Arts and Culture

Friday, May 3, 2019

Hotel McCoy Hosts "Black Renaissance" Through May

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 2:42 PM

Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca once said, “Besides black art, there is only automation and mechanization.”

Black Renaissance is an event taking place throughout May, celebrating black artists from the Tucson community. The ongoing event is designed to educate and enlighten attendees on black culture and its vast impact.
Founder of Black Renaissance, seanloui has lived in Tucson for years and noticed a lack of black artists represented in the city. So he felt the need to create a project to illuminate their work.

“But because of us being a minority inside Arizona and Tucson particularly, we weren’t given those chances in order to present their art so it is another opportunity for them to do so,” seanloui said.

He created Black Renaissance to bring together African-American artists from Tucson and to showcase their art, whether that be spoken word, music or visual art. He particularly emphasized bringing together artists of all backgrounds and platforms.

“I think it’s going to spotlight the amazing artists from the black community that are doing some really cool stuff and as well I think it will bring the black community closer together,” seanloui said.

Black Renaissance takes place every Saturday throughout May at Tucson’s new “art hotel,” Hotel McCoy. Each weekend will host a different art theme.

“Each night is power-packed, because it’s different and because of amazing high-level artists,” seanloui said.

May 4 is hip-hop night, featuring performances by local musicians Chakara Blu, Cash Lansky, Jaca Zulu and Kaizer.

“It’s really cool to have an event that shines light on us, like we are here, and a lot of us are artists and we do exist,” Blu said. “For me, it feels powerful.”

For May 11, the theme is spoken word. On this night, poets and comedians will take the stage and show off their talents. Featured artists are Stephanie Lyonga, Stevie Rose and many more. Lyonga  is a comedian by night. She was tagged in a post on Facebook by a friend calling all black comedians or poets in Tucson to be a part of Black Renaissance.

“I don’t tell jokes, I just go out there and pretty much tell my life story somehow it comes out funny and people laugh,” Lyonga said.

Lyonga feels she has always been partial to comedy because she loves the nature of laughter. Being ex-military, she described her life then as very strict when she was younger. Comedy was something that made her life more upbeat.

“As a black comedian myself, I’ve been in Tucson six years and there’s a handful of black comedians let alone black people period,” Lyonga said. “I haven’t really seen much of them.”

The third Saturday, May 18, Black Renaissance gives the stage to visual arts with the Black Museum. Painters, photographers and sculptors will all showcase their work. Featured artists include Allison Miller, Elizabeth Denneau, Troy Miller-Perry, FlawlessViktory, Sandra Taylor and many more.

The last night, May 25, is the final concert of Black Renaissance. Street Blues Family band and Black Caesar will close out the event. A musician himself, seanloui will also be performing his own beats and original sounds.

Next year, seanloui has plans for Black Renaissance to return to Tucson again with bigger and more exciting things to come.

“[Black Renaissance] is an appreciation for new artists, black artists, entrepreneurs, people who are starting out and doing something on their own,” Lyonga said. “People who need to be recognized, and Black Renaissance recognizes that.”

Black Renaissance takes place each Saturday in May, May 4, 11, 18 and 25 from
8 to 10 p.m. At Hotel McCoy, 720 W. Silverlake Rd. Free.

For more information, visit

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Perfectly Imperfect Women’s Stories in 20th Century Blues

Posted By on Fri, Apr 26, 2019 at 3:15 PM


I had been perusing the playbill for 20th Century Blues while waiting for the show to begin. I noticed the image of four women, standing in solidarity, walking toward a camera. The sounds of Motown and 70’s anthems played in the background. As the lights rose on Invisible Theatre’s season-ending production, my feminist spirit was ready to see what playwright Susan Miller, and directors Susan Claassen and Fred Rodriguez had in store.

It’s not often we get to see four older, diverse female actors on stage together with meaningful, powerful dialogue. The women talk to each other with a directness that we rarely get to witness. They talk about sex and race and gender and their aging bodies with brutal honesty.

One of the women, Mac, played by To-ree-nee Wolf, is African American, and a lesbian. Her character often calls out the others for privilege and for asking her speak for “her people."

A few of the topics discussed made the audience cringe just a bit, which I absolutely loved. The playwright didn’t care if the honesty pushed buttons. In the time of #metoo and #timesup, we need to tell women’s stories without abandon.

20th Century Blues is playing at Invisible Theatre now through May 5th. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling their box office at 882-9721.

- Reviewed by Gretchen Wirges. Read the complete review at

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Poetry Galore! Tucson Celebrates Poetry Fellowship and Festival

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 at 4:38 PM

  • Hannah Ensor
  • TC Tolbert
Tucson's thriving poetry scene adds another accolade as TC Tolbert, the town's poet laureate, receives the Academy of American Poets $100,000 Laureate Fellowship.

Tolbert is a lecturer at the University of Arizona and is one of 13 poets nationwide to be honored with this fellowship.

"I'm absolutely humbled by this award and deeply grateful that the committee recognizes the necessity of amplifying the many voices of Tucson's trans, non-binary, and queer communities," said Tolbert, who identifies as trans and genderqueer.

The Academy of American Poets was founded in 1934 and works to champion poets, poetry and the work of poetry organizations. The Laureate Fellowship is a new award and this year reflects the theme of Poetry and Democracy.

"By supporting poets laureate at the state and local level, we hope to ensure that more people become acquainted with poets and poetry where they live and have an opportunity to benefit from innovative and groundbreaking programming close to home," said Michael Jacobs, chairman of the Academy of American Poets.

Tolbert already has plans to put the fellowship money to good use, and will conduct a series of workshops for primarily youth trans, non-binary, and queer, or TNBQ groups. The money will also go towards creating a series of public installations highlighting TNBQ and LGBTQ+ voices and issues across Tucson.

Tolbert earned a master's degree in creative writing with a specialization in poetry from the UA in 2005 and is the author of Gephyromania and four chapbooks of poetry.

"This is a fantastic honor for TC, who's one of our very favorite MFA alumni for both the quality of their work, as well as the attention to the local that's been a huge part of TC's presence and ethos as a teacher, writer, poet laureate and citizen," said Ander Monson, director of the UA Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing. "This honor is well deserved, very gratifying and not in the least surprising."

  • Courtesy Tucson Poetry Festival Facebook
Tucson Poetry Festival:

Poetry is everywhere this week! Along with the announcement of TC Tolbert's award, the Tucson Poetry Festival is taking place around town this weekend. Founded in 1981, the Tucson Poetry Festival works to celebrate, expand and create an audience for contemporary poetry in Tucson. Throughout a series of events, both local and visiting poets will share their work with the community. Find a full list of events on their website here.

Special events not to miss:

Kick-Off Reading for the 36th Annual Tucson Poetry Festival - This event will take place Thursday, April 25 at the Steinfeld Warehouse Community Arts Center. Local poets Kristen Nelson and Aura Valdes will read from their work and start off the festival for the year. 6:30 p.m. Donations requested. Details here.

  • Courtesy Tucson Poetry Festival Facebook
Poetry Party - Want to celebrate poetry with a side of fun? Party at Cafe Passe Friday night (April 26) and try the festival's signature cocktail "The Gesture." Ten percent of bar sales will go towards the festival fund for next year, so have a drink and help the festival as well! Sounds like a win-win. 9 p.m. Details here.

Finale Reading for the 36th Annual Tucson Poetry Festival - Although the finale reading, this isn't quite the last event for the festival but it's still one you won't want to miss. Head on over to Solar Culture on Saturday night to hear from national poets Angel Dominguez, Michael Klein, Baruch Porras-Hernandez, and 2018 National Student Poet Heather Laurel Jensen. 6:30 p.m. Donations requested. Details here.

Tucson Poetry Festival Presents: Community Open Mic - Now this one is, for real, the last event of the festival. So you had a busy weekend and you didn't make it to the other events, well there is still time! Fill your Sunday evening with poetry at Owl's Club, and if you are feeling brave, read one of your own poems! Sign-up opens at 6:30 p.m. reading starts at 7 p.m. Readings are limited to 2 to 3 minutes each. Details here.

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Send in the Clowns

Posted By on Fri, Apr 19, 2019 at 4:31 PM

  • Courtesy Photo

They say the circus arrives without warning, but what happens when the circus blows its top?

That’s exactly what happens in Quirkus Circus & the Missing Ringmaster, a new addition to the family series at Live Theatre Workshop.

The show attempts the impossible, seeking to create a storyline that can be enjoyed by the youngest members of the audience while also entertaining adults. And while it has moments of perfectly walking this tightrope, it also comes dangerously close to toppling in others.

Under the direction of Kristian Kissel, the players seamlessly mix their interactions with one another and the audience. The choreography and sets are simple but add just enough flourish to take the audience to the big top.

Quirkus Circus is an excellent way to introduce young children to theater. Running at just 45 minutes, it’s participatory, light and overall highly enjoyable.

Quirkus Circus & the Missing Ringmaster is playing at Live Theatre Workshop on Sundays at 12:30 p.m. through June 9. You can buy tickets on their website,, or by calling the box office at (520) 327-4242.

Find the rest of the review at

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Laughing Stock: Overstock!

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 4:32 PM

More than a dozen comedians will snap it out on Saturday, April 27 in the Battle at the Roast Room. - CLAYTON BRAASCH
  • Clayton Braasch
  • More than a dozen comedians will snap it out on Saturday, April 27 in the Battle at the Roast Room.

Comedy on a roll with popcorn

When David Pike took over operations at the Screening Room last year, he says, “Booking comedy was only a matter of finding the right person. After that it was mostly about who you know.” The right person turned out to be Marcus Raymond Gallegos. An actor and recent graduate of the UA School of Journalism, Gallegos started doing standup at Laff’s open mics before he was old enough to drink. In a meeting last June, Pike gave Gallegos a monthly slot on the second Wednesday. Thus began the reboot of comedy at the Screening Room.

For a few months in 2016, the theater hosted comedy five nights a week. That ended with a large gap in the comedy scene as management changed and work was done on the building. Pike began his own programming last May. He’ll celebrate the anniversary early next month with merch and special events, including a Cinco de Mayo comedy night. Tell us more! “It’s a secret,” Pike says. On May 9, though, standup comedians perform sets between shorts at Reel Tucson–Comedy. It’s a special edition of the monthly filmmakers’ showcase hosted by drag queens Zoey Ruby Bernard and Mary Jane.

Pike recently moved Gallegos’ showcase from the second Wednesday to a Friday or Saturday. Good news for the show’s status, but hard on fans. The exact date will change every month.

Meanwhile, Pike’s “who you know” angle landed the venue two shows with big production values for local comedy: Rich Gary’s Battle at the Roast Room and Keep Tucson Sketchy, a sketch comedy show. Both take full advantage of the venue’s deep stage and wide screen. Gary came to Pike’s attention through Frank Powers, whom Pike knew from multiple shows at The Screening Room. “Frank knows everybody,” Pike says. Yes. Yes he does. 

Hosted by Powers, Gary’s Battle at the Roast Room won the most buzz of any show in the recent CATcomedy520 LOL Crawl. The popular event repeats at the Screening Room at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 27. Sixteen comedians face off in a bracketed competition to determine who can snap the hardest. The audience keeps its own brackets; judges are comedians Rebecca Tingley, Jade Silence and Collin Chomiak. They determine the winners in each face-off. Comedians Cindell Hanson and Autumn Horvat offer color commentary between brackets. Andrew Applepie deejays. 

Contestants are reigning champion Monte Benjamin, Lex Schau, David Ross, Cody Stucki, Kathie Hedrick, Julian “Jules” Moreno, Alex Kack, Danyella Renae, Jack Fletcher, Roxy Merrari, Jeremy Segal, Joel Martin, Paul Fox, Harjap “Logan” Khangura and Daniel Villa. Tickets are $5 via

Keep Tucson Sketchy returns to The Screening Room on Saturday, May 18, with all new sketches, videos and sets projected on the big screen. Follow Keep Tucson Sketchy on Facebook for details as they are available.

So it’s a couple days late, my dude. Chillax, OK?

Roxy Merrari and Comedy at the Wench host a 420 comedy showcase on Monday, April 22. Take your time, but the show starts at 8. Requested donation is $5 at the door or via Venmo @comedyathewench. Tucson’s undisputed comedy king Pauly Casillas headlines. Nicole Riesgo, Marcus Gallegos, Julian “Jules” Moreno, Valdez Rene and Danyella Renae round out the bill.Tony Bruhn hosts. Vapen CBD will be on hand with swag.

Romo does Che’s. What?

Thursday, April 18 at 9 p.m., Steve Romo hosts the first known comedy show at Che’s Lounge. Incredibly, it’s free. Jericho Davidson tops a bill that includes some of Tucson’s best: Alex Kack, Rory Monserat, Leslie Barton, Matt Ziemak and Roxy Merrari, plus special guest Joe Tullar. Paul Jenkins provides live piano fills.n

Meanwhile, across the river ….

The indefatigable Mo Urban has started yet another show and it looks like it’s here to stay. The third BlackRock Brewery Showcase happens on Friday, April 19 at 7 p.m.; free. Pauly Casillas headlines; the rest of the bill includes Matt Ziemak, Bridgitte Thum, Joe Tullar, Steena Salido, Jana Gojic and Megan Gossen. 

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Laughing Stock: All over the place!

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 1:59 PM

All Over the Place!

Stephanie Lyonga is among several folks breaking new ground with comedy open mics. - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Stephanie Lyonga is among several folks breaking new ground with comedy open mics.
 Some comedy fans first drop in on an open mic for the free entertainment and drink specials. As they come more regularly, they learn to watch how a joke gets crafted and polished over time.

They trade snaps about how it might have landed better or what kind of future they see for a comic. Eventually they can enjoy watching people grow enough to start getting local showcase bookings. Who doesn’t love saying “I told you so”?

Maybe it’s like watching minor-league baseball? We honestly wouldn’t know. But in just the last six months, Tucson has sprouted several new playing fields for stand-up comedians at every level. Almost every night, our comics have a chance at bat, and sometimes get to play away venues.

Vail has been home to monthly Vail Laughs clean comedy shows for a few years already. But last month, Tucson comic Paul Fox introduced an over-21 showcase series at The Spotted Bull Eatery and Bar, 13005 E. Benson Highway. His next showcase there is at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 13. The lineup includes Roxy Merrari, who hosts the weekly Comedy at the Wench series; local touring professional Ali Musa; and Roy Lee Reynolds. Admission is $3.

With his comedy-business partner Jules Moreno, Reynolds is a kind of Johnny Appleseed of Tucson comedy. The pair blazed a trail to Benson in August with a monthly series at Riverside Inn Saloon, and they continue to take shows to Cilantro’s in Douglas about every other month. Lately Reynolds has helped organize and run an almost monthly Sunday open mic at the Music Box Pub, 6951 E. 22nd Street. It’s a natural, he says, because nine Tucson comics live within walking distance.

In the Fourth Avenue area, thick as it already is with comedy, Joel Martin has launched a combination showcase and open mic in the spacious beer garden of Corbett Brewery, 309 E Seventh Street. The show, Good Enough Comedy, starts at 9:30 every Wednesday night. The crowd swells with a pack of hardcore comedy lovers around 10 p.m. That’s when Mo Urban’s long-running 7:30 pm Wednesday open mic at Café Passé lets out. It’s around the corner at 414 N. Fourth Ave.

Monday has open mic fans scrambling for their Ubers. After Merrari’s three-year-old, 7 p.m. mic at Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., they dash to a mic recently started by Stephanie Lyonga at Putney’s Pitstop Sports Bar and Grill, 6070 N. Oracle Road. Show time is 8 p.m. After a long break from comedy, Lyonga’s working on new material every week and that alone is worth the drive.

Farther north, fans find Dave Margolis’ new Monday showcase and mic at Casa Marana Craft Beer and Wine, 8225 N Courtney Page Way, suite 191. The show, called Casa de Comedy, starts at 7 p.m. This week’s guests are Ron B. Rown, Drake Horner, Chris Quinn, Paul Lucie, Emma Stephens and Danny Keaton.

Meanwhile ...

Let's also celebrate the long-running pinnacle of Tucson’s open mic scene, Laffs Comedy Caffé (8 p.m., Thursdays, 2900 E. Broadway Blvd). Saving the best for last, we welcome the already famous Patton Oswalt this weekend. (8 p.m. Sunday, April 14,, $39.50 to $75).

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Friday, April 5, 2019

Animator for Yellow Submarine, Scooby Doo, Smurfs Exhibits in Tucson

Posted By on Fri, Apr 5, 2019 at 4:49 PM

Ron Campbell, an animator known for his work on The Beatles' Yellow Submarine, Scooby Doo, the Smurfs, Rugrats, Winnie the Pooh, Flintstones and more, will be exhibiting and presenting at Arizona Picture & Frame Gallery from Monday, April 8 to Wednesday, April 10.

  • Courtesy

This is a great opportunity to capture a piece of childhood, as all artworks are available to purchase. Campbell's work has become iconic in the pop and psychedelic art world over multiple decades, even influencing Disney and Nickelodeon animation.

Campbell will showcase his original Beatles cartoon paintings and make original "remarques" for customers who purchase any of his art work. Ron will also feature other artwork based on his 50-year career in cartoons.   
  • Courtesy

Campbell exhibits at Arizona Picture & Frame Gallery, 4523 E. Speedway Blvd. From 2 - 6 p.m., Monday, April 8; 4 - 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 9; 4 - 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 10. Free admission.

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Thursday, April 4, 2019

A Sexhibiton Without Inhibition: Tucson Erotica Festival Kicks Off its Ninth Year

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2019 at 10:39 AM

  • Inna Rohr

Sculpture Resource Center artist Joshua Woodhall says he’s been doing art ever since he had the motor skills for it. He has this memory of checking out a library book in middle school and drawing something lewd on its pages.

“The silly librarian took it all over looking for who drew it,” he says. “Everybody got to see my boob drawing.”

This weekend, Tucsonans will have their own chance to see Woodhall’s erotic pieces at the ninth annual Tucson Erotica opening reception at the Sculpture Resource Center, 640 N. Stone Ave., 7 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, April 6. Past iterations of the festival have included pieces ranging from traditional nudes to the type of sculpture you really can’t resist walking around to see from every angle to arguably over-the-top depictions of orgies. But that’s the thing: Nothing is over-the-top at this sex-positive festival. This year, the event will include literary art for the first time as well.

Event organizer Inna Rohr met two burlesque performers at last year’s event, and was so impressed by their sexual energy that she created a series of paintings featuring them.

“They were both really strong an powerful, and the had this absolutely magnificent presence about them,” she says. “The series addresses same-sex relationships and intimacy and how it doesn’t matter who you are because love is still love.”

This is Rohr’s fifth year being involved with the festival. Last year, her featured pieces were playfully positioned bananas and donuts. But she spent much of her last year traveling the world, including visiting family in Estonia. In some places she visited, same-sex relationships aren’t yet normalized.

“The work I was inspired to do there inspired some conversations, and inspired some mind changing,” she said. “That was a cool conversation to have… It’s such a beautiful thing to be in love and to express your feelings and to be okay with it and not worry about what other people would think.”

The cover art she created for the festival also features two women. One of them (the one holding the whip), who goes by the stage name Fiametta Mink, is in charge of organizing the performers for this year’s event. Mink didn’t find her way to burlesque until her 40s, and she said last year’s Tucson Erotica was a particularly good place to perform – she and the other dancers weren’t on a stage, so they were practically face-to-face with audience members who were as respectful as they were enthused.

Continue reading »

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