Tag Archives: New Plays

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


New plays for young audiences

Write Now recently issued the call for new plays for young audiences

Folks in the field of playwriting for youth are plenty familiar with the Bonderman Playwriting Festival for Youth, first conceived by founder Dorothy Webb in 1983. After Webb announced her retirement last year, Indiana Repertory Theatre (home of the Bonderman Festival since the mid-’90s) sought a new partner to help reimagine the festival.

Last May IRT and Childsplay met to begin work on transforming the Bonderman Festival into Write Now — a “biennial national competition and process-focused workshop” supporting the work of both emerging and established playwrights. Their collaboration is funded in part by a $100,000 award from the NYC-based Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The first Write Now gathering takes place March 14-17, 2013 in Tempe. The second takes place in Indianapolis during 2015.

IRT and Childsplay are collaborating to “advocate for playwrights and promote the development of new plays for young audiences.” Playwrights from across the country have until July 31 to submit their scripts for K-12 audiences to Write Now. Playwrights must be at least 18 years old when they submit their work, and only one submission per playwright will be accepted. Musicals will not be accepted for the 2013 contest.

At least four scripts will be selected by a panel of peers to participate in the full workshop process, which includes “a week on site at Childsplay with a development team, followed by a reading of the script at the Write Now gathering.” Semi-finalists will be invited to read excerpts of their scripts. Winners will be contacted in December.

Write Now gatherings are designed to engage playwrights, directors, actors, theater artists and others in the play development process. Producers, educators, students and theater practioners with a passion for new plays are invited to attend. The event features rehearsed readings of all finalist plays, excerpts of semi-finalist plays and an “experiential” artistic keynote.

Also “stimulating conversations about new pactices in the development of work for young audiences” and “a formal discussion of the development of a national new plays network for young audiences.” Registration fees are $150 (adults) and $135 (students) before Jan. 31, 2013 — and $175 (adults) and $160 (students) after.

There’s even a group rate on a limited number of rooms reserved by Childsplay at the Courtyard by Marriott Tempe Downtown, which is within walking distance of both Write Now venues — Childsplay’s Campus for Imagination and Wonder  and the Tempe Center for the Arts, where both local schools and community groups will participate as audience members.

So save the date, grab your pen and let the new works begin.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for details about submitting your work for consideration

Coming up: Art meets Mother’s Day, Once upon a dance competition, Festival spotlights women playwrights, One mother’s diary, Ode to Maurice Sendak

“I Am Van Gogh”

Plenty of people have toured the “Van Gogh Alive” exhibition that’s running through June 17 at the Arizona Science Center, but reactions to the multi-media presentation of Van Gogh’s work and words vary. I stood in a single spot for a very long time, reading Van Gogh quotes projected onto an otherwise blank wall. Pasha Yamotahari recalls heading for a corner — looking at the silhouettes of people lingering in front of towering screens featuring rotating images of Van Gogh paintings and related fare. Yamotahari says he was struck by “people standing frozen in time with something timeless.” And then it hit him.

“Hey,” he recalls thinking to himself. “I wrote something about Van Gogh some time ago.” The exhibit conjured memories of a screenplay written about eight years ago when Yamotahari was studying theatre, film and television at Scottsdale Community College. It was about a little’s boy first museum experience, which included an unexpected encounter with one of Van Gogh’s paintings. He pictured Van Gogh coming alive to interact with the boy, but felt at the time that staging such a thing would be rather tricky. Hence the choice to write it as a screenplay.

But times are changing in theater world, as new technologies make all sorts of things more doable. Yamotahari knows this better than most as a member of the artistic staff for Phoenix Theatre, where he’s been known to wear lots of hats. He holds both an AAFA in theatre arts and film/TV from SCC and a BA in journalism from ASU’s Cronkite School in downtown Phoenix — but his talents also include directing, dramaturgy and more.

For years he’s been part of bringing Phoenix Theatre’s “Hormel New Works Festival” to life. But this year, he’s adding another hat — presenting a sit-down reading of his own full-length play called “I Am Van Gogh.” It’s an adaptation of his earlier screenplay reworked after that “Aha!” moment at the Arizona Science Center. His is one of two sit-down readings that’s free and open to the public.

Playwright Pasha Yamotahari still treasures this book his mother gave him

Yamotahari’s mother gave him a book during high school that contained letters written by Van Gogh. Yamotahari remembers reading it — fascinated that someone so gifted achieved success only after his death and curious about why so few people recognized Van Gogh’s greatness when the artist was alive. Nowadays it gives him pause to consider what counts as true greatness in the arts, to wonder about the ways we define success and to live with the ambiguity of never really knowing where one’s devotion to art might lead.

“I Am Van Gogh” runs about two hours and features four actors playing close to 20 characters. The play imagines a young son of devout parents who’s magically taken inside a painting where he meets Van Gogh. The artist tells the boy it’s his destiny to be the next Van Gogh, something complicated by the fact that 8-year-old Marc is simply “not that good at painting.”

Yamotahari was born in Iran but his family fled to France around the time of the Iranian Revolution, later moving to Toronto. Play goers meet Marc as an eight year old because that’s the age when Yamotahari first saw a Van Gogh work at a small gallery in Nice. Also because children develop rich memories around that age. Yamotahari notes that Marc “sees Van Gogh throughout his life pushing him.” Marc finds his destiny, but it’s not without sacrifice.

Knowing that Van Gogh is on most short lists of artists who lived with mental illness, I asked Yamotahari whether he’d integrated the issue into the play. Yamotahari notes that the more he worked with the protagonists, the more he realized that some artists feel the only way to truly reach art is to lose their mind. He describes it as “putting themselves in a constant state of pseudo-insanity.” Sometimes it’s merely an artist’s “obsession with a piece that gets misconstrued as mental illness.”

Though we don’t have works of Van Gogh here in the Valley, Yamotahari’s been able to study the artist’s works online via the “Google Art Project” featuring artworks from 17 of the world’s great art museums. Yamotahari recalls reading the words of Van Gogh, which felt fluid early on but changed somehow as if madness was brewing — especially near the end of Van Gogh’s life.

Yamotahari says he’s fondest of Van Gogh works depicting cornfields, and thinks it’s “cool to zoom in and see those brush strokes.” If you look closely enough, says Yamotahari, you’ll see mistakes — even moments of rage and passion. The playwright wants those who see “I Am Van Gogh” to wonder about the difference between destiny and free will. But don’t expect easy answers. Yamotahari hopes the play will “evoke ambiguity and mystery.”

— Lynn

Note: The 2012 “Hormel New Works Festival” takes place July 8-22. Click here to explore selections and learn about a related art contest. Click here to explore the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Coming up: Art meets asylum, James Garcia talks playwriting and social justice, Drawing a diary

More than Margaritaville

Even the floors at Xico in Chandler are covered with artwork

For too many Americans, Cinco de Mayo is merely one more excuse to drink beyond reason. For others, it’s a friendly reminder to spend more time exploring the diverse arts and culture of Latin America. For those of you seeking more than Margaritaville, I’ve assembled a humble rundown of a few places you can explore Latin American arts and culture here in Arizona.

  • Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center in Phoenix presents visual and performance art. Their “2nd Annual Latina Art Exhibit and Festival” and “What Do Kids Want?” exhibit open today. May’s “First Friday” lineup at ALAC includes the performances by Mystic Events Dance Group, ethnographer Sarah Amira de la Garza and dance group Unidos en Amistad. A Jeremy Gillett play titled “Black & 25 in America” premieres at the center May 12. Learn more at www.alac.mouthtomouthmedia.com.
  • Phoenix Art Museum has a permanent collection of Latin American art that includes more than 400 works of art from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries including religious paintings, colonial furniture, decorative arts and more. Featured artists include Frida Kahlo, Rufino Tamayo and Diego Rivera — plus many contemporary artists. Learn more at www.phxarts.org.
  • Tucson Museum of Art has more than 1,900 works in its permanent Spanish colonial and folk art collections, in addition to oil-on-tin retablos and Mexican provinical paintings. Current exhibitions include “Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Murray,” “Tesoros del Pueblo: Latin American Folk Art” and “Frida’s Style: Traditional Women’s Costumes from Mexico.” They’ll present a free screening of the film “Frida” on May 10, and partner with UA to present teacher training in Latin American art. Learn more at www.tucsonmuseumofart.org.
  • Xico in Chandler sponsors the region’s oldest “Dia de los Muertos Festival” — a free event that “showcases community performers, folk art vendors, storytelling, cultural music, children’s activities, a community procession and community altar. The 2012 festival takes place on Nov. 3. They also present community exhibitions and “meet the artist” events featuring works by Latino and Native American artists. Xico offers classes with professional artists to underserved youth, plus printmaking workshops (“an art-form with a rich history among indigenous artists”). Learn more at www.xicoinc.org.

Click here if you’re looking for family-friendly Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and here to learn more about an Arizona organization called Friends of Mexican Art.

— Lynn

Note: Click here if you’re celebrating Keith Haring’s birthday today and here to watch Robert Booker on PBS’s “Horizon” (Booker heads the Arizona Commission on the Arts). If you just like clicking things, simply fondle your remote control.

Coming up: The best pies in Glendale?, Art meets Austria

Update: Works by 2012 Arizona Doodle 4 Google finalists will be exhibited at the Tucson Museum of Art June 1-Aug 31. You can vote online for your favorite Doodle for Google through May 10 by clicking here. 5/4/12; Click here to read “Rescuing the Stories Behind Latino Art” by Holland Cotter published in The New York Times. 5/12.


After on stage warm-ups that included plenty of high fives and cheering, Sarah Sullivan and Xanthia Angel Walker asked a cast of nearly three dozen youth (plus two grown-up actors) to picture “one person or thing you want to dedicate this show to.” Soon they’d begin a dress rehearsal for “Some Are Beginning,” a play written by José Zárate with several Valley youth as part of “The Arizonan Project.”

Cast members from "Some Are Beginning" from Rising Youth Theatre

It’s an effort by newly-formed Rising Youth Theatre, founded by Sullivan and Walker, to engage youth in telling their own stories. It’s up and running thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $5000, plus funding from the New Jersey-based Puffin Foundation — which “provides grants to artists and art organizations who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy.”

“You are making history right now,” the pair told their eager young performers — who auditioned for the show after learning of the newly-creating Rising Youth Theatre through various venues,  including Phoenix Center for the Arts, where “Some Are Beginning” opens tonight at 7:30pm. There’s also a 7:30pm show on Sat, April 28 — and a 6pm show on Sun, April 29. Tickets are just $10 or “pay what you can at the door.”

Scene from Rising Youth Theatre's "Some Are Beginning"

More than 100 young people from across the Phoenix metro area have been involved in developing and presenting the work, according to Sullivan and Walker — who note that their collaborators for this production include not only Phoenix Center for the Arts (which offers all sorts of arts experiences for kids and adults), but also the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix, Flight 33 and Barrio Nuevo.

I chatted with several small groups of “Some Are Beginning” actors before Thursday night’s dress rehearsal. Some showed remarkable focus. Others bounced to and fro with excitement. None seemed nervous, and all were incredibly composed and polished once the show got underway. Some aspire to theater careers, while others are happy just for the chance to make new friends.

Rising Youth Theatre's "Some Are Beginning" opens tonight at 7:30pm

“The play is about living in Arizona,” they told me. Also friendship, facing hardship, not judging others and standing up for those who’re mistreated. “It’s about the experiences of being a kid,” shares Sullivan, “which are really human experiences.” The work is suitable, she says, for audiences ages 8 and up — including adults. I found it sweet, funny and insightful. But it’s something more. It’s a beginning.

“This is the first performance of the first play of a brand new theater,” Walker told the cast before Thursday’s rehearsal. “I hope you’ll always remember how special this was.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here for more information on tonight’s performance

Coming up: From journalism to playwriting

Photos by José Zárate

Got scripts?

New works festivals present great opportunities for writers and audiences

Jason Tremblay of Austin won last year’s EVCT aspiring playwrights contest with “Queen Zixi of Ix, The Story of the Magic Cloak” — which was performed by East Valley Children’s Theatre just last month. It’s the adaptation of an L. Frank Baum story about two young children forced to live with a greedy aunt who moves them from country to city in search of work — and the adventures that help them bring happiness and prosperity to everyone in their new land.

Second place in last year’s EVCT playwriting contest went to Drew Ignatowski of Gilbert for “Moonprince,” and third place went to Texan Bobbi A. Chukran of Leander for “Princess Primrose & the Curse of the Big Sleep.” Cash prizes go to the top three winners each year, and the winning play is produced by EVCT (assuming it meets their criteria for performance). The deadline for 2012 submissions is Fri, March 15.

New Carpa Theater Co. recently issued a call for scripts inspired by the legacy of the civil rights movement, the United Farm Workers Union and contemporary social justice issues. They’re looking for works to present during a short plays festival they expect to hold in late May/early June as well as October. Think 5- to 10-minute stage plays, monologues, play excerpts and performance pieces. Scripts are due April 20, and can be submitted in either Spanish or English.

James E. Garcia, producing artistic director for the company, notes that eight to 10 pieces will be selected by a panel of seven local playwrights, writers and producers for staging at the festival. Additional works may also be presented for festival goers. Garcia describes the festival as “a non-partisan, grassroots, community-based project” designed to give theater artists and audiences “an opportunity to express their concerns regarding some of the most compelling human and civil rights issues of our time” — including those effecting immigrants, women and people of color.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is now considering plays for its 2013 New American Playwrights Project. Scripts submitted for consideration must be postmarked by Nov 1, 2012. Three works (all with mature content) are being presented during the 2012 series directed by Charles L. Metten — “The Greater Love” by Frankie Little Hardin, “Turquoise Wind” by Kurt Proctor and “Play Desdemona” by Daniel Hintzsche.

Those of you who favor watching new works rather than writing them can enjoy the 15th annual Hormel New Works Festival being presented July 8-22 by Phoenix Theatre. The festival features staged readings performed by professional actors.

Phoenix Theatre also holds a “2nd Draft Series” designed to further the development of select plays presented during the Hormel New Works Festival. Three plays will get the “2nd draft” treatment in coming weeks and months — including Richard Warren’s “Pollywogs” (March 24), Kurt Shineman’s “Mother’s Milk” (April 21) and Scott McCarrey’s “The Wilds” (May 19).

The Arizona Women’s Theatre Company presents its 6th annual Pandora Festival of New Works May 18-20 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. It features full-length plays, one-act plays and 10-minute plays written by Arizona women.

Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale is home to the “New Play Series and Reader’s Theatre.” Up next in their new play series is “4” by Terry Youngren (March 17). Their next reader’s theater will be presented April 23 by Drea Pruseau.

A Childsplay world-premiere read of Dwayne Hartford’s “The Color of Stars” comes to The Temple Lounge in Tucson Sat, April 14 as part of the Arizona Theatre Company’s Café Bohemia” series. The play’s described as “a touching story about life in America during World War II with modern-day parallels about the costs of war both overseas and at home.”

Folks who prefer seeing plays fully staged and polished will be pleased to know that “The Color of Stars” is being performed by Childsplay April 22-May 20 at Tempe Center for the Performing Arts.

— Lynn

Coming up: Frankly speaking, So you want to be a playwright…

What’s new in Tucson?

A Cafe Bohemia reading presented in Tucson by Arizona Theatre Company

Folks who head to Tucson this Sunday night can enjoy one in a series of readings of new works. Arizona Theatre Company is presenting a little something called “Café Bohemia” — featuring a hip hop play titled “Used To Was (Maybe Did)” that explores “age old questions within the form.” Think style versus substance, ethics versus selling out, the spirit of hip hop versus the money of hip hop. Presenters are partnering with the Tucson Museum of Art as part of its “Tucson Rocks!” program. 

Arizona Theatre Company’s “Café Bohemia” is a “season of play readings, jams and ideas, featuring diverse new works from bold and inventive playwrights.” Folks who hit these events at the Temple Lounge (located at the Temple of Music and Art in downtown Tucson) get to “participate in the new play process” and “hear works read aloud by the best local and national actors.”

Poetry Joey workshop at the UA Poetry Center (Photo: Annie Guthrie)

It’s no place for the tiny ones, of course, but your mature teens might enjoy giving it a try. Tucson has other things to offer the toddlers to tweens in your life, like “Family Days, which evolved out of the “Poetry Joeys” program at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. They’re held once a month during the academic year from 10am to 1pm, and there’s one scheduled for this Saturday.

Family Days” feature “youth writing, local music, games, interactive bookmaking workshops, science experiments, storytelling, creative movement activities and other poem-happenings that are designed to inspire youth and their families to explore the world around them through language.” Poetry Joeys workshops, including a new infant sing-a-long class, take place from 10-11am.

As Thanksgiving approaches, remember the importance of spending truly meaningful time with family and friends. Be genuinely grateful for the people in your life, and for the beauty and bounty of language all around us. Happenings like those shared above make it fun and easy to do both. Thank goodness.

— Lynn

Coming up: The wonder of Waddell, What’s new in Prescott?, The fine art of empty bowls, Word play on Thanksgiving day