News & Events
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
The University of Arizona, the anchor tenant of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, and the City of Phoenix have entered into an agreement to expand the university’s presence on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.
The agreement approved by the Phoenix City Council on Wednesday calls for the university, Banner Health, and any potential development partners, to develop up to five acres on the biomedical campus aligned with the City Council-adopted Comprehensive Master Plan. Included in the agreement is the planning and development of an academic and innovative outpatient primary care clinic that will be designed to advantage all of the new advances and technology to improve patient care. This 40,000 to 60,000 square-foot clinic will be jointly planned and developed by the UA and Banner Health.
“The University of Arizona has been a critical and transformative partner in the development of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “This agreement will move that partnership forward by advancing the academic medical enterprise of the school, advancing science, creating jobs and enhancing medical care for Phoenix residents.”
Leading efforts to develop the biosciences in downtown Phoenix, the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix opened its doors in historic buildings in 2007. Since then, the medical school has graduated more than 250 new physicians and has built close to a million square feet of capital projects on the downtown campus. The UA has invested nearly $450 million in building projects on the campus.
“These new projects will expand the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, enhancing its contributions to both the biosciences and the vibrancy of the Phoenix and statewide economy,” said Ann Weaver Hart, president of the UA. “We are continuing to execute the UA plan of training superior physicians and other healthcare professionals, advancing biomedical research and healthcare practice, and serving our community.”
According to a recent study by Tripp Umbach, the UA’s presence on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus had an impact of $961 million in 2013. In addition, the employment impact for 2013 was 7,185 jobs with tax revenue of $44 million. At full build-out, the UA’s presence is expected to have an economic impact of more than $3.1 billion per year.
The agreement also calls for the City and the UA to develop an updated master plan for the area, focusing on uses, density and proposed development schedules. The City will provide the UA a no-cost exclusive 10-year lease option for development of the property.
“The continued development of this education and biomedical hub is a great catalyst for the citizens of District 8,” said Councilwoman Kate Gallego, who represents the downtown area. “We have seen the area make great strides with the development of the campus, bringing not just construction but permanent jobs in the biosciences to our city.”
The UA’s presence on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus includes the College of Medicine – Phoenix, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the Eller College of Management. Additional programs on the campus include Alumni Association, the UA Foundation and Admissions. Additional programs are exploring an expansion to Phoenix.
“Our partnership with the University of Arizona has been crucial to the success of the growing bioscience and medical education hub in downtown,” said Vice Mayor Daniel Valenzuela, chair of the city council’s Downtown, Aviation and Redevelopment Subcommittee. “This agreement demonstrates our commitment to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus and cements our national reputation as a mecca for higher education and biosciences research.”
The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix began in 2007 in the Historic buildings that once were Phoenix Union High School, as well as the Arizona Biomedical Collaborative research building. In 2012, the 220,000 square foot Health Sciences Education Building opened. The UA Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s outpatient center is set to open on the campus in August; while the 10-story Biosciences Partnership research building is scheduled to open by 2017.
It’s unusual to see a Broadway musical enriched with a full symphony orchestra onstage behind the actors, but Phoenix Theatre’s fifth collaboration with The Phoenix Symphony promises the best of both worlds.
“It’s something so unique for an audience, because you’re basically watching a symphonic concert at the same time you’re witnessing a semi-staged production, so it’s just a very cool experience that you’re not going to get anywhere else,” says Phoenix Theatre Producing Artistic Director Michael Barnard, who directs Oliver! at Symphony Hall this weekend. “You can walk out going, ‘Wow — I’ve never seen this show done that way,’ you know? …And it only happens once a year and it’s a really neat collaboration with two arts organizations working in sync with each other.” He adds, “And Tito’s been great.”
“Phoenix Theatre is a great company, and the way we’re collaborating in Symphony Hall is very unique to both institutions,” agrees Tito Muñoz, who’s wrapping up his first season as music director of The Phoenix Symphony. “The wind parts for a lot of musicals are written for a small complement, but it’s the strings that we can augment and have much more than there normally would be,” he says, anticipating a full, lush sound.
“When we do a show at Phoenix Theatre – and even on Broadway any more – pit orchestras aren’t much bigger than 14,” says Barnard, “so to be able to have 56 pieces is quite remarkable. It definitely has its challenges, but it’s really quite lovely, and you don’t get that opportunity.” He continues, “It’s just completely unaffordable other than this kind of concertized version.”
Before his appointment in Phoenix, Muñoz served as music director for France’s Opéra National de Lorraine and the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy. “Between opera and musical theater…the only big difference is that everything is amplified,” he says. “And generally speaking, in opera the stage and the theater are vehicles for the music, so the music is the most important part of the art in opera. In musical theater that’s not necessarily the case.”
Muñoz grew up conducting musical theater throughout high school and college before playing as a violinist for Broadway shows in New York. He explains, “I think there’s a little bit more balance between the storytelling, the production itself and of course the musical numbers, but there’s a lot of underscoring dialogue, there’s a lot of scene change music.”
Although this is his first official pops concert with The Phoenix Symphony, he’s confident in the musicians’ expertise. “The orchestra does so much pops that this kind of thing is nothing new to them, actually…they’re well versed in musical theater.”
First produced in London in 1960, Oliver! was written by Lionel Bart, who based his musical on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. The novel was Dickens’s social commentary on the Poor Law of Victorian England, and was published in serialized form between 1837 and 1839. As a 25-year-old author Dickens drew on his own experiences working in a shoe-blacking factory as a child when his family was trapped in debtors’ prison. His misery during those years was aggravated by a bullying coworker named Bob Fagin, after whom Dickens named a villain in Oliver Twist.
Set in England, the plot follows the orphaned Oliver’s difficult and abuse-filled journey from workhouse – where we hear the famous tune “Food, Glorious Food” — to a dangerous community of pickpockets overseen by Fagin (“You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two”). After a kidnapping and a murder, Oliver ultimately finds his way to better fortune in a comfortable household thanks to a kindly benefactor.
This production’s cast includes familiar Phoenix Theatre favorites D. Scott Withers as Fagin, along with Toby Yatso, Johanna Carlisle, Yolanda London and David Simmons. Sixth-grader Vincent Jacovo stars as Oliver with 12-year-old Asher Angel as The Artful Dodger, a youthful criminal.
“It’s so easy with these kids,” says Muñoz. “They’re unbelievably well trained; they’re fantastic onstage.” Adds Barnard, “Hats off to their parents, and hats off to the other youth theaters that have helped prepare them for an experience like this…they’ve done a good job.”
He continues, “I think the challenge is always in making sure that you can get the best out of the kids without losing your ability to get the best out of the adults as well. Molly Lajoie has been the choreographer in particular for the kids, so she’s been a big help in that regard.” Phoenix Theatre’s technical team also features music director and rehearsal pianist Jeff Kennedy.
Other challenges include timing and staging constraints. “The entire show has to come in with intermission under two hours and 15 minutes [due to the Symphony’s contract with its musicians],” explains Barnard. “Second – and probably one of the bigger challenges – is [that] we only use the apron of the stage because the symphony is occupying the bulk of the stage.” Muñoz elaborates: “We’re having the staging…in front of the proscenium, and so the orchestra’s onstage but behind all the action…so it’s a very big symphonic sound.” He says, “I’m not facing the action, so we’re doing it very much electronically – the singers have a couple of monitors so they can have a visual of my baton…and then I also have a monitor in front of me that shows the stage.”
Barnard continues, “Scenically speaking, we want to just do just fragmented or suggested locales because we want the audience to see the symphony orchestra – that’s part of the fun. So you just have to sort of think it out – necessity becomes the mother of invention. But since this is our fifth collaboration we’ve sort of learned a lot about how this might work.” He adds wistfully, “This also could be our last. I’m not really sure why, but from what I understand it’s not part of the Symphony’s calendar for next season, so this may be the swan song. I’m sad about that because I love that collaboration.”
If you go:
- The Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre perform Oliver!
Whether you prefer to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit or rebel against the trappings of the season, you’ll find your fun downtown with a few of Phoenix’s quirkier activities. Adults-only theater pushes the envelope with A Bloody Mary Christmas while unique Christmas light tours appeal to all ages, and puppetry and dance shows keep kids jolly.
Ballet Arizona offers the usual fairies and sugarplums at Symphony Hall with its spectacular, highly acclaimed production of The Nutcracker (through December 28), reinvented a few years ago by artistic director Ib Andersen. Tchaikovsky’s familiar music performed by The Phoenix Symphony can’t be beat, and a family four-pack includes parking, premium seats, a photo with the Sugarplum Fairy and hot cocoa.
If you prefer the music of a different Russian, try Snow Queen at Herberger Theater Center’s Stage West (through Dec. 21), choreographed by Frances Smith Cohen and presented by Center Dance Ensemble. Hans Christian Andersen’s tale comes to life with melodies by Sergei Prokofiev. Take a midday work break, buy or bring your lunch, and sample the Lunch Time Dance Theater option for only $6.
In addition to the occasional wickedly subversive 18+ puppet slam, Great Arizona Puppet Theater provides a steady stream of funny shows for children young and old. The Night Before Christmas (through December 28) features joyful music and stories.
For those who love cinema, FilmBar offers a glorious month full of movies in an intimate 70-seat venue with the added bonus of a beer and wine bar (alcohol with popcorn — what could be better?). December’s options include The Captive, The Babadook, Bad Santa and Free the Nipple (both on the Naughty & Nice Film Series), Awake: The Life of Yogananda, and the incomparable Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Foreign films include Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador) and Louis Malle’s Zazie dans le metro as a double feature. And don’t miss Opera at FilmBar — December 19 brings Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella) from the Gran Teatre del Liceu, starring a sparkling Joyce DiDonato and the yummy Juan Diego Flórez.
The calendar’s packed at Crescent Ballroom, where Cocina 10’s food and drink are complemented by the stories of Chow Bella’s Eating Christmas (December 16). For a canned food donation you’ll hear food-themed tales of holiday adventure (for ages 21 and older). Otherwise, try “Life’s a Drag. Party Like a Queen” (December 18) with interactive games, “Truth, Drag or Dare,” and drink specials all hosted by Olivia Gardens.
Phoenix Theatre serves a full plate of seasonal cheer with Holiday Classics From Screen to Stage (December 18-21), when Arizona Opera singers croon holiday favorites from films like Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, Love Actually, A Charlie Brown Christmas and more. Vocalist Dennis Rowland takes the stage with the Greg Warner Project and special guest Diana Lee for the Holiday Jazz Cabaret (December 22-24) and a range of Christmas classics. And you’re sure to have a jolly holiday with Mary Poppins (through December 28), an eye-popping fast-paced feast of color, song, dance, and special effects including Valley favorite Toby Yatso as a tap-dancing, levitating chimney sweep.
Back in the realm of adults-only entertainment, Space 55 pulls out all the stops for the fifth year of A Bloody Mary Christmas (through December 21), in which Sun City retirees sing, dance, and battle a heartless homeowners’ association. Set to original music by Dangerville and Samson Says, Bloody Mary showcases Toni Jourdan, Lee Quarrie, Paula McKenny and Bob Peters. 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe (December 20) gives local performers their seven minutes in the sun with an opportunity to do whatever they want — interpretive dance, dinosaur burlesque, competitive doughnut eating, action figure battles…even naked stage magic. Who knows what you’ll see?
Other Space 55 shows include Storyline: A Winter’s Tale (December 19), part of a monthly storytelling showcase, and Resolutions! A new show for an old year (December 31), a good warm-up for your New Year’s Eve party or downtown’s Flannel Ball.
“Hip Historian” Marshall Shore brings a big yellow school bus to The Clarendon Hotel as the launch point for his Christmas Lights Tours (December 16, 18 & 23). “We cruise through Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa,” says Shore. “I curate for the most jaw-dropping displays that I can locate.” Join in the caroling and live music with your very own kazoo (provided), or sit back and enjoy Shore’s talents as a storyteller while you see commercial, private home and religious displays.
If you go:
- Ballet Arizona: The Nutcracker (through December 28)
- Center Dance Ensemble: Snow Queen (through December 21)
- at Herberger Theater Center’s Stage West, 222 E. Monroe
- visit centerdance.com or call 602-252-8497
- Great Arizona Puppet Theater: The Night Before Christmas (through December 28)
- in the GAPT’s lovely renovated historic 1929 LDS 2nd Ward Church, 302 W. Latham
- visit azpuppets.org or call 602-262-2050
- 815 N. 2nd St.
- visit thefilmbarphx.com or call 602-595-9187
- Crescent Ballroom and Cocina 10
- 308 N. 2nd Ave.
- visit crescentphx.com or call 602-716-2222
- Phoenix Theatre
- 100 E. McDowell Rd.
- visit phoenixtheatre.com or call 602-254-2151
- Space 55
- 636 E. Pierce St.
- visit space55.org
- “Hip Historian” Marshall Shore: Christmas Lights Tours (December 16, 18 & 23)
Schedules are subject to change. For more holiday diversions visit DowntownPhoenix.com:
On the tiny, intimate stage of Space 55, director Charlie Steak and the cast of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play create a surprisingly convincing environment of impromptu community clinging to the familiar after the unthinkable occurs.
“It’s a fantastic choice for us,” says Steak. “At Space 55 what we really want to do is new, innovative work; usually that means doing original scripts.” He continues, “In this case…this script is something that most of us wish that we had written.”
At the 50-seat venue, says Steak, “we want what we do to be affordable and within reach, but that’s not our mission by itself. Our mission is to allow artists to do things that the gatekeepers at traditional theaters prevent.”
Steak, who wrote the play Woman and Girl and an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, came to Phoenix seven years ago from PlayMakers at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He’s worked extensively with Rising Youth Theatre, Essential Theatre, and Space 55, where he’s currently serving as Associate Artistic Director and troupe member. Steak’s upcoming productions include another installment of the interactive Captain Jack’s Space Attack, with its signature drinking song and audience participation, and Space 55’s 7 Minutes shows, which give local performers seven minutes in which to do anything they want.
Why choose playwright Anne Washburn’s very quirky Mr. Burns? “The Simpsons survive the apocalypse,” Steak explains succinctly. “That’s enough, just by itself.”
He laughs and adds, “The basic idea is you have a group of people after the power grid has gone down — they’re living in a small group for mutual protection, a lot like the people in The Walking Dead, and so they’re sitting around a campfire trying to remember this episode of The Simpsons — that’s the first part…almost like a jigsaw puzzle. And what’s truly fascinating is the bits that they get right, and the bits that they don’t quite get right.”
“And then they go on to become a group of people who start performing episodes of The Simpsons. And this is when perhaps 99% of the population in America is gone, yet The Simpsons survive.”
With an eight-person cast ably supported in the third act by three musicians — Lali Breen, Jeremy Brunansky, and Ron Foligno — Mr. Burns uses the “Cape Feare” episode as its focus. “It’s like going inside an onion,” says Steak. “You’ve got the original [1962 Gregory Peck] Cape Fear movie, you’ve got the  DeNiro version of the Cape Fear movie, then you’ve got the Simpsons’ spoof of the DeNiro Cape Fear movie, and then you’ve got this show, so that’s a lot of layers.”
Washburn joined composer Michael Friedman for Mr. Burns, creating a thoughtfully realistic first act taking place immediately after the power failure, a second act set seven years later, and a completely surreal musical-theater third act following 75 years later. The ensemble includes Cynthia Elek, Brianne Holland-Stergar, Rebecca Brosnan, Toni Jourdan, Cody Goulder, Robert Peters, and Lee Quarrie.
“I’m interested in popular culture,” says Steak. “After the apocalypse these people are…preserving it, and you think about everything you have to deal with…food, water, shelter, safety — but no, there’s room for The Simpsons!” He chuckles. “This is pretty amazing.”
If you go:
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