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

Categories: Review, Theater

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

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

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

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

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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Stray Cat Theatre's Year of the Rooster: A Rough-and-Tumble Love Story in Tempe

Categories: Review, Theater

John Groseclose
Katie McFadzen, Austin Kiehle, and Ron May in Year of the Rooster.

Year of the Rooster, now crowing its head off at Stray Cat Theatre, serves up a compelling theatrical medley of black comedy, tough characters, and pretty pathos. Intelligently handled by young playwright Eric Dufault, this angst-drenched story is presented by a quartet of characters who demonstrate what happens when pain and longing spin out of control, and is nudged along by a talking bird who, as played by Austin Kiehle, is some kind of revelation.

There are several shattering moments and grown-up revelations, but Dufault doesn't make his play into either a catechism lesson on public morality or a sermon against cruelty to animals. He is, it eventually becomes clear, exploring the damage done to boys with lousy fathers. The director is Michael Peck, who nurtures this rough-and-tumble tale, turning it into a love story told by people most of us wouldn't like to know.

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Center Dance Ensemble's Snow Queen Is a Pre-Frozen Winter Tradition in Phoenix

Categories: Dance, Review

Tim Fuller
Amber Robins (Snow Queen) perform in Center Dance Ensemble's Snow Queen.
Fans of Disney's 2013 film Frozen take note: Center Dance Ensemble has been telling the Hans Christian Andersen tale that inspired the movie for more than 20 years in a production called Snow Queen.

Performances continue through Sunday, December 21, at Herberger Theater Center, where CDE is the resident dance company. It's directed and choreographed by CDE artistic director Frances Smith Cohen. Susan Silverman, who heads the Dance Theater West studio and is related to New Times' Amy Silverman, is assistant director/choreographer.

Frozen explores the divergent lives of two sisters, including one who becomes the icy, isolated Snow Queen. But there's double the sister power in Cohen's Snow Queen, which has sisters representing each of the four seasons.

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Grid Bikes Make Sharing Suck Less in Phoenix

Zaida Dedolph
Grid Bikes hubs have popped up all over Central Phoenix, and will come to Mesa and Tempe in 2015.

Phoenix's new bike share program, Grid Bikes, launched in late November -- just in time for absolutely gorgeous cycling weather and holiday visitors. Jackalope Ranch was there, of course, to take a test ride.

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George Morrison Retrospective "Modern Spirit" Takes the Long View at Phoenix's Heard Museum

Categories: Review, Visual Art

Collection Minnesota Museum of American Art. Museum Purchase.
Spirit Path, New Day, Red Rock Variation: Lake Superior Landscape by George Morrison (Chippewa), 1990, acrylic and pastel on paper, 22 1/2 x 30 1/8 in.

The Heard Museum long has been a staple for entertaining swarms of holiday visitors intrigued by katsina dolls and turquoise jewelry. But that's a cop-out. There's far more to the landscape of American Indian artwork, as evidenced by the Heard's newest exhibition, "Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison." The exhibition, which helps to dispel stereotypes about Native art, highlights 80 works by Minnesota-born Morrison, a 20th-century painter and sculptor affiliated with the abstract expressionism movement.

When the National Museum of the American Indian opened a decade ago in Washington, D.C., its inaugural exhibition was "Native Modernism: The Art of George Morrison and Allan Houser." It's evidence of Morrison's significance in the pantheon of American Indian artists and a reminder that Native art extends beyond pottery and baskets. Still, many who readily recognize works by Houser, including his Earth Song sculpture at the Heard's entrance, don't know a Morrison piece when they see one.

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"Shifting Sands" Transports Viewers to Middle East at ASU Art Museum

Categories: Review, Visual Art

Courtesy of the artist and Galeria SENDA.
Isabel Rocamora, "Horizon of Exile," U.K., 2007. (detail of film still). Dual channel film for installation, 16 mm transferred to digital.

It's dark.

The walls are black, the carpeting is black, and even the beanbags offered as seating are black. This dark environment pulls you in as you pass by. It's hard to ignore the images on the screens and the sounds of revving engines and children screaming.

This is the opening scene to "Shifting Sands: Recent Videos from the Middle East" at the ASU Art Museum. The exhibition presents the film and video works of four international artists in their quest to show the changing cultural, political, and geographical environments across the Middle Eastern landscape.

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