Tag Archives: Space 55

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.


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?

An idea takes flight

Childsplay costume rendering (Lyf) for With Two Wings

Playwright Anne Negri says the “seed” for future writing was planted during childhood, but admits she lost her zeal for creative writing for a good decade or so after taking so many middle and high school writing classes focused on academic style writing. Negri shares that “a graduate school playwriting class brought it back out of me.”

Negri now lives, and teaches theater to public school students, in Illinois. But she earned an M.F.A. in theatre for youth from ASU in Tempe, where she took a playwriting class because she “wanted to be around playwrights and talk to them.” The professor told her she had to write, and a ten-minute version of her first full-length play was born.

The initial piece took “a few weeks to a month” to write, according to Negri — who says she “shopped it around” with various playwrights at ASU and other folks in her college program. Negri recalls the day associate professor Pamela Stewart chased her down to adamantly tell her, “You have to see where this goes.”

Negri says the play grew with each draft as “new themes came to light.” Eventually Negri submitted it to a Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences playwriting competition, which recognized her work with its 2009 playwriting award.

Childsplay costume rendering (Meta) for With Two Wings

The play, though performed by friends of Negri at Space 55 the following year during the 2010 Phoenix Fringe Festival, wasn’t yet in final form. Even the name needed changing — because the original title referencing the name of the boy at the heart of the story puzzled those who tried to pronounce it.

It didn’t help that a man who saw Negri’s “fly/lyf” (pronounced like “life”) at the festival approached her after a performance to say, “I love those little flies.” Negri says the winged characters in her play “are sort of human creatures.” Despite the bird language used in the play, she says, they’re not birds. Or bugs.

Negri took her play, complete with new title, to a biennial national playwriting competition and symposium presented by Indiana Repertory Theatre. The Bonderman Playwriting for Youth event is “a forum through which each playwright receives constructive criticism and the support of a development team consisting of a professional director and dramaturg.”

“With Two Wings,” which shares the name of a folk song by Red Grammer, was selected as one of four 2011 Bonderman finalists. And it caught the eye of David Saar, who was there that summer directing a different production. “He heard me read the play,” recalls Negri, “and saw the finished product.” But then he did something more. He gave the play wings.

Childsplay costume rendering (Taur) for With Two Wings

Saar shocked Negri by calling soon thereafter to say he wanted to produce the play during Childsplay’s 2011-12 season. Normally, says Negri, the road from initial interest to full production takes many years. But Saar, founder and artistic director for Childsplay, was eager to bring the play back home to its Arizona roots.

It’ll take flight later this month as a Childsplay world premiere –perhaps inspiring other young writers to try their hands at playwriting. Negri’s advice for aspiring playwrights is simple — just write. And share your work with others. You never know when an idea might soar from page to stage.

— Lynn

Note: Costume renderings in this post feature designs by D. Daniel Hollingshead for Childsplay’s production of “With Two Wings.” Click here for show and ticket information.

Coming up: More wings & things

Theater meets Christmas

Irving Berlin's White Christmas comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe Dec. 6-11

More than a dozen Valley venues are presenting family-friendly theater fare with a Christmas theme. Here’s an early round-up, listed by city, to help families who celebrate Christmas with holiday planning…


Musical Theatre of Anthem presents a “Holiday Show” Dec. 16. www.musicaltheatreofanthem.org.

Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills Theater presents “Christmas Jukebox” Nov. 25-Dec. 18. www.fhtaz.org.


Hale Theatre Arizona presents “It’s a Wonderful Life” through Nov. 26 and  “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-23. www.haletheatrearizona.com.


Spotlight Youth Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 2-18. www.spotlightyouththeatre.org.


Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 17-Dec. 25. www.broadwaypalmwest.com.

East Valley Children’s Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 1-11. www.evct.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 26-Dec. 17. www.swshakespeare.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company performs A Christmas Carol Nov. 26-Dec. 17 in Mesa


Arizona Broadway Theatre presents “Miracle on 34th St.” Nov. 25-Dec. 29 and “A Broadway Christmas Carol” Dec. 9-17. www.arizonabroadwaytheatre.com.

The Homestead Playhouse presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-4. www.dcranchnet.com.

Theater Works presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 2-18. Theater Works/Youth Works Puppet Works presents “Saving Santa” Dec. 3-24 (Sat only). www.theaterworks.com.


Grand Canyon University presents “Amahl and the Night Visitors” Dec. 2-11. www.gcu.edu.

New Carpa Theater Co. presents “American Pastorela” Dec. 9-18 at the Third Street Theater (Phoenix Center for the Arts). www.newcarpa.org. (Mature content)

Phoenix Theatre presents “A Christmas Story” Nov. 23-Dec. 18. www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Space 55 presents “A Bloody Mary Christmas II” Dec. 1-17 and “7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe” Dec. 17. www.space55.org. (Mature content)

The Black Theatre Troupe presents “Black Nativity” Dec. 2-11. www.blacktheatretroupe.org.

Valley Youth Theatre presents “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” Dec 2-23. www.vyt.com.


Theatre Artists Studio presents “Holiday Music & Musings: From the Page to the Stage” Dec. 2. www.thestudiophx.org.

Sun City

Sun City Grand Drama and Comedy Club presents “Over the River and Through the Woods” Dec. 1-4. www.granddrama.com.

East Valley Children's Theatre presents The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Dec. 1-11


ASU Gammage presents “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” (touring production) Dec. 6-11. www.asugammage.com.

If your Valley organization is presenting a theater production with a Christmas, or other winter holiday, theme — please comment below to let readers know.

— Lynn

Note: A calendar of family-friendly events is always available online at www.raisingarizonakids.com. This post will be updated as I learn of additional theater offerings with a Christmas theme. Although most of the events noted above are designed for family audiences, please note that some are “mature audience” only productions.

Coming up: Christmas concerts, A cup of cheer

Update: Some of these shows are extending their runs, so check theater company websites for the latest and greatest information. 11/26/11

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

Theater by the numbers

This is the place to be on Aug 6

The fine folks of Space 55 Theatre Ensemble are readying to take their act on the road. They’re performing “The Unhappiness Plays” by Greg Kotis at the New York International Fringe Festival.

First they’re doing a final fabulous performance here in the Valley — Sat, Aug 6 at 8pm. 

Lots of folks know Kotis from a musical titled “Urinetown,” which has been performed by a couple of theater groups here in the Valley. The “Urinetown” tour hit ASU Gammage in 2004.

“Urinetown” is a tale of ‘haves’ versus ‘have nots’ in a world where water and toilets are scarce (think student travels in Europe, which inspired the work). It debuted at the New York International Fringe Festival and was performed Off Broadway in 2001.

“Urinetown” opened on Broadway in September 2001 and closed in January 2004. It earned three Tony Awards — one for best direction (John Rondo), one for best music and lyrics (Mark Hollman), and one for book and lyrics (Greg Kotis).

My point? See “The Unhappiness Plays” now. Keep an eye on the rest of Space 55’s season (with your grown-up friends or mature teens — they don’t do kiddie fare). And check out their education offerings. Think acting classes and private coaching, writing for the stage and more.

Those of you who follow the “Blue Bike Kids Show” will recognize at least one cast member if you hit “The Unhappiness Plays” Saturday night — Valley actor, director and playwright Steve Wilcox (who co-founded Space 55 in 2005). He’s also a member of the “Blue Bike” gang.

This is the place to be on Aug 19

Program your GPS now, so you can quickly jot back and forth between Space 55 and Venue 104, a “performance cafe” in Tempe celebrating its “grand opening” on Fri, Aug 19. Theater folk know owner and general manager Michael Peck from his Chyro Arts days in Scottsdale, and his work on various Valley stages.

Nowadays he’s booking all sorts of local emergent talent for Venue 104. Think live music, theater and independent film — coupled with grazing options like gourmet sandwiches, salads and baked goods. No worries if you’re without GPS because Venue 104 is just two blocks from the ASU light rail stop.

Venue 104 and NewBrave Arts and Entertainment recently announced the first offering in their “2011-12 Season of Theatre” — a Noah Haidle work titled “Mr. Marmalade” that featured Michael C. Hall (now the star of Showtime’s “Dexter”) in the 2005 Off Broadway production.

Like works at Space 55, this is an adult or mature teen offering, best reserved for a night out with pals or partner. Fond as I am of cheery musicals full of talent still sporting braces, it’s nice to enjoy grown-up options now and then.

— Lynn

Note: I’ll be blogging next week from the Utah Shakespeare Festival, which is offering a “Hot August Nights” deal through August 15

Coming up: Performing arts studio opens new West Valley location, A contemporary take on “Romeo and Juliet”

Definition of a dream

Call those babysitters! The 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival starts tonight!

Many of us wake up every day in warm, secure houses with pantries full of food and closets brimming with clothes. We dream of smarter phones, faster computers, bigger television screens.

But the dreams of homeless teens are very different. You can get a rare glimpse into the lives of homeless youth in Phoenix by attending a play titled “Definition of a Dream.”

It’s being presented April 1-3 by homeless youth who developed the original work in conjunction with Sarah Sullivan and the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development. The Center describes the work as follows:

“Through the artistic experience, young people take their stories to the stage, looking to change the conversation about homelessness in Phoenix, one show at a time. This year’s play takes a look at dreams — the dreams we have for ourselves, for the people in our lives and our community as a whole.”

“Definition of a Dream” asks a powerful question: “What are the things we have to fight for and against to make these dreams a reality?”

The play is one of many thought-provoking works being presented as part of the Phoenix Fringe Festival, which runs April 1-10 at various downtown Phoenix venues.

Tickets for tonight’s performance of “Definition of a Dream” were not available online when I checked Friday afternoon, but tickets for the Sat, April 2 (5:30pm) and Sun, April 3 (8pm) performances may still be out there — but don’t delay in checking the Phoenix Fringe Festival website if you’d like to attend this or other works.

“Definition of a Dream” is being performed at “Modified Arts” at 407 E. Roosevelt in Phoenix. Additional venues for 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival performances (most appropriate only for mature audiences) include Phoenix Theatre: Little Theatre, Third Street Theatre, Soul Invictus, Bragg’s Pie Factory and Space 55.

You can check out the full “Fringe” schedule (which also includes after-parties and such) at www.phxfringe.org. After reviewing the schedule the other day, I noticed that there are works dealing with religion, sexuality, border issues and a whole lot more. Even Greek myth and Shakespeare manage to get in the game.

Several “Fringe” works, including “Twisted: Greeting Card Moments Gone Bad” by “Tom T. and Twisted Tidings,” are presented by a single artist. Some are presented by local artists, others by artists from other regions (including Australia). A few include students from Arizona State University.

You can get a good feel for the festival by considering the titles of some of the pieces being performed. Schreibstuck. Oppressed. Borders and Bridges. Hamlet Machine. The Panic Opera Sacraments. Too Close to the Sun. Your Teacher Never Told You….

There’s even “Confessions of a Mormon Boy,” which may hold special appeal for those of you who, like myself, have yet to snag tickets to the new Broadway musical titled “The Book of Mormon” (billed by some as an atheist love song to believers).

The Phoenix Fringe Festival is an edgy, off-the-beaten-path experience that’s fun for date nights, outings with friends or solo adventures. Think of it as a way to up the job numbers for all those babysitters out there.

Consider an afternoon, evening or weekend out with the “Fringe.” You might be offended. You might be educated. You might be inspired. But I doubt you’ll be bored. It’s a great way to explore our smaller community theater venues, enjoy affordable performance art and meet folks who probably wouldn’t recognize a remote control if they saw one.

— Lynn

Note: Attend the Phoenix Fringe Festival and you can save $10 off your ticket to “Liz Lerman Dance Exchange: The Matter of Origins” Monday, April 11, at ASU Gammage (use the code FRINGE when ordering tix from the ASU Gammage box office or 480-965-3434).

Coming up: Jellly bean dreams, Chicago envy?