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

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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: 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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What's the State of the Arts in Arizona? A Questionnaire for Phoenix and Beyond

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Jackalope Ranch wants your take on the arts in Arizona.

Take a deep breath, Phoenix. Between shakeups at major institutions, changes coming to arts hubs, and a slew of closings and openings, there's a lot going on -- and even more to take in.

What better time to take the pulse of the state's arts scene?

Jackalope Ranch wants your take on what's happening, what should be happening, and what's next for all aspects of the arts in and around metro Phoenix, including murals, spoken word, theater, museums, galleries, public art, and dance.

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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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Gina Gionfriddo on Having It All, Pulitzer Prizes, and Rapture, Blister, Burn

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The Huntington / Flickr
Two-time Pulitzer Prize Finalist Gina Gionfriddo.

Gina Gionfriddo is something of a playwriting dynamo. Her last two full-length plays, Becky Shaw and Rapture, Blister, Burn, were both finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Her work goes far beyond the stage though; Gionfriddo wrote for Law and Order for several years, and more recently wrote an episode of the hit Netflix series House of Cards.

Theatre Artists Studio's production of Rapture, Blister, Burn opens this weekend. The play is a humorous glimpse at the friendship of two women -- one of whom chose to devote herself wholly to her career, while the other focused on having a family. We caught up with Gionfriddo to learn a little more.


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6 Phoenix-Area Theater Companies to Honor Tickets to Canceled Actors Theatre Productions

Categories: News, Theater

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John Groseclose
Actors Theatre's production of Good People featured Maria Amorocho and Katie McFadzen.

Six local theater companies have announced that they'll honor tickets purchased for canceled Actors Theatre productions.

The professional company announced in December 2014 that it would close after nearly 30 years. Originally, Actors Theatre representatives had said that refunds would not be granted for purchased tickets to shows in the remainder of its 2014-15 season including Annapurna, Stage Kiss, and The Year of Magical Thinking.

However, patrons now will be able to exchange tickets for shows at Arizona Theatre Company, Arizona Broadway Theatre, Childsplay, Phoenix Theatre, Stray Cat Theatre, and Theater Works.

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Actors Theatre to Close in Phoenix

Categories: News, Theater

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John Groseclose
Actors Theatre's production of Good People featured Maria Amorocho and Katie McFadzen.

Early on Friday, December 19, Actors Theatre announced via press release that it will shutter after 29 years.

"The simple truth is we're out of money," Actors Theatre board president Renee Gerstman says in the release.

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

Categories: Review, Theater

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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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Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni on Growing Up with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Race, and What It Takes to Do a One-Woman Show

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Courtesy of Mesa Arts Center
Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni stars in a one-woman show written by her and produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni wants to talk about race in America -- and she's got an idea of where she wants to start. The writer-actor-director-producer extraordinaire will bring her one-woman show, One Drop of Love, to Mesa Arts Center on Saturday, November 1.

Inspired by her own experiences with race, family, and reconciliation, One Drop of Love endeavors to explore these concepts in a funny, relatable way. In addition to giving two performances, Cox DiGiovanni will be hosting a panel discussion and community dialogue on Thursday, October 31, at the Arizona Opera Center. We spoke with the creative about her performance, her history, and her first-ever visit to Arizona.


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