Xanthia Walker of Rising Youth Theatre: 2015 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Performing Art

Evie Carpenter
Xanthia Walker wants to give young people a way to be involved in all aspects of theater through Rising Youth Theatre.
You submitted nominations for the best and brightest emerging Valley creatives, and the results are in. Presenting the 2015 Big Brain finalists.

Leading up to the announcement of winners at Artopia on May 9, Jackalope Ranch, Chow Bella, and Up on the Sun will introduce the finalists. Up today is Xanthia Walker.

Xanthia Walker sits in a room with a zombie nurse, a fox, and a girl in a platinum blond wig.

She's invited them to meet with her and some other Rising Youth Theatre staff. Well, technically the invitation was for the people inside the costumes to attend RYT's cosplay workshop so Walker, partner Sarah Sullivan, and their playwright could research fandoms for the theater's next production.

Sitting in a circle, the attendees, many of whom had never worked with RYT before, went around and discussed the different shows, movies, and comics they loved. In the midst of excited outbursts caused by someone mentioning a certain character, Walker scribbled down notes in a journal, the phrase "fail better" scrawled in pen on the inside of her wrist.

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Childsplay Founder David Saar to Retire

Courtesy of Childsplay
David Saar (left) will be succeeded by Dwayne Hartford (right).

Childsplay founder and artistic director David Saar announced in a press release on Wednesday, April 22, that he will retire at the end of the 2015-16 season.

Saar started the acclaimed professional children's theater company in 1977 as a graduate thesis project. Its aim has been to engage children with thought-provoking material presented in schools and onstage. Based at Tempe Center for the Arts, productions have dealt with such topics as the Holocaust and HIV. Both Saar and the company have won numerous awards and grants.

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Beth May: 2015 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Performing Art

Katie Johnson
At only 23, Beth May is making a name for herself both on and off the stage.
You submitted nominations for the best and brightest emerging Valley creatives, and the results are in. Presenting the 2015 Big Brain finalists.

Leading up to the announcement of winners at Artopia on May 9, Jackalope Ranch, Chow Bella, and Up on the Sun will introduce the finalists. Up today is Beth May.

Beth May is all about the show and tell.

When she's not making revisions to screenplays -- she's currently in the middle of a story involving a man who writes eulogies for a living -- or driving across the desert for a chance to compete in poetry slams, the Tucson-raised playwright and Arizona State University grad can often be found performing her written works on Phoenix's more progressive stages, making her mark at venues like Space 55 and Lawn Gnome Publishing.

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Arizona Theatre Company's Romeo and Juliet Puts Style Before Passion at Herberger Theater

Categories: Reviews, Theater

Tim Fuller
Paul David Story and Chelsea Kurtz in Arizona Theatre Company's Romeo and Juliet.

Arizona Theatre Company's Romeo and Juliet is a treat, but only for those who haven't already witnessed a previous parade of updated, restructured Shakespeare productions. And for those who don't care whether the Bard's verses are well-delivered or his young hero and heroine are nicely acted. Everyone else would do better to get thee to a movie house.

Set in swinging '60s Italy, this overlong, largely dreary Romeo and Juliet has in its favor nothing more than a pair of charming characterizations, neither of them Shakespeare's teen lovers. Director Kirsten Brandt has turned Old Will's "two hours traffic of our stage" into half again as much, yet made the whole shebang only half as engaging.

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Drama Queens: Exploring the Gender Gap in the Valley's Theater Community

Categories: Theater

Mastroieni and the cast of TAS' The Heiress.
Women and their stories are not being adequately represented in American theater -- not here in the Valley, nor on Broadway, nor points between. At least, that's the message that's recently gone viral in various social media outlets, in a public conversation sparked by the announcement of next year's seasons from Phoenix Theatre and Arizona Theatre Company, both of which feature plays and musicals written only by men.

Gender inequality in the arts isn't news. The theater has, like so many other entertainment industries, long been dominated by men. More plays are written by men than women; more are chosen by male artistic directors and directed by males. Yet, according to most sources, more tickets are purchased by women. In a 2014 study conducted by the Broadway League, the national trade association for the Broadway industry, it was determined that 68 percent of all tickets purchased for Broadway theatrical productions were bought by females.

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State of the Arts: 10 Things Phoenix Needs to Do

Carrie Hobson
Phoenix's arts community is at a make-or-break moment. It's time to grow up.

Consider yourself on notice, Phoenix. Here are 10 things to do in the next three years.

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15 Must-See Plays in Metro Phoenix This Spring

Categories: Theater, Top Lists

Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Bianca Marroquin stars as Roxie Hart in the Broadway musical, Chicago, coming to Gammage Auditorium this spring.
They can sing, they can dance, after all this is -- well, okay, it's not France, but Phoenix will get its fair share of talented actors taking to the stage for the spring season. Between Broadway musicals, Shakespearian adaptations, and centerstage comedies, we've found 15 good reasons to start buying your theater tickets now.

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

Categories: Reviews, Theater

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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Phoenix State of the Arts Survey Deadline Is Friday, February 6

Jackalope Ranch wants your take on the arts in Arizona.

Hey Phoenix, we know you are super busy.

But we'd super appreciate it if you took a few minutes to answer our 10-question survey about the state of the arts in and around Phoenix. We want your take on all aspects of art -- from theater, performance art, and dance to poetry, comedy, painting, street art, and everything in between. And your fast-approaching deadline is Friday, February 6.

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

Categories: Reviews, 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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