The Best of Community Theater — Zoni Style!

Hey gang, did you catch the 27th Annual AriZoni Awards? Or as we AZ dwellers affectionately call them, “the Zoni’s”.

(Really, if your state name lends itself to such a great rip-off on the Tony’s, how do you not use it?)

The Zoni’s recognize excellence in community theater in our Valley, and this year we went to the ceremony because… (drum roll, please)… Son was nominated! For Best Original Music Composition for a Play.

Also, both offspring were involved in a production of Avenue Q, nominated for Best Overall Production of a Musical. Their ensemble performed a musical number for the ceremony. (*proud mama moment*)

Neither Son nor the production won, but it was a thrill to hear his name read among the other nominees. And perhaps I’m rationalizing a little, but beings how it was his first time writing a composition, maybe it was best he didn’t win.

Might set the bar a little high for the next time, don’t you think?

Or as Husband said (with more enthusiasm than I thought necessary), “I bet this will be the first of many losses for him!”

Such a proud father.

Anyway, as to the ceremony itself, here a few observations I made:

Phoenicians Clean Up Good

This city isn’t known for its fashion sense, but when the event calls for it, we don’t disappoint. There were some incredible dresses that night, several of them red carpet worthy.

I was sooo relieved I thought to do an image search on the Zonis before I got dressed. (This is something introverts can relate to: I’m okay going to big event, as long as I know ahead of time what to expect.)

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Dressing up in Phoenix usually means a nice pair of jeans with no holes, a button down shirt, and your best pair of sneakers (cowboy boots if you got ‘em). After viewing the images, I pulled out my black dress and heels. Good thing. I was just fancy enough to blend in, without drawing any attention to myself. (Whew!)

That’s not to say everyone got the memo. As we were making our way through the parking lot toward the theater, we walked past a family disembarking from their red Ford F-150. All of them dressed very casually. The woman was wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a t-shirt advertising Bud Light. As we passed, I recognized the look that passed over her face. It was that moment of realization when it hits you, “Oh! Should we have dressed up?”

Dear Lady, we’ve all been there.

Google image search. It’s a thing.

Presenters Got it Good

Yes, it’s nice to be a nominee and hear your name called, but honestly, if I got to choose my place for the evening? I’d be one of the people standing toward the back of the stage holding the award. The ones whose only job is to hand the awards to the winners. They don’t talk, they don’t perform, they don’t do a thing but walk on stage and stand there.

Golden.

Don’t believe me? Consider this gal:

Presenter

She looked to be in her late teens or early 20s. She was wearing a red mermaid dress, smiled the entire time she was onstage, and I don’t think she exhaled once.

I grew to love her.

It looked like she was having the time of her life, and why wouldn’t she? There’s no stress over winning or losing, she got a chance to shine a little on stage, and she got to hand people their award and make them very happy indeed. One woman hugged her. 

You rock, Mermaid Gal!

The Little Theater That Could

There were 26 awards given over the course of the evening and a number of them went to a community theater in the little town of Queen Creek. (By little town, we’re talking a population a little over 30,000, immediately adjacent to a large urban area. So, relatively little.)

This was the first year their theater participated in the Zoni’s and they made an impressive showing, winning several major awards. Including Best Overall Production of a Musical, beating out the production my kids were in. But after hearing their director’s acceptance speech, I forgave them.

“Everyone in Queen Creek thanks you!!” she told us. “Seriously, most of them are here! We brought a bus!”

She went on to say the town of Queen Creek provides some of their funding.

Isn’t that something? How many towns do you know of set aside part of their budget to support the arts? I think that’s darn swell of them. And no doubt a big reason why they were able to put on several award-winning productions.

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Phoenix is the Next New York!

Okay, this one might be a bit of a stretch. It was said by the dude who won Best Actor in a Play, so maybe he was a bit delirious at the time.

But one thing he said – and there was no reason for him to lie, so we should probably believe him – was that he moved to Phoenix five years ago and as of this year, he’s now able to support himself full-time as an actor. In Phoenix!

Granted, we’ve no idea what he means by “support himself.” Is he on his own? Does he have an apartment to himself. Does he have five roommates?

Maybe he lives in a cardboard box behind the theater! We don’t know!

All kidding aside, I was surprised to hear there were any full-time actors in Phoenix. Clearly, there’s more to our community theater scene than I realized, and I’m determined to see more of it next year.

And so should you! In your own community, I mean.

Wherever you live, there’s probably a little theater somewhere just aching for more people in their audience. The tickets are never too much, usually in the $20 to $40 dollar range – sometimes less and sometimes for free! (Be sure to check out your Community Colleges — that’s where we saw Avenue Q!)

And who knows? You might be surprised what talent is lurking in your community. You might find out you’re living in the next New York! 😉

 

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When Girls Kiss at Gammage

I was at Gammage the other night.

That’s how we say it in Arizona: “I was at Gammage.” Old timers might say, “I was at Grady Gammage,” but most of us don’t bother with the full name.

Gammage.png

If a big Broadway show is coming to Phoenix, you can be sure it will be at Gammage and this year we’re getting a buttload of them.

Even… (drumroll, please)… Hamilton!

That’s coming up in January,and it’s the main reason we bought season tickets. Fun Home was the first show of the season and I was anxious to see it.

Do you know the story? It’s based on the memoir of Alison Bechdel. Basically, it’s a coming of age tale, but unlike most of the coming of age stories you’ve heard, this one involves a lesbian.

Husband and I knew the story fairly well without ever seeing it. Son saw it in New York twice, and from his descriptions and playing the soundtrack over and over, we knew it inside out. Plus, I read the book.

Our seats were in the Mezzanine area, and in general, I’d say that’s a nice place to sit. We had ample space in front of us, meaning people could walk to their seats with no difficulty.

Except for one guy, who was without a doubt the slowest shuffler I’ve ever seen.

For those of you of a certain age, just picture Tim Conway’s “oldest man” character from the Carol Burnett show. (See him here.) Dress him in khaki pants that are too short and a Cardinals t-shirt and cap, and you’ve got our man.

Here’s the drawing I made of him:

Arriving

That’s him shuffling in front of us, on his way to his seat. (Notice the three little lines to his right? That indicates movement.)

Please ignore the fact that he looks like he’s going to the bathroom. As I’ve said before, I can’t draw hands. I tried putting them in his pockets, but… look, just ignore that part, okay?

As to the musical, I must say, it’s interesting watching people’s reactions to a story you know well. There were lines that caused huge laughs, but Husband and I knew them so well we didn’t react.

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy the play. Far from it. Also, that’s not to say everyone found it funny.

I think we were about a half hour into the show? Not sure, but it was about the time college-age Alison has her first experience with a girl.

You don’t see it happen, of course, but you do see them tangled in sheets. It’s the point where she starts singing: I’m changing my major to Joan!… I’m changing my major to sex with Joan!

The audience burst out in laughter and applause, with the exception of this guy:

Leaving

Yep. That’s when Shuffler shuffled his way out the theater. (Note how the three motion lines switched sides?)

I guess the subject matter was too much for him.

Shuffler aside, Fun Home was a great hit in Phoenix. If it makes it to your area, I highly recommend it.

Oh, one more thing: On our way out of Gammage, making our way through the parking lot, I noticed two women ahead of us. Older women, in their 70s I guessed, and they were holding hands.

Not like friends holding hands, but like a couple holding hands. For that is what they were. A couple.

And once again it hit me how very far we’ve come as a society. Sure, there are problems, and sure, we’ve got our Shufflers. But overall, things are so much better than they were. And if we don’t lose heart, I’m convinced they will keep on getting better.

Because eventually, even the Shufflers will get used to girls kissing.

Anyway. Those were some thoughts I had when I was at Gammage the other night.

Gotta Cure My Post-NYC Blues

Phoenix skylineWe took the light rail to downtown Phoenix last Saturday. No event to attend, nothing we needed to do, no particular sight we wanted to see. We were simply conducting an experiment.

If it took us between 50 to 60 minutes to travel from our Airbnb in Queens to Manhattan, and once there we never lacked for interesting things to do, and after doing said things, we never lacked for good things to eat, we intended to find:

  1. Is the Phoenix Light Rail an efficient and reliable form of transportation for reaching our downtown area?
  2. Is there an interesting assortment of things to do in downtown Phoenix, enough to settle my post-NYC trip blues?
  3. Can we find an eatery with not only good food, but in an interesting building with charming atmosphere like every, single, flippin’ place we ate at in Manhattan?

Here’s what we found:

Continue reading “Gotta Cure My Post-NYC Blues”

My Glorious Summer of ’76

Note: Since I’m on vacation, I’m giving you a rerun. This first appeared on June 3, 2015, back when I was new to blogging and had about 10 followers. It relates a childhood memory of mine that involved murder and explosives, as all good memories do. Also, the post includes a recipe because when I first started blogging, that was supposed to be my schtick. Then I forgot my schtick.
That’s the trouble with schticks. They only work if you remember them.
Oh well. Enjoy.

Growing up in the 70s was great. I’m not even talking about the movies and music from that era, although we had some darn fine ones.

What I’m talking about is the total lack of parental involvement. Even if a parent stayed home, they pretty much left us to our own devices. It was great.Kids-jumping-and-playing-outside-940x600

Brother and I had it even better, as both Older Sisters and Older Brother were out of the house.

We’re talking complete lack of supervision, baby! Frankly, it’s a wonder we didn’t burn the whole place down.

Though we came close. Continue reading “My Glorious Summer of ’76”

Appreciating Art: Best Done Sober or Stoned?

Phoenix art museumDaughter and I went to the art museum last week.

You know. To appreciate the finer things in life.

As did many other Fine People in Phoenix, including at least one couple who did it while stoned.

I’ll tell you about my stoner friends later. First, let’s talk about the museum…
Continue reading “Appreciating Art: Best Done Sober or Stoned?”

The Suicidal Mice of 40th Drive

One look at that little rodent corpse, the serene look on his face, and I knew. It was a clear case of mouse suicide.

My family lived in west Phoenix in a square cinderblock home, painted turquoise. And the thing to know about cinderblock homes, however unattractive they might appear, a splash of turquoise paint makes them nearly… less unattractive.

housemouseIn any case, cinderblock keeps out rodents and reptiles, and for desert living that’s darn smart.

Although about the time I was 12-years old, my dad built a garage in our backyard.

Actually, it wasn’t so much a garage as a giant workshop/sanctuary. It took up nearly half our backyard and was made primarily of wood.

That’s when the mice moved in.

The reason we knew we had mice is that every so often, about once a week or so, we’d find one floating in Pepper’s water dish.
Pepper being our family dog.

Continue reading “The Suicidal Mice of 40th Drive”

Bloom Where You’re Planted

So far on our trip, we’ve been in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon & California, and in each state we’ve seen truly beautiful places. Places worthy to call home, should we ever care to move.

IMG_0322One such place is the coastal town of Crescent City, California. A charming place, just a stone’s throw from the redwood forest. Redwoods!

It’s not a fancy town. I doubt any millionaires will be building vacation homes there any time soon. This is an honest-to-goodness coastal town, with real working fishermen, shopkeepers and restaurant owners.

But gosh, even so, I couldn’t help thinking they must be happy people.

I even said it to Husband. I said, “Gosh, these people must be happy.”

I bet every morning they wake up, take a deep breath, smell the salt air and think to themselves, “I must be the luckiest person in the world, because I live in Crescent City, California.” Continue reading “Bloom Where You’re Planted”