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

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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.

More by Margaret Regan


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