Scottsdale's Theatre Artists Studio Revives And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little

Mark Gluckman
From left, Dee Rich and Maureen Dias pause between past and future in And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little.
The setup: Many of the best off-Broadway theaters are clubs of a kind: like-minded artists who've come together to form a company that produces the kind of work they value, to joyfully challenge their skills, to share the results with audiences in a meaningful way. If you've spent years doing and/or watching theater in the Phoenix area, it's natural to be suspicious of any arts enterprise that people purchase memberships or pay dues or fees to participate in (especially if you've been a child actor or stage parent), but exploitation is not the nature of Theatre Artists Studio -- it's more New York-style in its mission and operations -- and its members' devotion is what makes the shows so darn good. The directors cast the member actors quite a bit; that's part of the point. But the company also works routinely with theater artists who aren't members, and the cross-pollination is good for everybody.

The Studio also brings us interesting plays we don't get to see often, and its current offering, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, presented here as a longish one-act, is the second best-known play by Paul Zindel, who won a Pulitzer for The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. The man sure could write a quirky, memorable title. Zindel, raised by hardworking women after his father left the family, also had a firm grasp on the pain, humor, and absurdity of female-led families (and human behavior in general) and the way that intimate, complex conflicts play out.

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Orange Theatre: 2014 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Performing Arts (VIDEO)

Katie Johnson
The Orange Theatre group attending an evening rehearsal at Phoenix Center for the Arts.
You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives, and the results are in. Introducing our 2014 Big Brain finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award announcement and Artopia on April 25, Jackalope Ranch and Chow Bella will introduce the finalists. Up today: Orange Theatre.

Describing Orange Theatre is a bit difficult.

"It's cross-disciplinary," says artistic director Matt Watkins. "It's multimedia. It incorporates film and TV. It incorporates computers, technology, the Internet, dance, visual art . . ."

Orange Theatre can't be confined to a single genre of theater -- or even a single space for that matter. The troupe had lacked a permanent home for rehearsals and performances up until April 1, when it announced via Facebook that it had finally found a new downtown Phoenix home off of Grand Avenue at 1711 West Culver Street, suite 15.

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Around the World in 80 Days in Downtown Phoenix in a Couple of Hours, from Arizona Theatre Company

Tim Fuller/Arizona Theatre Company
From left, Mark Anders, Bob Sorenson, and Jon Gentry hew to the timetable in Around the World in 80 Days.
The setup: If you're fans of some of the Valley's best theater artists, it's both delightful and reassuring when they get particularly good jobs like a gig with Arizona Theatre Company, which is a nice bump in pay, visibility, and production values. Around the World in 80 Days is our opportunity to see the work of several of our favorites in a smart, charming, slightly tongue-in-cheek stage adaptation of Jules Verne's classic-yet-popular novel.

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Don't Dress for Dinner Is a Farce to Be Reckoned with at Desert Foothills Theater

Kyle C. Greene
They didn't dress. Why should you? From left, Melissa Powers, Glenn Parker, Diane Senffner, and Roger Prenger in Don't Dress for Dinner
The setup: Madcap, whirlwind, and sexy, the farce is the perfect form of theater to revive the pants off of during recovery from an economic recession. As I recall, if you do it right, an illicit relationship can be one of the most affordable diversions ("We can't go out; people might see us!") -- but it's really the silliness that's the point. People hiding their actual or prospective side dishes from their significant others: the suspense!

So Marc Camoletti's Boeing Boeing, which eventually became a Tony Curtis movie about a man who easily juggled engagements to three international stewardesses until planes got faster in the early '60s, has made a second round in this century from Broadway all the way out to people like us. And another of Camoletti's scripts (he wrote a great many, but most have not been translated from French yet), Don't Dress for Dinner, is currently going strong 20 years after its American première that never got out of New Jersey. The West End revival ran six years, and now, on the heels of 2012's New York production, Desert Foothills Theater in Carefree gives us a nice big serving of crazy.

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New Musical National Pastime at Peoria's Theater Works: Hit, Run, and Score Mean Different Things Onstage

Grads Photography
From left, Alanna Kalbfleisch, Sarah Wolter, and Joe Kremer in National Pastime
The setup: Three American cities have hosted "tryout" productions this season of National Pastime, a new musical with an interesting little history and a super-adorable, relatively plausible premise. Its creators continue to project optimism about its suitability for Broadway, or at least they did before it opened at Theater Works.

Much better shows than this have closed within days of opening on Broadway, so I think the production team would have to kidnap someone really important to raise the necessary $9 million they estimate needing -- but that doesn't mean it isn't fun to watch in its current incarnation.

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Mesa Encore Theatre to Receive Award from the American Association of Community Theatre

Categories: Theater

Sarah Rodgers
Marcus Terrrell Smith (left) and Devon Nickel star in Mesa Encore Theatre's Big River, opening April 4.
Mesa Encore Theatre announced last week that it will receive the 2014 Twink Lynch Organizational Achievement Award from the American Association of Community Theatre on Saturday, June 21, during AACTWorldFest in Venice, Florida.

This is a pretty big deal. Though only a few Valley theaters are members of AACT, the organization has more than 7,000 member theaters in the United States, its possessions and territories, and on military bases. MET (formerly known as Mesa Little Theatre) has been pumping culture into the community since 1937, and that statistic is in itself noteworthy, because many volunteer arts groups in the U.S. were compelled to cease operations during World War II.

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The Sickie Bunch from The [SIC] [sic] [∞] Sense: Perfectly Repulsive

courtesy of The [SIC] Sense
The setup: For The [SIC] Sense's third show in its new home in the Basement Theatre at Phoenix Center for the Arts, the sketch comedy troupe takes a break from transitioning new cast members in and welcomes back Kristie Cowles, a one-woman ninja patrol of comic anarchy. About half of the sketches are about some kind of sex (sometimes it's hard to tell), and while that alone doesn't make the show inappropriate for children, it's promoted as containing "adult themes," and parenthood is challenging enough without explaining, any sooner than you have to, women with fake penises (let alone real ones) hanging out of their jeans or how to play Fuck, Marry, or Kill.

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10 Must-See Plays in Metro Phoenix This Spring

Sam Miller
Emily Giauque Evans goes out there as a youngster but comes back a star, in Dames at Sea.
In our groundhog-free city, the astronomically defined season of spring can still be rather delightful, even if the weather doesn't feel that much different from autumn or even winter. Skies are blue, everything smells good (well, better than usual, anyway), and our typically understated vegetation is at its greenest, fluffiest pre-brushfire peak.

When all is fresh and new, and cats and dogs are having lots of sex, it's a great time to look at the rest of the theater season and scope out what you want to nail (other than the shows you already picked out months ago). So here we go, from equinox to solstice, in order of opening dates. Click on the theater links in the headings for tickets and more info:

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Pippin Is a Colossal Misfire at Phoenix Theatre

Categories: Review, Theater

Sara Chambers
Anthony Johnson plays Pippin.

After what seemed like a very long time, Phoenix Theatre's production of Pippin stopped shrieking and wiggling its collective hips, and shuddered to a close. Meanwhile, we -- an audience made up mostly of "people of a certain age" -- endured a lifeless rip-off of Cirque du Soleil staged by a lot of people who should, by now, have known better.

And Jenny Hintze.

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Mozart! The Musical Adaptation Is a Little Off-Key at Phoenix Theatre's Hormel Festival

Categories: Review, Theater

Tamara French
The actors in Mozart! had limited time to learn their roles and were aided by scripts on stage.
The Hormel Festival of New Plays and Musicals at Phoenix Theatre gives theatergoers a rare opportunity to check out new plays and musicals in the works and to offer insight to the directors, actors, and producers on how that particular work could improve. With a range of themes and styles, it can be difficult to decide just what to see. This year, we couldn't help but go for a new musical adapted from a French stage performance about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life.

If you expect a take on Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, you'd be way off.

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