Arts & Culture
While our changing leaves may not be as colorful as back east, Phoenix has one unique signifier of fall that comes back every year, right on time: PoeFest.
Every October, suspense fans from around the Valley gather to hear classic Edgar Allan Poe stories recited in decidedly dramatic fashion by local actors at the storied, and probably haunted, Hotel San Carlos. This year marks the sixth showing of the local event, which features dramatic recitations of classic Edgar Allan Poe stories such as “The Raven,” “The Red Mask of Death,” and the “Tell-Tale Heart.”
Perfect for Poe fans, literature nerds, and adventurous first dates, PoeFest is the creepy brainchild of the Arizona Curriculum Theater (ACT), an educational charity that works in Valley schools to help students learn in new ways with the help of performance. From literature and history, to more traditionally staid subjects like math and science, ACT brings new life to standard subjects and attempts to make education more fun.
James David Porter, the founder and executive director of ACT, said the idea for PoeFest came about thanks to some very disappointing experiences in run-of-the-mill haunted houses.
“I longed for something different in Halloween entertainment. And the idea for PoeFest was born out of that disappointment. I had always loved the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and I had always wanted to perform “The Tell-Tale Heart” on stage,” Porter said.
The first run in October 2009 debuted in a small art space in the Grand Avenue arts district, provided by friends of Porter’s. The first show featured two classic stories, one performed by Porter himself, and a quaint six people in the audience.
“We did four shows over two weekends for the run, and by closing night we were turning people away. The show became very popular very quickly.”
By the third year, the show had outgrown the small space, so Porter began the search for a new venue: specifically, a haunted venue. He soon came across the many stories behind Downtown Phoenix’s Hotel San Carlos.
“At that historic hotel you can walk with all kinds of ghosts from the past – taking up the same space once occupied by Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, and Gene Autry,” said Porter.
“The history seeps from the walls … It sounded like a perfect place for PoeFest. So I called up the hotel, had a meeting with General Manager Angela Hentz, and she agreed to let us try out one weekend inside the Ghost Lounge. It was such a success that we moved into the Hotel for our entire run the following year.”
After six years, Porter says his nightly audiences are a mixture of diehard fans and newbies looking for a thrill.
“PoeFest is also a fundraiser for our company, and I think our audience really digs that they are not just getting some great Halloween theater, but they are also helping our literacy and arts programs in Arizona schools and libraries. Our audiences care deeply about keeping the arts in schools, and so it’s a win-win for them.”
Phoenix resident and first-time PoeFest attendee Danielle Stephens said she found the format unconventional, but completely enthralling.
“PoeFest was a refreshing look at our favorite stories written by Edgar Allan Poe. I loved it!”
Porter started ACT after his work with the Southwest Shakespeare Company and taking part in their education outreach program in area schools.
“We just thought, ‘Why stop at Shakespeare? Why not do Poe, Emily Dickinson, historical reenactments, interactive story-telling, teach math through music, science through dance?’ I read a report that said the arts had declined more than 40 percent in Arizona schools, and there was all of this emphasis on curriculum – and so it was natural to find a way to connect the arts and the curriculum together. Why not use the arts to teach the curriculum? Two birds with one stone, as they say.”
ACT has brought the arts to more than 100 Arizona schools and libraries from Bisbee to Flagstaff, and have matched private donors to 37 schools in underserved or underfunded areas, schools that could not ordinarily afford professional artists or who have lost their funding for arts programs.
“What better way to learn about the Salem witchcraft trials, for instance, than to take part in a historically-accurate reenactment of the examination of an accused Salem witch?”
Porter hopes to continue traveling to schools across the valley and developing their programs to better serve teachers in classrooms. By continuing PoeFest, they are able to reach out to a new audience, share the goals of ACT, and inspire community support for their efforts.
In PoeFest, however, Porter hopes to finally provide a cure for the common haunted house by creating an Edgar Allan Poe-themed haunted asylum, in which each room features a different story or poem.
“Poe wrote many of his stories and poems as first person narratives, so the transition to the stage was quite natural. His stories sound like the confessions of the kinds of madmen that haunt my own nightmares. I don’t think there could be a more perfect marriage between the stage and classic literature.”
If you go:
Where: The Ghost Lounge at the Hotel San Carlos, 202 N. Central, downtown Phoenix
When: October 17 & 18, 24 & 25, Oct 31* & Nov 1 at 8:00 – 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: (for each individual night) $25 – general admission; $20 – students, seniors and military; Festival passes (good for all dates) are available for $38. Buy online.
*Special performances of “The Raven” will be presented on Halloween Night, Oct. 31, 2014 every twenty minutes from 7:30pm-9:30pm at Rosson House Museum, 113 N 6th St Phoenix, AZ. No seating is available, standing room only. (“The Raven” explores adult themes. This show is not recommended for very young children. Parental discretion is advised. Children under 13 will not be admitted without an adult.)
The Annual Grand Avenue Festival is a well-loved community event filled with interactive arts projects, vendors, music, food and more. This year, the Sixth Annual Grand Avenue Festival is teaming up with the Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts (P.A.P.A.) to create a full day of participatory fun for the whole family.
The festival features a variety of ways for the community to get involved as participants, artists, vendors, or sponsors (DPJ is one). Take a minute to check out the options below and join the fun!
Festival Sponsorship Opportunities
Your contribution will help replace 35 missing trees along lower Grand Ave. with 24″ boxed trees that are large and sturdy enough to withstand the highly trafficked right of way along Grand. Your name will be listed in the Tree Sponsor Thank You section of festival program.
Make your tax deductible donation to Phoenix Community Alliance, Attn: JoMarie McDonald, 234 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004 (note that it’s for the Grand Ave Tree Program).
Overall Festival Sponsor – packages from $100 to $2,500.
For more information on all festival sponsorships, contact Beatrice Moore at 602-391-4016, or email@example.com.
Grand P.A.P.A. Sponsor – packages from $5 to $1,000. Learn more.
NOTE: deadline for all sponsorships: October 15 (for inclusion in the festival program)
Be a Vendor at the Grand Avenue Craft Fair
A popular element of the Grand Avenue Festival is the Grand Avenue Craft Fair (formerly Coffee, Cookies & Crafts). Craft fair hours will be from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Bragg’s Pie Factory parking lot. Spaces are $25 for a 10′ x 10′ space. Vendors must provide their own tables, chairs and tents. Electricity is not available. Vendors are required to have AZ and City of Phoenix sales permits and are responsible for collecting their own sales tax. Set-up starts at 9 am, teardown at 5:30 pm.
To apply to be a vendor, please email the following information to GrandAvenueCraftFair@gmail.com:
- Your name
- Your company name
- Description of what you make
- Link to your website or online store
VENDOR APPLICATION DEADLINE: OCTOBER 15 (for inclusion in the festival program)
OTHER WAYS TO PARTICIPATE
Recycle Fashion Show – learn more here.
Hanging Garden and/or Woven Fence – Art made primarily from trash and recycled materials will be displayed from tree branches, wrapped trunks, woven on fences and other unexpected locations. Create your entry at home or in the studio and hang it morning of the event. A location will be assigned to you after you register. For more information, contact Beatrice: 602-391-4016 firstname.lastname@example.org
Politi-Art – Make art from recycled political signs that will be displayed on the fence at Bragg’s Pie Factory during the fest. Mixed Media welcome! For more information, contact Beatrice: 602-391-4016 email@example.com
Parade Costume Contest – Members of the community do not have to register to march, however, participants who choose to enter the contests must check in by 5:00pm for judging. Winners in 5 categories: best float, best group, best bike, best costume and best “cute” (typically kids and pets) will receive prizes designed by local artists. Floats and participants must be non-motorized (bicycle, skateboards and other human powered vehicles are acceptable). PAPA takes pride in its “non motorized floats” policy to keep the parade ecologically friendly. Learn more.
See you on Grand!
Poster art by Carolyn Watson Dubisch
Logo design by Ismael Duenas
Photography by Stephen G. Dreiseszun/Viewpoint Photographers
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
ARIZONA CLAY ASSOCIATION PRESENTS 24th ANNUAL EMPTY BOWLS EVENT
Proceeds benefit Waste Not
WHAT: In honor of World Food Day on October 16, the Arizona Clay Association is presenting the 24th annual Empty Bowls event to raise money for Waste Not, an agency that feeds the Valley’s hungry men, women and children.
COST/HOW: For a minimum $12 donation, patrons select their own unique, handcrafted ceramic bowl from thousands of beautiful bowls made by friends and members of Arizona Clay Association from clay donated by Marjon Ceramics and Laguna Clay. The bowl is then filled with a lunch donated by Canyon Café. Patrons keep the commemorative bowl as a reminder that someone else’s bowl is always empty.
BOUTIQUE: A boutique will feature many one-of-a-kind pieces of ceramic art, for sale in addition to the regular $12 bowls.
WHEN/WHERE: Friday, October 17, at Arizona Center, 400 East Van Buren, 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
ABOUT WASTE NOT: Proceeds from the event benefit Waste Not, a non-profit organization that collects more than 2 million pounds of excess perishable food annually from restaurants, resorts, caterers and various food purveyors and delivers it to more than 100 recipient agency partners including shelters, senior programs, transition homes, day care centers and after school programs. Over the past twenty-three years, this Empty Bowls event has raised more than $500,000 for Waste Not. Arizona Clay, which has more than 200 ceramic artists as members, is the organizer of the Arizona Center event. Their members conduct year-round bowl-making sessions with students, friends and community groups in an effort to provide the 3,000 clay bowls needed for this event.
Images courtesy of Arizona Clay Association.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
PHOENIX – (October 6, 2014) – Civic Space Park’s coming out party as an emerging outdoor concert venue in Downtown Phoenix will have to wait for a less-threatening weather forecast.
Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for the 7:00 p.m. show, which features the Glaswegian indie act known for “wistful pop” and a dedicated fan base cultivated over nearly 20 years in music.
The DPI tickets include reserved seating in the venue’s middle balcony and access to a private bar.
ABOUT DOWNTOWN PHOENIX, INC.
Downtown Phoenix, Inc. is a unique partnership of business, community and city leaders charged with coordinating and advancing the revitalization of Downtown Phoenix. DPI coordinates the activities of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership and Phoenix Community Alliance while assuring that the Downtown business community has a synergistic relationship with its community partners and surrounding neighborhoo
Diversity with local relevance is a prime goal for nonprofit arts organizations, and Arizona Opera hopes to pique interest in its forthcoming mariachi opera and expand multicultural outreach with this week’s Hispanic Heritage Festival.
“The whole purpose of the Festival,” says Arizona Opera Education Manager Joshua Borths, “is to bring together the Hispanic audiences who haven’t necessarily been to the opera before, and expose our opera audiences to this incredible world of mariachi music and cultural richness.”
The Festival begins with Monday’s panel discussion on immigration and the arts at Arizona Opera Center, kicking off a week of events leading up to the weekend’s season-opening performances of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon). Along with moderator Daniel Buckley — a composer, journalist, historian, documentary filmmaker, photographer, and Governor’s Arts Award winner — the roster of illustrious participants includes playwright, journalist, and policy strategist James Garcia and Arizona State University Vice Provost and Professor of History Eduardo Pagán. The third member of the panel is Shoshana Tancer, a highly respected immigration attorney and professor emeritus at Thunderbird School of Global Management. Tancer’s background comprises extensive work in Latin America as well as longtime advocacy for the arts.
“It’s kind of funny because someone said, ‘Yeah, a member of your Opera board should be on that panel,’” says Borths. “I started talking to her [Tancer] and learning more about her life … understanding arts, and understanding all of the complex issues that surround immigration.” He adds, “We’re lucky to have her involved. It’s a really interesting, diverse group of people.”
Tuesday night offers a lecture-demonstration on mariachi history and conventions by retired ASU musicology professor Richard Haefer and his ensemble Mariachi Corazon de Phoenix. The Opera Center transforms itself into a mercado for the Cultural Exchange on October 8, becoming a marketplace. “We’re going to have food trucks, throw open the garage doors,” says Borths. “Mariachi is booked from 6-9, local arts and crafts, and even a guest appearance by Alan Ponce, the runner-up on La Voz, The Voice in Mexico.”
Hundreds of schoolchildren will converge on Symphony Hall Thursday evening to attend the mariachi opera’s final dress rehearsal on Student Night, and Saturday afternoon the Festival concludes its Phoenix events with a showcase of Hispanic art at the Opera Center — “We’ll have some fine art projects and we’ll be showing some Hispanic films,” explains Borths. Opera-goers will also find local mariachi groups playing outside Symphony Hall before each performance, along with the option of informal pre- and post-show lectures.
The Festival’s centerpiece, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 2010 and continued on to the venerable Théâtre du Châtelet of Paris. The opera was created by director and writer Leonard Foglia and José “Pepe” Martínez, who served as music director for Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán from 1975 until his retirement earlier this year. The music reflects Martínez’s signature of rapid violin ricochets and the mariachi styles of ranchera and boleros. Martínez was also influenced by his appreciation for Beethoven and for the 20th-century classical Mexican composer José Pablo Moncayo, who wrote the famously rhythmic Huapango and the opera La mulata de Córdoba.
Martínez and Foglia wove 15 songs into a brisk, emotionally potent 80-minute opera without intermission, using flashbacks to tell a multi-generational story of immigration between Mexico and America. They also use the metaphor of monarch butterfly migration, says Mariachi Vargas violinist José “Pepe” Martínez Perez, Jr., the composer’s son. Speaking through interpreter and assistant manager Ivan Leony, he continues, “They travel for a better situation, a better place, like the butterflies … a lot of them die. That’s like the immigrants … some of them make it; some of them don’t.” Leony adds, “Of course our group has never been — and probably will never be — political. We do it because of the music.”
Arizona Opera’s production of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna features the original cast including Mariachi Vargas, which was founded in 1898 and gained even wider recognition by releasing a popular album with Linda Ronstadt — it’s one of more than 200 recordings from the venerable Mexico City-based ensemble.
“The piece is scored for mariachi and vocalists,” says Arizona Opera General Director Ryan Taylor, “so the band appears onstage and serves as orchestra and chorus, and then the vocalists and dance troupe tell the story in operatic fashion in front of them, so they’re all onstage all the time.”
“There are opera singers who have spent time studying the technique of mariachi vocalists because they have such stamina and such power in their delivery,” Taylor continues, “and there are also mariachi vocalists who have looked to the way that the original musical theater and opera singers performed … without amplification.” He adds, “They’ve really sort of fed off of one another in their development in a cool kind of way.”
Pepe Jr. will lead the upcoming performances somewhat like a concertmaster leading a chamber orchestra, with the trumpets, violins, and rhythm section of Mariachi Vargas arrayed across the back of the stage. Dancers perform downstage with the soloists, including classically trained baritones Octavio Moreno and Brian Shircliffe, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte, soprano Brittany Wheeler, and tenor David Guzman. Spare, minimal sets and lighting suggest vast desert landscapes interspersed with a few indoor scenes.
“Since of course it talks about the undocumented immigrants crossing over,” says Pepe Jr., “it’s very touching and you see a lot of people teary and sad as they leave the performance hall with an open heart, but also fascinated with how the story of an immigrant family could be such a good opera.”
If you go:
Hispanic Heritage Festival (all listed events take place in downtown Phoenix):
- The Borders of Understanding
- Mon., Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. at Arizona Opera Center, 1636 N. Central Ave.
- Three-person panel participates in guided conversation about immigration and the arts
- Mariachi: The Passion and Pulse of a People
- The Cultural Exchange
- Student Night at the Opera
- Connecting the Dots: A Demonstration of Hispanic Art
- Sat., Oct. 11, 12 p.m.-2 p.m. at Arizona Opera Center
- Watch old movies from Mexico and participate in Hispanic art projects and demonstrations
by José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia
(sung in Spanish and English with English supertitles)
- Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second St., downtown Phoenix:
- Fri., Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sat., Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sun., Oct. 12 at 2 p.m.
- Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave., Tucson
- Sat., Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sun., Oct. 19 at 2 p.m.
- All performances feature:
- Local mariachi performances outside the venue
- Informal lectures before and after each performance