Tag Archives: Ron May

Once upon a robot

“Heddatron” robots invade Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe through June 9

Walls surrounding the Tempe Performing Arts Center courtyard were plastered with tidbits of robot trivia and images of robots once seen on screens big and small for opening night of Elizabeth Meriwether’s “Hedatron” — which imagines a pregnant housewife’s capture by friendly robots. It’s her “Calgon, take me away” moment and it’s glorious.

As “Heddatron” opens, five robot operators donning black garb and headgear form a tight circle on stage. They’ve got remote controls in hand during what looks like a pre-game huddle complete with “all for one and one for all” hand gesture. Once they’re seated in the front row, various characters begin to fill in different spaces on the stage.

The kitchen and living room of a home shared by two parents and a school-age daughter. Also parts of a home shared by writer Henrik Ibsen, his wife and the resident “kitchen slut.” Think maid in the missionary position. And yes, “Heddatron” is most certainly a mature content play — so leave the little ones home to play with their own dolls and robots.

Mounting a show takes plenty of blood, sweat and tears. But injecting this show with robots also took wiring, wheels and gears. And heart. Every robot has it’s own personality, reflected through design, voicing, sound effects and more. Robot designers, builders and operators all deserve high praise. And a good night’s sleep after working nearly round the clock in some cases.

I sometimes run into folks who lament the Valley arts scene, feeling it lacks originality, imagination or truly inspired artistry. And “Heddatron” makes me wonder. Maybe they’re not spending enough time with stray cats like Ron May, artistic director for Stray Cat Theatre and director for this show.

Johanna Carlisle (L) and Thea Eigo “Heddatron” (Photo: John Groseclose)

May’s imagination must be a marvelous place, because beauty and biting humor are born there — then delivered with real insight and grace. His many strengths include casting just the right person for each part, as evidenced by Thea Eigo’s performance as “Nugget Gordon.” We’ll all be saying “I knew her when” about that one some day. In a good way.

Eigo plays the daughter of Jane Gordon (Johanna Carlisle) and Rick Gordon (Todd Michael Isaac), and spends much of the play sharing snippets of school reports on Ibsen and other writers while sporting Ibsen-esque sideburns and running through visual aids that look like cue cards. She’s a hoot — and incredibly cute.

Eigo is a Childsplay-trained actor whose bio notes that she’s a 5th grader at Villa Montessori School. Seems she “enjoys music, photography, and collecting sock monkeys” and has a wonderful big sister named Willa. Eigo told me that “Heddatron” is about “a housewife who gets kidnapped by robots.” True enough, but she’ll find other themes in the work as she grows.

Opening nights at Stray Cat Theatre include post-show gatherings in the courtyard, complete with nibbles and libations. I lingered after Friday’s performance to chat with folks about “Heddatron” — asking everyone I talked with a single question: “What’s that play about?”

My first observation was this — in groups of men and women, only the women had a reply at the ready. It’s about aliention or boredom, they told me. About longing for something beyond suburbia, marriage and motherhood. Sorry guys, but more than a few of you drew a blank on this one.

Johanna Carlisle as Jane Gordon in “Heddatron” (Photo: John Groseclose)

The most notable exception was Damon Dering, artistic director for Nearly Naked Theatre (yup, they go there). It’s about learning to love the very thing that traps you, he told me — but with a bit more eloquence. “Heddatron” is fun fare for folks steeped in the study of existentialism, or those who wake up living it each day. Think art meets angst.

A fellow former stage mom told me it was about Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler,” the play mama Gordon is forced by robots to read in the rain forest after her abduction. True enough, but you needn’t read it to enjoy the show. Trying too hard to understand “Heddatron” won’t up the fun factor, so it’s perfectly fine to just show up and be entertained.

Still, those with an artistic bent will appreciate the play’s ponderings about the nature of art and artist. Where you live will likely influence your view of the “Heddatron” landscape. Some will see the struggle for women’s liberation. Others the clash of society with self. Some the tyranny of technology or commercialism. And some their own lives.

A local actor turned entrepreneur honed in on the scientist whose musings about “synchronicity” are projected onto a screen hanging over the back of the stage. That, and the snappy bow tie, earn him big points for originality. Seems folks once feared dark consequences if robots grew self-aware, unmindful of the perils facing humans grappling with their own automatization.

Stray Cat Theatre performs “Heddatron” through June 9, and they’re already looking ahead to season #11 featuring “punkplay” by Gregory S. Moss, “Wolves” by Steve Yockey, “Sons of the Prophet” by Stephen Karam and a Trista Baldwin play with a rhyming title best not mentioned in a parenting publication. (Snaps to literary manager Emily Rubin, who helped snag rights to perform the Karam piece.)

Theater works come and go, but on-stage robots are rare and worth the journey into alternative theater Stray Cat style even for folks who’ve yet to develop a taste for such things. Leave your prim and proper behind, and head to Tempe for a performance that’ll reduce your own roboticism. Great theater makes us more human. Thank Meriwether and May for that.

— Lynn

Note: “Heddatron” includes scenes depicting sex, suicide and other mature themes. Click here for information on local and national suicide prevention resources. Click here to explore The Ibsen Museum in Oslo.

Coming up: The press tribe gathers to honor its own

Advertisements

The devil wears Gucci

It’s true. He told me himself. Funny thing, though — he looks a lot like Damon Dering of Nearly Naked Theatre, recently nabbed by Ron May to bring a debonair twist to the angel who always seems to get a bad rap in the Stray Cat Theatre production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.”

I’m especially interested in the works of playwright Guirgis these days knowing that Pace University in NYC, where our daughter Lizabeth studies acting, is presenting his “Our Lady of 121st Street” in a little theater off Times Square this Spring. Turns out she used a monologue from yet another Guirgis play during college auditions — though Satan was nowhere to be found in that one.

But he’s a star witness in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” which imagines a trial for the man known to many as the discpline who betrayed Jesus, with a kiss, for thirty pieces of silver. So too are Mother Teresa, Sigmund Freud and several others — including Iscariot’s own mother.

“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” opens with the reflections of Iscariot’s mother — which makes for one of the most compelling monologues out there these days. How does a mother come to grips with her son being accused of something so horrific? Or taking his own life? If such things flow from a just and loving God, she wants no part of it.

The play poses weighty questions about both the nature of God and the nature of man, dressed in humor and accessorized with words you won’t find in the Bible. Free will and destiny. Hubris and humility. Justice and mercy. Hope and despair. It’s all there, along with questions about the accuracy of history and the authority of those in power.

How saintly was Mother Teresa, really? Did writing all those tomes really qualify Freud as an expert on our inner lives? Why have the Jews been blamed all these years for Jesus’ death? How accurate can the gospels be considering their differences — and their authorship by those who weren’t eyewitnesses to the things they seek to recount?

One character notes that Western civilizations exalt honesty, while Eastern civilizations favor loyalty. Another observes that people only respond to fear and threats, implying that belief in heaven drives most good deeds. The dialogue, both densely packed and quickly paced, borders on being too much of a good thing.

Unless, of course, you’re a theology geek whose spine tingles at the mere mention of ontology. Or routinely drops names like Kierkegaard and Hegel — both mentioned in the play. After seeing Stray Cat Theatre perform “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” I finally have an anwer for all those people who wondered how I’d ever put all that doctoral study in the philosophy of religion to good use.

Still, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” is plenty accessible to folks who chose more practical pursuits. I suspect it says something quite different to atheists than to believers, but it’s a worthy exercise for both in thinking about big questions of both past and present.

Most of all, I think, it’s a treatise on the future. Like the musical “Godspell,” Guirgis’ “Last Days of Judas Iscariot” reminds us that it’s possible to create a sort of heaven on earth. But only by serving the least among us without expectation of reward.

— Lynn

Note: “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” which contains mature themes and language, runs through March 3. Click here for show and ticket information. And pause a moment to reflect on the life and work of John Hick (1922-2012), an accomplished philosopher and theologian with whom I was privileged to study.

Coming up: Shakespeare meets Victor Hugo

Cool cats

One of Samantha Martin's Amazing Acro-Cats

My college-age son enjoys volunteering with the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA, and often shares tales of the many cats up for adoption — who have looks and personalities as diverse, and intriguing, as their human counterparts. The organization holds its 2012 “Evening to Paws” at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas on Sat, March 10.

The Arizona Humane Society holds its 17th annual “Compassion with Fashion” event at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale on Sat, March 17. This year’s theme is “All you need is love.” Try telling that to the circus cats with an insatiable appetite for hoops and balls.

Think adoring fans will pester the acro-cats for pawtographs after the show?

Space 55 in Phoenix presents “Samantha Martin and the Amazing Acro-Cats” through Sun, Jan. 29. I’m told the little darlings are all well-trained and well-treated house cats. Thankfully they sent me a lovely collection of photos, so my own cat “Pink” didn’t have to pose with pint-sized props. She does a mean jumping act when errant rubber bands cross her path, but hardly seems destined for show business.

If only all set, prop and costume design were so simple...

Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe is gearing up for their third show this season. It’s a feline-free production titled “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.” Perhaps some of you have cats named after its characters, which include Mother Teresa and Sigmund Freud. (Don’t take the kittens.)

I wonder whether the acro-cats ever long to meet Andrew Lloyd Webber

The Stephen Adly Guirgis play is set in a “time-bending, darkly comic world between heaven and hell” and the production directed by Stray Cat artistic director Ron May will features ASU’s incoming class of M.F.A. theatre students. May is the proud companion of a black cat, so let’s hope this piece won’t inspire him to invest in cat-sized roller skates.

— Lynn

Note: No cats were harmed in the making of this post

Coming up: Can you ear me now?

Beware the BFF

Yolanda London, Toby Yatso, Cale Epps and Angelica Howland in the Actors Theatre production of Hunter Gatherers directed by Ron May

Playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb envisions the evolving relationship of two couples joined in tandem weddings in “Hunter Gatherers,” being presented by Actors Theatre of Phoenix at the Herberger Theater Center through Jan. 15. The couples somehow manage to live apart, but have a lovely little ritual of dining together once each year to keep all that beautiful BFF stuff brewing.

Their latest gathering — or hunt, perhaps — is the stuff of Sinn Nachtrieb’s work. It’s directed by Ron May of Stray Cat Theatre, who’s hailed as “brilliant, very specific, gracious and smart,” by Toby Yatso, who performs the role of Tom. “He knows this play really well,” says Yatso. “It’s been in his heart for a long time.” Yatso descrbes May’s work as “the best version of storytelling.”

“There’s a lot packed into the play,” according to Yatso, who uses the word “intense” to describes its content, scenes and relationships. It’s fast-paced, arsurdist and farcical fare about finding the funny moments in terribly serious lives. “You see yourself in it,” reflects Yatso, “even though something like this would never happen to you.”

The play’s four characters — Pam (Angelica Howland), Richard (Cale Epps), Wendy (Yolanda London) and Tom (Toby Yatso) — have known each other since high school. “Hunter Gatherers” finds them in their mid-thirties, and at a crossroad. “There’s something missing for each of them,” says Yatso. “Some don’t know what it is,” he says. “Some do, but they don’t know how to get it.”

“The nature of the play,” observes Yatso, “is like a great Greek tragedy.” Our human flaws catch up with us, and become obvious to everyone. Even ourselves. London describes it as “an exploration of what it takes to get people to go back to their primal instincts.” Seems her character “doesn’t stop until she gets what she wants.” Best not to be the person who has it.

London notes that characters Pam and Wendy have actually known each other since grade school. “There’s history,” says London, “and ties.” Plus a connection that could be the reason Wendy keeps coming back. London describes the play as “fast, funny, bloody, awesome and honest.” Also unflinchingly and refreshingly honest. “We don’t get to see this honesty in everyday life,” reflects London.

“We hear these people say things lots of us think,” shares London. “Their problems are our problems,” she says. “We all want family, loving friends — to matter.” London says she’s particularly drawn to the “musicality” of the playwright’s words, and shares the director’s fondness for telling stories about people who are messy. “These people,” she says, “are messy.”

So too is the world of sustaining a thriving theater company. Actors Theatre reported late last year that it was in danger of closing up shop due to a severe financial shortfall. The lovely red thermometer on their website shows they’re raised more than 90% of the funds needed to finish out their season and move ahead to a final fundraising phase.

I asked both Yatso and London what losing Actors Theatre would mean to the community. “They’re so talented,” Yatso told me. “If they aren’t here, there’s no one left to do this kind of work.” London made a similar observation  — asking “Who else will be telling these stories?”

There are others producing new and edgy adult fare in the Valley — including May’s own “Stray Cat Theatre” in Tempe, but the companies have distinct flavors and a metropolis of our size needs more, rather than fewer, theater companies offering challenging works that raise issues at the very heart of our common humanity.

Actors work for theater companies, of course, so losing a theater means lost job opportunities — and the domino effect that brings for families and communities. “Actors Theatre keeps us working,” says London. But there’s more, she says. Much more. “Actors Theater is brave and adventurous.”

Happily, managing director Erica McKibben Black noted before Sunday’s performance that the company’s board of directors has voted to finish out the season — so Valley audiences can look forward to “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” and “Body Awareness” as Actors Theatre continues its fundraising drive for a future beyond just this season.

Sunday’s performance of “Hunter Gatherers” was, by the way, quite well executed. It’s full of primal urges, mostly for food and sex, realized in sometimes violent ways — making it appropriate for grown-ups who are comfortable with such things, or those who relish a bit of discomfort for the sake of art or self-reflection.

Physical comedy abounds and it’s exceptional. Every actor gives a compelling performance, but Epps is the pivotal player as best laid plans are both realized and unraveled. I’ll never look at drumsticks, oven mitts, freezer bags or wall art in quite the same way. Keep tearing down those walls, Actors Theatre. Sometimes we all need a good hard look in the mirror.

— Lynn

Note: “Hunter Gatherers” features mature content and adult language. Yatso says families with teens who see and discuss a lot of mature theater together may be fine with the material, but cautions against anyone under age 16 seeing the work alone due to mature themes (As a mom I might have said 18, or 29). Click here for tickets, and here if you might like to make a donation. Updated 1/1/12

Coming up: Words have power

Lemonade for grown-ups

Kaleena Newman and Rod Amez in Milk, Milk Lemonade (Photo: John Groseclose)

You might think, after reading brief histories of favorite childhood rhymes taped to brick walls in the courtyard of the original Tempe Performing Arts Center just off Mill Avenue, that you were about to enjoy a charming bit of theater for children. But you’d be wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

Look a bit closer and you’ll see that the comics interspersed with these lovely literary snippets feature not only folksy chickens and their farmers, but also choice language not appropriate for the “chicken nuggets” set. That’s half the fun of seeing “Milk, Milk Lemonade,” being presented by Stray Cat Theatre through Sat, Dec. 17.

“Milk, Milk Lemonade” is one of just a few really smart works of gay theater, according to Ron May, artistic director for Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe — who also praises its smart (and rare) treatment of gender issues. “Milk, Milk Lemonade” was written by Joshua Conkel and is directed for Stray Cat Theatre by Louis Farber.

It’s a brilliant piece of theater, full of rich ideas and language, that makes a point without leaving audience members feeling they’re on the wrong end of a lone pointed finger like the one a scolding parent might give an errant child for deeds deemed inappropriate.

“Milk, Milk Lemonade” follows the adventures to two boys publicly at odds but privately involved. One has big and terrifying emotions its hard to control short of setting fires. Another loves to ribbon dance, play with one particular doll and pal around with a chicken who’s growing plumper as processing day approaches. Both sport anatomical props at one point — a bit too racy, perhaps, for your garden variety theater-goer.

As the play opens, we see a big red barn with sliding doors sometimes used by the boys to hide their pubescent playtimes. Also a dozen or so folk art chickens, wooden and brightly painted until transformed by a giant processing machine into something you’ve likely ordered at the local drive-through. It’s an appetizing bit of theater on a Valley menu sometimes lacking real flavor.

L to R: Molly Kurtz, Michael Thompson, Rod Amez, Kaleena Newman and Sam Wilkes in Milk, Milk Lemonade (Photo: John Groseclose)

“Milk, Milk Lemonade” features a cast of five — Rod Amez (Elliot), Molly Kurtz (Linda), Kaleena Newman (Emory), Michael Thompson (Lady in a Leotard) and Sam Wilkes (Nanna). Their collective acting credits include works with Actors Theatre, ASU, Childsplay, Nearly Naked Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Space 55 and Valley Youth Theatre. All deliver a strong performance, eliciting a bevy of belly laughs from happy theater goers.

After opening the play with a familiar childhood ditty, Lady in a Leotard ponders aloud. Does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body? Are we our bodies or merely living inside them? “Don’t think too hard,” she cautions. And we don’t — but we all get the message. Bodies matter, and we never leave home without them.

There’s a nostalgic twist to “Milk, Milk Lemonade” that’s especially endearing. Or frightening, I suppose, depending on which parts of your own childhood it conjures. References to Albertson’s and Mountain Dew are perfectly harmless, as are musical homages to “Annie” and various songs circa the disco era. Statements like “use your words” and various episodes of passive aggressive behavior, maybe less so.

There’s plenty of bullying, with words and fists, in “Milk, Milk Lemonade.” “Real men” do this or that. Boys who don’t conform are “little girls,” “sissies” or something worse. Only the chicken stays above the fray, delivering some of the play’s best dialogue as she considers the relative merits of spontaneity and surprise over manifest destiny and role conformity.

The Stray Cat program for “Milk, Milk Lemonade” includes a dandy yellow insert full of fun chicken facts, and a revelation by Farber that he uncovered more than 84 different chicken songs while searching for pre-show tunes to up the audience fun factor. Life is hard. There’s lots of hurt. “Milk, Milk Lemonade” makes that clear. Sometimes you’ve just gotta get up and dance.

— Lynn

Note: “Milk, Milk Lemonade” is not appropriate for young audiences, but does make for a fun date night or outing with grown-up friends. So does “Hunter Gatherers” by Peter Sinn Nachtreib, which Ron May directs for Actors Theatre of Phoenix Dec. 30-Jan. 15. For more family-friendly offerings, click here.

Coming up: Art that’s out of this world

Storytelling takes flight

Alyson Marie Maloney soars as Emily Book in Stray Cat Theatre's production of The Sparrow (Photo: John Groseclose)

Storytelling took flight Friday night as Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe opened its 10th season with “The Sparrow,” a work conceived by Nathan Allen and co-written with Chris Mathews and Jake Minton.

It’s directed by Stray Cat Theatre’s founding artistic director Ron May, recently honored with an Arizoni Award for directing last season’s “Learn to be Latina.” He opened the evening by previewing the rest of this season’s shows — “Milk, Milk Lemonade” by Joshua Conkel, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” by Stephen Adly Guirgis and “Heddatron” by Elizabeth Meriwether.

That last one promises a mix of housewife, playwright and robots. May has perfected the fine art of selecting a season — and casting the right people for each role. “The Sparrow” features Alyson Marie Mahoney as Emily Book, the sole survivor of a school bus that somehow collides with a train.

In a day and age of lavish, big budget productions that expect little of their viewers, Stray Cat Theatre knows that less can be more. Robert Kolby Harper, associate artistic director with Phoenix Theatre, praises May’s “minimalist” approach to “The Sparrow” — noting its elegance as an homage to imagination.

Rather than elaborate sets with frequent changes that can distract audience members from the heart of a story, May pumps life into “The Sparrow” with a simple dollhouse, tall red rectangles signifying student lockers and a bevy of chairs — plus a little something we all remember from high school biology but never expected to see doing the disco.

Damon Dering, artistic director for Nearly Naked Theatre in Phoenix, notes that May’s production has a “real Chicago feel.” The play originated at The House Theatre in Chicago, and May’s own Chicago roots have clearly taken flight at the little Tempe theater where he’s feathering the nest with a “$10 for 10th” campaign that’ll help future seasons soar.

This production’s Chicago connections include Andréa Morales, who portrays high school uberachiever Jenny. Morales performed for several years with Childsplay in Tempe before heading to the Windy City, where she’s a company member with Halcyon Theatre and artistic associate with Polarity Ensemble Theatre.

The cast of Stray Cat Theatre's The Sparrow gives a stirring ensemble performance (Photo: John Groseclose)

I hit opening night for “The Sparrow” with my daughter Jennifer, an ASU student who usually ranks attending live theater productions right up there with cleaning out the litter box. But she was eager to see “The Sparrow” after learning that the cast includes a couple of actors she knows from ASU and Arizona School for the Arts.

I spoke with one of them, Joshua Sherrill, after the show. He practically waxed poetic about the show’s deeper meaning. We all experience pain, he told me, but it’s how we come through it that defines who we are. In “The Sparrow,” it’s parents who are grieving.

The parents’ pain, and the grief of a community losing its innocence, are signaled by actors carrying framed photos of children and pastoral rural scenes. No need to wheel trees and plains in and out of view. We get it from the moment the show first spreads its wings — thanks in part to simple but dramatic lighting and music, mostly strings, that mix sweet melodies with sad, somber sounds.

Much of “The Sparrow” centers around small town high school life. Think cheerleaders and football fervor. Wrist corsages and awkward prom moments. Teacher crushes and overhead projectors. The latter makes for nifty shadow effects on a screen also used to show footage of the school bus crash at the heart of the play. The film clips are especially compelling when mixed with sound effects signaling trains careening down the tracks.

You'll have to decide whether Emily Book's strange powers are really beyond her control (Pictured: Alyson Marie Maloney, Photo: John Groseclose)

“The Sparrow” is perfectly enjoyable as a story free from existential elaboration. Theater goers who prefer to let trains be trains will be satiated by this show. But those seeking deeper symbolism can find it in a speeding train that could be the powerful imaginings of a young child or the repressed feelings of a teacher at once tender and treacherous.

It’s the collision of love and loss that gives “The Sparrow” its poignancy and power. The naysayers of a decade ago who told Ron May that starting Stray Cat Theatre could lead to a train wreck were right. But little did they know just how high it would soar.

— Lynn

Note: “The Sparrow” is best for mature teen and adult audiences. To learn more about the show, which runs through Oct 8, visit www.straycattheatre.org. I’m told the fabulous cookies enjoyed by folks who lingered after the show for a 10th season celebration came from Angelica Howland, proprietor of Scrumptious Angel cookies. I’ll update this post with her website once it’s up and running. Baking first, technology second. I like her style. Hooray! You can now click here to find the cookie website!

Coming up: Show me your Sondheim!, Mystery takes center stage

Who let the “Wolves” out?

Mexican Gray Wolf - Photo from the Brookfield Zoo

Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe let the “Wolves” out Saturday night as four Valley actors presented a staged reading of a new Steve Yockey play titled “Wolves.” Yockey’s “Octopus” was part of Stray Cat’s last season and his work appears a perfect fit for Stray Cat audiences.

Seems Yockey has a thing for fairy tales and lava lamps, and for blending comedy with horror. He describes “Wolves” as a “predatory fairy tale for adults” — even referencing Little Red Riding Hood with a red sweat jacket we’re left to imagine hanging on the back of a chair in an apartment shared by two men with very different sorts of delusions.

Imagined because few props are present during a staged reading. In this case the set consisted of several chairs and rooms outlined in tape, and props included a red guitar and an axe. “Wolves” is a bloody affair, but audience members have to use their imagination to get there until the work is farther along in the production process.

Yockey praised founding Stray Cat artistic director Ron May, who’ll soon be presenting his 10th season, for his work with “Wolves” — and noted that the four actors involved made significant contributions to refining the work. After two days of work starting with the customary “table read” (actors reading through the script together), Yockey made several revisions to “Wolves.”

It sounds like he’ll be making plenty more, given his receptivity to several observations and insights offered by audience members. Yokey was enthusiastic about their comments, joking that they beat some of the usual questions (like “How did you memorize all those lines?”) asked by less savvy crowds.

We’re fortunate in the Valley to have a wealth of fresh and experienced talent like performers featured in the Stray Cat reading of “Wolves” — including Drew Leatham and Jonathan Furedy, both seen in Stray Cat performances last season. Also Adam Pinti, who’s sporting a nifty new MFA from ASU. “We snatched him up quick-like,” quips May.

Mexican Gray Wolf - Photo from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Of course, I’m partial to Yolanda London. Her credits last season include “THIS” with Actors Theatre, “Avenue Q” at Phoenix Theatre and “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” with Black Theatre Troupe — but we’ve been enjoying her work at Childsplay in Tempe for years.

I’m also partial to wolves of the real variety because my son Christopher is big on wildlife education and conservation, having surpassed 1,000 hours of volunteer work with the Phoenix Zoo several years ago (after that I stopped counting).

After you’ve checked out Yockey’s online portfolio and future offerings by Stray Cat Theatre, take some time to explore the wild life and times of wolves in Arizona and throughout the Southwest. Believing their fate isn’t tied to our own is its own form of misguided thinking.

• Eight, Arizona PBS airs “Wolves in Paradise” Wed, Aug 3, at 10pm.

• The Phoenix Zoo participates in wolf conservation and offers related information online.

• The Arizona Fish and Game Department provides information on wolf-related policies and programs.

• The “Howling for Justice” blog offers musings on wolf-related advocacy.

My apologies to octopus lovers for the missed opportunity to cover octopus-related issues during Stray Cat’s last season. But hey, at least I did justice to all those sparrows.

— Lynn

Note: Steve Yockey’s “Wolves,” featuring direction by Ron May, was Stray Cat Theatre’s first staged reading of a new work. Stage directions were provided by Kelly Coughlin-Celaya, and “special thanks” to Childsplay and Alfredo Macias were noted.

Coming up: AriZoni nomination night, More playwriting pearls from Steve Yockey, To baby or not to baby…