With its deft characterizations and non-stop flow, the one-man show Buyer & Cellar (B&C) is far more than a funny riff on the quirks of a celebrity.
The entirely fictional story is set in a fantastic — but surprisingly real — location: the private shopping mall of actress-singer-composer Barbra Streisand. The Academy, Tony, Golden Globe and Grammy award-winning artist wrote My Passion for Design in 2010. Her book includes a description of the mall, built in the basement of her Malibu home and housing Streisand’s personal collections in settings including a doll shop and a boutique of antique clothing.
Fascinated with what he calls an “artificial utopia,” playwright Jonathan Tolins (The Twilight of the Golds, If Memory Serves, The Last Sunday in June, and Secrets of the Trade) spins the comical tale of a struggling actor hired to work as the mall’s sole employee.
“The set is very simple and classy, leaving a sort of blank slate for creative lighting, projections, and imaginative storytelling,” says actor Toby Yatso, the star of Phoenix Theatre’s production. “And there are only two props: an actual copy of My Passion for Design, and a cell phone in my pocket.”
Fresh from an athletic performance as Bert in Mary Poppins, Yatso teaches musical theater at Arizona State University, works as a member of the Megaw Actors Studio and an artist-in-residence at Phoenix Theatre (PT), and directs PT’s summer Musical Theatre Intensive program.
Buyer & Cellar is directed by Ron May, who himself stars in the upcoming Phoenix Theatre production of One Man, Two Guvnors running May 20 through June 14. May is founding artistic director for Tempe’s Stray Cat Theatre, and brings to B&C his considerable expertise with unusual shows like Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Pluto.
Although Streisand is a cultural icon, B&C promises equal entertainment to devotees and new fans alike with no need for deep background knowledge, says May,”…no more than an audience has to have any kind of knowledge of, like, Danish royalty to enjoy Hamlet.”
“I suppose knowing about the ins and outs of Barbra’s life may give you a deeper appreciation of a handful of references, but there’s nothing that’s going to really leave anyone in the dark,” May explains. “It’s a comedy about our worship of celebrities – Barbra just happens to be the target.”
“She’s funny, she’s warm, she’s wildly quirky, she’s vulnerable, she’s demanding, she’s caring…” he says. “I actually liked her more after working on this show.” May adds, “If Barbra Streisand in real life is anything like the Barbra in this show, I totally want to be friends with her.”
“The script does a superb job of teaching as it goes,” agrees Yatso. “All you need to know is that Barbra Streisand is a force of nature in the entertainment industry, so that covers just about everyone in America.”
“I think our obsession with celebrities is twofold,” he continues, “…and the play touches on both halves – what makes her untouchable and what makes her perhaps like everybody else.”
Although Yatso’s six roles in B&C don’t take him strolling up and overhead around the proscenium arch as in Mary Poppins, they demand lighting-fast character changes. “Let it be known that I am not flipping in the air or tap-dancing on the ceiling in this one,” the six-and-a-half-foot-plus actor says with a laugh. “But I try to use my body expressively and creatively however and whenever possible.” He adds, “There’s a lot of body there, so make it count, right?”
“It’s actually a very physical show,” says May. “It’s just one guy creating a number of different worlds and characters and environments and situations, and all he has is his voice and his body.” The director explains, “All it takes is a little subtle shift of his physicality and you instantly know which character just showed up on stage. Those skills are a godsend in a show like this.”
“I have a lot of conversations ‘with myself,’” Yatso says. “Maybe it feels like playing Ping-Pong with yourself, but both sides really want to score the point…?”
“The challenge is really for Toby,” declares May. “He has to keep the ball up in the air for the whole 100 minutes. The amount of focus and concentration and energy that takes is pretty insane.” He continues, “My satisfaction honestly comes from watching him absolutely kill it night after night and audiences going wild over him.” May chuckles and adds, “I feel like a purring cat watching him.”
If you go:
As Phoenix begins a multi-month celebration of the 30 year anniversary of the Arts & Culture Commission, DPJ will share a series of articles that highlight the impact the Commission has had on the look of our city, the growth of our arts organizations, and the evolution of arts learning.
Thirty years ago this month, Phoenix city leaders had the foresight to pass a City ordinance that created the Phoenix Arts Commission (later renamed the Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission). The ordinance, unanimously accepted by then-mayor Terry Goddard and the City Council on April 16, 1985, called for a Commission to “protect, enhance, serve, and advocate excellence in the arts for the people of Phoenix in their City.”
On Friday, April 17, the Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission will launch a multi-month celebration of all that the City and the Commission have accomplished in these first three decades. The inaugural event, “Phoenix Arts & Culture @30: A Conversation” will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Phoenix Art Museum and will include Mayor Greg Stanton, former Mayor Terry Goddard, arts leaders James K. Ballinger and Black Theatre Troupe Executive Director David Hemphill. They will be joined by former commissioner F. William Sheppard, first executive director of the Office of Arts and Culture Deborah Whitehurst, first public art director Gretchen Freeman and current public art director Ed Lebow. Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Álvaro Ríos will moderate.
The Phoenix Arts & Culture Commission is comprised of a minimum of 18 commission members (currently there are 22) who serve in three-year terms. Over the first 30 years, the Commission accomplished a lot, and there’s much to celebrate in three overarching areas: public art, arts learning programs, and grants to arts and cultural organizations. Ongoing celebratory activities are being planned for this summer and into the fall, culminating with a day-long festival in October. To coincide with celebration elements as they unfold, DPJ is planning a series of articles to cover it all, beginning with the program that has had the biggest visible impact on the city, Public Art.
The City ordinance establishing the Commission allocated one percent of the overall Phoenix Capital Improvement budget for public art and the funding was backed up by three major bond initiatives (1989, 2001, 2006). The results over the last three decades have transformed Phoenix.
“That first bond (in 1989) enabled us to look at a map of the city and decide where public art would do the most good,” says Gail Browne, current Executive Director of the Office of Arts and Culture. “The point of public art is that it is for the public, for everybody. So the idea was to get public art where it would do the most good throughout the city.”
Current Public Art Director Ed Lebow says, “It began with the idea that quality design belongs to every neighborhood, and that all residents deserve to have wonderful design as a part of their public spaces.” This meant that, as Phoenix was growing and infrastructure was being built, artists were involved in projects from the beginning to insure that the results would be more than simply functional.
At first this program was a little confusing for the public. As Lebow puts it, “We were hiring artists to do things that very few people expected them to do: design streets, freeway overpasses and underpasses, pedestrian bridges, bus shelters, and more.”
Browne adds, “In the beginning I don’t think there was a full appreciation of what the overall impact would be.” But she notes that along the way, the successful proliferation of so many projects began to change people minds.
“Attitudes in City Hall began to change, as well,” adds Browne. “Other City departments began to understand how these projects were enhancing the city and making the projects they were responsible for more accessible, more safe and more beautiful.”
Over the years, the impact of these projects was felt far beyond Phoenix. For example, the innovative 27th Ave. Solid Waste Management Facility, which was designed in 1989 and completed in 1993, began garnering national attention and awards, and helped change the way people throughout the country thought about this kind of facility.
To date there have been 170 completed Public Art projects citywide and many others are in development. They’ve included streetscapes, parks, pedestrian bridges, freeway over and under-passes, canal improvements, and so much more. At Friday’s event, the panelists will discuss these projects and share how this internationally respected program has successfully integrated beautiful design into the bones of the city.
“What once was new and novel is now normal,” says Lebow.
Recent award-winning projects include the Downtown Civic Space Park sculpture “Her Secret is Patience,” which has become an icon, as well as the Phoenix Sky Train terrazzo floors at the 44th Street Light Rail Station, the East Economy Station, the Terminal 3 Station, and the Terminal 4 Station. In April 2013, the National Terrazzo & Mosaic Association awarded “Job of the Year” to these remarkable floors. As Browne says, “Who’d have thought that just creating a walkway for people could be such a symbol for the city and that it could be so welcoming?”
The panel offers the public an historic opportunity to see the impact and hear from the people who’ve been involved in the Commission over the years. Browne adds, “People will come away from this panel discussion with a real sense of pride in the degree to which we are all invested. They’ll see the contrast between a city that had very little investment in arts and culture, and they’ll understand that a broad community effort was what drove this success.”
If you go:
What: “Phoenix Arts & Culture @30: A Conversation”
When: Friday, April 17, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central Ave.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
PHOENIX ART MUSEUM RECEIVES $2.5 MILLION GIFT
Donation to be used to fund a Chief Curator
The Phoenix Art Museum Board is excited to announce a $2.5M gift from Suzanne and Bud Selig to be used toward the funding of a Chief Curator, a position that is transformational for a museum of its size. This significant contribution is one of the largest gifts Phoenix Art Museum has received in recent years.
Suzanne Selig, who is a member of Phoenix Art Museum’s Board of Trustees and her husband Bud, the Commissioner Emeritus of Baseball are avid supporters of the arts and actively contribute to several cultural organizations in their home state of Wisconsin. “Bud and I truly love Phoenix Art Museum and wanted our contribution to be applied toward something that is instrumental in the growth of this wonderful institution,” said Sue Selig. “This museum holds a special place in our hearts and we hope our contribution allows it to develop into a museum that is recognized both nationally and internationally.”
Recently at Phoenix Art Museum the position of Chief Curator has been the responsibility of the Museum’s director; making it a stand-alone position will allow the Director to concentrate efforts on fundraising and expanding the international visibility of the museum.
Amada Cruz, The Sybil Harrington Director of Phoenix Art Museum added, “As the first Chief Curator in over a decade, The Selig Family Chief Curator will develop an overall exhibitions and collections strategy that benefits the largest art museum in the Southwest. This position will allow our Museum to move to its next phase of expanded programming and enhanced visitor experiences.”
The Selig Family Chief Curator will have curatorial oversight of exhibitions, collections, and programming, and will provide strategic leadership to the Museum’s curatorial staff. Along with curatorial responsibilities, this position will also assist with fundraising for exhibitions and art acquisitions.
“We are both grateful and honored by the generous gift from Sue and Bud Selig,” said Phoenix Art Museum Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Patterson. “Their gift will enable the Phoenix Art Museum to add a Chief Curator to our talented curatorial team that we were not otherwise in a position to do; this will enable the Museum to reach new heights in curatorial excellence.”
The search for The Selig Family Chief Curator will begin immediately.
Image courtesy of the Phoenix Art Museum.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
Phoenix Festival de España Annual Celebration of Spanish Arts & Culture Returns to Downtown Phoenix March 21 & 22, 2015
Phoenix Festival de España, sponsored in part by APS, will take place in the heart of the Downtown Phoenix art scene at Phoenix Center for the Arts (1202 N 3rd Street) and will feature Flamenco workshops for youth and adults, delicious Spanish food, culinary demonstrations, presentations on Spanish culture, live performances, and more!
Dance and music groups from throughout the Valley will perform in 30-minute intervals throughout the day on the festival’s outdoor stage. Local and nationally-acclaimed Spanish historians, scholars, and curators will present lectures and workshops with a Spanish flavor. The Festival will also feature art exhibits, costumes, jewelry, and a beer and wine garden. Admission is FREE for the whole family.
In addition to the fantastic dance and music performances outside all weekend long, Sunday’s festivities will include a screening of the documentary “Flamenco Flamenco” by Carlos Saura at 2pm in the Phoenix Center for the Arts Third Street Theater. Festivalgoers are encouraged to stay into the night for a very special closing flamenco performance, “Luz De Dia,” also taking place in the Third Street Theater at 6pm.
“Luz De Dia” features internationally acclaimed guitarist, Misael Barraza Diaz, with special guest from Madrid, international flamenco star, Nino De Los Reyes. Ensemble includes Macarena Giraldez, Olivia Rojas, Jason Martinez, Mele Martinez, and Angelina Ramirez. Tickets are required for entry to both “Flamenco Flamenco” ($10) and “Luz De Dia” ($15). Those wishing to attend both events, can purchase a combo ticket for $20.
Additional sponsors include Otro Café, Crescent Ballroom, Jobot, Monica Robles Art + Design, Northwestern Mutual, PAZ, Arizona Commission on the Arts, ACEAZ, and the City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation Department.
For an updated list of performers, presenters and workshops, please visit www.phoenixcenterforthearts.org.
If You Go
Dates/Times: Saturday, March 21, 2015, 12-6pm & Sunday, March 22, 2015, 12-8pm
Anticipated Attendance: 2,000
Where: Phoenix Center for the Arts, 1202 N. 3rd Street, Phoenix AZ 85004
Parking/Transportation: Limited street parking available. Avoid the hassle and take METRO Light Rail to the McDowell/Central Ave or Roosevelt/Central Ave. Bike racks are also available. Parking is also available in the Phoenix Center for the Arts parking lot (enter from 3rd Street).
Presenting Organization: Phoenix Center for the Arts and Flamenco Por La Vida
Supported By: APS, City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation Department, Otro Café, Crescent Ballroom, Jobot, Monica Robles Art + Design, Northwestern Mutual, PAZ, Arizona Commission on the Arts, and ACEAZ
Information: email@example.com or 602-254-3100
Images courtesy of the Phoenix Center for the Arts.
An ephemeral Art Detour pop-up space reveals long-covered DeGrazia murals and showcases plans for a new Lauren Lee mural.
Iconic Arizona artist Ted DeGrazia is most widely remembered for his commercially popular paintings of large-eyed children, faceless angels, and Southwestern-themed imagery. But two murals he left behind in downtown Phoenix—hidden under protective sheetrock for years—reveal a glimpse of DeGrazia’s other subjects, and his unique mark on the community.
“A lot of times, DeGrazia would go into a place and someone would say to him, ‘Oh, here’s a sandwich and a pitcher of beer,’ you know, ‘Would you paint me a picture?’ and he’d do it for lunch,” says DeGrazia Foundation Executive Director Lance Laber. “Now, this is a pretty extensive mural, so I know he didn’t do it for lunch,” he continues with a laugh. “This mural is 12 feet tall and it’s 40 feet long.”
Laber is describing a mural covering a large expanse of interior wall at 222 E. Roosevelt in the former greenHAUS Gallery. “The establishment was a bar,” he says, and explains that the murals were most likely painted around 60 years ago. “….They go along with the way DeGrazia’s style was in the ‘50s.”
On the Roosevelt walls, a smaller mural shows a dancer twirling in a glass, while the huge 40-foot work depicts scenes of alcohol production, from loincloth-clad figures gathered around a cauldron to a hillbilly moonshine still. “Everybody’s making some kind of booze,” says Laber. “That seems to be the theme of the mural.” Both pieces feature opaque greenish-turquoise backgrounds, and while the dancer is painted on drywall attached to wood studs, the alcohol scenes were applied directly to a very thin layer of plaster adhering to a double- brick wall.
For years, the artwork was covered and protected by sheetrock and Laber learned about the murals when building owner Baron Properties contacted the DeGrazia Foundation back in September 2014. “I had never seen anything by DeGrazia that looked like that—truly amazing,” says Laber. “The murals are kind of old…they’re a little faded from time, but they’re very interesting.”
“We learned of the two pieces as we were conducting our due diligence to buy the property,” says Baron partner Scott Fisher. “We called Lance [Laber] to understand what the murals were and what they stood for and their importance.” He continues, “We wanted to do the right thing and…donate the paintings, so that’s why we called the DeGrazia Foundation.” Baron has owned property in the Valley since 2004 and intends to build a new building on the Roosevelt site, but the company has worked out a rare opportunity with Artlink in which the DeGrazia murals will be open to the public during March First Friday and Art Detour 27 from March 6-8. “We don’t just share a desire to preserve the DeGrazia artwork,” says Fisher. “We want to do what we can to actually enhance and expand a great arts neighborhood with additional efforts too.”
Laber has been working with Baron and an art conservator to determine how the murals can be preserved, and believes the smaller mural can be saved. “That’s on a piece of sheetrock that we believe can be removed from the wall,” he says. The larger mural is a different story. No one has yet devised a method to protect such an expansive piece against the torque exerted on a thin layer of aging stucco. “If you start trying to peel it off or get behind it and get it off, you’re probably just going to break it into a thousand pieces,” says Laber.
“In either case, we plan on having a professional photographer take very high-definition photographs and donate those to the Foundation and whoever else is interested,” says Fisher. “We understand that the Roosevelt Arts District is very important, and so our new projects on Roosevelt…we plan on displaying and highlighting local art from local artists. Our plan is to have more artwork, not less.”
And the beautiful Lauren Lee mural “Three Birds” on the building’s outside east-facing wall? Lee recognized that it was going to be difficult to save the piece, so she approached Baron Properties about the possibility of producing a new piece for the new building.
Fisher said, “When Lauren Lee approached us with her idea, the answer was a resounding yes. That’s because our goal is to create a combination of the preserved art along with the newer works and contribute to a great success story in the heart of Phoenix.”
Lee said, “I’ll be painting three massive birds in flight on the five-story-high new building that will be called ‘iLuminate.’ Given their name, the developer suggested that we illuminate the birds from below so that they can be seen from far away, which I think will be spectacular.”
Lee added, “The new concept design will be displayed at Art Detour this weekend in a pop-up art gallery hosted by Artlink in the greenHAUS building. I’ll be there answering questions with the new painting and design rendering of the ‘Three Birds in Flight,’ as well as offering prints of the ‘Three Birds’ mural for sale. It’s difficult to convey my happiness about this, but I am truly happy that the ‘Three Birds’ get to live on in a new way, in a new stage of their evolution.”
Take advantage of this final opportunity to see the DeGrazia murals and Lauren Lee’s “Three Birds” at Art Detour this weekend.
If You Go:
What: Artlink Pop Up Gallery – Art Detour 27
Where: 222. E. Roosevelt St.
When: Saturday and Sunday, March 7 & 8, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Update: Recently released, DeGrazia: The Man and the Myths is a new biography of DeGrazia by James W. Johnson and Marilyn D. Johnson from The University of Arizona Press. Both authors join DeGrazia Foundation Executive Director Lance Laber at the Tucson Festival of Books on Sunday, March 15 in the Student Union’s Kachina room on the U of A campus for a panel discussion from 1 p.m.-2 p.m., followed by a book-signing.