Whether you prefer to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit or rebel against the trappings of the season, you’ll find your fun downtown with a few of Phoenix’s quirkier activities. Adults-only theater pushes the envelope with A Bloody Mary Christmas while unique Christmas light tours appeal to all ages, and puppetry and dance shows keep kids jolly.
Ballet Arizona offers the usual fairies and sugarplums at Symphony Hall with its spectacular, highly acclaimed production of The Nutcracker (through December 28), reinvented a few years ago by artistic director Ib Andersen. Tchaikovsky’s familiar music performed by The Phoenix Symphony can’t be beat, and a family four-pack includes parking, premium seats, a photo with the Sugarplum Fairy and hot cocoa.
If you prefer the music of a different Russian, try Snow Queen at Herberger Theater Center’s Stage West (through Dec. 21), choreographed by Frances Smith Cohen and presented by Center Dance Ensemble. Hans Christian Andersen’s tale comes to life with melodies by Sergei Prokofiev. Take a midday work break, buy or bring your lunch, and sample the Lunch Time Dance Theater option for only $6.
In addition to the occasional wickedly subversive 18+ puppet slam, Great Arizona Puppet Theater provides a steady stream of funny shows for children young and old. The Night Before Christmas (through December 28) features joyful music and stories.
For those who love cinema, FilmBar offers a glorious month full of movies in an intimate 70-seat venue with the added bonus of a beer and wine bar (alcohol with popcorn — what could be better?). December’s options include The Captive, The Babadook, Bad Santa and Free the Nipple (both on the Naughty & Nice Film Series), Awake: The Life of Yogananda, and the incomparable Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Foreign films include Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador) and Louis Malle’s Zazie dans le metro as a double feature. And don’t miss Opera at FilmBar — December 19 brings Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella) from the Gran Teatre del Liceu, starring a sparkling Joyce DiDonato and the yummy Juan Diego Flórez.
The calendar’s packed at Crescent Ballroom, where Cocina 10’s food and drink are complemented by the stories of Chow Bella’s Eating Christmas (December 16). For a canned food donation you’ll hear food-themed tales of holiday adventure (for ages 21 and older). Otherwise, try “Life’s a Drag. Party Like a Queen” (December 18) with interactive games, “Truth, Drag or Dare,” and drink specials all hosted by Olivia Gardens.
Phoenix Theatre serves a full plate of seasonal cheer with Holiday Classics From Screen to Stage (December 18-21), when Arizona Opera singers croon holiday favorites from films like Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, Love Actually, A Charlie Brown Christmas and more. Vocalist Dennis Rowland takes the stage with the Greg Warner Project and special guest Diana Lee for the Holiday Jazz Cabaret (December 22-24) and a range of Christmas classics. And you’re sure to have a jolly holiday with Mary Poppins (through December 28), an eye-popping fast-paced feast of color, song, dance, and special effects including Valley favorite Toby Yatso as a tap-dancing, levitating chimney sweep.
Back in the realm of adults-only entertainment, Space 55 pulls out all the stops for the fifth year of A Bloody Mary Christmas (through December 21), in which Sun City retirees sing, dance, and battle a heartless homeowners’ association. Set to original music by Dangerville and Samson Says, Bloody Mary showcases Toni Jourdan, Lee Quarrie, Paula McKenny and Bob Peters. 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe (December 20) gives local performers their seven minutes in the sun with an opportunity to do whatever they want — interpretive dance, dinosaur burlesque, competitive doughnut eating, action figure battles…even naked stage magic. Who knows what you’ll see?
Other Space 55 shows include Storyline: A Winter’s Tale (December 19), part of a monthly storytelling showcase, and Resolutions! A new show for an old year (December 31), a good warm-up for your New Year’s Eve party or downtown’s Flannel Ball.
“Hip Historian” Marshall Shore brings a big yellow school bus to The Clarendon Hotel as the launch point for his Christmas Lights Tours (December 16, 18 & 23). “We cruise through Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa,” says Shore. “I curate for the most jaw-dropping displays that I can locate.” Join in the caroling and live music with your very own kazoo (provided), or sit back and enjoy Shore’s talents as a storyteller while you see commercial, private home and religious displays.
If you go:
- Ballet Arizona: The Nutcracker (through December 28)
- Center Dance Ensemble: Snow Queen (through December 21)
- at Herberger Theater Center’s Stage West, 222 E. Monroe
- visit centerdance.com or call 602-252-8497
- Great Arizona Puppet Theater: The Night Before Christmas (through December 28)
- in the GAPT’s lovely renovated historic 1929 LDS 2nd Ward Church, 302 W. Latham
- visit azpuppets.org or call 602-262-2050
- 815 N. 2nd St.
- visit thefilmbarphx.com or call 602-595-9187
- Crescent Ballroom and Cocina 10
- 308 N. 2nd Ave.
- visit crescentphx.com or call 602-716-2222
- Phoenix Theatre
- 100 E. McDowell Rd.
- visit phoenixtheatre.com or call 602-254-2151
- Space 55
- 636 E. Pierce St.
- visit space55.org
- “Hip Historian” Marshall Shore: Christmas Lights Tours (December 16, 18 & 23)
Schedules are subject to change. For more holiday diversions visit DowntownPhoenix.com:
Vacant lots fill 43% of the land in Phoenix. We’ve all seen them scattered up and down throughout downtown and we know the impact they can have.
On one such neglected site, however, an organic transformation has been slowly evolving over the last two years. PHX Renews, a program of Keep Phoenix Beautiful, has brought community members, nonprofits, and corporate partners together to transform a fallow 15-acre site on the northeast corner of E. Indian School Rd. and Central Ave. into a garden bursting with plant life. Once the site of the old Phoenix Indian School, the lot lies adjacent to, though not part of, Steele Indian School Park.
The mission of the PHX Renews program is to “find temporary uses for these lots that will beautify the city, while promoting sustainability and a sense of community.” With this simple mission, Tom Waldeck, the executive director of Keep Phoenix Beautiful and his staff, volunteers and supporters have created a beautifully diverse example of how to bring abundant, temporary life to these neglected spaces. The 15-acre lot is on lease from Baron Colliers Companies, with the agreement that anything and everything built on the site is temporary. When the time comes for it to be developed, everything can be moved. As Waldeck says, “When we do leave it will be like we were never here.”
The program was launched with two seed grants, including $100,000 from Wells Fargo, and $40,000 from the Steele Foundation. Currently the lot boasts a small farm run by the International Rescue Committee; 140 community garden plots; a temporary net neutral sustainable high tech house built in partnership with ASU; gardening demonstration areas run by various nonprofits; and a temporary dog park from PetSmart. The fence surrounding the site is adorned with temporary mural panels painted by local artists and community members. The temporary sustainable house has become the onsite office for Phoenix Renews and ASU will continue to use it for research connected to the onsite technology that was used in its construction. Hayden Flour Mill is using the site to grow a couple of acres of heat resistant white Sonoran wheat, which they supply to Chris Bianco. APS is working to create temporary black water solutions for the site, and various other groups present events and programs onsite.
The project continues to evolve. Most of the 15-acres is being utilized at this point and plans are in the works for various events, including an Earth Day Festival next April. There will be ongoing presentations, demonstrations and workshops to help people experience sustainable desert gardening, water conservation, composting, and other aspects of sustainable living. “Everything we do has to have an educational component,” said Waldeck. “We bring kids in for recycling, composting, etc.” Last March they hosted Bill and Chelsea Clinton for the Clinton Foundation’s 9th Annual Day of Action.
The program has been such a success that Keep Phoenix Beautiful has brought on a full-time project manager. Katie Poirer is a recent graduate of the sustainability program at ASU who got involved with PHX Renews originally as a volunteer. She works directly with community gardeners, helping with any problems and small maintenance issues, as well as working directly with organizations who are looking for ways to get involved.
The next time you’re in the area, stop in and walk around. You’re sure to see someone working on their garden plot, tilling a field, or leading a demonstration of some kind. Contact Katie and set a time to tour through the house. And keep in mind as you wander through the site that the whole miraculous blooming patch, up to and including the house, is temporary, and portable. When the time comes for construction on this lot, the whole shebang can be moved to thrive and bloom in another vacant corner of the city.
If you go:
What: PHX Renews, a temporarily activated, 15-acre sustainability experience
Where: Northeast corner of E. Indian School Rd. and Central Ave. (No public parking on site. Park in the Steele Indian School Park lot and walk out and around to the entrance on Central, or take light rail to the Indian School and Central Station and cross to the entrance on Central.)
When: Open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information or to set up a time to see the house, call 602-262-4820, or visit PHX Renews.
Admission: There is no cost to visit the site.
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An Afternoon Adventure in Midtown Living
The Midtown Museum District Neighborhood Association is proud to announce the Second Annual Midtown Urban Living Tour. Planned for November 1st from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm, the Tour will feature some of Midtown’s finest residential buildings. Last year’s inaugural Tour attracted almost 600 visitors in a 4- hour period and was received with an overwhelmingly positive response. This year the Tour adds two new buildings and an additional hour of time to visit them.
The Midtown Urban Living Tour will showcase homes in seven celebrated Midtown communities. Tour goers will have the rare opportunity to explore selected homes in: Artisan Lofts on Central, Villa del Coronado, Regency House, Phoenix Towers, Tapestry on Central, One Lexington, Executive Towers and Chateau on Central.
In true urban fashion, we encourage tour goers to enjoy the convenience of riding the Light Rail for travel between communities. Pedal cabs and a trolley service will also be available and there will be bike racks at each property for cyclists. Before or after exploring Midtown living options, tour goers may stop for a bite at one of the many excellent restaurants found in Midtown, some of which will be offering special deals for tour goers showing evidence of ticket purchase.
As significant as it is in the development of Phoenix, Midtown gets less attention in the history books, perhaps because it represents an “in between” phase between the city’s original settlement and the tremendous outward growth that followed. Today, this sector of Downtown is home to a bustling business district, world-class museums and culture, fine restaurants, lush parks and a diverse mix of housing options. We invite you to see for yourself why Midtown is at the crossroads of “live, work and play” in Phoenix.
If you go:
When: Saturday, November 1, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Where: Midtown Museum District
Parking: United Food and Commercial Workers Bldg., 2401 N Central Ave.
Downtown Phoenix is a great place to celebrate any occasion, and Riette Pretorius Bartlett, owner and senior events coordinator for Downtown Phoenix Venues, knows this perhaps better than anyone.
Since 2010, she and her team have helped their clients host memorable events, including weddings and corporate parties in some of downtown’s most memorable spaces. From restored warehouses to art galleries, these venues features unique historical and architectural elements that automatically infuse a sense of culture and style into any event.
As Pretorius Bartlett points out, “none of these spaces were built to be wedding or event venues, making them different and unique. They all have a separate purpose. One was a laundry, a literal ice house, a mart, they just happen to have the right amount of open space for private events . . . these building are all around 100 years old. It is such a treat for visitors and Phoenicians to see true history, and to host an event within a space like that.”
In managing these spaces, the team at Downtown Phoenix Venues aim to go above and beyond to make their clients’ dreams a reality – from helping them stay organized, to vendor recommendations, to helping to keep their timeline on course. “We really want our clients to walk away thrilled,” says Pretorius Bartlett.
Within the Downtown Phoenix core, you’ll find a wide variety of locations that will make any event a special one. As Pretorius Bartlett notes, “these spaces are a destination on their own, well worth the trip to see a bit of Arizona history.”
Below is the list of spaces that Downtown Phoenix Venues has to offer, along with a sampling of other unique special event locations within the downtown Phoenix area.
AVAILABLE THROUGH DOWNTOWN PHOENIX VENUES
Venue: The Icehouse
Location: 5th Avenue & Jackson
Vibe: “One word: raw. This historic space is absolutely unique and the years have left it close to its original look. The roofless cathedral room is like no other space in the valley, truly extraordinary.”
Venue: Bentley Projects
Location: 3rd St. & Grant
Vibe: “Raw, but polished, with the white walls, exposed red bricks, wooden bow truss ceilings and world class art on the walls. This space is the perfect balance between raw and polished to please both the young and old.”
Venue: Phoenix Merchandise Mart
Location: 1st St. & Jackson
Vibe: Former location of Phoenix Merchandise Mart in 1946: “Like being in a downtown Brooklyn building.”
Venue: Red Bricks on 7th Street
Location: 1st St. & Jackson
Vibe: “This intimate brick building has more of a woman’s touch with it hosting an in-house florist. They have beautiful exposed bricks with repurposed pallets, giving it a more delicate touch.”
Venue: Legend City
Location: 7th Ave. & Van Buren
Vibe: “Owned by 4 creative men (3 photographers and 1 painting artist,) this space has the clean white walls of Bentley and also the exposed brick. This intimate space is perfect for smaller events.”
ADDITIONAL VENUES IN DOWNTOWN PHOENIX
Venue: The Duce
Location: Warehouse district – 525 S Central Ave. Corner of Lincoln & Central
Vibe: Restored 1928 warehouse featuring vintage soda fountain, bar, and airstream trailer. The feel: “authentic, vintage, retro, comfy and cool.”
Contact: Steve Rosenstein, Co-Owner. 480 650 9160 or email@example.com
Venue: Children’s Museum of Phoenix
Location: Downtown Phoenix – 7th Street & Van Buren.
Capacity: Up to 1,250 guests
Vibe: “A special events venue with historic elegance and contemporary cool. It’s not just for the children; it’s for the child in all of us.”
Contact: Alex Wurth, Special Events Manager. 602.648.2747 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Venue: Arizona Science Center
Location: 600 E Washington St. – 7th Street & Washington
Vibe: “Arizona Science Center is the perfect, modern science-y backdrop to your special day. Immerse and interact with loved ones in a futuristic setting unique to you!”
Contact: Emily Gagnon, Sales & Events Manager. 602-716-2021 or email@example.com
Venue: Phoenix Art Museum
Location: 1625 N. Central Ave. – Central & McDowell
Capacity: For receptions: up to 250 with dancing; For ceremonies: up to 150
Vibe: “The space is architecturally special. Cummings Great Hall has 27ft ceilings with large-scale contemporary art and a dramatic lobby for arrivals. The Dorrance Sculpture Garden is an enclosed urban oasis for ceremonies. Photo-ops abound. Year-round climate control of 72 degrees.”
Contact: Events Department. (602)307-2019 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: Roosevelt Row – between 2nd & 3rd street
Capacity: 250+, depending on season. 150 for seated reception.
Vibe: “The monOrchid is well-known in the Downtown Phoenix Arts District as a modern industrial chic gallery which offers its visitors a one of a kind urban experience. With masonry walls and soaring natural wood bow trusses, the historic remodeled warehouse is a truly unique place which can accommodate any event ranging from large receptions with musical performances, to intimate sit-down dinners, weddings, receptions, business meetings, photo & film shoots, fashion shows, and fundraisers.”
Contact: Ashton Brown. 602.253.0339 or ashton@monOrchid.com
Here at DPJ, we’re all about sharing what we love. Beyond the stories that make us love downtown, we often come across things that catch our eye, tingle our senses or have us dancing in delight. “We Like…” turns a brief spotlight on the little treasures that make our day, with helpful links so you can share in the fun.
Like it or not, our urban world is “by design.” The urban landscape is filled with images conceived and created by people trying to catch our attention, communicate a message, and most of the time, sell us something. Much of it is so badly conceived and executed that it creates a noisy backdrop of “blah” that barely registers in our consciousness, except as an irritation. But people, I am here to sing the praises of an instance of real design brilliance that rises so far above the crowd that you simply must take an extra minute out of your day to stop, look and swoon.
What’s got me all a-twitter and goose-bumpy? It’s an example of top-notch, world-class, divinely realized graphic genius: the drop dead gorgeous poster art for this year’s Arizona Opera season of performances. Have you seen the images? Have you stopped for that extra minute to really appreciate their brilliance? If not, now’s your chance to sit back and revel in an example of creative synergy that combines marketing vision, clean design sensibilities, and truly artful illustration to create a nearly perfect series of images that directly communicate what this season is all about. (Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.)
I am not trained in design, but when something beautiful and meaningful smacks me between the eyes and provides that elusive spasm of delight, I just have to stand up and cheer! And then I have to find out, WHO DID THAT?
I’ve long been a fan of the genius marketing minds of the Arizona Opera. I first became aware of how far above average they were when they were working with the brilliant Jacques Barbey, whose work combined photographs and surreal settings into jaw-dropping images that beautifully conveyed the power and magic that opera aspires to. The season brochures with his imagery were hugely popular over several seasons and helped bring renewed energy to the organization.
Eventually, Ryan Taylor, Director of the Arizona Opera, and his staff decided it might be time to try a whole different tack. To break through the saturated visual marketing landscape, they wanted to see what could be accomplished with a bold, simple graphic style. The challenge would be to communicate the emotional heart of the stories in a new and compelling way.
The far-flung team behind the new look includes Laura Schairer, Marketing Director for the opera; Rodd Whitney, long-time AZ Opera designer, now based in Pennsylvania; and Emiliano Ponzi, an award-winning, Milan-based illustrator. Whitney had spotted Ponzi’s work in Communication Arts, an internationally prestigious design and illustration magazine. Whitney said, “It was amazing how he could capture the essence of stories so simply. You are immediately captivated and it makes you want to know more.”
Whitney reached out to Ponzi via email and communicated what Arizona Opera was looking for. With the time differences between Italy and Pennsylvania they never actually spoke, which makes the brilliance of the collaboration even more stunning. Whitney sent him synopses of the season’s operas and placed his faith in Ponzi’s estimable talent. In a few short weeks, Ponzi sent back “nice, tight sketches” that were very close to the finished pieces. Ponzi hit the nail on the head with simple, but extremely sophisticated illustrations that catch the eye and communicate the stories with color, wit, and poignancy that matches the depth of feeling inherent to the art form.
Schairer and Whitney have worked together for nearly 20 years and the level of trust that has been developed gives them a sturdy foundation for expressing their creativity. As Whitney puts it, “When you are left to do a good job is when you can do your best work.” Schairer’s confidence in Whitney, and Whitney’s confidence in Ponzi’s talent and skill gave everyone the permission to do their best work. And what amazing work it is.
The Arizona Opera has been ahead of the crowd in recognizing the power of artful marketing for many years. With this new look, they are once again setting a very high bar that challenges every other art organization in this city to step up their game. A very low bow to everyone involved!