Friday, November 3, 2017

National Stars Shine on Tucson’s Comedy Fest

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Kevin McDonald
  • Kevin McDonald
Kevin McDonald, co-founder of the legendary Kids in the Hall, emailed that he’d always wanted to visit Tucson, and asked if Tucson Improv Movement (TIM) might allow him to host a show and a workshop. As a matter of fact, TIM founder and owner Justin Lukasewicz thought that was a swell idea and, on the spot, gave one of the world’s best-known sketch comedy artists the headline slot in Tucson Comedy Arts Festival 3, Nov. 8-11.

Responding to its growing reputation, this year’s fest branches out from TIM’s 50-seat black box theatre to include the Flycatcher, home of the event’s standup comedy components; the Sea of Glass, where McDonald performs with students from his day-long, sketch-writing workshop, and 191 Toole, where a solo performance by McDonald will cap the festival at 8 p.m., Saturday.

Most of the action, though, is at TIM Comedy Theatre, 239 E. 7th street, where 30 improv teams
Mary Catherine Curran
  • Mary Catherine Curran
 gather from Tucson, Phoenix, Chicago and Los Angeles, to perform a dozen showcases over the three days. Daytime workshops there cover skills for short form, long form and sketch techniques for ensemble and solo improvisers.

TCAF has something for everyone, including children and Spanish-language speakers. Visit for the full schedule and to register all the events. Except for McDonald’s, shows are $25 for a full festival pass, or $5 each, and workshops are $50. Some scholarships may be available.

Unique and recommended among the improv performers are Mary Catherine Curran’s solo sketch One Woman Space Jam; the Spanish language team, Cómo Se Dice; the hip-hop and rap team, Third Beats; Slideshow Fairy Tales, a unique solo comedy performance that you should Google; From the Top, a team that improvises an entire musical in 25 minutes; the all-female team, The Riveters; The Soapbox, featuring Kevin McDonald inspiring TIM’s top improvisers with anecdotes from his life; Phoenix-based veterans, Galapagos; and FOMP (Friends of Make Pretends), a show for children with lots of audience participation and stage time. 
Matt Storrs
  • Matt Storrs

We’re also looking forward to stand-up sets by Chicagoan Dame Grant; Tucson ex-pat Ben Dietzel, now of L.A.; local favorite, Josiah Osego; and, from Phoenix, Matt Storrs’ popular game show for stand-up comedians, The Storrs Objection.
The performer we’re most looking forward to seeing is Brooke Hartnett, because the Tucson comedy scene misses her. An alumna of the UA’s Charles Darwin Experience, a stand-up comedian and a TIM company member, she moved to Chicago to study improv and pursue a comedy writing career.

She says she misses the food and the low cost of living, but, “Chicago’s a really lovely city and a good place to work on comedy without the pressure of L.A. and New York. I’d like to teach improv one day, but I’m realistically more likely to make money acting or writing or directing film.” 
Alex Carday
  • Alex Carday

Hartnett’s Chicago team, Kill Phil, performs late Friday night, but she’ll be busy much of the rest  of the festival reuniting with besties in the top TIM ensembles she left behind: The Riveters, The Travelling Thornberries, Party Barf, and her duo team with Clare Shelly, Kitten Spit, a past crowd favorite.
It was Hartnett who encouraged TCAF workshop presenter Mary Catherine Curran to sign on for TCAF3. Hartnett had studied with Curran at iO Chicago. Curran, in turn, suggested her friend Alex Carday, an alumnus of the UA’s Charles Darwin Experience, and a current member of the nationally recognized short-form improv company, Comedy Sportz, in Chicago.

Carday’s workshop covers short form game techniques. Curran’s covers making strong emotional choices in scenes, but she also offers a personalized workshop for improvisers interested in solo  performance. How is that different from stand-up? “It's character-driven, and it's more personal, more, I think, an art,” Curran says. “I think mostly standup is based on creating or forming a joke, and you’re yourself most of the time. Solo improv is like a sketch show. It’s tightly scripted, and each piece is separated by blackouts or transitions.”

José  Gonzales, a co-founder of Phoenix’s Torch Theater, a ten-year-old school and
 performance space for independent improv teams, will teach workshops on enhancing scenes by working with imaginary objects. His techniques help improvisers create and perform within environments they create in an audience’s imagination. Gonzales also will perform a set with his 14-year-old team, Galapagos, which has toured all over North America and Europe.

While hosting its third comedy festival, TIM also celebrates five years in business. Lukasewicz says, "It's been amazing to see (TIM) sprout up from nothing. My two goals with TIM were to create high quality, fast-paced shows and to have a supportive, inclusive community. At the fifth anniversary show … the quality and support were amazing. I am lucky to get those sorts of moments on a regular basis.”

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I Infantilize High School Students and Have Little Faith in the Intelligence of High School Teachers? Who Knew? (Certainly Not Me)

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 4:08 PM

The current issue of the Weekly has a response to my Guest Opinion about UA's libertarian-leaning Center for the Philosophy of Freedom and the high school course it created. It's written by Michael McKenna, the  current director of the "Freedom Center." I braced myself for a serious tongue lashing. Instead I found some serious quibbles with what I wrote along with information which either confirmed or added to the facts and ideas I presented.

I plan to post about McKenna's response in depth next week, but now I want to focus on my favorite part of his opinion piece, where he writes about how little respect I have for high school students and teachers.
Safier and those who find [David] Schmidtz's course so outrageous should consider just how much they infantilize high school students and how little faith they apparently have in the intelligence of high school teachers. Advanced high school students with an interest in enrolling in challenging college courses can be a pretty tough audience. And most high school teachers offering such courses do have minds of their own—even if they do get the chance to be trained by Schmidtz in how to teach the course.
I don't know if McKenna has taken the time to look into my work history even though I refer to it regularly in my posts. He may or may not know I am a retired public high school teacher who has taught thousands of high school students and worked closely with hundreds of high school teachers. I'm pretty sure most of my colleagues and former students would be surprised to hear that I held them in little regard, especially my students who know I encouraged them to think independently and deeply respected their intelligence and potential.

Reading McKenna's paragraph above, I have to wonder if he has much respect for the power of education to shape minds and the power of teachers to change students' perceptions of the world. Why did he choose to be a professor, I wonder. Why "profess" if you don't believe what you say will have much impact on the people you profess to?

Continue reading »

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3 and Out: Khalil Tate and Arizona head to Los Angeles to play Sam Darnold and USC

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 2:08 PM

Arizona sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate strides past Robert Taylor of Washington State during the Wildcats 58-37 victory on Oct. 28. - CHRIS HOOK | SPECIAL TO ARIZONA ATHLETICS
  • Chris Hook | Special to Arizona Athletics
  • Arizona sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate strides past Robert Taylor of Washington State during the Wildcats 58-37 victory on Oct. 28.

There’s a hell of a football game slated under the blinding lights and towering mecca that is the L.A. Coliseum Saturday night.

That contest pits the upstart prodigal sons of Tucson against the mighty Trojans of the University of Southern California, in a battle for Pac 12 South supremacy.

The Wildcats, who suddenly find themselves ranked 23rd in the latest AP poll, at 6-2 this season, have a chance to pick up their fifth straight win, a feat last accomplished in 2014—the year the Wildcats went 10-4 and won their lone division title since the conference added a championship game in 2012.

The Wildcats’ resurgence has come about largely thanks to the jaw-dropping talent exhibited by sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate, who’s accounted for 784 passing yards, 926 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in four games since supplanting Brandon Dawkins as the team's starter.

Tate is the first player in Pac 10/12 history to win the conference’s Offensive Player of the Week award four times, and has asserted himself as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate.

Saturday’s matchup is scheduled to kickoff at 7:45 p.m. on ESPN, meaning you won’t have to dig too deep to watch Tate and company take on the Trojans.

There’s plenty to talk about ahead of Saturday’s contest, but I’ve synthesized it all into three main points for your reading pleasure:

1. Can Arizona finally slay the mighty Trojans? The Wildcats last won a game at the Coliseum in 2009, when I was a senior in high school. That game, a 21-17 Arizona triumph, was a matchup of an 8-3 USC squad against a 7-4 Arizona team, led by former Eagles and Rams quarterback Nick Foles. The winning score was a 36-yard pass from the blonde-haired Californian, hitting wide receiver Juron Criner in the end zone to give the Wildcats a four-point lead. How long ago was that game, you ask? Both coaches—in Arizona’s Mike Stoops and USC’s Pete Carroll—have long since left their respective schools, with Stoops getting axed in 2011, while Carroll left to coach the Seattle Seahawks, winning Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.

2. Khalil Tate fever sweeps the nation: Tate, as mentioned above, has been a revelation since his first action of the year against Colorado on Oct. 7. The Inglewood, California native, who went to Serra High School in Gardena (which is 10.7 miles from USC’s campus, according to Google Maps), will certainly be looking for blood against USC coach Clay Helton and company. A little background here: Helton and his staff recruited Tate out of high school two years ago, but told him he didn’t have the chops to play quarterback in the Pac 12, which drove him to Tucson. It’ll be interesting to see whether USC’s rush defense will be up to the task, under coordinator Clancy Pendergast, to shut down the 6 foot 2 inch dynamo, two weeks removed from a 35-point shellacking at the hands of Notre Dame—where the Fighting Irish slashed the Men of Troy’s front line to the tune of 377 rushing yards (41 more than USC mustered as a whole). Tate, along with freshman running back JJ Taylor, fresh off a career-best 152 rushing yards against Washington State last Saturday, will look to help Tate carve up the Trojans defense; it’ll be interesting to see if the duo is successful.

3. Desert Swarm 2.0 in the Old Pueblo? The Arizona defense under second-year coordinator Marcel Yates has been a revelation this year, ranking fourth in rush defense (147.2) and first in interceptions (14) in the conference. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the team’s resurgence on the defensive side of the ball has been driven by a handful of freshmen and sophomores, including freshman Colin Schooler, who has two interceptions and 47 tackles this year. Fellow freshman linebacker Tony Fields II is the team’s leading tackler, with 58 stops this year, and is second on the team with 3.5 sacks this season. Perhaps the most impressive freshman so far has been Kylan Wilborn, who has a team-leading five sacks and seven tackles for a loss for the team this season. This might be the best group of defensive talent to grace the sidelines of Arizona Stadium since the Desert Swarm days of the early 1990s, so they warrant your attention come Saturday night for sure.

How to watch: Arizona will kick off against USC from the LA Coliseum at 7:45 p.m., with ESPN airing it live.

How to bet: Las Vegas has USC as a 7-point favorite, as of Friday afternoon, with ESPN’s
matchup predictor giving USC a 74.8 percent chance of winning.

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Staff Pick

UA Dance Premium Blend

In Premium Blend, UA Dance will perform the work of two masters, Martha Graham's Panorama and George… More

@ UA Stevie Eller Dance Theatre Nov. 14-17, 7:30-9 p.m., Nov. 17-18, 1:30-3 p.m. and Sun., Nov. 18, 6-7:30 p.m. 1737 E. University Blvd.

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