Tag Archives: women playwrights

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

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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…

Let’s play therapist

Get off the couch for a bit of girlfriend therapy as new plays written by Arizona women make their way to Scottsdale Center for the Arts this weekend

Time with a real therapist can set you back hundreds of dollars, but Arizona playwright Debra Rich Gettleman promises “a hilarious romp through the unexplored regions of your therapist’s subconscious” for a fraction of the price.

Her play, titled “Prism,” is part of this year’s “Pandora Showcase” — which actually features “Showcase 1” (Nov 11 & 18 at 7:30pm) and “Showcase 2” (Nov 12 & 19 at 7:30pm). Tickets for a single showcase are $15/each and you can attend both for $25.

“Prism,” which is directed by Judy Rollings, is one of five short works on the Friday night roster. The others are as follows:

  • “Me,” written by Mala Akiva and directed by Jan Williams — featuring a writer’s encounter with her destiny.
  • “Family Recipes,” written by Bernadette LaMazza and directed by Kandyce Hughes — featuring a comedic mixture of family traditions with sweetness, sarcasm and senility.
  • “The Procedure,” written by Diane Grant and directed by Daniela Crispo Talarico — featuring an exploration of ironies surrounding health insurance.
  • “Seeking Destiny,” written by Mary Caroline Rogers and directed by Susan Assadi — featuring questions of identity in a world where society defines relationships.

“Showcase 2” features a full-length play titled “What You Don’t Know.” It’s written by Larissa Brewington and directed by Pamela Sterling — and features “a typical Sunday dinner at the Bridges home.” Think anxiety and avarice, secrets and sedition. But in a lovely twist, none of your own family members are involved.

All “Pandora Showcase” offerings are being presented by the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — a lovely location for an evening out with friends, because it’s close to several restaurants and winding paths perfect for conversation.

Sometimes that’s all the therapy a girl really needs.

— Lynn

Note: Debra Rich Gettleman writes a blog called “Unmotherly Insights” published by Raising Arizona Kids Magazine. Click here to start enjoying her posts.

Coming up: Black Friday — arts & culture style

Supporting women playwrights

Playwright Debra Rich Gettleman

Debra Rich Gettleman is one of many Arizona playwrights whose works, developed during previous “Pandora Festivals,” will be full staged as part of this month’s “Pandora Showcase.” Her play titled “Prism” is being performed this Friday evening at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The 2nd annual “Pandora Showcase” takes place Nov, 11, 12, 18 and 19. It’s your first chance to see plays that may one day make their way to much larger audiences. “A Conversation with Edith Head,” which opened the current season for Actors Theatre of Phoenix at the Herberer Theater Center, was part of the inaugural 2004-2005 season for Arizona Wowen’s Theatre Company, which specializes is producing contemporary works by women playwrights.

Susan Claassen as Edith Head (Photo: Tim Fuller)

“A Conversation with Edith Head” was written by Paddy Calistro and Susan Claassen, both affiliated with Invisible Theatre in Tucson, which is performing Annie Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation” through Nov. 20.

Colleen Jennings Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage, recently attended opening night for playwright Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” on Broadway. When last we spoke, Jennings Roggensack shared her delight with seeing the work of women on Broadway, but also noted that we need more of it.

Folks who share her enthusiasm for supporting the work of women playwrights have plenty of opportunities in coming days as ten fully-staged works make their way to Scottsdale. More new works will be featured at the 6th annual “Pandora Festival,” being presented by Arizona Women’s Theatre Company May 18-20, 2012 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Playwright Katori Hall

The Arizona Women’s Theatre Company recently issued a call for original scripts written by Arizona women playwrights — and will present staged readings of those selected during the May festival. Playwrights can submit up to two works, and there is no submission fee.

They’re calling for submissions of ten minute, one act and full length plays. Neither plays that have previously been fully produced nor obvious first drafts will be accepted — but “plays that have had workshops and other readings are eligible.”

Thankfully, you don’t have to write these babies to enjoy them. Folks who like to watch are just as valuable in theater world.

— Lynn

Playwright Annie Baker

Note: Playwrights Baker, Hall and Regina Taylor are among five playwrights recently selected to participate in a residency program with the Signature Theatre Company in NYC. Click here for details.

Coming up: Arizona welcomes the “Pandora NBC Skating Series,” More scoop on “Pandora Showcase” offerings, Pearls from Prescott

Update: I spent part of the afternoon with a lovely group of art folks from Prescott, including one who suggested I alert readers to an upcoming call for plays written by youth in the metro Phoenix area, and another who’s had several works read during previous “Pandora Festivals.” Stay tuned for details in upcoming posts…

A pair of pandoras

David Archuleta performs in a holiday show coming to Grand Canyon University Arena

When my daughter Lizabeth studied ballet as a child, I spent far too much time worrying that something outside the dance studio might cause some sort of injury.

High heels and ice skating were taboo in the months preceding “The Nutcracker” (she danced several children’s roles in the Ballet Arizona production). Too much potential for spraining an ankle, I thought.

Though Lizabeth rarely took to the rink, a schoolmate named Maddie invited her every year, for several years, to see ice skaters perform in elaborate arena shows. Lizabeth loved watching the ice skaters, having a holiday tradition to look forward to and spending time with Maddie.

I thought of Lizabeth and Maddie when I learned that the “Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice” show, part of the “Pandora NBC Skating Series,” is coming to the new Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix on Sat, Nov 12. It’ll be taped for national broadcast by NBC on Sun, Nov 27 at 4pm EST.

Kristi Yamaguchi inspires ice skating dreams

The event features Olympic champion Brian Boitano skating to a live holiday music performance split between American Idol alum David Archuleta and Mannheim Steamroller, a group well loved by Lizabeth’s grandparents. Olympic ice skaters Ekaterina Gordeeva, Kimmie Meisner and Michael Weiss are also skating in the show. It’s being hosted by Kristi Yamaguchi, inspiration for many a little girl’s ice skating dreams.

Recently I spoke with Archuleta, who shared that his mother “drug him out on the dance floor” just a few days before. Archuleta grew up in a house full of music and dance — with mom dancing salsa and dad playing jazz.

He’s known to many for achieving top two status on “American Idol” during the show’s seventh season, where he broke young hearts and captured several older ones by singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

So how did Archuleta’s own musical journey begin? “It was musicals that got me into music,” he recalls. Archuleta recalls singing along at home with a recording of the 10th anniversary performance of “Les Miserables.” After his mom printed out some sheet music from the show, says Archuleta, he learned his very first song. It was “Castle on a Cloud.”

Archuleta will be performing holiday music during the “Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice” show. He recalls his own early attempts at ice skating at an outdoor rink in Utah, where he grew up. It’s tough to find those outdoor rinks in Florida, where Archuleta was born.

“The first time I was afraid I might fall and slip,” recalls Archuleta. But on a recent ice skating adventure just a few months ago in California, he managed to stay on his feet the whole time — probably because he spent a fair amount of time roller blading in his teens.

Archuleta says he’s excited about performing with so many national and Olympic skating champions because his family always watched the Olympics on television when he was growing up. Ice skating was one of their favorite Olympic events to enjoy together. “The Olympics,” reflects Archuleta, “brings everyone together.”

I don’t expect much ice skating from the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company, which presents its second annual “Pandora Showcase” at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Nov 11, 12, 18 and 19. Their thing is presenting original works by women playwrights. It’s a whole other type of balancing act.

The “Pandora Showcase” features fully-staged favorites from previous “Pandora Festival” offerings. Fans of new theater works will also want to mark their calendars for the 2012 festival, taking place May 18-21 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

My daughter, by the way, no longer takes classical ballet classes five or more days a week. She’s off in New York City, doing her B.F.A. in acting — where ankles still matter, but not so much that she can’t enjoy a bit of rink time down at Rockefeller Plaza.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the GCU Arena at www.gcuarena.com and the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company at www.azwtc.org. Visit www.davidarchuleta.com for details on Archuleta’s “Pandora” performance and his “Constitution Week” concert in Gilbert this weekend.

Coming up: The fine art of bugs?, A trio of tenors, Honk if you love Hans!

Pardon my Pandora


Required reading for students at Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix

First, apologies to my two daughters — whose time spent with Edith Hamilton’s classic “Mythology” was a source of much wailing and gnashing of teeth during high school.

Ask them about the evils unleashed when Pandora opened her box and they’ll likely tell you it was those heartless teachers who made them memorize the names of all those Greek gods and goddesses.

Mention the word “Pandora” to my college-age son and you’ll get an entirely different response — a detailed description of the Internet radio service that offers “personalized stations” thanks to something called “The Music Genome Project.” And yes, there’s “an app” for that.

Just last August, their blog boasted of Pandora’s “10 billionth thumb.” The rest of us have some catching up to do. I prefer being thumbed over thumbing, so it’s unlikely I’ll spend much time with the service.

Still, I was eager to learn of Pandora’s philanthropic efforts — in which they “team up with GlobalGiving…to support students and classrooms that are using music to make a difference.”

For some, a mention of Pandora’s box unleashes thoughts of evils that feel more personal. So it seems with some of the playwrights featured in this year’s Pandora Festival, taking place May 20-22 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The Pandora Festival hits Scottsdale this weekend

The 5th Annual Pandora Festival features “staged readings of selected new plays for women playwrights.” It’s presented by the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company, which is entering its seventh season of producing contemporary plays by women playwrights.

The festival opens this Friday evening with the first of two full-length plays — “The Fire in Minerva” by Larissa Brewington of Arizona. The second full length play, “Remnants of a Dream” by New Mexico’s Ruth Cantrell, will be performed Saturday evening.

Three one-act plays are being performed Saturday afternoon — “After Life at the Cinema” by Hannah Lillith Assadi of Arizona, “Me” by Maia Akiva of California and “Out of Focus” by Carol K. Mack of Connecticut.

Sunday’s line-up features a selection of ten-minutes plays, including several by Arizona playwrights — “Despair of a Cheerleader” by Shayanna Jacobs, “A Shared View” by Mary Caroline Rogers and “The Secret” by Kristy Westphal.

Other works being presented Sunday include “Firewall” by Rita Kniess Barkey (Montana), “Close Enough” by Kellie Powell (New York), “Jesse Rode a Bicycle Today” by Sara Israel (California), “Jinxed” by K. Alexis Mavromatis (Rhode Island), “The Procedure” by Diane Grant (California) and “Nephrology” by Sara Ilyse Jacobsen (Maryland).

We all deal with our own Pandora’s box, and I’ll pardon your Pandora if you’ll pardon mine. Maybe one day we’ll join the gifted women using pens to transform Pandoras into performance art.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for festival details and ticketing information. Click here to learn about an “Introduction to Myth Making” summer camp for grades 9-12. It’s being offered the week of July 11 by the University of Arizona Poetry Center, which has a lovely assortment of programs for youth.

Coming up: All hail the dancing queen!

This and that

Ron May directs a contemporary play titled "This" for Actors Theatre

Recently I enjoyed a fast-paced conversation with Ron May, a Valley director known to many as founding artistic director of Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe.

He’s either way ahead of me in the espresso department or seriously working a juggling riff. Maybe both.

May is readying for this Friday’s opening of “This” — a work by contemporary playwright Melissa James Gibson described in December 2009 by Charles Isherwood of The New York Times as “the best new play to open Off Broadway this fall.”

Anne Marie Falvey (Jane) in the Actors Theatre production of "This" by playwright Melissa James Gibson (Photo: John Groseclose)

It’s one of several works by women playwrights being produced by Actors Theatre this season. We can look forward to the Arizona premiere of Annie Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation” in April and May.

Gibson’s “This” resonates with May for several reasons, including its treatment of love and loss. Last year May lost both his mother and a friend named Scotty Jeffers — a beloved Valley actor last seen performing in “Androcles and the Lion” with Childsplay.

Hence the tribute “For my mom. And for Scotty J.” at the end of a bio May has posted on the Stray Cat Theatre website — which also notes his long list of directing credits, a couple of his acting gigs and the glamorous stint that “pays the bills.”

Previous shows he’s directed for Actors Theatre include the Arizona premiere of “Boom” — as well as “A View of the Harbor,” “Augusta” and “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

The central character in “This,” which runs Jan 21-Feb 6 at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix, is a woman in midlife whose husband recently died. As the teaser for the show notes: Jane is not alright.

Jane’s friends, says May, aren’t exactly helping. Seems they think that fixing Jane up with a “hottie” might do the trick, but things don’t quite unfold as expected.

David Dickinson (Jean-Pierre) in "This" -- which opens this Friday at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix (Photo: John Groseclose)

May hails from Chicago — a city he clearly loves, and honors right up there with New York City and Los Angeles when it comes to stage offerings and opportunities.

Chicago is home to a diverse assortment of unique and intriguing theater experiences for both practitioners of the theater craft and those of us who fill the house every night. Think The Second City, American Theater Company and Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

He first experienced the wonders of live theater as a junior high school student. Seems the same gentleman who coached May’s speech team also ran the school’s theater department.

The teacher encouraged May to audition for a play — something about a man in grey flannel, recalls May. May was cast. But more importantly, he was “bit by the bug.”

May headed to college to study acting — in a program that required actors to take a directing class. A directing teacher told May at one point that although his acting was just fine — he might be even better at directing.

He suspected at the time that this was simply her gentle way of telling him to throw in the acting towel. But she’d seen something in May that he had yet to see in himself.

May ended up studying at Arizona State University in Tempe, where he earned a B.A. in theater with a directing emphasis. Stray Cat Theatre grew out of work with nine of May’s ASU friends who “all had a taste for a certain kind of theater.”

Most were from other parts of the country and dreamed of working in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. May hadn’t yet heard of Actors Theatre, despite the fact that it will soon be celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Stray Cat Theatre began as a class project for a theater organization and management class. “We had to make up a theater company,” recalls May — who describes himself as “a huge cat fan.”

Like the theater May most enjoys watching and working with, cats are “rougher around the edges.” Knowing the company would likely live for many years without a permanent home, May dubbed it “Stray Cat Theatre.”

Today, Stray Cat Theatre makes its home in a charming red brick building once occupied by Childsplay Theatre, a professional theater company performing works for children and families.

Childsplay’s founder and artistic director, David Saar, is another gifted artist who graduated from ASU. My 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth grew up watching Childsplay performances and participating in Childsplay workshops, camps and conservatory — and will soon be heading off to study theater in college.

I’m thrilled that she’s been able to experience the works of Actors Theatre, Stray Cat Theatre and so many other outstanding companies here in her own hometown. The Arizona theater community has given her roots, and now wings.

But what of May? Doesn’t he long to return to Chicago’s vibrant theater vibe? “Arizona has been good to me,” muses May. He’s able to do the work he enjoys in a place where he sees a real need.

May likens the work of Actors Theatre to the sort of movies you’ll see at Harkins Theatre Camelview 5, a Scottsdale cinema that presents works a bit more provocative than most. In contemporary parlance, says May, the best descriptor might be “Indie.”

Actors Theatre describes its own work as “vital, contemporary, electric, thought-provoking theatre.” It’s hard to disagree.

Yolanda London (Marrell) and Anne Marie Falvey (Jane) in the Actors Theatre production of "This" (Photo: John Groseclose)

Part of the appeal of directing “This” for Actors Theatre is the obvious parallel to May’s own life in terms of midlife musings. “This script reallly spoke to me,” reflects May.

“It’s about that whole choppy middle-age thing, which is where I hit right now,” adds May.

Like May and his circle of college friends from the early days of Stray Cat Theatre, the central character Jane has a group of friends who’ve been together for years.

But life is intervening, and it isn’t always pretty. Babies happen. Unexpected relationships happen. Friendships splinter or wither away.

Like so many of us who’ve matured, sometimes kicking and screaming, into middle age — Jane realizes that “the cards she was dealt aren’t the cards she expected to be holding.”

Anne Marie Falvey (Jane) and Oliver Wadsworth (Alan) perform with Actors Theatre (Photo: John Groseclose)

May says he has “a tremendous affection for the play,” describing it as “incredibly funny and smart.” Yet the name of the play doesn’t exactly wow him. Given May’s fondness for word play, I suspect he’s toyed with an imaginary title or two.

After all, May did a bang-up job naming the pet he describes as “a gift from an ex of mine.” Seems the cat came to him with a lot of what May describes as “eye boogers.” So now he’s more than mere actor or director. He’s daddy to a black cat named “Boogers.”

A little this, a little that. It’s really all any of us can wish for.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “This,” being presented Jan 21-Feb 8 by Actors Theatre at the newly-renovated Herberger Theater Center (near the Arizona Center and Sympony Hall).

Coming up: Unstoppable theater, More fun with theater cats (and dogs)

Photos by John Groseclose, courtesy of Actors Theatre