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Nothing beats the intimacy of Nearly Naked Theatre, nor its ability to cast superb actors in gritty roles from moving plays. And [a recent] performance of “Blood Brothers” was no exception.
It’s been over a year since we first attended a production at n2t and each time adds a layer of complexity and absorption, drawing us further in to the dynamics of its theatre. Understand that this is a small space with seating for, perhaps, a hundred people. Every time we’ve been here, it’s been near- or at-capacity. After ten years of honing its craft, that isn’t surprising. n2t has wisely turned away from receiving federal grants to produce its stunning work and saved itself from the bureaucratic red tape and censorship that permeates such “donations.” Instead, n2t accepts donations from individuals and businesses that support the efforts to produce raw, uncensored works that are stripped down to their cored fundamentals. Thus, we get “naked” theatre…a venue so vital to the now-identifiable Downtown. I’d like to think n2t has helped to mold the direction of the region.
Some tips: If you’re going with a group, get there early. The doors open half an hour before show times and you’ll need to be quick to hold the necessary seats. On the seats, they’re not like what you get at AMC/Harkins. These seats are tough on your backside, but they are working on getting cushions for all the seats so that is temporary. Wine is now being served; bring cash. Almost every production we’ve seen has had smoking in it. As a former smoker this is a bit irritating but (as you can see from my rating) is forgivable. Finally, see as many performances as you can! Start early in the season and see each production. If you love theatre, love feeling like part of the play, love being close the the art and love supporting something phenomenal, n2t is the perfect venue for you.
Nearly Naked Theatre is located at 100 E. McDowell Rd. (602) 254.2151
The DPJ Yelper of the Week offers honest insight on a Downtown business to help you explore your core. DPJ hopes that by partnering with Yelp to spread the good word about well-loved Downtown spots, you’ll spread your patronage and support local business.
Yelp is a social networking and local search engine that provides the reviews of places and things that matter to you. Simply log in, pick a place and queue up your inner critic. You can write a beaming review of your favorite gelato spot, or a scathing portrayal of that rental car facility you had to use after that curb came out of nowhere. Yelp’s reviews are at once honest, uncensored, wildly hilarious and true. Heck, the site must be doing something right — it had 25 million viewers just last month!
It’s a common refrain in the Valley that we have “no history.” This perceived lack of lineage has been used to justify the demolition of countless commercial and residential buildings, even entire neighborhoods. One area that has largely been spared from the wrath of the wrecking ball is Lower Grand Avenue, stretching from Van Buren Street to the I-10 freeway overpass.
Beneath its sometimes gritty façade, Grand Avenue has a long and storied past. Since the mid-1990s, this history has been dusted as many buildings are reverting from industrial uses back to the original small retail and offices that once lined this important connector to Wickenburg, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. An important factor in this renaissance has been the many innovative commercial adaptive use projects in the neighborhood. New owners have preserved parts of the existing vintage structures while making necessary concessions to the realities of modern life. The result is a varied collection of shops, galleries, cafés and living spaces scattered throughout the neighborhood.
Iconic urbanist Jane Jacobs famously said, “New ideas must use old building.” This adage is well exemplified along Lower Grand. The adaptive use of older commercial buildings has been an important factor in nurturing the small business community, particularly the arts. Many small, entrepreneurial businesses are attracted to the funky storefronts, affordable studio spaces and overall neighborhood character. Several of the gallery spaces have passed from artist to artist over the years, maintaining the affordability and fostering a new generation of creative minds.
On September 26, a handful of these adaptive reuse projects will be highlighted during the Grand Avenue Festival. During the morning, tours of six buildings are scheduled as part of the day’s many festivities. Tour stops include the following:
Tilt Gallery: This house, on the southeast corner of 10th Avenue and Fillmore Street in the Oakland-University Park neighborhood, was built in 1905. It was built of cast concrete blocks, fabricated from molds to resemble quarry stones. It was converted to an art studio and photography gallery in 2005. The current tenants Michelle and Melanie Craven contributed substantial sweat equity towards renovating the building, including stripping and refurbishing the hardwood floors, installing slate flooring in the rear of the gallery and planting desert-friendly plants in the previously all-dirt yard. Today, Tilt Gallery is a contemporary fine art gallery specializing in historical to alternative photographic processes and mixed media projects. The gallery features local, national and international works by emerging and established artist.
Jordre Studio: This small commercial building, at 1007 W. Grand Avenue, was originally built as a corner grocery in 1928. A year later, it was operating as both J.B. Johns Grocery and R.L. Mercer Meats. Local artist Kyle Jordre purchased this newly renovated building in 2006, originally constructed of lathe and stucco with a corrugated tin roof, and now uses it as a studio to produce abstract work that includes rich, colorful fields of paint with vibrant, bold textures.
Paisley Violin and Paisley Town: This commercial building, one of the few along Grand Avenue with a partial basement, was purchased by Derrick and Gina Suarez in 2004, who relocated their successful Paisley Violin Café there from its former site at Roosevelt and 3rd streets. Standing since 1925, this brick building is the very definition of adaptive use, serving as a grocer, furniture store, tamale vendor, radio repair facility, amusement sales and finally a veterinarian before its current incarnation as a café.
In 2007 the couple relocated six small World War II cottages to the backyard of the premises. They have converted them to colorful small business venues that house a hair salon, ceramic artist, vintage boutique, yoga studio and contemporary clothing boutique, with a florist on the way.
Motley Design Group: This modest building was constructed in 1957 as a transmission repair shop and was later used as a warehouse and workshop. In 2008, it was rehabilitated as an architecture and engineering studio for Motley Design Group, best known for its work in historic preservation planning and design.
Rehbein Grocery: Located on the corner of McKinley Street and Grand Avenue, the Rehbein Grocery is an excellent example of an early 20th century strip commercial building. It is one of the best remaining two-story brick strip commercial buildings in Phoenix. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Today, the space is home to Shop Devious and Lodge Art Studio.
Bragg’s Pie Factory: This historic 1947 cast-in-place concrete building at 1301 W. Grand Ave was originally built by Alan Bragg and his wife, Elaine, for their expanding family pie business (formerly on Van Buren Street close to the state capitol). The building reflects an international style of modern architecture popular at the time (with few remaining examples left in Phoenix). The main, 4,500-sq.-ft. room in the 15,000-sq.-ft. building is capped by a beautiful steel bow truss roof. It is now home to Sapna Café and several offices and studios, including Modern Cat, Barry Sparkman Studio and Studio 8.
Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased by calling Beatrice Moore at (602) 391.4016 or by visiting the festival website at www.grandavenuefestivalaz.com. Tour times are 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 11 am and leave from Tilt Gallery at 919 W. Fillmore St. Tickets will also be available on the day of the event at Sapna Café, 1301 W. Grand Avenue. Proceeds from ticket sales for the guided walking tours will go to the Grand Avenue Merchants’ Association.
I’m a big fan of The Insecure Critic. Have you read it? You should.
Chad Swaney reviews movies and pairs them with a great meal or decadent dessert. My favorite is, “‘Juno’ and Delux — Now I Feel Pregnant.” They are all solid, though; be sure to not miss out. In any case, I’ve had an idea hiding away for a long time and only recently has it reemerged into the daylight — largely thanks to Chad’s inspiration.
For those of us living, working and playing in and around Downtown Phoenix the movie selection is pretty limited. There’s the AMC 24 at Arizona Center and… and… yup, that’s about it.* Furthermore, to watch a decent film on the big screen, one has to travel out to Camelview 5 or over to Tempe Valley Art. Sometimes it’s worth it. Sometimes. I would, however, be way more apt to take a risk on an unknown art flick or independent film if the theater were closer. And, I’d practically run there if it had a bar to go along with it.
The concept is not new — Tucson, Portland and many cities around the country have movie theaters and bars in the same building. But, as light rail, professional sports and great food has showed us, it doesn’t need to be a new idea to have a huge impact on Downtown Phoenix.
I’m not a stranger to crazy ideas, but this one has some validity. A movie theater that shows worthwhile films within walking distance of the rail? A movie theater with beer? Something to do Downtown that doesn’t involve coffee or sports? Shoot, there’s even an opportunity for adaptive reuse: The sanctuary of that abandoned church on the northwest corner of 3rd Avenue and Monroe Street would make a perfect spot for (warning: working title) The Swig & Screen. Who’s in?
*No Festival Required shows outstanding films at Space 55, including one next Saturday. The thoughts here are in no way meant to diminish the work of those bringing film into the friendly confines of Downtown Phoenix.
Grand Avenue has gained quite a reputation over the years: home to the notorious dive Bikini Lounge, warehouses converted to art spaces, always-stuffy whiskey-fueled rock shows and even a few triangular-shaped storefronts that cut diagonally northwest, mimicking the avenue itself. So, it’s only fitting that a festival has popped up in its honor. Enter the Grand Avenue Festival, a celebration of all things Grand.
Set for Saturday, September 26, this all-day affair will give attendees the complete Grand Avenue experience: lots of free live music, art exhibits, historic building tours and more.
At the heart of Grand’s revival is its art spaces, and fittingly, they’ll all be open for passersby. Fifteen artist studios in all will be open to the public from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.: Jordre Studio (1007 W. Grand Ave.), The Lodge Art Studio (1231 W. Grand Ave.), Lucky Rabbit Studio (1020 W. Grand Ave.), Studio of Jen Urso & Christy Puetz (1341 W. Woodland Ave.), Studio of Lee Berger (PHiX) (1113 W. Grand Ave.), the ambient studio (1023 W. Grand Ave.), Deus Ex Machina Gallery (1023 W. Grand Ave.), Phoenix Fall Space (1023 W. Grand Ave.), Studio 8 (1301 W. Grand Ave.), Moderncat Studio (1301 W. Grand Ave.), Barry Sparkman Studio (1301 W. Grand Ave.), Brad Konick Sculpture Studio (701 N. 15th Ave.), R. Booker Studio (701 N. 15th Ave.), Chris Caufield Studio and Trillion Clarke Studio (701 N. 15th Ave.).
Adaptive reuse is a key element to the revitalization of Grand, and the Grand Avenue Festival plans to celebrate that fact with adaptive reuse tours throughout the morning. The tours begin at the Tilt Gallery (919 W. Fillmore St.) and visit Jordre Studios, Paisley Town (1028 W. Grand Ave.), the Motley Design Building (1114 W. Grand Ave.), Arnold’s Auto Body Shop (1209 W. Grand Ave.) and the old Bragg’s Pie Factory building (1301 W. Grand Ave.), which has recently started housing several art spaces and Sapna Café. The tour costs $10 (the only paying event at the festival!) and is scheduled for 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m. Tickets are available at the Tilt Gallery.
Live music will start at 4 p.m. and carry on until at least midnight, with an impressive lineup of great local acts taking various spots along Grand: the PHiX, Sweets & Beats (1504 W. Grand Ave.), Rockin’ A (1209 W. Grand Ave.) and the Loft. Check for a full schedule of tunes the day of the festival.
To celebrate Grand’s budding boutique hub status, three fashion shows will take place: A recycled wearables show at 5 p.m. at Bragg’s Pie Factory, a local boutiques show at 7 p.m. at Bragg’s Pie Factory and a “BoHo Haute Hippie Movement” (guess we’ll have to attend to figure out what that is exactly) show at 8:30 p.m. at Soul Invictus (1022 W. Grand Ave.).
On top of all of this, expect demonstrations, quirky gifts for sale, tons of free acoustic tunes and even free snow cones! For fans of Grand and newcomers alike, this is a great opportunity to experience the other art row Downtown.
Parking is available along Grand’s side streets, or you could huff it from the light rail station at Van Buren and Central/1st Ave and head west to Grand.
The Tilt Gallery is tucked away on a stretch of 10th Avenue just north of Grand Avenue that is populated mostly by early 1900s bungalows (many still without proper air conditioning systems). Standing out front, one can see the varied colors and rooftops of Paisley Town, and though it’s just a block away, it seems like a million miles.
The Tilt, with its mangy exterior of funky-colored beams, white brick and ever-glowing accent lights, is the perfect setting for a display of Angela Franks Wells‘ work. In stark contrast, Wells’ prints — all in black, white and copper — mellow the space the likes most art couldn’t. The collection, called “Parts & Labor,” focuses on the dirty, rugged profession of Midwestern tradition: skilled labor.
Raised by a mechanic and a machinist, Wells, who has shot and taught photography in the Valley for years, knows a thing or two about hard labor. And, the aged hands, tattered clothes, oil-slicked furniture and old engine parts depicted here tell the story well. Wells traveled to independent shops of skilled laborers — mechanics, plumbers, welders and construction contractors — in search of these scenes and the tired souls that occupy them. Portrayed in copper-plated photogravure and gelatin silver prints, the testament to hard work comes through in eerie depiction. When you leave the Tilt this Third Friday, you’ll appreciate that beer down the street at the Paisley Violin a bit more.
The Tilt Gallery is located at 919 W. Fillmore St. 602.716.5667. Open 6-9 p.m. Third Friday.