The Spring Arts Preview

From theater to classical music to dance to a whole lot of glass works, the coming months are packed with culture

Welcome to 2011, arts-wise

The good news is that Tucson’s lively arts calendar is crowded with great things to come: a major glass art festival, ¡Viva el Vidrio!; dance from two of the 20th century’s top choreographers, Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham; new music at the Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival; and a number of ambitious theater productions with playwrights ranging from Shakespeare to Rachel Corrie.

The bad news is that our survey of the arts can’t possibly include everything. Arts-lovers of all stripes should scan our expanded listings this week, and our regular coverage in the coming months. As always, pop, rock and jazz fans should consult the Weekly’s comprehensive music section.

We like the attitude of the Tucson Museum of Art, which is kicking off a new program called Art After Dark on Feb. 11. The multi-genre arts eruption coincides with the opening of two big glass exhibitions: Borderlandia and Precarious Rocks. The fire dancers of Elemental Artistry will light up the night with flames, and the young troupers of the Parasol Project will do performance art, the exact nature of which will be a surprise. Inspired by choreographer Doug Nielsen’s injection of modern dance into the museum’s galleries during a superb performance last fall, Art After Dark will repeat every two months. The events will combine visual art with dance, music or performance art, says TMA’s Meredith Hayes.

”The city needs a celebration of everything art,” she says.

We couldn’t agree more.

Visual Arts

On a cold January day last week, Tom Philabaum was in his downtown studio pondering the stability of his “Precarious Rocks.”

They’re not really rocks, but they did look precarious. Philabaum had arranged the gorgeously colored orbs one atop the other, and they seemed like they could fall at any minute.

They’d better not. For one thing, they’re fragile; the sculptures’ globes are of delicate blown glass. For another, they’re scheduled to go on view soon at the Tucson Museum of Art.

”I’m three weeks to my TMA installation,” Philabaum said, picking up a glistening sphere in mottled blue. “And I’m still working on how to attach the wall pieces to the wall.”

For his first-ever solo exhibition at the TMA, opening Feb. 11, Philabaum is pushing hard to finish eight pedestal pieces and either two or three wall works—depending on how fast he can make them. And on March 2, less than a month after he sets up the glass sculptures in the “well” at TMA—a lower-level space visible from every level of the museum’s atrium—he’s opening a smaller-scale version of the show at Davis Dominguez Gallery.

”It’s all coming together in my later career,” the 63-year-old glass artist said. “I’ve been in the Biennial at the TMA, and I’m in the collections, but I’ve never had a show of my own there. This series brings together everything I’ve learned from 40 years of being a glassblower.”

The two lifetime-achievement exhibitions are not the only things keeping Philabaum in overdrive of late. He’s been masterminding the Tucson glass festival ¡Viva el Vidrio! (Long Live Glass), an extravaganza of exhibitions, opening from February through April at two museums and a dozen galleries. The festival will culminate in a weekend of flaming glass demos and gallery tours on April 8 to 10.

”This is great for our art community,” Philabaum says with a certain pride of ownership. “We’re all struggling. We’re on pins and needles trying to survive” the recession.

But this boost for Tucson’s art scene almost didn’t happen.

In the summer of 2009, the international Glass Art Society committed to an April 2011 conference in Tucson, after strenuous lobbying by Philabaum, who’s nationally known—not only for his own art, but for his advocacy of his medium. Philabaum set to work enlisting the city’s galleries and museums as participants. Ironically, given the wave of anti-immigration sentiment sweeping Arizona, the conference was to have a Latin flavor, with exhibitions examining the cross-cultural currents between Mexican and Southwestern glass artists.

Then came SB 1070. The law, partially blocked by a federal judge in July, would allow local police to inquire into the immigration status of “suspicious” persons they stop.

The week after Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill last April, the Glass Art Society voted to pull the conference out of Tucson. (It’s now scheduled to take place in Seattle.)

It was a devastating loss to the city. The last time the society descended on the Old Pueblo, for a 1997 conference, some 1,400 members turned up, crowding museums and galleries, buying art and paying for hotels, meals and tours.

”I was really disappointed for Tucson,” Philabaum says. “We lost $1.5 million to $2 million” in potential earnings.

But within days, he picked himself up and proposed a smaller-scale festival.

”Tom big-time pulled it all back together,” gallerist Terry Etherton said.

The fiesta won’t draw the hordes of conferees, but Philabaum persuaded most of the galleries to continue with plans to exhibit glass art with a local and/or Latin flavor.

”We decided to go ahead and do it,” said Etherton, whose gallery will show the whimsical blown-glass cacti of Flo Perkins of New Mexico. “A big part of the reason we’re showing Flo is that she is highly recommended by Tom. She does pretty great stuff.”

Perkins’ glass desert plants will be planted in a “rock environment” that Etherton plans to have constructed on the gallery floor. The New Earthly Delights show, also including paintings by Gail Marcus-Orlen and mixed media by Mayme Kratz and Tim Lanterman, will run March 29 through May 28.

The cavalcade of glass shows will demonstrate just how versatile the medium is. While Perkins, like Philabaum, makes blown glass, Tucson’s Janet Miller is a reverse-glass painter: She paints images of women and landscapes on the back of transparent sheets of glass. Miller will have a solo show at Etherton’s satellite Temple Gallery from April 8 to May 28.

Over at the University of Arizona Museum of Art, Ana Thiel, a leading Mexican glass artist, will exhibit “cast glass that’s been sand-blasted,” explained curator Lauren Rabb. But her pieces also incorporate found objects. “Glass is in the work but does not dominate,” she said. “It has very personal, emotional content.”

The UAMA show is a 30-year retrospective for the San Miguel de Allende artist. It began in Guanajuato in a somewhat different form, and will travel to Belgium after its stay at the UAMA.

”She’s quite well-known among glass artists,” Rabb noted, adding, “Tom Philabaum recommended her.”

Next door, the university’s Joseph Gross Gallery will exhibit six glass artists in a Latin American Invitational that runs from Feb. 14 to April 10. Jane Hamilton Fine Arts in the foothills has enlisted Tucson artist Lee Augst, who will be showing fused Southwest-themed glass from April 8 to 20.

See the accompanying box for a list of the glass shows, or visit

Normally, Mike Dominguez, of Davis-Dominguez Gallery, said, “I don’t show glass.” But he is showing Philabaum.

”I visualized this for years,” he said.

He’ll put Philabaum’s Precarious Rocks in his salon gallery, and hang James Cook’s paintings of “natural and industrial landscapes” in the main gallery, from March 2 through April 16. “They’re a good match,” he said.

Over at the TMA, chief curator Julie Sasse has organized Borderlandia, Cultural Topographies by Einar and Jamex de la Torre, two brothers whose wildly creative works came out of the fertile artistic cauldron of Tijuana.

”They’re into the idea of cultural hybridity, border issues, low and high art,” Sasse said. “Glass is their primary medium,” but they combine classic Italian glassblowing with Mexican utilitarian glassware. The de la Torres decided not to participate in the SB 1070 boycott of Arizona, Sasse said, because they believe “that doesn’t serve the people they’re trying to reach.”

Among their works, “We’ll have a 10-foot-tall glass Ferris wheel,” Sasse said. With all the complicated pieces, “We’ll have a full week of working day and night for the installation.”

Borderlandia will fill the museum’s upper galleries at the same time that Philabaum’s Precarious Rocks installation occupies the well (Feb. 11 through June 12). The “opening salvo,” as Philabaum calls it, is Friday night, Feb. 11, during the reception paired with Art After Dark.

Philabaum’s earlier works mostly echoed the vessel shape of functional glass art, Sasse said, and the rocks series represents an inventive new direction.

”I’m excited that he’s branching out to a sculptural form,” she said. “It’s really interesting.”

Plus, she added, “He’s such a great promoter of the medium.”

Classical Music

The Tucson Symphony Orchestra gets the prize for Most Dramatic Kickoff to the Classical Music Season. Earlier this week, superstar pianist Lang Lang played with the orchestra in a concert at the TCC Music Hall.

But it was the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music who first brought Lang to town, when he was a mere 17 years old, still a student at Curtis Institute of Music and just starting to get attention for his fiery playing style. The Friends, directed by long-time executive director Jean-Paul Bierny, have been introducing new musicians to Tucsonans for more than 60 years. The presenting organization also commissions new work, and every year turns the town into a music paradise with its annual Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival.

This year, the festival unfurls from March 6 to 13, with performances by Apollo’s Fire Baroque Ensemble and the Borromeo String Quartet. Composer Olli Mustonen debuts a work commissioned by the AFCM.

If you don’t want to wait for the festival, the AFCM bring the Ives String Quartet to town on Feb. 2, the Auryn String Quartet on Feb. 16, and, after the festival, the Ens String Quartet on April 13. In the Piano and Friends series, baritone Christòpheren Nomura sings while Kevin Fitz-Gerald tickles the ivories in a concert on Jan. 30. Visit

The Tucson Symphony Orchestra is off to see the wizard—of Oz, that is—next week, on Jan. 22 and 23. Oz With Orchestra pairs the symphony with the 1939 movie, which will screen above the Music Hall stage. Guest conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos leads the musicians through “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but it’s Judy Garland’s voice you’ll hear. The TSO’s Terry Marshall said the audience will “hear the dialogue and vocals, but our orchestra will play the music.” A bonus: “Most people have seen the movie only on TV,” Marshall noted, and this re-mastered print will put the Emerald City and that yellow-brick road back on the widescreen, where they belong.

The TSO has four classical-series concerts on the bill, each conducted by George Hanson. Violinist Dylana Jenson guest stars this weekend, Jan. 14 and 16, in a concert of Rossini, Lalo and Respighi. Pianist Terrence Wilson, a returning favorite, plays Feb. 11 and 13 in a program featuring Liszt and Ravel. TSO’s own principal horn, Johanna Lundy, makes her solo debut in Glière’s Concerto for Horn on April 8 and 10; the concert also includes the popular Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition. Hanson conducts Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade without guest artists on March 11 and 13.

Concertmaster Aaron Boyd shines in a recital with principal keyboardist Paula Fan on Jan. 30 at the Tucson Symphony Center. For more information on TSO’s MasterWorks Series, Just for Kids and TSO Pops! concerts, visit

At one time, Tucson could boast of being one of a handful of cities its size that had a symphony, a ballet and an opera company. Alas, Arizona Opera has moved to Phoenix. At least it’s still making road trips to its Tucson birthplace, to stage operas complete with guest stars, sumptuous costumes and a live orchestra. Next up is Turandot, Puccini’s 1926 tale of a Chinese princess who’s a little hard on her beaux; in Italian, Jan. 29 and 30, at TCC Music Hall. Verdi’s 1887 Otello, based on the Shakespeare play, is also sung in Italian, March 5 and 6. The Abduction From the Seraglio, a 1782 opera by Mozart, is performed in German. The exotic Moorish fantasy has never before been performed in Arizona, according to the company. Visit for more information.

UApresents snagged Joshua Bell, probably the world’s most famous violinist, for a concert of Brahms, Schubert and Grieg, with pianist Sam Haywood at Centennial Hall on Feb. 12. The chamber ensemble Academy of St. Martin in the Fields follows at the UA’s Crowder Hall on Feb. 20, playing Brahms, Shostakovich and Mendelssohn. For concerts of world, jazz and blues (including B.B. King on Feb. 14 and Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis on Feb. 18), visit

And keep in mind: The UA School of Music offers fine classical music at bargain-basement prices; visit


UApresents gets off to a lively start on Jan. 28, with Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca, a traditional flamenco troupe. Dancers will be accompanied by live musicians on stage at Centennial.

But two dead choreographers get the top billing of the UApresents season.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s farewell tour arrives March 12. One of the top choreographers of the 20th century, Cunningham died in 2009, leaving instructions that his troupe disband on New Year’s Eve 2011. The dancers on this legacy tour are the last he trained.

Fellow modern dance genius Martha Graham died in 1991. Now directed by Janet Eilber, the company will dance Appalachian Spring, her signature 1944 work, with a score by Aaron Copland. The concert is scheduled for April 16.

Trey McIntyre, just 40, has already composed more than 75 contemporary ballets, for such leading companies as New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. His Trey McIntyre Project dances at Centennial on March 26.

Ballet Tucson, the city’s own professional troupe, presents its ever-popular Dance and Dessert concert at the UA Stevie Eller Dance Theater on March 11 to 13, unfortunately overlapping with Merce one night. Now in its 25th season and awash in excellent young dancers, Ballet Tucson tackles Swan Lake on April 23 and 24 at Centennial. Visit

The recession’s been hard on the small modern-dance troupes, but Yvonne Montoya nevertheless debuted her Safos Dance Theatre last spring with some smart works on the Latino experience. Fusion, at ZUZI Theater on March 26, reprises “Their Souls Swallowed by the Sun,” about the deaths of migrants, and presents new pieces by Renee Blakeley, Laura Reichhardt and Montoya. Search for the company on Facebook for more information.

The Latina Dance Project is a nationally touring performance art/dance troupe that includes Tucson’s Eva Tessler. Their Slumber of Reason runs April 8 to 10 at ZUZI, under the auspices of Borderlands Theater. Last year, the provocative project performed a spellbinding spoken-word piece about the murders of women in Ciudad Juárez. Visit

ZUZI! Dance Company has fared well in the recession by operating its own theater, in the Historic YWCA, and running a school. After an ambitious 2010, ZUZI! ramps it up again by doing two choreographers’ showcases instead of the usual one. No Frills Dance Happenin’: You Gotta Have HeART is scheduled for Feb. 11 and 12; the next one, as yet untitled, is April 22 and 23. The company’s big spring show, Come Together, inspired by the Beatles, is set for May 13 to 15. Visit

NEW ARTiculations Dance Theatre presents Watershed on April 15 and 16 at Pima Community College West Center for the Arts. The experimental troupe delights in dancing in odd places; this show will feature excerpts from FLOW, a water piece to be performed in a wash this summer, pre-monsoon. Guest choreographers Thom Lewis and Charlotte Adams contribute new work. Visit

Broadway in Tucson is staging two dance-y traveling shows at the Music Hall. Bill T. Jones, a noted modern choreographer, and the play won multiple Tony Awards for the rock musical Spring Awakening, which alights in Tucson Feb. 1 to 6. Burn the Floor, April 19 to 24, is a ballroom-dance extravaganza, with 20 dancers doing every dance from the Lindy to the rumba. Visit


It’s all Wicked all the time on the UA campus right now. The musical that gives an alternate view of Oz, co-presented by UApresents and Broadway in Tucson, is occupying Centennial Hall until Jan. 23.

While the show’s green-faced witch is explaining to local audiences just how she got to be so bad, the Rogue Theatre is staging one of Shakespeare’s most beautiful plays, The Tempest, a magical meditation on art. (See reviews of both in this week’s Performing Arts section.)

That’s the beauty of the Tucson theater scene: If you don’t like one play, you can find another.

The Rogue Theatre, founded six seasons ago by Cynthia Meier and Joseph McGrath, is a serious enterprise devoted to performing serious works.

”What we do is not always easy, and it’s not always easy for an audience,” Meier says. “We find that the audience we draw likes a challenge. And that’s fine with us, because we like a challenge, too.”

Proving her point: The Rogue performs Harold Pinter’s Old Times from Feb. 24 to March 13, and Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron from April 28 to May 15.

Even its late-night partner, the critically acclaimed Now Theatre, goes for the classics. Next for Now is Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, Feb. 24 to March 13;

Here’s a sampling of other scheduled plays that testify to the range and ambition of Tucson’s theater companies.

Fresh from its lovable Woody Guthrie’s American Song, Arizona Theatre Company stages a world premiere, Ten Chimneys, Jeffrey Hatcher’s new play about the real-life Broadway stars Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. The layered story mixes the actors’ private lives with their production of Chekhov’s The Seagull, from Jan. 22 to Feb. 12 at the Temple of Music and Art;

Invisible Theatre owes its remarkable 40 years of life to the guiding hand of Susan Claassen and a smart selection of plays. This weekend’s comedy, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy!, Jan. 14 to 16 at the Berger, gives way to Miracles, Feb. 2 to 20, a serious drama about an autistic savant, at IT’s own theater. Visit

In its 25th anniversary season, Borderlands Theater has so far presented two original plays: Arizona: No Roosters in the Desert, about female migrants, and A Tucson Pastorela. The next production, Alfaro’s Oedipus El Rey, by MacArthur genius Luis Alfaro, is a Chicano reworking of Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy. It runs Feb. 17 to March 6 at ZUZI. Visit

Likewise, Beowulf Alley Theatre’s first production of the new year is a new rendering of the Greek myth of Eurydice, by the acclaimed Sarah Ruhl, another MacArthur genius, Jan. 21 to Feb. 6, in the Beowulf’s renovated theater downtown. In time for St. Patrick’s Day, Feb. 25 to March 13, Beowulf presents The Beauty Queen of Leenane, by the Irish-born wunderkind Martin McDonagh. Visit

Live Theatre Workshop is already into its production of The Sisters Rosensweig (through Feb. 13). That heartfelt comedy about women’s choices by the late Wendy Wasserstein (see the review in this issue) will be followed by Balm in Gilead, Lanford Wilson’s experimental first play, about crooks, druggies and whores in a down-and-out café (Feb. 17 to March 20). Visit

Winding Road Theater this weekend opens The Lion in Winter, the James Goldman drama about Henry II and family (Jan. 14 to 30 at Christ Presbyterian Church), but later in the season continues the Lanford Wilson theme: Two Wilson plays will be presented in repertory, the romantic comedy Talley’s Folly and the more sober Fifth of July, an update on the fictional Talley family 30 years later. Set just after the Vietnam War, it explores homosexuality and disillusionment (March 26 to April 10). Visit

Etcetera, the late-night troupe at LTW, is also undertaking a challenging play. Compiled from her own writings, My Name Is Rachel Corrie is about the young American killed by an Israeli Army bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home; Jan. 27 to Feb. 12. Visit

Also worth knowing: Critically acclaimed Chamber Music Plus continues its ambitious program of combining classical music with drama, with Still Life, Jan. 23; Arizona Onstage Productions opens Master Class this Friday, Jan. 14, continuing through Jan. 23; Students and faculty at the UA’s Arizona Repertory Theatre present professional-quality plays, including Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things (Feb. 9 to 27); The daVinci Players at Studio Connections present America Hurrah at their new theater at St. Francis in the Foothills Church, Feb. 4 to 20; And let us not forget Gaslight Theatre, home of the goofy and gleeful. Its Gunsmokin’, through March 26, coincides with rodeo fever in Tucson;

Other Stuff

Odyssey Storytelling persuades ordinary Tucsonans to get up onstage at Club Congress and tell their own tales, in 10 minutes or less. Each evening is organized around a theme: The Hidden Gem Show: Tucson Tales, Feb. 3; Chutzpah! The Audacity Show, March 3; and Shoulda Been Dead: Stories From the Edge, April 7. Visit

The Old Pueblo tries edgy on for size at the first-ever Tucson Fringe Theater Festival, March 23 to 27. Organizers promise “unjuried, uncensored” acts at such downtown locations as the Screening Room and Beowulf Alley Theatre. To perform yourself, apply at

The Water Project: Tucson’s Synergistic Water Festival plans to flow around the same time. A medley of “visual art, dance/theater performance, film, community brainstorms, speakers, exhibitors and cross-cultural/interfaith water ritual,” the festival aims for artistic and scientific solutions to our desert city’s demand for water. Films on H2O will screen at the Loft Cinema on March 24; the main event is at the Armory Park Community Center on March 27. Potential performers can check


Schedule subject to change

Davis Dominguez Gallery
March 2 to April 16: Precarious Rocks: Tom Philabaum

Diana Madaras Gallery
Feb. 3 to April 30: Energy Waves: Joyce van Loben Sels

Etherton Gallery
March 29 to May 28: Flo Perkins blown glass

The Fifth on Sixth
March 26 to May 29: Northwest Glass Artists

Fire Ranch Glassworks
March 26 to May 29: Tucson Glass Artists Past and Present

Jane Hamilton Fine Art
April 8 to April 20: Southwest Glass: Lee Augst

Joseph Gross Gallery
Feb. 14 to April 10: Latin American Invitational

Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery, Pima Community College West
Feb. 17 to April 29: James White (neon)

Obsidian Gallery
March 5 to May 7: Mixed Media Glass

Feb. 5 to April 30: New Mexico/Arizona Group Show

Skyline Gallery
April 7 to May 31: Carved Illumination: Debra May

Temple Gallery
April 8 to May 28: Janet Miller Reverse Glass Paintings

Tucson International Airport Center Gallery
March 1 to April 30: Under the Sonoran Sun: Past Present and Future, work by Pattie and Mark Johnson

Tucson Museum of Art
Feb. 11 to June 12: Borderlandia: Einar and Jamex de la Torre, and Precarious Rocks: Tom Philabaum

University of Arizona Museum of Art
Feb. 12 to May 29: Ana Thiel Retrospective

Wilde Meyer Gallery
Feb. 3 to April 10: Arizona Artists Group Show

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