Nicole Belit Dazzles in By the Way, Meet Vera Stark at Phoenix's Herberger Theater

Categories: Review, Theater

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Courtesy of iTheatre Collaborative
Nicole Belit shines in By The Way, Meet Vera Stark.

Vera Stark is, like so many actresses who start out hungry and wind up legendary, alone on her own stage. She works alongside other actors only because she needs someone to talk to, but none -- in her estimation, and in ours -- are her equals.

Vera is a fictional character, drawn from life by playwright Lynn Nottage. Nicole Belit, the woman who plays her in the iTheatre Collaborative production of By the Way, Meet Vera Stark that opened on Friday night at the Herberger, is very real. The two women share this: They are -- thanks to Belit's enchanting performance -- alone onstage.

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Biloxi Blues Exceeds Expectations at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre

Categories: Review, Theater

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Wade Moran
Rick Davis as Toomey and Ryan Toro as Eugene in Biloxi Blues.

One attends a community theater production of Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues hoping to see pleasant performances and, if you're a Simon fan, expecting to have a few laughs. One does not go expecting a powerhouse performance by a principal player -- a performance so thrilling that it completely overshadows the production itself and its other leads, both of whom also make their mark in this tidy little presentation.

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Orange Theatre's Blood Wedding Gallops Through Completed Version at ASU Tempe's Lyceum

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Courtesy of Orange Theatre
Katrina Donaldson is the Bride in Orange Theatre's Blood Wedding.
The setup: Orange Theatre's industrially flavored, iconoclastic mounting of Lorca's Blood Wedding is similar in many ways to the roughly two-thirds complete work-in-progress version we got to see last winter. The company develops a play in several periods spanning about a year, and viewing multiple iterations reveals some of the decision-making that goes into the creation of art.

If that alone doesn't sound like fun (and if so, understandably -- a lot of people prefer not to witness the making of sausage, either), you're in luck, because the show is still densely packed with complex characters who strut and romp through a Home Depot-y wonderland, managing to symbolize concepts like lust and vengeance while also representing real people.

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Kristiana Colón Wins Arizona Theatre Company Latino Playwriting Award

Categories: News, Theater

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Courtesy of ATC
Kristiana Colón's Octagon is about eight young poets competing in a slam.
Arizona Theatre Company announced on Monday, July 7, that Kristiana Colón is the winner of its 2014 Latino Playwriting Award for her original work Octagon.

Based in Chicago, Colón is a playwright, poet, education, and member of Teatro Luna. She appeared on the fifth season of HBO's Def Poetry Jam and has published a collection of poems.


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Downtown Phoenix's Space 55 Presents a Different 7 Minutes in Heaven Each Saturday in June

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courtesy of Space 55
Patrick Hershey and Amy Ouzoonian are Expat, and they wail.
The setup: Space 55's Late Night Series is a thing we've visited and written about before. It's alternative performance for (eventually) every taste, something we both enjoy and pine for more of.

This month, Saturday nights at 9 p.m. bring us 7 Minutes in Heaven, a thing that link kind of describes the content of, but not the concept. (Disclosure: I have performed in 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe. Space 55 does not select or vet artists or material for its 7 Minutes . . . series -- and that is the concept.)

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"Storyline: Bad Buddhist" Showcases Top Downtown Phoenix Storytellers

Categories: Theater

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Image courtesy of Gabriel Radley
Storyteller Dan Hull rehearses for the upcoming "Bad Buddhist" show at Space 55
"Really, to me, the whole thing is about building a storytelling scene."

These are the words of Dan Hull, architect of the downtown Phoenix storytelling scene. After two seasons of the weekly Yarnball storytelling open mic night at Lawn Gnome Publishing, and one season of the monthly Storyline feature at Space 55, Hull has truly laid the groundwork for an entire community of up-and-coming storytellers in the Valley. This season's final Storyline show, "Bad Buddhist," represents a bridging point for the scene up into the future.


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The Full Monty from Mesa Encore Drops More Than Trou

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Wade Moran
Foreground, Michael Leeth, and left to right, Chad Campbell, Andrew Lipman, Jonathan Holdsworth, and Julian Peña discuss "The Goods" in The Full Monty.
The setup: There really isn't anything wrong with the lemons God gave you, even before you pluckily make lemonade from them. But in 1997, when director Peter Cattaneo showed us the work of screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) in The Full Monty, the desperate, laid-off male inhabitants of economically ravaged steel town Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, became brave, brilliant, sexy heroes. (Oh, yeah -- by stripping for money in front of friends, family, and neighbors, despite zero qualifications to do so, in case you didn't know.) Mesa Encore Theatre's mounting of the fine stage musical that resulted (set in Buffalo, New York) runs one more weekend in the Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse at Mesa Arts Center.

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Downtown Phoenix's Orange Theatre Launches IndieGoGo to Fund Local, National Productions

Categories: Theater

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Courtesy of Orange Theatre
The cast of Orange Theatre's most recent production of Blood Wedding.
A new home. A Big Brain award. A knockout run of successful pay-what-you-can productions.

Think that's enough for downtown Phoenix's Orange Theatre? Not quite.

Recently, the company launched its latest IndieGoGo fundraiser. While past fundraisers have gone towards basic (by this group's standards) production expenses and moving into a new venue, this time around Orange is going a little farther from home: first to ASU's Lyceum Theater, and then to New York's North American Cultural Laboratory.

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Howl Theatre Project Presents Its First Production at Space 55 in Phoenix

Categories: Theater

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Howl Theatre Project
Rehearsal image from "Monsters of the Sea (III): endofplay/7"
"Out of your head and into your heart."

Throughout our interview with the members of Howl Theatre Project, it was this phrase that kept appearing. By their own admission, this was a bit of a clichéd phrase, particularly for a troupe with such experimental bonafides as theirs. But still, the phrase holds true in describing the methods, practices, and presentation brought to the table by the collective in their attempt to achieve a sort of universality in the new works they develop and perform.

From Friday, May 30 through Sunday, June 1, the newly formed theatre group presents the final weekend of its first production, Monsters of the Sea (III): endofplay/7, at Space 55 in downtown Phoenix. The play acts as the third installment in writer Chris Danowski's "Monsters of the Sea" series, and the first in the series to be presented in a public venue. Sound strange?


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Young Frankenstein Is Proportionally Large at Peoria's Arizona Broadway Theatre

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courtesy of Arizona Broadway Theatre
From left, Kurtis W. Overby and Adam Vargas put on some Raaarh in Young Frankenstein.
The setup: You may remember a massive hit musical, The Producers, that was based on a Mel Brooks film that, by the time this century turned, not really all that many people remembered. You might not realize that Brooks wrote all the songs for that show, not just "Springtime for Hitler" (which was in the original fake musical in the original movie). He's very musically talented!

Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein are probably considered Brooks' biggest hits, and I don't know whether there'll ever be a musical version of Blazing Saddles, but YF makes a nice, fun musical, and it's stomping into Arizona right now at Arizona Broadway Theatre.


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