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Best Art Gallery
Best Concert
Best Dinner Scene In A Play
Best Interactive Dance Performance
Best Leap Of Faith
Best Local Artist--Performing
Best Local Artist--Visual
Best Local Arts Administrator
Best Local Author
Best Local Dance Production
Best Local Theatre Production
Best Movie Theater
Best Mural
Best News About Desert Rock
Best Performance By A Visiting Dance Company
Best Performance Venue--Indoors
Best Performance Venue--Outdoors
Best Public Art Commission

Best Performance Venue/Indoors

Rialto Theater
318 E. Congress St.

READERS' PICK: It's billed as "Tucson's Premier Music Venue," and we'd hardly find fault with that. From the gracious and semi-restored lobby (complete with relics of Tucson's theatrical past), to the awesome balcony, the glorious murals being lovingly restored, the red velvet curtains that frame a classic stage, and the acoustics of a room built before electric amplification, the Rialto defines "class." And great performances--past, present and future. There are few venues that can boast of the history of the Rialto (opened in 1919 and home, over the years, to many variations of theatrical entertainment, including vaudeville, serious theatre, silent movies and B-cinema). It's a fabulous old theater that serves the entertainment needs of the modern age. It also serves the far-more esoteric human need for an experience on a grand scale. The management assures us that big plans are in the works, including reopening the balcony, upgrading the electrical system, new dressing rooms, wheelchair-access restrooms, and even a possible leveling of the main floor. We look forward to many more grand adventures within this venerable building's walls, and thank all those who've worked to restore this piece of heritage to us--the Rialto Foundation, city officials, private donors, and of course, the fine people who've actually been hammering the nails, stripping away the paint and otherwise giving this old beauty a much-needed makeover.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Temple of Music & Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.

CLUE IN: The Mat Bevel Institute occupies the same warehouse space that once housed the punked-out, hallowed ground of the Downtown Performance Center. The Institute functions primarily as a studio/performance space for the one-man performance art spectacles of Ned Schaper (a.k.a. Mat Bevel, see page 32).

In the past year, the Bevel Institute has hosted a series of concerts organized by Steve Hahn of KXCI "Ragged Edge" notoriety. With its cavernous warehouse belly fortified by an intriguing perimeter facade of stage doors and other whimsies, not to mention the main attraction of Bevel's wall-to-wall, mechanically enhanced and colorfully lighted family of "kinetic sculptures," the Institute is the perfect venue for the kind of out, freebop and beyond-shows that Hahn has produced. These have featured not only local avant-punk funkers Cortex Bomb, but luminaries of the downtown NYC improv scene like Tim Berne, Gerry Hemmingway and Ray Anderson. Seating is on folding chairs (unless you brave the faux sidewalk table placed on a wickedly angled platform--try looking bored and detached sitting there!) An enthusiastic crowd prepared for the aural onslaught coupled with the novel space has made such shows a great success, and a welcome addition to the truly alternative scene.

CLUE IN: Ah yes, the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd. This modern, comfortable hall on the campus of the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind makes a good performance great. It has a capacity for just under 500 people, and the comfortable fixed seating is set up wide but not deep, with perfect lines of sight from nearly everywhere in the house (wherever you find yourself here, you're never far from the stage). While the stage itself is big enough for an orchestra, the hall is small enough that even a solo artist can make intimate contact with the audience. The sound system is always just right for both balance and volume, so you hear all the performance nuances without incurring tinnitus. Berger is the perfect place to catch a play, hear a chamber orchestra or groove to a Celtic band.

Case History

1997 Winner: Temple of Music and Art
1996 Winner: Temple of Music and Art

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