The slow days of summer are coming to an end—abruptly.
On Sept. 1, Tucson's arts scene will ignite, with a nearly uncountable number of plays, concerts, art exhibitions and readings blazing into arts venues.
The happiest arts news is that the city will be blessed with a host of genre-jumping collaborations. Tucson Rocks rolls out a five-month celebration of good old rock 'n' roll. Major museum and gallery exhibitions of rock-star photos cover at least a half-century of musicians. Movie theaters and concert venues are in on the fun, too.
Nineteenth-century poet Emily Dickinson will be lionized in The Big Read, a National Endowment for the Arts-funded cavalcade of dance, readings, lectures and art from September through November.
And don't forget Tucson Meet Yourself. Now bigger and better than ever, with visual arts and household crafts joining the beloved foods and music, the annual party honors working-class and ethnic arts Oct. 14 through 16.
More solemnly, the city marks the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, with no fewer than three new plays, various symposia, film screenings, book discussions and, appropriately, a performance of Mozart's anguished Requiem.
This survey hits on highlights of the season, and our special extended listings online. As always, lovers of pop, jazz and indie music should consult our comprehensive music pages each week.
THE 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF SEPT. 11
Of all the myriad tragedies on Sept. 11, playwright Patrick Carson of Tucson has chosen to focus on one of most painful: His play Elevator is about the people trapped in the elevators at the World Trade Center.
The idea came to him one day in April last year, he says, and after he immersed himself in research, the play "almost wrote itself."
A screenwriter for years, he first wrote the story as a movie script, and says he's sold it to Hollywood. Now he has adapted it for the stage.
Elevator premieres at Pima Community College's Proscenium Theatre on Sept. 1. Directed by Carson himself, the play is set entirely in a stalled elevator, in real time. Its six characters are an "amalgam" of the real-life strangers who suddenly faced death together in a claustrophobic space.
"It gets intense," Carson says. "But it's also a play about hope and compassion and the American spirit, and about the beautiful moments that happened between people." It takes place Sept. 1 to 4; visit www.elevatorstageplay.com.
Tucson playwright Toni Press-Coffman has been percolating her play United for almost a decade, ever since United Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.
"I give it a lot of thought before I start writing," she says.
Forty-four people were on the plane, including the terrorists who piloted it. After passengers learned about the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, they hatched a plan to wrest control of the plane. When some of them rushed the cockpit, the hijackers dive-bombed the plane into the earth.
Press-Coffman's play is "partly about fate," she says. "All of these different people ended up on this plane and died together. It was extraordinary for strangers to reach a consensus. And 35 minutes later, they died."
United re-enacts incidents in the lives of the passengers at various stages, as well as imagined scenes on the doomed plane. Press-Hoffman enlisted 16 local actors to play 65 characters, who include the dead as well as their loved ones.
Like the people trapped in the elevator, those on the plane "behaved in an extraordinary way," she says. "Their lives are worthy of having a drama written about them."
The Winding Road Theater Ensemble will give six staged readings, at four different locations: Sept. 4 at St. Francis in the Foothills; Sept. 11, 17 and 22 at Christ Presbyterian Church; Sept. 13 at Episcopal Church of the Apostles in Oro Valley; and Sept. 18 at Live Theatre Workshop. Visit www.windingroadtheater.org.
Winding Road is also premiering a fully staged play, by young Philadelphia playwright Peter Bonilla. A Human Equation deals with the aftermath of Sept. 11, when lawyer Kenneth Feinberg strove to persuade surviving family members to accept money from the government Victim Compensation Fund in exchange for giving up their right to sue the airlines.
Each disbursement was "based on the person's income potential over the rest of their life," says Winding Road's Glen Coffman, who directs. "Brokers were destined to get way more money than busboys in Windows on the World."
Feinberg (played by Jeff Scotland) interviewed about 1,000 people who appealed his calculations, "and those interviews are a large part of the play," Coffman says.
The play follows Feinberg's "personal arc, from an abrasive legal mind to a real connection with the individual stories." In the end, money is no compensation for the loss of a life, Coffman notes, adding that A Human Equation asks, "What is the solution?" Performances take place from Sept. 9 to 25 at Christ Presbyterian Church. Visit www.windingroadtheater.org.
On the anniversary itself, the Tucson Chamber Artists and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra will perform the concert Remembrance and Renewal. On the program: Mozart's Requiem, which orchestras around the world played on the one-year anniversary, and a new oratorio by composer Stephen Paulus. A multi-faith memorial service follows at UA Centennial Hall. Visit www.uapresents.org.
Among the events examining how America changed after the attacks, in ways both bad and good, Valarie Kaur screens her film Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath, on Sept. 4 at the Fox Tucson Theatre. On Sept. 10, at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library downtown, Tucson author Laila Halaby (Once in a Promised Land) leads a discussion of post-Sept. 11 life.
THE BIG READ AND EMILY DICKINSON
Too often, says Lisa Bowden of Kore Press, poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is portrayed as neurotic, a spinster who happened to scribble verse. Through The Big Read, Bowden and company intend to re-introduce Dickinson as the groundbreaking artist she was, "a revolutionist of the word, one of the great American avant-gardists." The author had a staggering output of more than 1,800 poems.
Kore won a cool $12,000 from the NEA to sponsor a host of arts activities around Dickinson, from Sept. 22 to Nov. 13. Local teachers and professors will teach their students about Dickinson during the period, and MFA students will hold workshops in public libraries.
Poet Charles Alexander, publisher of Chax Press, gets the festivities under way with Dancing With Dickinson, a lecture and reading at the UA Poetry Center, at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 22. The same day, the Poetry Center opens Visions and Versions of Emily Dickinson, a display of "treasured" Dickinson volumes, facsimiles of her manuscripts and more; the exhibit runs through Oct. 8.
M.A.S.T. Gallery hosts student readings and a benefit "poetic objects sale" from 6 to 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1.
Barbara Penn, a visual artist whose work is inspired by Dickinson's life and poems, gives a slide talk at MOCA at 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21. The talk also serves as an invitation to Tucsonans to write their own poems. German art historian and poet Eva Heisler flies in from Heidelberg to talk about other visual artists whom Dickinson influenced. She'll speak on Saturday, Oct. 22, at a location to be announced.
Finally, NEW ARTiculations Dance Theatre and Katherine Ferrier of The Architects get literary with Emily Dickinson Dances. Staged in collaboration with Kore, the full-length modern-dance concert will feature not only dances inspired by the poet of Amherst, but plenty o' poetry, music and visual art. Violinist Vicki Brown performs her own compositions; it happens on Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Proscenium Theatre at Pima Community College West. Visit www.newarticulations.org or www.korepress.org.
Who Shot Rock and Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present—a museum-sized traveling exhibition of rock photography—rolls into the Tucson Museum of Art on Oct. 22. Organized by the Brooklyn Museum, it celebrates not only the music's stars—Kurt Cobain, Mick Jagger, Debbie Harry—but the photography stars who made the music's makers indelible.
Megastar rock photog Annie Leibovitz is in the show, of course, along with a host of others, including Baron Wolman, the first-ever photographer at Rolling Stone magazine; Lynn Goldsmith; and the late Linda Eastman McCartney. McCartney, native to Tucson, is represented by a photo of Paul, "My Love: London, 1978."
New York curator Gail Buckland approaches rock shots "as an art form," says TMA chief curator Julie Sasse. "She captures an era, giving photographers credit for helping shape our vision of rock 'n' roll."
Party-goers are invited to dress like musicians (or fans) at the opening, from 6 to 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22. At the Art After Dark after-party, from 8 to 11 p.m., they can "party like a rock star" to the twangs of local cover bands. The show runs Oct. 22 to Jan. 15, 2012; www.tucsonmuseumofart.org.
The TMA wanted to do "citywide collaborative exhibitions," following the format of last spring's ¡Viva El Vidrio! glass fiesta, Sasse says. Executive director Robert Knight thought Who Shot fit the bill in a city with a lively music scene and a passion for photography. Once the show was booked, the TMA folks enlisted as many partner venues as possible.
Etherton Gallery quickly took the bait. Its show, Rockin' the Desert: Photographs by Baron Wolman and Lynn Goldsmith, features two photogs who are also in the TMA show. Wolman has "shot" everybody from Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin to Joan Baez and Mick Jagger, not to mention a groupie here and there. Goldsmith, a filmmaker as well as photog, has captured plenty of rockers, too, including The Police, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen. Rockin' the Desert will actually open first, on Sept. 6, and continue through Nov. 12. Visit www.ethertongallery.com.
As the song says—sort of—there's a whole lotta cross-fertilization goin' on. Rolling Stone alum Wolman will give a talk about his work over at TMA, at 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 10, the same day that Etherton stages an evening opening for Rockin' the Desert, from 7 to 10 p.m. Then, right after the party, revelers can ramble round the corner to the Rialto Theatre, for real-life rockin' by Jefferson Starship, a band piloted by Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane fame. Doors open at 10:30 p.m.; show starts at 11 p.m. Visit www.rialtotheatre.co.
The connections continue a month later at the Center for Creative Photography, which stages lectures by photog Goldsmith and Who Shot Rock curator Buckland at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22—the day the TMA show opens.
The University of Arizona Museum of Art gets in on the rock act by exhibiting dozens of guitars, including the oldest guitar in the United States, according to UAMA curator Lauren Rabb. Good Vibrations: The Guitar as Design, Craft and Function, curated by executive director Charles Guerin, "goes back to the 17th century and up to today," Rabb says.
The historical guitars are part of a collection belonging to UA anthropology professor James Greenberg. "We have sound recordings of all of them being played," Rabb says, and visitors will be able to listen to each one. Many of the contemporary guitars were made by Tucson artisans, including Brian Dunn, Dennis Coon and Chris Larsen (also a noted watercolor painter). Running from Oct. 21 to Jan. 15, the show will feature several concerts in the museum, performed by UA music students playing the exhibition guitars. Visit www.artmuseum.arizona.edu.
To see rockers on the silver screen, go to the Loft Cinema for Pearl Jam Twenty, a movie by Cameron Crowe about the Seattle megapunk band. Crafted from 1,200 hours of concert film and other never-before-scene footage, the rockumentary screens at 7 and 10 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 20. Visit www.loftcinema.com.
For other Tucson Rocks events, consult tucsonrocks.org.
Downtown is getting a new denizen. Obsidian Gallery is hoping to settle in at its new space in the old train depot on Toole Avenue in time to have a grand opening on Saturday, Sept. 17. Owner Monica Prillaman says the gallery is vacating its pricey digs in St. Philip's Plaza in part to get in on downtown's Art Walks, the Central Tucson Gallery Association mass openings, and Second Saturdays. The gallery, known best for its fine crafts, christens its new space with a show of ceramics. Visit www.obsidian-gallery.com.
Incidentally, the next First Saturday Art Walk is on Sept. 3. The CTGA's Big Picture, the kickoff for the fall arts season, is Oct. 1.
The Center for Creative Photography re-opens this weekend, on Saturday, Aug. 20, after a too-long summer hiatus occasioned by the center's dismantling of its sterling photography library. Now in its 36th year, the institution celebrates its longevity in Creative Continuum: The History of the Center for Creative Photography, exhibiting work by the first five artists whose archives it collected: Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind and Frederick Sommer. Through Nov. 27; visit creativephotography.org.
Other exhibitions of interest: Conrad Wilde dips into Sheer Color, a four-person group show, from Sept. 3 to 24; reception on Sept. 3. Contreras Gallery and Raices Taller 222 both go skeletal in sequential Día de los Muertos shows: Contreras Oct. 1 to 29, and Raices Nov. 2 to 26.
Davis Dominguez exhibits the always-intriguing work of Parisian-Tucsonan Jan Olsson and Rancho Linda Vista'er Joy Fox from Nov. 10 to Dec. 17. UAMA puts on a major exploration of la frontera in Soundscapes of the Border and the Border Centennial Project: An Exhibition and Symposium, from Nov. 17 to March 18, 2012.
For Etherton and TMA exhibitions, see the Tucson Rocks section here. For a complete fall arts schedule, check our listings, both here and every week.
The big news is that Borderlands was saved this summer, after a plea to fans to help them make up a deficit. The company opens its 26th season with 26 Miles, a road-trip comedy driven by a Cuban mom and her half-Jewish daughter (Sept. 15 to Oct. 2, www.borderlandstheater.org). Arizona Theatre Company's brand-new play by Jeffrey Hatcher, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club, is based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story and—go figure—peopled by Arthur Conan Doyle characters (Sept. 23 to Oct. 8, www.arizonatheatre.org). Hatcher's work also turns up at Live Theatre Workshop, which stages his Three Viewings, a black comedy set in a funeral parlor (Aug. 27 to Oct. 2, www.livetheatreworkshop.org).
Elsewhere, companies are going for the classics. Beowulf Alley stages Lear by you-know-who (Oct. 27 to Nov. 20, www.beowulfalley.org). The Rogue Theatre favors George Bernard Shaw (Major Barbara, Sept. 8 to 25, theroguetheatre.org), and Arizona Repertory tries on Noel Coward for size (Hay Fever, Oct. 9 to 30, www.cfa.arizona.edu/theatremarketing/2011-12-season).
Chamber Music Plus celebrates a musical maestro in the concert-cum-drama Rachmaninoff Remembered (Nov. 27, www.chambermusicplus.org). Invisible Theatre's comic In the Mood by Kathleen Clark is in the "Oscar Wilde style" (Sept. 7 to 25, www.invisibletheatre.com). Comedy Playhouse puts on Chilling Mysteries of Edgar Allan Poe, (Oct. 21 to Nov. 13, www.thecomedyplayhouse.com), and Etcetera goes all the way back to the Greeks for the main character in Persephone or Slow Time (Sept. 1 to 17, www.etceteralatenight.com).
For classic musicals, try Studio Connections (Chicago, Oct. 7 to 15; www.studioconnections.net); Broadway in Tucson (West Side Story, Sept. 20 to 25, www.broadwayintucson.com); and, for the out-there variety, Arizona Onstage Productions (For Devil Boys From Beyond, November, www.arizonaonstage.org). And there's always the lovably goofy Gaslight (The Wizard of the Rings, Aug. 25 to Nov. 13, www.thegaslighttheatre.com).
For Winding Road's activities, see the Sept. 11 portion here. For more theater schedules, see our listings.
Art.if.Act Dance Project, back from a one-month tour of China in June, opens its third season with Fairy Tales Three at UA Stevie Eller Theatre on Sept. 16 and 18. ADP is committed to dancing to live music, and this time around, the Kingfisher String Quartet does the honors. The ambitious young troupe, headed by UA dance grads Ashley Bowman and Claire Hancock, takes on a Gian Carlo Menotti work, The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore, on Oct. 22 and 23 at Stevie Eller. The musical collaborators are the Arizona Choir and Dr. Bruce Chamberlain. Visit www.artifactdanceproject.com.
Cutting-edge Movement Salon does an unrehearsed improv concert of dance, music and spoken word on Saturday, Sept. 24, at Rhythm Industry Performance Factory, 1013 S. Tyndall Ave. Visit movementsalon.wordpress.com.
Old favorite Pilobolus returns to Centennial for the umpteenth time on Sunday, Oct. 23. Just when you think you've had enough of the troupe's pretzel formations, you're stunned when they move their bodies in breathtaking new ways, never before attempted by human beings. Visit www.uapresents.org.
Ballet Tucson celebrated its 25th anniversary all last year, no mean feat in these hard times. The dancers of the city's only professional ballet troupe start up the new season Oct. 28, 29 and 30 at Steve Eller Theatre, with a reprise of Mark Schneider's Firebird, the new Ascending by Mary Beth Cabana and Chieko Imada, and a one-act Don Quixote Suite staged by artistic associates Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner, formerly of American Ballet Theatre. Visit www.ballettucson.org.
ZUZI! Dance Company opens up its stage in the Historic YWCA to community dancers of all ages in No Frills Dance Happenin' on Oct. 28 and 29. The kids prance on Friday night, and the adults on Saturday. Lee Anne Hartley of FUNHOUSE movement theater, on hiatus the last couple of years, promises a new work for the Saturday night show. Visit www.zuzimoveit.org.
A new company, Esperanza Dance Project, dedicated to educating young people about childhood sexual abuse, reprises its June debut show, Our Souls Dwell in the House of Hope. Led by longtime Tucson choreographer and dancer Beth Braun, the concert will be performed on Saturday, Nov. 19, at Rincon/University High School, where Braun runs the dance program.
Students at the UA School of Dance perform Premium Blend, Nov. 17 to 20, and Dec. 1 to 4, at Stevie Eller, in a concert offering ballet, modern and jazz. Visit web.cfa.arizona.edu/dance.
Nutcracker madness usually begins in late November with performances from the smaller studios. Keep an eye out for announcements. Of the Big Two, Tucson Regional Ballet goes first. Its popular Southwest Nutcracker is Dec. 10 and 11, at the TCC Music Hall; the Tucson Symphony Orchestra plays live. Visit www.tucsonregionalballet.org. Ballet Tucson takes the last slot before Christmas, performing its classic rendition on Dec. 22, 23 and 24 at the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall.
ZUZI's 14th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration is all about Sombra y Luz—shadow and light. Inspired by visual artists who use chiaroscuro in their work, the concert will be on Dec. 16, 17 and 18, and on the solstice itself, Dec. 22, the longest and darkest night of the year. Visit www.zuzimoveit.org.
Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the city's largest musical enterprise, runs a cornucopia of programs, from its concert series to its Young Composers Project for local kids, and it recently snagged two NEA grants. Young Composers won $17,000 to teach two dozen local students orchestral composition on Saturdays during the school year. A $10,000 grant to TSO's Southern Arizona Residency Program will help fund concerts and educational outreach in remote communities.
Up here in Tucson, after performing the Sept. 11 concert, TSO opens its regular season Oct. 14 and 16 with a triple bill of works by Berlioz, Theofanidis and Rachmaninoff. Italian pianist Fabio Bidini guest-stars; musical director George Hanson conducts. Rachmaninoff-lovers who enjoy hearing TSO's rendition of his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini get extra credit for attending Chamber Music Plus' Rachmaninoff Remembered on Nov. 27.
The TSO classic concert on Nov. 11 and 13 features the popular Dvorak Symphony No. 9, From the New World, along with Barber's Adagio for Strings and Bernstein's Serenade (After Plato's Symposium). TSO concertmaster Aaron Boyd solos on Serenade. On Dec. 2 and 4, Hanson leads the musicians in the season's second Mozart, Symphony No. 39, following a rendition of his Requiem on Sept. 11. Also on the program: Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5.
The Holiday Spectacular! Pops Concert, guest-conducted by Michael Hall, promises dance from Tucson Regional Ballet, mariachi from Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo High School, sing-alongs and carols, on Dec. 17 and 18. The pop and classic concerts are performed at the TCC Music Hall. TSO plays Catalina Foothills High School twice, for a MasterWorks concert on Nov. 5 and 6, and Handel's Messiah on Dec. 10 and 11. For other performances, visit tucsonsymphony.org.
The Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, a longtime Tucson organization best known for its Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival, presents two concert series all season long, both at the TCC Leo Rich Theater. The Evening Series features the Jerusalem String Quartet on Wednesday, Oct. 5, the Morgenstern Piano Trio on Wednesday, Nov. 9, and the Takács String Quartet on Wednesday, Dec. 7. In the Piano and Friends Series, two Russians—Boris Andrianov on cello, and Alexander Kobrin on piano—play on Sunday, Nov. 6. Visit arizonachambermusic.org.
Arizona Opera, now transplanted to Phoenix, drives back to its birthplace to sing the classics at TCC Music Hall. First up, on Oct. 1 and 2, is a double bill of short operas, both sung in Italian. Pietro Mascagni's 1890 Cavalleria Rusticana is a tale of four double-crossing lovers. Pagliacci, an 1892 work by Ruggero Leoncavallo, concerns the travails of a jealous clown, sung here by tenor Allan Glassman, a Metropolitan Opera regular.
An old scholar sells his soul to the devil to regain his youth in Faust, an 1859 Charles Gounod opera based on a French play that was inspired by Goethe's great German drama. Sung in French, this production gets a modern setting. Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley sings Mephistopheles, on Nov. 19 and 20. Visit www.azopera.com.
The Tucson Chamber Artists follow up the Sept. 11 concert with A Concert of Jewish Music, including Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms," on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Temple Emanu-El, and Sunday, Oct. 30, at Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church; and Traditional Lessons and Carols by Candlelight, Dec. 17 and 18 at St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church. Visit www.tucsonchamberartists.org.
ETHEL, a "post-classical string quartet," performs at Centennial Hall with Native American flutist Robert Mirabal on Friday, Oct. 28. For other Centennial concerts, including Patti LaBelle on Friday, Sept. 23, k.d. lang on Saturday, Oct. 15, and Mannheim Steamroller on Sunday, Dec. 4, see www.uapresents.org.
At the Fox Tucson Theatre, Emmylou Harris goes up against LaBelle on Sept. 23; other stars singing in the restored theater are Nils Lofgren on Thursday, Aug. 25, and Christopher Cross on Friday, Aug. 26. Visit www.foxtucsontheatre.org.
For more classical music, see the UA School of Music's schedule of concerts (cfa.arizona.edu/music)—and check the Tucson Weekly's listings regularly for music of all stripes.