Eye Lounge's 15-Year Retrospective at Vision Gallery Highlights Phoenix's Visual Art Diversity

Categories: Review, Visual Art

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Mikey Estes
Cole Robertson's America's Next Hot Mug Shot #1 and #2 examine the still image in our culture.

Eye Lounge has been kicking off 2015 with exhibitions that highlight where they've been, where they are, and where they may be going. The most expansive of these is "Self Made: 15 Years of Eye Lounge," currently on view at Vision Gallery in Chandler until March 8, 2015. Bringing together the works of over 60 artists, of Eye Lounge both past and present, the exhibition shows just how diverse visual art in Phoenix is. At times, the exhibition may seem overloaded within the walls of the gallery, but as a whole the exhibition excellently illustrates how influential Eye Lounge has been over the past 15 years.

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Stray Cat Theatre's Pluto Is a Splendid, Surreal Production in Tempe

Categories: Review, Theater

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John Groseclose
Gabrielle Van Buren and Cole Brackney in Pluto at Tempe's Stray Cat Theatre.

Elizabeth, a youngish suburban mother, is determined to have a normal day. But there's a tree growing, upside down, in her kitchen. Her three-headed talking dog is acting churlishly. The announcer on her radio, which keeps turning itself on, is speaking directly to her. And someone keeps trying to climb out from inside her refrigerator.

Elizabeth is a character in a Steve Yockey play. A normal day doesn't seem likely.
If Pluto, now on stage at Stray Cat Theatre, comes across as one long fever dream, that's deliberate. The point of Yockey's surrealist story is that life isn't always neat and tidy; in fact, it can be downright scary and quite awful. Director Ron May and his impressive company of players find each and every comic moment in Elizabeth's dreadful day, and make the most of what little subtlety there is in his dramatic message, besides. This is a splendid production of a noteworthy play.


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Ballet Arizona Debuts August Bournonville's Napoli at Phoenix Symphony Hall

Categories: Dance, Review

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Alexander Iziliaev
Ballet Arizona performs Napoli in metro Phoenix during Valentine's Day weekend.
We love plenty of things that hail from Denmark: Carlsberg beer, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Bang & Olufsen sound systems, Hans Christian Andersen tales, sleek modern furnishings, Kierkegaard's existentialism, and LEGO bricks.

But we're not sold on Napoli, a ballet first performed in Denmark in 1842. It imagines the road from wooing to wedding for a young couple forced to overcome a mother's doubt, a sea demon's enchantment, and a community's superstitions.


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Podcast: Fifty Shades of Grey, Starring Sex Batman

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Chuck Zlotnick
He's rich. He's handsome. He's got a secret. He's Sex Batman.

Fifty Shades of Grey is opening is nationwide, and in New York, Village Voice film editor Alan Scherstuhl connects via the magic of the Internet with LA Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson discuss the hotly anticipated movie starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, adapted from the E. L. James novel.

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"Afghan War Rugs" Hits Enlightenment, Misses American Connection at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Categories: Review, Visual Art

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Private collection / Courtesy of SMoCA
An unknown maker in Baghlan, Afghanistan, created War Rug with Map of Afghanistan, on a date unknown; acquired in Peshawar, Pakistan, 1998. It's made from knotted wool and measures 71 ¾ x 45 ¼ inches.

Americans have a thing for Persian rugs, which have their roots in the region that makes up modern-day Iran. We love the symmetry of their central designs and detailed borders, which typically sport beautiful medallions or floral patterns that conjure images of idyllic lands.

You'll find a different sort of rug exhibited at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art -- which recently opened "Afghan War Rugs: The Modern Art of Central Asia," featuring more than 40 rugs with motifs that include grenades, helicopters, landmines, tanks, and assault rifles.

It's likely you'll learn more about Afghanistan by exploring this exhibition than you've gleaned watching a decade or more of television news coverage.

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Rapture, Blister, Burn at Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale: A Hard-Earned Lesson in Modern Feminism

Categories: Review, Theater

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Mark Gluckman
Debra Rich and Alexandra Uptadel in Rapture, Blister, Burn.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing two-time Pulitzer Prize in Drama finalist Gina Gionfriddo. Her most recent work, Rapture, Blister, Burn has been hailed as a great feminist play. Much of our conversation revolved around where the idea for the show came from and what message she was trying to convey. Without having seen the play, I got the sense from speaking with Gionfriddo that this play was about shifting ideologies -- not just how the goals of the feminist movement have evolved over the past few decades to meet the changing needs of women in our culture, but also how a woman's understanding of and need for feminism can shift throughout her individual lifespan. (Please note: I use the term "women" here in reference to the female characters in the play. Feminism is beneficial to all people, regardless of gender.)

Rapture, Blister, Burn recently opened at Theatre Artist's Studio in Scottsdale. The work itself, and this performance of it, were admittedly underwhelming in some minor regards. The plot was a bit contrived, the characters a little disproportionate to the space. Despite these shortcomings, I walked away from the play unable to stop thinking about the themes and theories discussed therein -- which clearly need to be thought and talked about.

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Richard Warren's Shifting Gears Explores Transitional America at Peoria Center for the Performing Arts

Categories: Review, Theater

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Moran Imaging
Katie Czajkowski, Frank Gaxiola, and Veronica Carmack-Gasper star in Shifting Gears.

We see very little from local playwrights, a rare breed whose work is usually relegated to workshop productions before being tucked away forever. Richard Warren is one among a very few exceptions, at least lately. Last season, a staged reading of Warren's Revocable Trust received a lot of attention. His adaptation of theater legend Dale Wasserman's memoirs, Burning in the Night: A Hobo's Song, will be performed in two local playhouses next month. And now onstage at Theater Works in Peoria, Warren's Shifting Gears is treading the boards in the black box McMillin Theater. It's a full rewrite of Pollywogs, a two-act Warren wrote back in 1999.

"It was the first play I ever wrote," he recalls, "and it was just dreadful. I loved the story and the people, but I really listened when people told me what was awful about it. And then I went back and rewrote it."

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Lisa Sette Gallery Opens 30th Season with "The Brief Forever" in Phoenix

Categories: Review, Visual Art

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Lynn Trimble
Basking in the glow of Lisa Sette Gallery during the opening for "The Brief Forever."
Curious members of the human colony descended on Lisa Sette Gallery on Saturday, January 10, for the opening of "The Brief Forever" featuring works by Mayme Kratz and Alan Bur Johnson, and "Nostalgia" by Neha Vedpathak.

Drenched in honey-colored light from the impending sunset, the gallery sat quiet like an undisturbed bee hive until swarms of gallery-goers descended, transforming the space into a human hive filled with frenetic activity. The dance of dichotomies had begun.


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Four Chambers Literary Magazine Is a Pleasant, Thought-Provoking Read

Categories: Literary, Review

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Lynn Trimble
Four Chambers issues spotted at Stinkweeds on Small Business Saturday last month.
Shoving your nose in a favorite bit of reading material is a beloved coping mechanism this time of year, so we're tickled with the timing of the latest issue of Four Chambers, released in October.

The Four Chambers folk, who are based in Phoenix, describe their work as an "independent community literary magazine." They're all about raising the visibility of literary arts and increasing community engagement with the local literary scene.


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Ballet Arizona Struggles to Find The Nutcracker Sweet Spot This Holiday Season

Categories: Dance, Review

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Lynn Trimble
Marzipan scene in the Ballet Arizona production of The Nutcracker.
Those attending this year's opening night performance of Ballet Arizona's The Nutcracker, choreographed by artistic director Ib Andersen, must have thought they'd been treated to a two-for-one special.

The ballet we witnessed during the first act bore little resemblance to the ballet we watched during the second -- leaving us eager to ask: Will the real Nutcracker please stand up?

There is no "real" production of The Nutcracker, of course. It's been performed countless ways by all sorts of companies through the years. It premiered in Russia in 1892, choreographed by Marius Petipa, who commissioned Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky to write the music.


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