What do William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens have in common with Agnes de Mille, Merce Cunningham and John Cage?
The answer is simple: These artistic notables, all of them among the dearly departed, will have their work performed or exhibited or improvised upon in Tucson this fall.
Austen inspired Emma at Arizona Theatre Company; Dickens' A Christmas Carol will be rendered three different ways by three different companies; and Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew will have its hour upon a grassy stage at Himmel Park.
Ballet Tucson will restage the de Mille dance "Three Virgins and a Devil," and the UA's Doug Nielsen will co-create a dance honoring the longtime collaboration of Cunningham and Cage.
And that's not even mentioning the Henri Matisse prints at the Tucson Museum of Art, the Harry Callahan photos at Etherton Gallery, Noël Coward's play Fallen Angels at Live Theatre Workshop, or the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes from Broadway in Tucson.
There's no getting around it: Tucson loves the classics, and it loves the big names. But that doesn't mean the city is sunk entirely in the past.
Plenty of living, breathing art celebrities are coming to town this fall: Pianist Lang Lang (Oct. 28), writer/comedian David Sedaris (Nov. 27) and Jerry Seinfeld (Sept. 21) will all play Centennial Hall. Best-selling author Barbara Kingsolver, a former Tucsonan and former Tucson Weekly contributor, turns up Nov. 18 at the Temple of Music and Art to tout her latest novel, Flight Behavior.
Even so, the fall arts season offers plenty of high-quality work by locals who have not yet achieved, perhaps, the rank of a Shakespeare or a Matisse.
The season sees the debut on Aug. 25 of the wonderfully named Puppets Amongus Playhouse; a cascade of art exhibitions investigating the ongoing agonies of the border; a major retrospective for longtime UA professor Barbara Rogers at the Tucson Museum of Art; and a bigger- and better-than-ever Tucson Meet Yourself (Oct. 12 to 14), which celebrates arts from folk to food.
Likewise, the All Souls Procession (Nov. 4), an extravaganza of grief and creativity, keeps on growing. This year, Etherton runs a companion exhibition of photos, Toshi Ueshina: All Souls Procession, from Oct. 19 to Nov. 27, at the Temple Gallery, and the Tucson Botanical Gardens stages a month-long Day of the Dead festival and exhibition of art skeletons, from Oct. 2 to Nov. 4. After the procession, Ozomatli plays a Dance of the Dead concert at the Rialto.
Curiously, in a presidential election year, there's very little electoral art—which, come to think of it, may be an oxymoron. The Daily Show Live: Indecision Tour 2012 stops in at Centennial Hall on Oct. 19. But is it art?
I have detected a small wave of affection for early modernist artists from the '20s and '30s, including Matisse, de Mille, Porter and Coward. And Frida Kahlo, who flourished in the 1930s, is being lionized in two divergent productions—a dance concert at ZUZI! Dance, and a puppet play at Puppets Amongus.
I'm beginning to wonder if we aren't seeing a resurgence of a Depression aesthetic, when artists countered gloom with lightness. Couple that trend with Tucson's three versions of the 19th-century Christmas Carol, written in the bad old days of unfettered capitalism, and we have the makings of a new Recession Art. Old Scrooge could be Bernie Madoff himself, and poor Bob Cratchit is the rest of us, struggling to get by in hard times.
Read on for details of selected arts events in multiple categories. There's far too much going on for everything to fit into these few pages. For the full monty, check the comprehensive listings assembled by crackerjack listings goddess Linda Ray, and consult the Tucson Weekly's music listings weekly—and daily online—for pop, rock, indie and jazz.
All hail tiny Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery at Pima Community College West for being the first out of the blocks in the Desert Initiative project. Some 30 participating venues in five states are exhibiting multidisciplinary work about life in and around four deserts: the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, Mojave and Great Basin.
Pima's contribution, Looking Across the Border, naturally zeroes in on the Arizona-Sonora borderlands, seen through the eyes of three outstanding photographers. David Taylor, a new UA professor, makes large-scale color photos of the border wall, Border Patrol agents and the like. At his solo show at Joseph Gross a few years ago, he exhibited an unforgettable image of the wall scarring miles and miles of Tohono O'odham land. Paul Turounet had easily the most-compelling work at The Border Project exhibition at the UA Museum of Art last winter. His sepia photos of migrants, printed on metal and pinned to a fragment of a real border wall, had the power of saintly retablos. Mexican artist Alejandro Cartagena concentrates on landscape and portraiture, and in this show, he has an astonishing aerial view of migrants packed in the bed of a pickup truck. The show runs from Aug. 27 to Oct. 5, with a series of events on Sept. 13: At 1:30 p.m., there's an artists' talk; 5 p.m., reception; 6 p.m., video and performances by Laura Milkins and Heather Gray, plus Logan Phillips and Paco Velez; www.pima.edu/community/the-arts/louis-carlos-bernal-gallery.
Up next, the University of Arizona Museum of Art has put together Broken Desert—Land and Sea: Heather Green, Greg Lindquist and Chris McGinnis, about the degradation of the environment. Lindquist will paint Bisbee's Lavender Pit open mine on the museum's walls, reproducing the beauty of the mine's colorations and highlighting the damage it has done. Green, who has established a rep for haunting work about the Sea of Cortez, deploys sound, letterpress prints and cranking machines to evoke changes in land and sea. Painter McGinnis compares the wilderness captured in the 19th-century photographic surveys—especially in the work of Timothy O'Sullivan—to the sprawl sullying the same land today. (See information on the Center for Creative Photography for more O'Sullivan.) There's an artists' reception from 5 to 7 p.m., Nov. 9. The show runs Nov. 8 to March 3; artmuseum.arizona.edu.
The Tucson Museum of Art joins the Desert Initiative after the New Year. Its Desert Grassland, an exhibition of photos, paintings, scans and resins, will showcase 17 artists—including Green and Taylor—from Jan. 26 to July 7. MOCA-Tucson also plans to participate in 2013.
Sonoran photographer Alejandra Platt-Torres, great-granddaughter of a U.S. migrant to Mexico, spent four years documenting the border in black and white. A World Separated by Borders, at the Arizona State Museum, documents migrants' dangerous treks through the desert—racing for trains, carrying water bottles—and the ecological impact of human movement and enforcement on the wilderness; Oct. 3 to Jan. 27; www.statemuseum.arizona.edu.
Superstar photog Danny Lyon roars into Etherton Gallery with The Bikeriders, a glorious collection of gelatin silver prints of bikers by a photog who documented the civil rights movement, Texas prisons and more. The show runs from Sept. 4 to Oct. 17; there's a reception at 7 p.m., Sept. 8. At 6 p.m., Oct. 5, Lyon screens his documentary, Murderers, at the Center for Creative Photography, and signs books from 1 to 5 p.m., Oct. 6, at Etherton; www.ethertongallery.com.
Tucsonan Ann Simmons-Myers, photography head at Pima Community College, shows her own bike photos concurrently in Ann Simmons-Myers: Bikers, from Aug. 31 to Oct. 16 at Temple Gallery; reception 5:30 p.m., Sept. 21. Another gifted Tucson photographer, Valerie Galloway, exhibits at the Temple from Nov. 30 to Jan. 8; reception 5:30 p.m., Dec. 7; www.ethertongallery.com.
Painter Barbara Rogers, a beloved UA prof now retired, has a solo show, The Imperative of Beauty, A Fifty-Year Retrospective, from Oct. 6 to Jan. 13 at the Tucson Museum of Art. Rogers will give a talk and sign her book, also named The Imperative of Beauty. In the triple-opening on Oct. 6, the museum will also debut Henri Matisse, The Pasiphaé Series and Other Works on Paper, and The Shape of Things, Four Decades of Paintings and Sculpture. The latter focuses on "shaped" canvases, some by local artists Miles Conrad and Olivier Mosset; www.tucsonmuseumofart.org.
MOCA-Tucson honors renowned Bisbee painter Peter Young, an abstractionist whose brightly colored '60s paintings were revived in a recent Museum of Modern Art exhibition in New York. Running from Oct. 13 to Sunday, Jan. 13, the show exhibits old and new work. Young gives a talk at 5 p.m., Nov. 3; www.moca-tucson.org.
After being closed all summer, the Center for Creative Photography reopens with an Arizona Centennial exhibition, Made in Arizona: Photographs From the Collection. One of the earliest images was shot long before Arizona joined the nation: Timothy O'Sullivan photographed his groundbreaking "Black Cañon, Colorado River, Looking Above," way back in 1871. A series of lectures accompany the show, which runs from Aug. 18 to Nov. 25: Arizona Highways photography editor Jeff Kida speaks at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 11; photographer Richard Misrach (Desert Cantos) speaks and signs books at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 18; and photographers Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe discuss their Grand Canyon project and sign books at 5:30 p.m., Nov. 14; www.creativephotography.org.
The big news in this theater-crazy town is that a brand-new company is opening next week. The even bigger news is that all of its players are puppets.
Puppets Amongus is the brainchild of Matt and Sarah Cotten. Matt, also a painter, is known for the beautiful larger-than-life puppets he creates for the All Souls Procession, and perhaps even better known for gently guiding grieving Tucsonans as they create puppets of their own beloved dead. A veteran of the former Tucson Puppet Works, Cotten has crafted Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera puppets for the first show, El Sueño de Frida (Frida's Dream), to be staged Aug. 25 at the Rogue Theatre, with live music by the Awkward Moments and Silver Thread Trio. The regular season begins with The Hatter's Hollow, Nov. 10 and 11, at the new Puppets Amongus Playhouse, 657 W. St. Mary's Road; www.puppetsamongus.com.
A play about fiction writers—an older woman and her young protégée—opens the season at Live Theatre Workshop. The production, Collected Stories, by Donald Margulies, runs from Aug. 23 to Sept. 22. The troupe segues to the brilliant Noël Coward, presenting his 1925 comedy Fallen Angels, about desperate housewives, from Oct. 11 to Nov. 18. And the holiday offering, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, translates everyone's favorite Christmas movie into an old-time radio broadcast, performed in front of a live audience—you! It runs from Nov. 29 to Dec. 29; www.livetheatreworkshop.org.
Beowulf Alley Theatre mixes a classic, Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen, with a modern version: The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler by Jeff Whitty, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16. Whitty has two plays on the boards in Tucson this season: He wrote the book for Avenue Q, the Broadway musical Arizona Rep presents in October. Glengarry Glen Ross, by contemporary master David Mamet, runs at Beowulf from Nov. 2 to 18, while Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh rules the holiday season, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 16; www.beowulfalley.org
The UA students of the Arizona Repertory Theatre take on the highly regarded How I Learned to Drive, starting with previews on Sept. 9 and 10. In this Pulitzer Prize-winner by Paula Vogel, driving lessons are a cover for something more sinister; it runs through Sept. 30. Whitty's rollicking musical Avenue Q, about young adults striving and aspiring, follows from Oct. 7 to 28. The Rep's holiday offering is the season's earliest twist on Dickens, running Nov. 4 to Dec. 2. Inspecting Carol, by Daniel J. Sullivan, is a play within a play about a threadbare troupe performing A Christmas Carol; www.cfa.arizona.edu/theatremarketing/2011-12-season.
Invisible Theatre has a blast with Motherhood Out Loud, a comedy written by a host of women, including Beth Henley and Theresa Rebeck, from Sept. 5 to 23. Mesa is a road-trip tale of a young man accompanying his grandfather-in-law to retirement heaven in Arizona, from Nov. 14 to Dec. 2. A series of short runs—New Eyes by an Israeli soldier turned actress (Oct. 3 to 7), A Conversation With Edith Head (Oct. 11 to 14) and Hollywood Revisited (Dec. 16)—complement the mainstage season; www.invisibletheatre.com.
The Rogue Theatre made a splash last spring by announcing that it was remaking itself as an ensemble company, with 11 contracted actors. Its first outing under the new format is Journey to the West, a 16th-century Chinese classic reimagined by gifted playwright Mary Zimmerman, whose Metamorphoses, an adaptation of Ovid's poem, set in a pool, is the most magical play I have ever seen. Her Journey runs from Sept. 6 to 23. Old-time China is followed by the English countryside in the play The Night Heron, by Jez Butterworth. The allegorical comedy runs Nov. 1 to 18; www.theroguetheatre.org.
Arizona Theatre Company undertakes a serious musical, Next to Normal, as its season opener. With book and lyrics by Brian Horkey and music by Tom Kitt, the emotional story examines a suburban family in a moment of crisis. Previews begin Sept. 15; it runs through Oct. 6. With big-time football on everyone's mind after the Penn State fiasco, the timely Lombardi goes beyond the sport's myths to examine the real Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers. Previews begin Oct. 20; the show runs through Nov. 10. The holiday outing is a musical version of Jane Austen's beloved Emma, with music by Paul Gordon, composer of last season's delightful Daddy Long Legs. Previews begin Dec. 1; the regular run is through Dec. 22; www.arizonatheatre.org.
Winding Road Theater Ensemble performs the dark comedy Speech and Debate, described as Glee meets The Crucible, from Sept. 20 to Oct. 7. The action takes place in Salem (Ore.), no less. The play will be performed in rented quarters at the Beowulf Alley Theatre; windingroadtheater.org.
Etcetera, LTW's late-night branch, now under the direction of Angela Horchem and Matt Walley, embarks on a project of "ensemble-created work." All the plays will be generated in-house by Horchem and Walley's Theatre 3 troupe. Now in gestation, the first work, Cr3ate: An Evening of Original Shorts!, is expected to open by September's end. Audiences might see music, clowning, physical comedy or dance. Then again, they might not. Everything's up for grabs; www.livetheatreworkshop.org.
Borderlands Theater premieres Guapa, a small-town-Texas story about a young girl who longs to play soccer. The playwright, Caridad Svich, recently won an Obie from The Village Voice, which lauded her as "one of America's most daring and provocative Latina writers." The show runs from Oct. 4 to 21. A Tucson Pastorela, a cherished Christmas tradition, is on the boards Dec. 20 to 23. Gertie and the T.O. Boys play waila music live; www.borderlandstheater.org.
Sacred Chicken Productions performs Becky's New Car from Oct. 11 to 28. Steven Dietz, long a favorite playwright at ATC, penned the script, in which a midlife woman meets a millionaire. Performed at Beowulf Alley Theatre; www.sacredchickenproductions.com.
No theater season is complete without Shakespeare, and the annual Shakespeare in the Park project, now in its sixth year, provides one. El Rio Theatre Project will perform The Taming of the Shrew free in the grassy outdoor amphitheater at Himmel Park at 7 p.m., Sept. 21 to 23, Sept. 27 to 30 and Oct. 4 to 7.
A big Broadway show is another sine qua non: Broadway in Tucson presents a revival of Cole Porter's 1934 musical Anything Goes. The madcap musical takes place at sea, on an ocean liner bound for London from New York. In its 2011 revival by New York's Roundabout Theatre Company, Anything won three Tonys, including one for best choreography; Nov. 20 to 25 at the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall; www.broadwayintucson.com.
In the sort-of Broadway category, good-old Gaslight Theatre parodies The Phantom of the Opera, from Aug. 30 to Nov. 11. For the Christmas season, it contributes its variation of A Christmas Carol in the form of a comic riff called Scrooge, from Nov. 15 to Jan. 6; www.thegaslighttheatre.com.
Down-home Comedy Playhouse specializes in old-time authors, and its annual Dickens' A Christmas Carol is heartwarming and respectful. Songs complement a faithful rendition of the original story; from Nov. 30 to Dec. 30. The Playhouse is rarely dark, and its packed schedule includes The Truth About Blayds, by Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne (Aug. 17 to Sept. 16); comic elaborations on O. Henry (Oct. 5 to 13); and the surprising Lighter Side of Chekhov (Nov. 1 to 24). For more plays, see www.thecomedyplayhouse.com.
Stomp stomps into the TCC Music Hall Sept. 21 and 22 courtesy of Broadway in Tucson. Part dance, part percussion, part comedic theatricality, Stomp is a spellbinding showbiz hybrid; www.broadwayintucson.com.
Mummenschanz, another indefinable showstopper, is a choreography of actors transforming ordinary objects; Nov. 17 at Centennial Hall; www.uapresents.org.
ZUZI! Dance Company is the first local troupe out onstage. On Sept. 28 and 29, the modern troupe performs Frida Kahlo: Blood and Gold, a full-evening work that navigates the boundaries between dance and visual art. Combining flamenco, modern and aerial dance, the production features costumes inspired by the Mexican painter's canvases. Tucson's own Barbara Schuessler, La Flamencista, guest stars. At ZUZI's Theater in the Historic YWCA; visit www.zuzimoveit.org.
The UA School of Dance follows with its annual Arizona Jazz Dance Showcase from Oct. 2 to 4 at Stevie Eller Dance Theatre. A highlight is "Chicago Suite," a group of four dances drawn from the Broadway musical choreographed by jazz-dance king Bob Fosse. The work was set on the dancers last winter, partly by Ann Reinking, a longtime Fosse dancer; web.cfa.arizona.edu/dance.
After bravely dancing in the dry Santa Cruz riverbed last spring, NEW ARTiculations Dance Theatre tackles LGBT issues in There Is No Dance From Which We Are Not Present. The concert, from Oct. 26 to 28 at Stevie Eller, is a collaboration with Wingspan; www.newarticulations.org.
The must-see piece in Ballet Tucson's gala opener, from Nov. 2 to 4 at Stevie Eller, is "Three Virgins and a Devil," a comedic 1934 work by the late, great Agnes de Mille. Other dances appropriate for the spooky season are "Esmeralda and the Hunchback," choreographed by Mark Schneider, and "Raymonda Variations"; www.ballettucson.org.
Canadian company Aszure Barton and Artists comes to Tucson for the first time courtesy of UApresents. Mikhail Baryshnikov once compared choreographer Barton with the young Mark Morris—high praise, indeed. Known, like Morris, for the musicality of its dancers, the young troupe plays Centennial Hall on Nov. 3.
Modern choreographer and UA dance prof Doug Nielsen celebrates the 100th birthday of John Cage—and Cage's long artistic partnership with Merce Cunningham—in a celebratory piece called "Untitled." Created in collaboration with music prof Kyle Maxwell-Doherty, the work will be performed by UA student dancers in Seasonal Treasures, a concert showcasing faculty choreography. The shows run from Nov. 15 to Dec. 2 at Stevie Eller.
December is ruled by The Nutcracker, hands-down Tucson's most-popular ballet. Southern Arizona often hosts as many as seven or eight versions; some early-bird concerts may pop up in late November. The two biggest productions, both in the TCC Music Hall, are closer to Christmas. Tucson Regional Ballet dances A Southwest Nutcracker on Dec. 15 and 16 (www.tucsonregionalballet.org), and Ballet Tucson puts on its traditional Victorian version Dec. 21 to 23.
ZUZI! dances to its own drummer in the season of light. Instead of celebrating Christmas, the company's Winter Solstice show marks the year's shortest day. In honor of ZUZI's 15th anniversary this year, the company is splurging, taking the Dec. 15 gala concert out of its own theater and into Stevie Eller.
Irish band FullSet comes to town Sept. 22. Named "new group of the year" in the 2012 Live Ireland Music Awards, the young six-member band plays mostly traditional music. The show is at the Berger Performing Arts Center; www.inconcerttucson.com.
Other pop/rock concerts of interest: Wilco at the TCC Music Hall on Sept. 19; Mary Chapin Carpenter at the Fox on Sept. 20; Bonnie Raitt at Centennial Hall on Sept. 26; Calexico at the Rialto on Oct. 26.
The Tucson Symphony Orchestra opens the classical season Oct. 5 and 7, with guest artists the Eroica Trio, in a program of Wagner, Beethoven and Strauss. TSO veers to pop in For Michael—The Music of Michael Jackson on Oct. 12 at the Fox Theatre. On Oct. 14, the TSO Woodwind Quintet and Percussion Ensemble journey to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for a Musical Feast concert outdoors, at sunset. And in an unusual pairing, on Oct. 26 and 28, TSO plays both symphonic music from Bernstein's West Side Story (based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet) and selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, the music that's used for ballets of the tragedy. For a look at TSO's complete calendar, visit www.tucsonsymphony.org.
At Arizona Opera, still another Roméo et Juliette—Gounod's version of the Shakespeare tragedy, sung in French—stars Metropolitan Opera lyric soprano Jennifer Black as the doomed Juliette; Nov. 10 and 11 at the TCC Music Hall. Lucia di Lammermoor, a Donizetti opera set in the Scottish Highlands, is Arizona Opera's kickoff on Oct. 20 and 21; www.azopera.org.
Arizona Friends of Chamber Music provides high-quality classical music by importing musicians from all over the world. This season, at Leo Rich Theater: Juilliard String Quartet on Oct. 23 and 24; pianist Behzod Abduraimov on Nov. 4; Prazak Quartet on Nov. 7; and Pacifica Quartet on Dec. 5; www.arizonachambermusic.org.
Classical pianist Lang Lang, first brought to Tucson by Arizona Friends of Chamber Music as a wunderkind of 17, is now a grown-up superstar. He plays Mozart and Chopin at Centennial Hall on Oct. 28.
Sybarite5, a classical music group, don't play "your grandparents' chamber music," according to The Washington Post. The quintet plays Mozart or Radiohead, depending on the shuffle commands from their iPods onstage. Presented by UApresents at Crowder (not Centennial) Hall on Nov. 29.
Chamber Music Plus, back from a season's hiatus, reopens with the Clark-Schuldmann Duo, starring cellist Harry Clark and pianist Sanda Schuldmann performing Couperin, Dvorak, Schubert and Piazzolla, on Nov. 25 at the Berger Performing Arts Center; www.chambermusicplus.org.
Deanne Stillman, a noted Los Angeles author recently transplanted to Tucson, is getting raves for her new nonfiction book, Desert Reckoning, about a manhunt in the Mojave. She introduces the work to the Old Pueblo at two local venues. First up is a reading at Casa Libre en la Solana at 7 p.m. on Sept. 18, followed by an appearance at Antigone Books at 7 p.m., Sept. 28; casalibre.org; www.antigonebooks.com.
Two Tucson prose writers take to the podium at the UA Poetry Center at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8. Lydia Millet, an editor and writer at the Center for Biological Diversity, is the author of Love in Infant Monkeys, a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2009, and My Happy Life, a novel that won the 2002 PEN-USA fiction award. Shannon Cain's debut book, the short-story collection The Necessity of Certain Behaviors, won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Visit poetry.arizona.edu for a full schedule of events.
The ever-popular Barbara Kingsolver always launches her books through indie bookstores (must be her alternative roots). Antigone Books is the host for her reading of Flight Behavior at the Temple of Music and Art at 7 p.m. on Nov. 18; www.inconcerttucson.com.