Every year Ballet Arizona gives audiences a family-friendly treat with Ballet Under the Stars, a series of free outdoor performances in Valley parks ending at Steele Indian School Park on Saturday, September 27 at 7PM.
“It’s an extraordinary gift to give Arizona,” says Ballet Arizona Artistic Director Ib Andersen, “that we’re doing this program for free. Nobody does what we do.”
The repertoire includes two classics by American ballet iconoclast George Balanchine, beginning with last season’s Walpurgisnacht from Charles Gounod’s opera Faust. Creating an otherworldly atmosphere, Walpurgisnacht refers to revelry celebrating the souls of the dead and a gathering of witches, although the ballet itself isn’t meant to depict a specific event, “except I would say the last movement,” adds Andersen, “when the women let their hair down and they go sort of bananas.”
Brazilian dancer Nayon Iovino, who’s been with Ballet Arizona since 2012, choreographed the evening’s second work for its performances this past May. “I do think that Nayon has talent,” says Andersen, “and this ballet that he did … is a good one.”
Iovino’s creation uses several pieces of music, ranging from an excerpt from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons to more modern tunes. The dancers wear simple costumes of jeans and shirts, without pointe shoes.
Ballet Under the Stars concludes with the 1954 work Western Symphony, featuring well-loved music by American composer Hershy Kay on traditional folk-song themes including “Red River Valley,” “Good Night, Ladies,” and “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” Says Andersen, “It’s cowboys and cowgirls, you know?”
Enthusiastically received by audiences last spring at the Orpheum Theatre, Western Symphony uses the natural landscape as its entirely appropriate backdrop this weekend, showcasing nearly 40 performers. “It’s the biggest ballet we’ve ever done in terms of numbers,” explains Andersen. “We’ve had ballets where we had more people on stage, but not all of them dancing at the same time.”
Bring blankets or lawn chairs, friends, and family to enjoy Ballet Arizona’s invaluable gift to the Valley.
If you go:
- All remaining Ballet Under the Stars performances begin at 7PM
- Fri., Sep. 26 at Estrella Lakeside Amphitheater in Goodyear
- Sat., Sep. 27 at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix — UPDATE: this performance has been cancelled due to a forecast of inclement weather.
- Ballet Arizona’s Open House is Sat., Oct. 5 from 12PM-4PM
- at 2835 E. Washington St., Phoenix
- tour the Ballet AZ studios, meet faculty, enter drawings for ticket giveaways, or try free classes in ballet, jazz and modern dance, yoga and Zumba
- Find all the details on Ballet AZ’s upcoming season, including:
- Swan Lake (Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2014 with The Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall)
- Dancers’ Choice (Nov. 15, 2015 at Ballet AZ’s Dorrance Theatre)
- The Nutcracker Festival (Nov. 16, 2015 at Ballet AZ’s Dorrance Theatre)
- The Nutcracker (Dec. 12-28, 2014 with The Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall)
- Napoli (Feb. 12-15, 2015 with The Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall)
- Today’s Masters (Mar. 26-29, 2015 at the Orpheum Theatre)
- All Balanchine (Apr. 30-May 3, 2015 at Symphony Hall)
As summer moves toward autumn, don’t miss a final opportunity to catch Actors Theatre’s very funny two-play repertory before it slips away. Presented at the Helen K Mason Performing Arts Center, The Cottage by Sandy Rustin continues through August 10, while The Book Club Play by Karen Zacarías ends its run August 17.
By scheduling performances throughout June, July, and August, Producing Artistic Director Matthew Wiener deliberately bucked a common misconception about Valley audiences. “There used to be this kind of prevailing wisdom that everyone left Phoenix in the summer…that’s why no one did anything,” says Wiener. “And that’s just not true. I mean, a lot of people take vacations and holidays but they don’t go away for 12 weeks.”
“Actors Theatre is trying to actively reinvent after leaving the Herberger, which was a shock to our system,” he continues, “and I think this summer program is one way that we’re trying to stay vital and relevant and exciting and important to the community.”
According to Wiener, the strength of the company’s performances lies in strong casting. “They’re just marvelous performers,” he says. “I was actually trying to cast both shows together…the characters seemed to line up…and so I started kind of making up my fantasy football.” Wiener laughs. “It was like fantasy casting, and I pretty much got my first choice — my first draft.”
He explains, “I was really looking for actors who are very flexible, who could manage the language — because the language of both plays is pretty challenging — and people who I thought would get along well for 10 weeks.” Weiner continues, “These are very long contracts for the actors…and it was important to me that we work with all local people.” He adds with a smile, “I think I just got really, really lucky.”
Both plays feature Maren Maclean, who’s performed for Phoenix Theatre, Southwest Shakespeare Company, and Verse Theatre Manhattan. Joseph Kremer, who starred in a potent Actors Theatre production of A Steady Rain last season, joins Angelica Howland — familiar from performances with Phoenix Theatre, Stray Cat Theatre, and Childsplay — and Tyler Eglen, an actor-educator with a diverse background in theater and science. Ian Christiansen of Southwest Shakespeare, Stray Cat, and Phoenix Theatre rounds out the cast with recent ASU graduate Alexis Green.
“I think they’re all lovely,” says Wiener, “and they all have different moments.” He points out, “Maren, who plays Ana [in The Book Club Play] — she really has to run the gamut of emotionality. And we actually worked on that, because…you want it to be emotionally truthful, but by the same token you don’t want it to get so deep and horrifying that you can never work yourself out of it.” Wiener smiles. “Because after all they have to live happily ever after — it’s a comedy.”
The Book Club Play delves into the dynamics of a long-running book club, with plenty of shocking revelations and laughably realistic interplay. “I think it’s fun when they talk about the ‘homoerotic undertones of Moby Dick,’ [and] making fun of Twilight,” says Wiener. He explains that the play began as a more satirical, hard-hitting piece until Zacarías — the experienced, award-winning author of The Bare-chested Man, Looking for Roberto Clemente, Mariela in the Desert, The Sins of Sor Juana, and an adaptation of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents – reworked it.
“I think it’s a testament to the writing, and the fact that it’s been rewritten several times,” he says. “Karen is a very careful writer — the language is very specific. And I just have an amazing ‘A’ team up there.”
The Cottage, on the other hand, is pure farce written by actress Sandy Rustin, who created the Off-Broadway sketch comedy musical Rated P (for parenthood). “It has some of the style of Nöel Coward,” says Wiener. “It’s informed by that kind of English aristocracy or English wit.” He adds, “It’s not an earth-shattering piece of theater, but it’s pretty damn funny for an hour and a half.”
“Right now there’s a fair amount of dialogue in the theater industry about the lack of women’s plays being produced,” Wiener continues, “and it’s something odd going on that we’re so far away from parity. But Actors Theatre has traditionally done a lot of plays by women.” He says with a laugh, “Maybe there’s just something about the voices that I enjoy — I grew up in a house filled with women; I live in house filled with women.”
Actors Theatre also presents That’s Life: From Sinatra to Sondheim on August 10, featuring Kristen Drathman, Rusty Ferracane and Craig Bohmler performing standards from the Great American Songbook and Broadway, including tunes by Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Stephen Sondheim, and more.
Look for a future DPJ story previewing Actors Theatre’s upcoming 2014-2015 season, which includes Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar, Sharr White’s Annapurna, Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss, and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.
If you go:
- Troupe: Actors Theatre at www.actorstheatrephx.org or 602-253-6701
- General admission
- Venue: The Helen K Mason Performing Arts Center, 1333 E. Washington
(nearby free parking available)
It’s hard to imagine how exciting it must have been to attend the 1913 premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which ended in a riot because of the disturbing rhythms and incendiary musical patterns. Even Beethoven – now considered a staid staple of classical music – was once regarded as somewhat revolutionary in his harmonies.
A concert titled Opus II features premiere performances of works by members of the Arizona State University Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI) in the informal, inviting setting of Phoenix Art Museum, offering the chance to perhaps hear from a modern-day Stravinsky or Beethoven.
“The partnership with the museum is great,” says SCI president Collette Sipho Mabingani, “because…we have the same mission: exposing the public to this music that sometimes is not accessible.” Mabingani was born and raised in South Africa and obtained degrees at Grand Valley State University and Central Michigan University before earning his doctorate in music composition at ASU.
“I started with [percussion] performance,” he says, “and…you have to improvise, so you get this idea of creating…and I got tired of playing other people’s music. I love experimenting with new kinds of music, so I still try and discover something I’ve never heard before.” At Opus II Mabingani will perform his own composition, a solo autobiographical work using rhythms reflecting his personal journey from South Africa to the West, including Latin cadences.
Other composers will use various configurations of a “Pierrot ensemble” of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, and piano — named after the instrumentation used by Arnold Schoenberg in his landmark 1912 melodrama Pierrot Lunaire (Moonstruck Pierrot) –- plus saxophone.
“Even though it’s been around for over a hundred years,” says SCI public relations manager Elliot Sneider of the ensemble, “there’s something always new about it, for some reason. There’s a lot you can do with it, so it’s kind of fun to work with.” Shortly after Sneider wrote his dissertation analyzing blues in the music of Aaron Copland, Maurice Ravel, and George Gershwin, he composed Big Hands Blues for piano, then arranged it for Opus II.
“I…was drawn to jazz when I was very young,” he says, “…this pull to jazz composers like Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk, and the idea of having these structures that…allow for improvisation.”
Sneider studied composition at New England Conservatory of Music and New York University, then received his DMA from ASU, where he was initially intrigued by the work of professor James DeMars. “I have a jazz background,” says Sneider, “so for me there’s always been a pull to accept other cultural music and ‘how do I bring things together?’” He continues, “I found he’s someone who has…made a career dealing with those issues, and so that’s why I wanted to study here.”
“He [DeMars] composes in the same way that I do, which is what we call ‘intercultural music’,” says Mabingani, who also found his advisor’s compositions appealing. “But he uses Native American music with Western music, combines it and makes it his own…so I just fell in love with the way he writes.”
“I think all of the composers at the school really have something unique to bring,” adds Sneider. “Usually you choose your composer and you work only with that person, but here [at ASU] they not only encourage but require you to…work with all of them for a much broader experience.”
“There’s no one dogma, or one style,” says Israeli composer and Doctor of Musical Arts student Gil Dori. “I really got into the music of [ASU professor] Glenn Hackbarth — he’s…into the music on the electronics side, and that’s what I’m interested in doing too.” Dori came to ASU for his master’s degree after graduating from Haifa University, which he describes as “really heavy on composition…the best composers in Israel.”
For Opus II, Dori wrote a work called Shevarim; “in Hebrew it means ‘fragments’ or ‘shards,’ he explains, “but it’s also one of the calls of the shofar [ram’s horn], and really that’s a work based on an old Eastern European Jewish folk tune…it just slowly emerges through this texture.” The piece is a duet for saxophone and bass clarinet, and Dori enjoyed integrating sound effects like tongue smacks, clicks, and breathing through the instruments.
Visit the Phoenix Art Museum this afternoon to hear these new works by Mabingani, Sneider, Dori, and other ASU composers — it’s free with museum admission, and the program promises previously unexplored treasures.
If you go:
When: Sunday, May 11 at 1PM
Where: Phoenix Art Museum
Cost: Free with museum admission
UPDATE (5/11/14 12:47PM): Here’s a live streaming link if you can’t attend the performance: http://ustre.am/1dGp0
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MAYOR STANTON, IN COOPERATION WITH PHOENIX SISTER CITIES, INC., TO HOST INAUGURAL MAYOR’S INTERNATIONAL GALA
Event to Celebrate Phoenix’s Cultural Diversity and Support Sister Cities Programs
Phoenix Sister Cities, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating and enhancing global connections, and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will host the first-ever Mayor’s International Gala on Thursday, April 3, at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, 340 N. Third St. The reception is from 6 to 7 p.m. and dinner from 7 to 9 p.m.
Sponsored by Arizona State University, the event will celebrate the city’s cultural diversity and support Phoenix Sister Cities programs. The evening will feature international cuisine, live entertainment and a silent auction. Stanton also will present the first City of Phoenix Global Citizens Award to a resident for his or her outstanding contributions to international relations.
Proceeds from the event will benefit Phoenix Sister Cities’ programs, which include international business relations and youth exchanges with the city’s 10 sister cities.
“Phoenix Sister Cities is a powerful global network for our city,” said Mayor Greg Stanton.
“It opens the doors for international access, opportunities, and resources for both local businesses and our residents. This event celebrates our diversity and helps ensure that Phoenix Sister Cities can continue to bring our city a rich variety of cultural, economic and educational programs in the future.”
In addition to title sponsor ASU, gala sponsors include CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company, American President Lines (APL), CityScape Phoenix, Seidberg Law Offices, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, SRP, Arizona Lottery, Snell & Wilmer and Univision.
“We are pleased to invite the community to support Phoenix Sister Cities and this exciting new gala,” said Paula West, executive director, Phoenix Sister Cities and International Relations division director of the City of Phoenix Community & Economic Development Department.
“As with many of the cultural programs we sponsor, this evening will be an opportunity to make personal connections and discover the resources that Phoenix Sister Cities has to offer.”
Business or traditional international attire suggested. Tickets are $100 each and are available via the Phoenix Sister Cities, Inc. website at phoenixsistercities.org or by calling 602-534-3751.
Don’t miss the once-a-year opportunity to peer into the studios of working artists and wander through galleries during Artlink’s Art Detour 26 this weekend. Along with the top art venues of downtown Phoenix and countless pop-up exhibits, dozens of painters, sculptors, photographers, glassblowers, and other creative minds open the doors of their private space to curious visitors.
With the event map in hand, art lovers can explore more than 100 stops on a two-day self-guided tour, many within convenient walking distance of the free Art Detour shuttle route. Docents ride along on two London-style double-decker buses circulating continuously at 20-minute intervals between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, while four information hubs at Phoenix Art Museum, Oasis on Grand, CityScape, and the Arizona Center provide volunteers ready to answer questions.
The adventure begins this evening with a greater-than-usual array of First Friday opportunities, including an open rehearsal by the Phoenix Chorale at Trinity Cathedral. While you’re there, check out Olney Gallery’s Color Color Color! exhibition, featuring work by Kaori Takamura, Sarah Kriehn, and Christopher Jagmin.
Elsewhere, the weekend is filled with live music — along with a multitude of casual performances like Bones of Folk’s Danyul Kostin at Oasis on Grand and the Moonlight Howlers at The Lost Leaf, tonight’s ambitious Viva Phx festival brings 70 groups — including Sir Mix-A-Lot, The Neighbourhood, Black Carl, Tobie Milford, and Pinback — to 14 venues ranging from Crescent Ballroom to the Hotel San Carlos to the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center. The next day, Phoenix Blues Society’s Blues Blast ’14 fills Saturday with tunes from Hans Olson, Leon J’s JukeJoint, the Mike Eldred Trio, and other Rhythm Room stars at Margaret T. Hance Park — show an Art Detour map for a ticket discount.
Once your ears are satiated, fill your eyes with images from Artlink board member Hugo Medina, curator of the Phoenix Phabulous History Mural showing at Walter Studios. “I think it’s important that artists keep creating, pulling forward, which I try to do with my own work as well,” he says. “Phoenix is a phenomenal destination…. We’ve just got to start getting the collectors to start coming out, and that’s the challenge.”
For the month of March, R. Pela Contemporary Art will display Banned at the Herberger, including part of a controversial canceled show originally scheduled last fall at the Herberger Theater Center Art Gallery. The exhibit includes work by Mike Ford, Ronnie Ray Mendez, and Lisa Albinger. “Mike Ford’s photographs, about his relationship with his mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, have such depth,” says curator Robrt Pela. “There’s sadness, and camp, and real emotion. I had to share them.”
He continues, “I think that the art that I’m showing…I want there to be craftsmanship and beauty, but there has to be another element too…some commentary, some politics, some pain. It can’t just be something that’s lovely to look at because that isn’t quite enough.”
Other popular, highly-regarded mainstays anchoring First Friday and Art Detour include Practical Art and monOrchid. Great Arizona Puppet Theater offers edgy, quirky, adults-only Puppet Slams both Friday and Saturday nights.
All weekend, kids can find plenty of fun with finger-paint murals, demonstrations, workshops, and other family-friendly activities at Kids’ Detour, various galleries and studios, and the Blues Blast. Retailers and restaurateurs also add to the experience with extended weekend hours and specials.
If you go:
- Artlink First Friday on March 7
- Viva Phx music festival on March 7
- Phoenix Blues Society’s Blues Blast ’14 on March 8
- Artlink’s Art Detour 26 on March 8-9