The Fall Arts Preview 

Mat Bevel's joyous, vibrant kinetic sculptures move to Tucson Museum of Art as part of the season's cultural offerings

The Mat Bevel arts warehouse on Stone went down last week in a blaze of rubble and bricks, but its crazy kinetic sculptures have found temporary refuge in the Tucson Museum of Art.

The museum's upper galleries are shimmering with shiny sculptures shaped from TV sets, bedframes, bicycles, curling curves of wire and even crutches. Visitors are allowed—nay, welcomed—to pull the pieces' electrical switches to set them in motion and ablaze with light.

These mad genius creations are the work of Ned Schaper, aka Mat Bevel, a Tucson artist who's labored in near obscurity for years.

"I've been following his work since I came here in 1995," says TMA's Julie Sasse, who curated the massive show, "Welcome to Beveldom," which runs through Sept. 28. "Of all the people staying in the trenches, staying true to their vision, regardless of the market, Ned keeps making interesting art on target with his vision."

Schaper had hoped to make a Beviled Ark, by piling all his displaced works into one monster sculpture on wheels, and roll it on down to the museum. Didn't happen: some things are impossible even for outsider geniuses. But Schaper will be at the museum at 6 p.m. on Sept. 11 to do one of his legendary performances. Speaking as someone who has seen his daring performances—in which he wrestles, wears and rides art machines—I can say unequivocally that that's the best way to see their kinetics.

And what better way to celebrate the opening of the Tucson arts season, than to watch an artistic original who's undeterred by economic reality—or the demands of a new road—shooting off artistic sparks, literal and otherwise?

Fall 2014 is as packed with art exhibitions, plays, dance, music, readings and movies as it is possible for one desert burg to be. Just to pick one art-dense weekend in mid-October, we've got a mariachi opera about migrants, "Cruzar la Cara de la Luna" at Arizona Opera (Oct. 18 and 19, at Tucson Music Hall) and a new ballet version of "Phantom of the Opera" by Ballet Tucson (Oct. 17 to 19, Stevie Eller Dance Theatre).

We have work by contemporary Indian artists responding to the Indian photos of Edward S. Curtis (Arizona State Museum, Oct. 18 to March 31) and "The Zoo Story" by Edward Albee staged by Speak the Speech Theatre in its new Community Playhouse at 1881 N. Oracle Road (Oct. 10 to 26).

And we have incursions from the world of high-profile political and pop culture: Bill Maher stops at Tucson Music Hall Oct. 5. Jay Leno alights at Centennial Hall Oct. 25 and the irascible Alec Baldwin follows on Nov. 15. A traveling production of Flashdance, God help us, sashays into the same hall Nov. 4 to 9, imported by Broadway in Tucson.

What follows is the merest sketch, as it were, of the rich tapestry of fine arts that will unfurl in town clear through New Year's. There's not enough space here to mention every play and concert and exhibition. Check the arts organizations' websites for their full schedules, and consult the Tucson Weekly each week for the latest listings. For pop, rock, jazz and indie at the Rialto and the Fox and elsewhere, consult the TW music section. Many thanks to Irene Messina, the indefatigable and indispensable TW assistant editor, for gathering much of this material.


Davis Dominguez gives a boost to emerging artists in "Four to Watch," Sept. 18 to Oct. 25. Energetic young painter Jenny Day showed improbable Alaska paintings last year; it will be fun to see what another year in the desert has done to her aesthetic. She's joined by painters Juan Enriquez and Josh Olivera, and Michael Fadel, who—shades of Mat Bevel—makes kinetic sculpture. In the next show, the narrative installation "Pool Project" by Alfred Quiroz, the gallery's "resident socio-historical satirist," plays a raucous counterpoint to serene abstractions by Pamela Marks (painting) and Carrie Seid (wall sculpture). Oct. 30 to Dec. 6.

Australian artist Kate Breakey, long since transplanted to the Arizona desert and best known for her riveting painted photos of dead birds, does something entirely different in every single show. This time it's landscape and still life photos in "Without and Within" at Etherton Gallery, opening at a reception 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13; runs through Nov. 1. Breakey shares the space with photog Keith Carter, who conjures the "secrets and folklore" of East Texas, and fellow avian artist Ed Pusante, who paints birds on vintage cigar boxes. The artists lecture at the Center for Creative Photography at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 12.

An all-photography show runs at Etherton Nov. 8 through Jan. 3, with new work by Jamey Stillings, who wowed Tucson a few years back with his transcendent photos of the new Hoover Dam bypass bridge. Joining Stillings are David Emitt Adams, Richard Laugharn, and Chris Colville. Reception 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8.

The new Baker + Hesseldenz Gallery in the Warehouse Arts District at Sixth and Sixth introduces its edgy side to Tucson in the delightfully named "New Contemporary: lowbrow popsurrealist group show." Co-proprietor Scott Baker says the 13 exhibitors are "modern masters" from Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Vancouver and beyond. Reception 7 to 10, Oct. 4; runs through Nov. 21.

The UA's Poetry Center also hosts cutting-edge—and heart-rending—visual art from California. Artist and poet Karen Green is the acclaimed author of "Bough Down," a mixed-media book that one reviewer called a "harrowing and beautiful document" of her grief after the 2008 suicide of her husband, writer David Foster Wallace. A noted visual artist in her own right, Green opens her show of new drawings and collage works, "Lie Quietly," in a meet-the-artist reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Sept. 26. Show runs through Dec. 10.

Also on campus, the Center for Creative Photography hosts "Performance," a selection from the collection of Doug Nielsen, UA modern dance professor and art collector extraordinaire. Curated by the Center's brand-new curator, Joshua Chuang, "Performance" displays just the photos in the enormous cache of art Nielsen keeps stashed in his Ice House loft downtown. Noted photogs on view include Jo Ann Callis, who will give a talk at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 18, Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin. Tucson's own Judy Miller has a marvelous wax-figured Mona Lisa at the Grand Canyon. Through Jan. 4. Nielsen promises to have his student dancers perform among the photos, at a date to be determined.


By my count at least 33 plays will strut and fret their hour upon the stage this fall in Tucson. And one, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised]," playing at Live Theatre Workshop Sept. 6 to Oct. 11, counts as 37, the exact number of plays the Bard wrote. In just 97 minutes, this three-person comedy satirizes every last one of them.

In other bardic news, Shakespeare in the Park returns to Himmel Park for the eighth year with a full-throttle "King Lear," staged in the grassy amphitheater near the library. Performed by El Rio Theatre Project, the tragedy about the king who is more sinn'd against than sinning runs three weekends, at 7 p.m., Sept. 19 to Oct. 5. Shows are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday the first weekend, and Thursday through Sunday thereafter. Call 791-5909 for info. "The Tempest" blows into Pima College West's Proscenium Theater Nov. 20 and 21, performed by the thespians of Aquila Theatre, a traveling troupe out of New York known for making the classics hip.

Other plays on offer were penned by the usual hit parade of famous authors—Clifford Odets, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee. Christopher Durang, an acclaimed living playwright, spoofs Chekhov in "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," the season opener at Arizona Theatre Company, Sept. 19 to Oct. 4. Durang transplants his comical quartet from Chekhov's rural Russian cherry orchard to a country house in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Clifford Odets comes courtesy of the Rogue Theatre, which kicks off its 10th season with "Awake and Sing," the 1935 classic about a Jewish family in the mid-Depression Bronx. Sept. 11 to 28. Winding Road Theater Ensemble tackles Miller's "Death of a Salesman" Nov. 6 to 23. The challenging 1949 play, winner of Pulitzer and Tony best play awards, has the juicy role of the tragic Willy Loman, last played on Broadway in 2012 by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

And, I'm happy to report, at least three plays were of women playwrights born, as MacBeth might have said. Dawn Costello Sellers wrote "Jaguar!" after tracking the elusive beast in Mexico. Inspired by the unfortunate 2009 death of the Arizona jaguar Macho B, the new play is performed by the Latina Dance Theater Project, returning after a several-year hiatus. The production benefits the Sky Island Alliance; Sept. 6 to 21 at ZUZI.

Heather Raffo, another adventurer, came up with "9 Parts of Desire," about the lives of nine Iraqi women, after traveling to Baghdad. The play unspools during the decades from the first Gulf War to the occupation that succeeded the second. Oct. 16 to Nov. 15 at Live Theatre Workshop.

The third female playwright, the prolific Toni Press-Coffman, co-authored "Hers and His" with Michael Fenlason, of the new Strada Company. It makes its debut in a mix of nine plays being staged at the Tucson Fringe Theater Festival, Sept. 12 to 14. (See TW theater critic Sherilyn Forrester's story this issue about Strada and the festival.)

At Borderlands, season opener "They Call Me a Hero" is a deeply local play. It recounts the story of Daniel Hernandez, the young aide credited with helping save Gabrielle Giffords' life on Jan. 8, 2011. Directed by longtime artistic director Barclay Goldsmith, "Hero" was written by Guillermo Reyes and based on Hernandez's memoir of the same title. It premieres at ZUZI Sept. 26 and runs through Oct. 12. Coincidentally, Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, will repair to Centennial Hall on Oct. 26, for an evening of conversation about the ways their tragedy transformed them.

Invisible Theatre's opener is another serious drama. "A Kid like Jake," a 2013 play by Daniel Pearle, looks at how parents—and a preschool—respond to a little boy who adores Cinderella and likes to wear dresses. Through Sept. 14.

The talented students of the university's Arizona Repertory Theatre turn to comedy in "Lend Me a Tenor." An operatic bedroom farce set in 1930s Cleveland, it zeroes in on a broken-hearted tenor. Sept. 21 to Oct 12. The company conjures up "Frankenstein" during Halloween season, Oct. 19 to Nov. 9, overlapping with Ballet Tucson's spooky "Phantom." And the busy young triple threats close out the semester with the full musical version of "The Full Monty," Nov. 9 to Dec. 7.

And speaking of musicals, a traveling production of Flashdance sashays into Centennial Nov. 4 to 9, imported by Broadway in Tucson. Tucson's own satirical musical companies go head to head this fall. Longtime Gaslight Theatre stages "Cronan the Barbarian" from Sept. 4 to Nov. 9. Newcomer Great American Playhouse is "Beetle-Juiced" from Sept. 4 to Nov. 15.

ATC, as always, celebrates the holidays with a musical, but this year, "Murder for Two," mixes "music, mayhem and murder," not to mention comedy. An Off-Broadway hit nominated for string of awards, "Murder" is performed by two nimble-and-quick two actors handling 13 different roles Dec. 5 to 20.


The city's modern dance card is not as crowded as it once was. The innovative troupe NEW ARTiculations is unfortunately on hiatus, and other small companies have disappeared. But Artifact Dance Project is thriving; the contemporary/ballet troupe has rehabbed a downtown warehouse. Days after Mat Bevel's kinetic paradise was bulldozed, Artifact opened the doors of its new studio at 17 E. Toole. The space hosts dance classes but also allows for small-scale concerts. On Oct. 24, at a clothing sale benefit, the debut performance, "Wearhouse," will combine DJ Sync's music with improv dances inspired by the clothes. For "Down in Town," Dec. 16, Artifact will perform to the music of frequent collaborators Reverie and Heather Hardy. Artistic director Claire Hancock and Ashley Bowman will choreograph movement for company dancers.

Over at the UA's Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, prof Doug Nielsen—he of the photography collection—sets his modern pieces "You Again" and "The Wrong Dance" on student dancers for the "Premium Blend" concerts Oct. 23 to Nov. 2. The show of mostly faculty choreography is highlighted by "Four Last Songs," created by the renowned Ben Stevenson, former artistic director of Houston Ballet. The UA School of Dance also offers up "Jazz in AZ," a series of one-hour jazz dance concerts Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. "In Focus" puts the spotlight on student choreography Dec. 4 to 7.

ZUZI! Dance helps keep modern alive in its regular "No Frills-Cheap Thrills Dance Happenin'" concerts, open to all local choreographers and dancers. The next episode of this long-running entertainment is Oct. 24 and 25 at ZUZI! Theatre in the Historic YWCA. The annual holiday "Solstice Celebration" this year lights the darkness on the nights of Dec. 19 to 21.

Jessica Lang Dance, a young and energetic company from New York City, dances three concerts at Centennial Hall Nov. 11 to 13. Lang reinterprets ballet into striking contemporary works of "pure gorgeousness," as one reviewer put it.

Ethnic dance shines in the Sixth Annual Tucson Flamenco Festival, at Casa Vicente Spanish restaurant, 375 S. Stone, indoors and out, Sept. 23 to 28. Among the visiting performers celebrating the sensuous dances of Andalucía are dancer and choreographer Sonia Olla, singer Ismael de la Rosa and guitarist Jose "Chuscales" Valle. The dance festival also includes a guitar competition, nightly audience-participation rumba parties and dance workshops.

And speaking of ballet, once Ballet Tucson finishes up its opening gala featuring "Phantom of the Opera," "Joplin" and "Boler-O," it's a straight jeté to "Nutcracker" season. Seven or eight local troupes offer up their own versions, but Ballet Tucson and Tucson Regional Ballet's concerts are the biggies. Tucson Regional's popular "Southwest Nutcracker," set in 1880s Tucson, will be danced Dec. 13 and 14 at the Tucson Music Hall; the Tucson Symphony Orchestra plays the Tchaikovsky score live. Ballet Tucson, the city's only professional troupe, takes the after-Christmas slot this year, staging its classic Victorian version Dec. 26 to 28 at Tucson Music Hall.


Tucson Symphony Orchestra, one of the oldest arts organization in the city, opens its packed season Sept. 26 and 28 at the Music Hall with a classic concert of "American Essentials." Music director George Hanson, in his last season, leads TSO through Bernstein's "On the Town," Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F and Copland's Symphony No. 3. Alain Lefèvre is the guest pianist.

TSO also performs smaller "Masterworks" concerts at Catalina Foothills High School; guest violinist Lauren Roth plays on Menotti's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra Oct. 18 and 19. And sometimes the symphony jumps into pop: Broadway singer Michael Cavanaugh sings the songs of Paul Simon, Neil Diamond and James Taylor to orchestral accompaniment Oct. 25 at the Music Hall.

Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, another longtime Tucson stalwart, has a rep for importing top chamber musicians to the Old Pueblo. It opens its 67th annual series with the Hagen Quartet on Nov. 5 and 6, followed by the Morgenstern Trio Dec. 10 and 11. Its separate Piano and Friends series features Behzod Abduraimov on piano Nov. 9. All shows are at Leo Rich.

The other musical powerhouse, Arizona Opera, stages one more opera this fall following the groundbreaking mariachi work in October. On Nov. 22 and 23, the company returns to an old favorite, Verdi's 1851 tragedy "Rigoletto" at the Music Hall. A critically acclaimed young soprano, Anna Christy, sings the part of Gilda.

Tucson has a host of beloved choral groups. The Sons of Orpheus men's choir presents a magical concert at Mission San Xavier del Bac each year just before Christmas; this year's performances are Dec. 9 to 11. Southern Arizona Women's Chorus performs "Peace, Lullabies and Winter Song" – including "Dona Nobis Pacem" in Latin – Dec. 5 at Catalina Foothills High School and Dec. 7 at Ascension Lutheran Church. Arizona Repertory Singers perform a Christmas show at St. Thomas Apostle Church Dec. 7, and the Benedictine Monastery Dec. 14 and 19.

And for something completely different – and completely Celtic – Don Gest presents two bands from Ireland. Five-member traditional ensemble Beoga plays Sept. 20, aided by the young Tir Conaill Dancers of Tucson. Instrumental band Lunasa pairs with guest soloist Karan Casey Dec. 14. Both shows are at Berger.


Don't forget the reading series at Antigone Books, everyone's favorite independent store. In fall highlights, on Sept. 12, Tucsonan Marge Pellegrino reads from "Journey of Dreams," her YA novel of a refugee family fleeing Guatemala. Pellegrino is joined by two other authors of teen fiction, Lydia Millet and Austin Aslan. On Sept. 26, Arizonan Mary Sojourner presents "29," her raucous desert novel. Nonfiction writer Alison Hawthorne Deming hits the UA Poetry Center on Oct. 2 (with Susan Briante) and Antigone on Oct. 3, to read from her new book of essays, "Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit."

POG & Friends, a poetry group, kicks off its season with a massive group read on Sept. 20. A host of writers, including yours truly, each will read from their work for three minutes or less at Conrad Wilde Gallery in the Steinfeld Warehouse. Casa Libre en la Solana powers up its reading series this month; a highlight is "Stjukshon: An Indigenous Reading Series," on Sept.26, featuring three authors, Adrian L. Jawort, Cinnamon Spear and Luella N. Brien. The Pumpkin Vyne Singers perform.

For a little moon magic, "Glow! 2014: A Nighttime Art Experience" rolls out under moonlight on a high-desert Oracle ranch. Lighted sculptures guide visitors down pathways, and musicians perform on an outdoor stage. Sept. 6 and 13, Oct. 4 and 11 at Triangle L Ranch.

For a little magic magic, step into the Carnival of Illusion: An Evening of Old-World Magic at the Doubletree Hotel. Magicians Susan Eyed and Roland Sarlot conjure tricks and mysteries in a charming Victorian-style show. Most Fridays and Saturdays from Sept. 26 to Dec. 20.

And for lots of movie magic, try the three-screen Loft Cinema on for size. Throughout September, in addition to a full roster of current indie movies, the Loft hosts a Quentin Tarantino retrospective. October brings a month-long retro on Monty Python.

The Loft Film Fest, Oct. 16 to 19, combines live conversations with film artists with a roster of recent festival-screened movies, including "I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story," "White Bird in a Blizzard" and "Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter." Filmmakers David and Nathan Zellner, creators of "Kumiko," will show up in person to talk about their movie.

More by Margaret Regan


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