Occupation: 4th grade teacher
Her Neighborhood: Historic Roosevelt
How often do you bike? I work early so I usually drive but when the weather is nice I like getting out on my bike.
What is your typical biking ensemble? I don’t really change the way I dress to bike. I might switch my shoes to flats but I’ll wear a dress.
What she’s wearing:
• Shoes and dress from Urban Outfitters
• Necklace was a gift purchased at Frances
• Ring purchased from vendor set up at a table at Lost Leaf who made it custom on the spot
Her biking essentials:
• Bike by Six Three Zero
This weekend Phoenix Theatre offers its final performances of the all-Gershwin musical ‘S Wonderful, directed by Associate Artistic Director Robert Kolby Harper. “This kind of show is really hard,” he says, “not just for the director-choreographer but for the actors because they’ll change clothes 50,000 times, and they’ll sing 40 songs by the end of the night.”
Perhaps the number of wardrobe changes is slightly exaggerated, but ‘S Wonderful does cover more than 42 Gershwin tunes in its whirlwind tour of five time periods and locations. Mini-musicals take audiences to a 1939 Parisian café, a 1948 Hollywood movie studio, and New Orleans in 1957 – there’s a total of five vignettes of 15-20 minutes each, all sharing the same sleek but effective Art Deco-inspired set pieces.
If you’re searching for a deep, complex plot, don’t bother – the simple, timeless themes of yearning, attraction, romance, and love are carried on the thinnest of storylines. It’s all a vehicle for the rich music of the Gershwin brothers. And “if you’re looking for linear,” says Harper with a chuckle, “you’re screwed, because it’s not gonna happen.” He shakes his head and continues, “But that’s not how memories are; memories are collages, feelings…sometimes just snapshots.”
A tight, talented onstage three-piece combo of piano, bass, and drums plays nearly non-stop, providing not only accompaniment but also interludes between the mini-musicals and seamless segues between styles.
So many songs in such a relatively short show might create a dizzying, abbreviated effect, but Harper says that while “there are moments where it’s more snippety, there’s a big group of songs where you get a nice chunk.” A few of the numbers receiving more extended play include “Nice Work If You Can Get It” as well as selections from the Gershwins’ beloved folk opera.
“[The songs] that I’m most excited about are from Porgy and Bess, because I get to sing a little bit on ‘There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York,’” says actor Toby Yatso. “I’ll probably never be in a production of Porgy and Bess for racial reasons,” he continues, “so I think it’s fun to be able to experience those songs, that music, that score, even if it’s just a little taste…it’s a unique opportunity.”
Yatso is an Associate Artist at Phoenix Theatre, and serves on the faculty for Arizona State University’s Lyric Opera Theatre program (as does Harper). He’s won numerous ariZoni and Encore Society awards for his work onstage and as a director, teacher, and choreographer in shows like The Producers, Avenue Q, and Glorious.
“What I like about Toby is that he’s never satisfied with just bringing the same-old same-old,” explains Harper. “And he’s just awesome to work with – I laugh hysterically.” He smiles. “That’s one of my big things in rehearsal: if we’re not laughing, we’re going home, ‘cause life’s too short. We’re not curing cancer here, people – we’re doing a musical revue.”
“At the end of the day, if you’re in a revue, yeah – sing pretty, but you’ve got to be funny. It can’t all be about the voice, because I can get a CD and sit at home in my PJs and have a cocktail,” Harper continues. “So I want people who can be interesting to watch, and move you to feel something…lift the music off the page.”
The cast also includes Kaitlynn Kleinman Bluth, Jenny Hintze, Kyle Erickson Hewitt, and Jenn Taber, who stars in ‘S Wonderful’s mini-musical “Of Thee I Sing,” embracing the role of an abandoned chanteuse. “Jenn’s one of the funniest women I’ve ever met,” says Yatso. “She can sing anything and is just so committed to everything she does…and it’s fun to work with her because we’re such different-sized people. And I love that – I just love the contrast of us.”
The 6-foot-5-inch-plus Yatso continues, “I think I’m known because of my height, and as a unique physical presence.” His character in the first vignette is a newsroom worker, a sort of silent movie standard with choreography making the most of Yatso’s build. “This is so much about the physical storytelling — I get to heighten all my physical attributes…and I have a lot!” he laughs wryly.
He’s delighted with all three of his female co-stars. “Jenny and I have danced together a lot – I always feel like she makes me look like a better dancer than I probably would be by myself,” Yatso chuckles. “And Kaitlynn…we always felt we were so connected onstage.” He smiles again, and exclaims, “When I heard it was those three women, I thought, ‘I am a lucky, lucky man!’”
‘S Wonderful includes plenty of dancing along with songs ranging from the less familiar (“My Cousin in Milwaukee”) to beloved favorites. “Of course you can’t have Gershwin without ‘Someone To Watch Over Me,’” says Yatso. Harper agrees; “I don’t know who can hear that song and not have a real visceral reaction to those lyrics.” He continues, “I think even now…even teenagers can listen to that and go, ‘Wow – yes, I feel that. That’d be awesome – I’d love to have someone watch over me like that.”
“And that’s the whole point,” Harper says. “That’s what music does, especially the Gershwins’ music – it connects people in ways that are meaningful, that are deeper than just dancing in the club. It boils down to love.”
Even as ‘S Wonderful leaves the stage, Phoenix Theatre prepares for the world premiere of another production: Love Makes the World Go ‘Round, based on the music of Bob Merrill, who wrote hits like “Mambo Italiano,” “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d’ve Baked a Cake,” and “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?” as well as works for theatre and film like Funny Girl and Carnival. Merrill, who reportedly composed on toy xylophones, took his life in 1998 at the age of 74.
“Love Makes the World Go ‘Round is set in a New York piano bar, where these three women have sort of wandered in,” explains Producing Artistic Director Michael Barnard. “They’re each in a different stage in their lives and their marriages – or ‘not-marriages’ – so they get into conversations with the help of the piano player…it’s a very funny piece.”
The tiny cast includes Jeannie Shubitz, Allison Houston, and Patti Davis, while the pianist is Brad Ellis, an arranger and accompanist for television’s “Glee,” who also worked with writer Duane Poole on the show’s arrangements.
In several past articles I have discussed the potential of Phoenix’s art community, growing, adapting, taking risks, trying something weird and questioning the content of their work. Upon review, they seem to have laid the foundation for some so-called New Year’s Resolutions.
There is something about New Year’s Resolutions that doesn’t sit well with me. However, I get that it helps to have a single day in the year to pinpoint a moment of change and renewal. And for the arts community, it’s a time when we can collectively support each other in the concept of trying something new.
One thing that can tend to often linger in an artist’s mind is “What is next?” What’s the next project? What’s the next idea? Where is the next source of inspiration? (What is the next paid job?) Sometimes, we can find ourselves at a standstill and will lean back on familiar territory that has given reliable results but may, in the long run, not be entirely satisfying.
Instead of relying on these usual tactics, we can find artists from around the world creating incredible works that we never knew existed. A random internet search for something like “installation artist plants electronics” can locate a project on a plant city or real-time 3-D plant sculptures. When in a rut, finding works like these could inspire a new direction or, in the very least, open up our eyes to a vast world of creative people with complex ideas that are being put into action. I personally like to find new resources like Empty Kingdom, Hyperallergic or even something like Phoenix New Times’ (Claire Lawton’s) 100 Creatives to do some of the legwork for me and package it all in a nice, clean format.
Although a lot of people resolve to learn something new (a new language, how to fix their car, how to fingerprint someone) maybe, for the artist, the idea is to resolve to do something new.
Instead of just painting or photographing a different subject, the artist might resolve to create work using different materials and applying completely different rules. Or, completely break any rules about what is being created (this is our art and we can do whatever we want, right?) and don’t be concerned about whether or not it gains approval.
One resolution I’d like to see take place in the art community (and, well, anywhere) is to stop being concerned about whether what we’re doing fits in anywhere or makes sense to anyone. Even if a major component of creating artwork is communication, a person can’t communicate properly if she is always trying to figure out what the other person wants her to say.
This is the time and 2013 is the year – and all we have is now. There’s no better time than the new year to be clearer about what you’re doing and begin confusing the hell out of everyone else.
Guest contributor Cory Kincaid requests the community’s attendance at a City Council meeting where a liquor license application will be considered for the property on the southeast corner of Roosevelt and 7th Streets. The resources shared provide insight into the community’s position.
As you may know, Circle K is attempting to secure a liquor license for a proposed development of a 16-pump station on the Southeast corner of 7th St and Roosevelt. Impacted community organizations have spoken out in unified concern and opposition to this liquor license. This includes the Garfield Organization, Evans Churchill Community Association, Downtown Voices Coalition, Thunderdome Neighborhood Association, Roosevelt Row CDC, Concord Eastridge (developers of Roosevelt Point), Phoenix Community Alliance, St. Croix Homeowners Association and numerous other residents, property owners, and small businesses. The Artisan Village Board of Directors has also vigorously opposed this on behalf of our concerned homeowners.
A key City Council meeting is coming up this week and you can help in a very simple, but specific, way.
The City Council will making a recommendation either FOR or AGAINST state approval of the liquor license at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, December 19.
Circle K, concerned over the outpouring of community opposition, has begun pumping corporate money into a campaign they call “Friends of Circle K.” This lobbyist-run campaign has brought in people to canvass our neighborhoods, generated misleading marketing materials, and has offered free food, t-shirts and transportation to the upcoming city council meeting to anyone interested in an effort to give an appearance of community support.
Our community organizations do not have the resources to mount a costly corporate campaign. We are relying on the presence of our friends and neighbors like you at the Council meeting.
The most important action you can take is to attend, sign in using one of the green comment cards (I suggest you note “Opposed to the Circle K liquor license”), and stay through this agenda item. Filling out a card does not require you to speak.
Phoenix City Council Meeting
When: 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, December 19th
Where: City Council Chambers , 200 W. Washington (the small round building)
Please share this message with as many friends and neighbors as you can. We need to make it clear this is the wrong development in the wrong place in the wrong community.
If you would like additional information about why the community so stridently opposes this development, please refer to the below.
• Garfield Organization Implores “Save Our Downtown Neighborhood”
• ASU - A Multi-City Report on Crime and Disorder in Convenience Stores
• AZCentral study on the ASU study
• Garfield Neighborhood’s Urgent Bulletin (PDF download)
• Garfield Neighborhood’s Letter of Opposition (PDF download)
DPJ’s Bike Chic series by Nathan Simpson. You may see him around town scouting locals who not only ride their bikes but look dapper doing it.
Name: Brian Kern
Occupation: Student/Research analyst
His Neighborhood: Garfield
Where Spotted: Jobot Coffee
What do you like about Downtown? The people. There are a lot of artistic people and people trying to do something different.
Where do you like to explore? I stick mostly to the 5th Street and Roosevelt area, but I love riding around Downtown when no one is out so I don’t have to worry about cars.
Why did you go car free? There is a lot of unnecessary stress in car ownership. I have spent less than $100 total in bike maintenance since I sold my car 9 months ago.
What is your typical biking ensemble? I don’t have anything I regularly wear for biking. It’s just whatever I am wearing that day. I do own cycling shoes but I rarely wear them.
Watch: Seiko diver’s
Hat: Portman Pacific wool 8 panel
Jeans: Unbranded Denim from Buffalo Exchange
Jacket: Levi slim fit trucker jacket from the Levi Outlet
His biking essentials:
Late 80s Bottecchia
Lots of water
Thorn proof tires