On the tiny, intimate stage of Space 55, director Charlie Steak and the cast of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play create a surprisingly convincing environment of impromptu community clinging to the familiar after the unthinkable occurs.
“It’s a fantastic choice for us,” says Steak. “At Space 55 what we really want to do is new, innovative work; usually that means doing original scripts.” He continues, “In this case…this script is something that most of us wish that we had written.”
At the 50-seat venue, says Steak, “we want what we do to be affordable and within reach, but that’s not our mission by itself. Our mission is to allow artists to do things that the gatekeepers at traditional theaters prevent.”
Steak, who wrote the play Woman and Girl and an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, came to Phoenix seven years ago from PlayMakers at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He’s worked extensively with Rising Youth Theatre, Essential Theatre, and Space 55, where he’s currently serving as Associate Artistic Director and troupe member. Steak’s upcoming productions include another installment of the interactive Captain Jack’s Space Attack, with its signature drinking song and audience participation, and Space 55’s 7 Minutes shows, which give local performers seven minutes in which to do anything they want.
Why choose playwright Anne Washburn’s very quirky Mr. Burns? “The Simpsons survive the apocalypse,” Steak explains succinctly. “That’s enough, just by itself.”
He laughs and adds, “The basic idea is you have a group of people after the power grid has gone down — they’re living in a small group for mutual protection, a lot like the people in The Walking Dead, and so they’re sitting around a campfire trying to remember this episode of The Simpsons — that’s the first part…almost like a jigsaw puzzle. And what’s truly fascinating is the bits that they get right, and the bits that they don’t quite get right.”
“And then they go on to become a group of people who start performing episodes of The Simpsons. And this is when perhaps 99% of the population in America is gone, yet The Simpsons survive.”
With an eight-person cast ably supported in the third act by three musicians — Lali Breen, Jeremy Brunansky, and Ron Foligno — Mr. Burns uses the “Cape Feare” episode as its focus. “It’s like going inside an onion,” says Steak. “You’ve got the original [1962 Gregory Peck] Cape Fear movie, you’ve got the  DeNiro version of the Cape Fear movie, then you’ve got the Simpsons’ spoof of the DeNiro Cape Fear movie, and then you’ve got this show, so that’s a lot of layers.”
Washburn joined composer Michael Friedman for Mr. Burns, creating a thoughtfully realistic first act taking place immediately after the power failure, a second act set seven years later, and a completely surreal musical-theater third act following 75 years later. The ensemble includes Cynthia Elek, Brianne Holland-Stergar, Rebecca Brosnan, Toni Jourdan, Cody Goulder, Robert Peters, and Lee Quarrie.
“I’m interested in popular culture,” says Steak. “After the apocalypse these people are…preserving it, and you think about everything you have to deal with…food, water, shelter, safety — but no, there’s room for The Simpsons!” He chuckles. “This is pretty amazing.”
If you go:
The aroma of fresh baked bread from Aaron Chamberlin’s uptown restaurant, St. Francis, entices pedestrians as they pass along the street. St. Francis opened near the corner of Camelback Road and Central Avenue in 2009 and the name honors the Phoenix neighborhood’s 1936 land deed, as well as the streets of San Francisco that inspired it. Chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin’s enthusiasm for urban life and love for the area’s historic charm has created a convivial, light-filled space with window walls open to the street and curbside patios, at once intimate and communal.
A custom wood-burning oven takes center stage in the open arena style kitchen, baking up to 90 San Francisco style sourdough loaves a day. Its local mesquite wood infused flavor accents nearly all the dishes on the menu, from roasted meats, locally sourced vegetables, to the artisanal flatbreads. The rustic oven acts as the restaurant’s hearth, encouraging friends and strangers to gather together to break bread.
Chamberlin admits his expertise at cooking with fire was developed long before his professional career. “I love to cook with fire. I was in the Boy scouts, made Eagle Scout, and my skill for wood burning started with those campfires. The experience shaped me.” His talent for mastering the art of the flame has garnered acclaim in such national publications as Condé Nast Traveler, Food & Wine and Sunset magazine.
A local boy, Chamberlin left home at 19 to earn his chef’s whites in the culinary capitals of San Francisco, New York and Boston. He spent nearly a decade on the road and in the kitchens of such famed and exacting chefs as Michel Richard, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Nancy Oakes.
He returned home with serious fine dining credentials, a deft touch for bread making and a taste for the urban vibrancy of those cities: small cafes, independent book sellers, corporate offices, family run groceries, and pop-up art galleries all sharing the same sidewalk. “When I moved back home,” says Chamberlin, “I grabbed a map and zeroed in on what I thought was the center of town – Central and Camelback. I was looking for that vibe. But nine years ago it was still waiting to happen.”
He kept his eye on the area and over time he began to notice independent business owners opening up shop and felt that something was in the air, the wait was over. He searched until he found the right building to create the kind of restaurant he envisioned for the neighborhood and city he wanted to live in. The 1955 modernist classic at 111 Camelback Road had the right ingredients: good bones and curb appeal. “Before we started to remodel,” he says, “I took [noted local architect) Wendell Burnette on a trip to San Francisco.” They toured all of Chamberlin’s favorite haunts, dives and cafes sampling their essence in taste and smell. And they walked historic neighborhoods studying the dynamism of buildings, their curbs and the streets.
“I wanted that feeling of a real city, to see and be seen,” says Chamberlin, “for our restaurant to have a role in the street life. I was told I was crazy to do that. But I am not afraid to put tables and seating on the sidewalk. I lived in an alley in San Francisco for years and loved it. I want people to drive by, walk past, look in and want to be a part of it.”
An urban vibe, front porch charm and a merit badge worthy kiln. Chamberlin gently kneaded these ingredients into a sophisticated gathering place to share in the simple, nourishing ritual of breaking bread.
In May, 2013, Chamberlin’s fire-making skills and talent for creating a fresh, eclectic menu with wide appeal led him to open the Phoenix Public Market Cafe, at Pierce Street and Central Avenue in the Evans Churchill neighborhood downtown. Its central location, full bar, spacious tables, covered patio, and casual menu that features breakfast, lunch, and dinner items, has created another popular “see and be seen” gathering spot. In addition to the cafe, the Public Market parking lot is home to Food Truck Friday, a lunch time food truck gathering each week, along with an open air farmer’s market every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning. Just like a yeasty loaf of sourdough bread, Chamberlin’s dream of restaurants with a role in the city’s street life, is rising. Smell the deliciousness.
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On September 27 Roosevelt Row will ignite the Fall season by presenting some of the BEST local chefs who will highlight the MOST delicious chile pepper cuisine in Phoenix. Onsite chile roasting with Crooked Sky Farms, live music with Pick and Holler and Mariachi De Luna De Mexico, the Ghost Pepper Talent Show hosted by Lawn Gnome Publishing & Bragg’s Factory Diner and (of course) a Deschutes craft beer garden AND a 3 Amigos Tequila margarita station with gourmet chile-pepper margaritas!
2014 CHILE PEPPER FESTIVAL
Admission is FREE!
Tasting Tickets – $2
Beer & Margarita Tokens – $5
Discounted ticket bundles are available on the website.
Click here to BUY YOUR TASTING TICKETS ONLINE.
Location: Phoenix Public Market, 721 N Central
Date / Time: Saturday, Sept. 27 / 5-11pm
2014 COMPETING CHILE PEPPER CHALLENGE TEAMS:
Aside of Heart
AZ Food Crafters
Jamburritos Cajun Grille Express
Jobot Coffee & Diner
Mamma Toledo’s The Pie Hole
Phoenix Public Market Cafe
Short Leash Hot Dogs / Rollover Doughnuts
Squid Ink Sushi
The Refuge Cafe
Urban Beans/Tertio Wine Bar
Welcome Diner / Welcome Chicken and Donuts
Lulu’s Italian Ice
>> KID’S ACTIVITIES: The Phoenix Center for the Arts, the Heard Museum and Valley Permaculture Alliance are preparing chile pepper craft activities and we’ll have face painting as well!
>> CHILE PEPPER ROASTING: Crooked Sky Farms will be roasting a dozen different varieties of chile peppers to eat fresh off the roaster or to take home!
>> CHEF DEMONSTRATIONS: Enjoy five local chefs as they offer a live-demonstration of hand-crafted chile pepper eats and/or drinks.
>> LIVE MUSIC: Pick and Holler + Mariachi Luna De Mexico
>> GHOST PEPPER TALENT SHOW: Hosted by Lawn Gnome Publishing’s Aaron Hopkins-Johnson and Bragg’s Factory Diner’s Liam Murtaugh, The GHOST PEPPER TALENT SHOW will bring the weird, the camp, and the heat to the Annual Roosevelt Row Chile Pepper Festival stage! Bellydancing vs. Storytelling vs. Standup Comedy vs. Mariachi vs. Beatboxing vs. Barbershop Quartet vs. Slam Poetry.
>> SALSA DANCING LESSONS: Learn how to salsa dance at this year’s Chile Pepper Festival with Stilo Dance Co. Free community dancing lessons will be followed by open dance and a performance by Stilo dancers.
>> TRANSPORTATION & PARKING OPTIONS: Valley Metro Light Rail: Guests are encouraged to ride the light rail, walk or bike to the event.
UBER Car Service: Uber seamlessly connects you to drivers through a push of a button on your phone. $30 off for first-time Uber riders to the Chile Pepper Festival. Promo code: “ROROCHILEFEST”. Sign up!
Bike Parking: Free bike valet will be provided by Valley Metro.
Parking: On-street parking and onsite lot parking available, but we encourage guests to ride the light rail or bicycle to the event!
Want to volunteer? Sign up here!
The following release was issued by the city of Phoenix Street Transportation Department.
EXTENDED PARKING METER HOURS COMING AUG. 18
Meters to operate from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily
The city of Phoenix Street Transportation Department is notifying residents, commuters and business owners on changes to parking meter hours of operation, effective Aug. 18. The changes were adopted by the City Council in June.
Beginning Aug. 18, all parking meters will be enforced from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m., including weekends and holidays.
The new hours were enacted to increase the turnover of parking spaces in central Phoenix and downtown areas where meters are most often used.
As part of the council action, parking meter rates will also be changing in November of this year. Under a new demand-based pricing system coming in November, rates at credit card enabled meters can vary from 50 cents to $4 an hour, with higher meter rates reserved for high demand-parking during special events. Until demand-based pricing is implemented in November, meter rates will remain $1.50 per hour. For the public’s convenience, the city has purchased and installed 598 new single space credit card enabled meters. With this upgrade approximately 1,500 of the city’s parking meters, or 81 percent of citywide maters, will take credit cards.
More information on the proposed parking meter changes is available at the Street Transportation Department website, phoenix.gov/streets/parking-meters.
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DOWNTOWN “SUPER PUB” SHOWCASES LOCAL ART, CHANGING DOWNTOWN
The original cover art depicts a bustling Saturday morning at Phoenix Public Market, in an increasingly vibrant and walkable Downtown.
Local artist Justin Queal, whose artwork can be seen all over Phoenix, most notably at CityScape’s Squid Ink Sushi, was commissioned to paint one of his favorite places in Downtown Phoenix for the new Downtown Phoenix Dining Guide & Directory, which hit the streets this week and represents the most ambitious publication Downtown Phoenix Partnership and Downtown Phoenix, Inc., have ever produced.
Queal’s painting is a colorful representation of what Downtown Phoenix has become—a place where people not only work but live, shop and play. Our community is diverse, artistic, passionate and strong.
Similarly the artistic “super publication,” which for the first time combines the popular annual Downtown Dining Guide with the traditional twice-yearly Downtown Directory, was made stronger by an expanded coverage area that includes the Roosevelt Row Arts District. The expanded coverage resulted in 125 new listings for a whopping 411 total businesses featured.
The Downtown Dining Guide & Directory, the must-have resource for visitors and urban explorers, is distributed throughout Downtown and Valley-wide and features a pullout map, expanded dining editorial, local photography, information about Downtown’s emerging music scene, and a walking tour that encouraging pedestrians to explore Downtown’s historic buildings and public art.
You can download the Downtown Dining Guide & Directory here or stop by and grab a copy at the Downtown Ambassadors Information Center, located at 101 N. 1st Avenue, Suite 190.
For more information about Downtown Phoenix please visit www.downtownphoenix.com.