Tees. You get the picture.

Even Desert Marigold School, affiliated with Arizona Waldorf, brings produce and flowers from the school’s garden — as well as handmade crafts.

There were lots of parents and children milling to and fro the morning we attended. Many stopped at the Blue Bike Kids Show booth to get blue balloon animals or have a photo taken — proof positive that there’s more to life than cruising the mall or racing to see who gets first shot at the remote.

— Lynn

Note: The Blue Bike Kids Show is holding a way-cool nostalgic-style picnic in Tempe on Sunday (June 26). Watch for details on the picnic –plus “a couple time-o-portation pics” they took at last weekend’s Phoenix Public Market event — in one of two Sunday posts.

Coming up: Summer of Shakespeare, NYC in Scottsdale?, Art adventures: Broadway!

Big MAC attack!

Sunday is your last chance to see Mesa Encore Theatre perform The Music Man, which beat out West Side Story to win the 1958 Tony Award for best musical

Knowing the 2011 Tony Awards are right around the corner, I decided to go in search of local productions of Tony Award-winning musicals. I started with shows coming to the Mesa Arts Center after getting an e-mail alert that tickets for their 2011-2012 Broadway series, which includes four shows, start at just $95.

Watch the Tony Awards on CBS this Sunday night to see who wins best musical for 2011

The series includes “Rock of Ages,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “The Rat Pack is Back” — plus “My Fair Lady,” winner of the 1957 Tony Award for best musical. The 1958 Tony Award for best musical went to “The Music Man,” which is being performed at MAC by Mesa Encore Theatre through June 12.

I’ll have to share other Tony Award winners coming to Valley stages in a later post, because I’m experiencing a bit of a”big MAC attack” at the moment. Turns out there’s a ton of good stuff happening at the Mesa Arts Center, so I’ve got MAC on the brain instead.

The Mesa Arts Center has offerings in four main areas — shows, classes, events and museum exhibits. Upcoming shows sound plenty intriguing. There’s “Retro,” “Live Love Dance!,” and even Steve Martin and his banjo buddies. Events to watch for include fall and spring “out to lunch” concert series, the Mesa Arts Festival and celebrations of Dia de los Muertos.

This girl should have signed up for music classes through Mesa Arts Center

Mesa Arts Center offers classes in visual and performing arts. Think blacksmithing for the grown-ups and ceramic “mud pups” for children. Also American tribal dance and belly dance classes. Plus “scenes for teens” acting classes and a “dance sampler” for kids who want to explore various dance options.

Exhibits opening today at MAC’s “Mesa Contemporary Arts” space — a collection of five galleries — include “Picturing Maricopa” and “Women’s Work.” Other current exhibits include “Chicanitas,” “Vermilion Remains,” and “Wood & Substance, Substance & Spirit.”

Another snappy dresser from the Mesa Encore Theatre production of The Music Man

That’s a lot of art for an admission fee of just $3.50. Kids age 7 & under are always free — and admission is free for all on Thursdays (the museum is closed on Mondays). I’m going to have to move this to the top of my “me time” to do list. My grown children would enjoy the works, but they’re already off and running in a million directions this summer. Bummer.

— Lynn

Note: The Theater League 2011-2012 Broadway series also performs at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix

Coming up: Art meets science — with a twist of creative genius

Photo credit: Sarah Rodgers and Wade Moran