The last time I wrote about ceramic artist Rose Cabat, the editor gave the piece the headline "Ninety and Nimble." (TW Oct. 7, 2004).
It was 2004, and the 90-year-old was being honored with an exhibition of her "feelies," the pungently colored, silky-surfaced porcelains that have won her acclaim since the 1960s. Now, 10 years later, still alive, still working at the age of 99 1/2 (she turns 100 in June), Cabat is getting a well-deserved retrospective at the Tucson Museum of Art. Opening Feb. 1, Rose Cabat at 100: A Retrospective Exhibition of Ceramics, is a headlining event in a packed arts season. Maybe her fans could rename the show Happy at One Hundred. Curated by Julie Sasse, the museum’s longtime chief curator who earned a Ph.D. in art history at the UA in December, the show surveys decades of work, all of it produced in Cabat’s home studio in a modest part of town. The native New Yorker, widow of Tucson artist Ernie Cabat, has been collected by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and by the Smithsonian, and she had a show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as early as 1966.
"She created an iconic form that truly resonates as a beautiful example of midcentury modernism," Sasse says.
In the last decade, demand for her small, sleek works—in the simplified shapes of onions and figs—has skyrocketed, driven by the mania for all things midcentury. Cabat the centenarian has mastered the trick of making what’s old new again.
The TMA show will include a video by Courtney Martinez in which the artist reveals interesting biographical tidbits, such as her stint as a real-life Rosie the Riveter at a Tucson arms plant during World War II. One notable Cabat quote in the movie, according to the museum’s Michael Fenlason: "I just look at it and I want to make it beautiful." (Feb. 1 to July 14).
The rest of the spring arts season in Tucson is also looking pretty darn beautiful. Following up on the Cabat penchant for timeless work, local museums and theaters are showing some beloved classics. In visual art, we have photographers Ansel Adams at University of Arizona Museum of Art (through April 15) and Edward S. Curtis’ Arizona photos in three sequential shows at the Arizona State Museum (through July 15, 2015).
In classical music, Arizona Opera delivers Puccini and Verdi, the Tucson Symphony performs Berlioz, Ravel and Mahler, and in theater both Shakespeare—A Midsummer Night’s Dream (April 13 to May 4)—and Tennessee Williams—The Glass Menagerie (Feb. 9 to March 2)—get their hour upon the stage at Arizona Repertory Theatre.
Some staples will be presented with a twist. Arizona Theatre Company experiments with a new stage version of Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days (March 1 to 22). Tucson playwright Patrick Baliani converts Dante’s poem Purgatorio into a play, performed at the Rogue Theatre (April 24 to May 11).
But as much as Tucsonans love the tried and true, they’re up to the minute, too. Plays and art exhibitions address the agonies of immigration, a constantly recurring theme in the borderlands arts scene. Real-life Tucson residents who daily face the fear of detection and deportation have their sufferings portrayed in Dreams and Silhouettes/Sueños y Silhuetas, a multidisciplinary opus based on immigrant interviews. It’s performed by a consortium of local performance artists, videographers, painters and dancers (Jan. 25) at theGlobal Justice Center,225 E. 26th St. (See story in the Weekly next week.) Trash, a new play by Kara Hartzler at Borderlands, dissects power relationships in immigrant detention centers (Feb. 13 to March 2).
Diane Aldrich Kleiss’ multimedia art work in the exhibition Blended Borders at Contreras Gallery poetically portrays the "movement of the borderlands" (March 1 to 29; reception 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, March 1). And a traveling show of Mexican-American art, Miradas: Ancient Roots in Modern Mexican Artworks, occupies much of the Tucson Museum of Art (March 1 to July 27). The show documents the impact of Mexican indigenous and folk art on contemporary Mexican-American artists, and the profound influence of the mexicanidad movement led by the great 20th-century muralists.
No matter what the theme, inventive formats and collaborations abound. Etcetera’s late-night Short Attention Span Theatre is a bold new enterprise in which some very quick actors perform 30 new plays in 60 minutes, with input from the audience. (Jan. 18, Feb. 8 and 15, and May 10 and 17).
After a successful first run last year, the Tucson Desert Song Festival (Jan. 30 to Feb. 16) reprises its collaborations by international soloists with local arts groups, including Ballet Tucson, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Tucson Chamber Artists, UA Presents and Arizona Friends of Chamber Music. The Friends regularly—and admirably—commission new classical music; their Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival (March 16 to 23), will debut two new commissioned works, one by Sylvie Bodorova and the other by 87-year-old Gunther Schuller. Shades of Rose Cabat.
What follows is a selective list of fine arts happenings this spring. Space prevents me from including more. For the comprehensive compilation of every single thing, consult the Weekly’s listings, assembled by the capable Linda Ray. For rock, pop, alt, indie, ethnic, Llewyn Davis-like and music of other stripes, peruse the plentiful pages put together by masterful music editor Stephen Seigel.
VISUAL ARTEtherton Gallery marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the solo show Danny Lyon: Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement. This can’t-miss exhibition brings together 51 black-and-white images shot by the incomparable Lyon when he was in his early 20s, just barely out of the University of Chicago. As a staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he made luminous images of young people participating in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters—and being beaten up by cops. (Feb. 4 to April 19. Opening reception 7 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9)
Tucson painter Gail Marcus-Orlen, beloved for her hot colors and neo-surrealist landscapes and cat-scapes, is in two major shows this spring. First she joins Robert Cocke, Penny McElroy and Janet Prip in the four-person show Magical Realism at the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery at Pima Community College West. (Jan. 27 to March 14; on Thursday, Feb. 13, there’s a gallery talk at 2 p.m., a reception from 5 to 7 p.m., and a lecture at 6:30 p.m.)
Next, Marcus-Orlen’s paintings appear at Under the Violet Sky at Etherton, with photographs by Bill Lesch and pastels by Lynn Taber (April 22 to June 14. Reception 7 to 10 p.m., Saturday, April 26).
Painting is also on the agenda at Davis Dominguez, which is already halfway through an exhibition by two fine painters. Tim Murphy, best known for soft near-abstractions, has recently moved on to hard-edged true abstractions. Debra Salopek, a gifted landscape painter, has taken to the skies, depicting the big ones in her new home on the prairie (through Feb. 8. Reception 6 to 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, during Art Safari, an evening of multiple openings in galleries downtown and around Sixth and Sixth, sponsored by the Central Tucson Gallery Association).
Continuing the season’s Mexican theme, Marcy Miranda Janes exhibits papel picado (cut paper) work at Contreras, making intricate cut "drawings" that evoke the Sonoran Desert and riparian species. Her show is intriguingly named Stargazing with Dung Beetles (April 5 through 26. Reception 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, April 5). And at Wee Gallery, which truly is wee, Valerie Galloway displays her distinctive, Gallic Map Art—watercolor and ink on old maps (through January).
Photographer Charles Harbutt is a globetrotter too.Charles Harbutt: Arrivals and Departure, a major exhibition at the Center for Creative Photography, travels through five decades of his photojournalism and fine art photography, shot around the world (through June 1). At 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 16, Harbutt gives a free artist’s talk, along with Joan Liftin, his wife and collaborator, and independent curator Trudy Wilner Stack. For a review of the show, see the Jan. 9 Tucson Weekly.)
Dance has slowed considerably in Tucson since the Great Recession, and many of the small modern troupes have disappeared—or at least gone on hiatus. But Ballet Tucson, the city’s only professional ballet troupe, continues strong, and a couple of small modern companies dance on.
UApresents still brings plenty of traveling troupes to Centennial Hall. Its spring season starts at 8 on Saturday night, Jan. 18, with a concert by Compagnie Käfig, a hip-hop company from France. Choreographer/director Mourad Merzouki, a French Arab born in Lyon, has a background in martial and circus arts, and his street-inspired works spring from the rage of France’s marginalized immigrants. In another sign of the new multicultural Europe, most of Käfig’s dancers are Brazilians who add capoeira and samba to the movement mix.
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, out of New York, stops at Centennial on Saturday, Feb. 1. Known for highly physical dancing, the ballet troupe dances works by three international choreographers: "Violet Kid" by Hofesh Shechter of Israel, "Tuplet" by Sweden’s Alexander Ekman and "Grace Engine" by Canadian Crystal Pite. And on Sunday, March 23, the acclaimed Joffrey Ballet of Chicago dances an all-American program, including "Interplay" by Jerome Robbins and "Nine Sinatra Songs" by Twyla Tharp, which Tharp’s own troupe danced on the Centennial stage a decade ago.
For the second year in a row, Ballet Tucson and its dancers jeté into the Tucson Desert Song Festival, whose theme this year is French music. For a ballet version of Bizet’s 1875 opera Carmen, mezzo-soprano Janara Kellerman, playing the Gypsy Carmen, sings three of its beloved arias, in French, no less: "Habanera," "Seguidilla" and the "Cards." Local singer Don Sheppard will sing contemporary French songs for another dance premiere, "Dances à la Française." Also on the bill is the famed French ballet Daphnis and Chloé, created by Ravel in 1912 for Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, and now restaged by choreographer March Schneider (the Saturday, Feb. 15, and Sunday, Feb. 16, concerts at the Temple of Music and Art, conclude the Song Festival).
Ballet Tucson’s popular Dance & Dessert spring concert serves up a banquet of seven short dances in multiple styles and dozens of real deserts when the dancing is done (April 4 to 6, UA’s Stevie Eller Dance Theatre).
The UA School of Dance stages two concerts, both at Stevie Eller. Three’s a Crowd (Feb. 13 to 23) features small casts of students performing works by guest choreographers and the dance faculty. A highlight of Spring Collection (April 25 to May 4) is professor Sam Watson’s "Tales and Rhymes," which pairs the dark stories of the Brothers Grimm with the light verse of Mother Goose.
Artifact Dance Company’s new Speak Easy is a lush narrative set in the 1920s in New York City clubs awash in illegal alcohol in the days of Prohibition. Populated by flappers, bootleggers, a reporter (Lois Long) and government agents, Speak Easy is performed by 11 dancers, including artistic directors and choreographers Ashley Bowman and Claire Hancock. The troupe’s trademark is live music for every show, and a team of local musicians plays an original score by music director Ben Nisbet, Chris Black and Naïm Amor (March 21 to 23 at Stevie Eller).
Safos Dance Theatre steps up in April for Quinque, its fifth-year anniversary concert. Reprising four modern pieces from concerts past, including the politically oriented "Banned Books" and "Language Is a Door, Not a Wall," it also features a new dance by director Yvonne Montoya inspired by Rodin’s sculpture. Company member Grace Rhyne premieres two works. (April 4 and 5 at Pima West Recital Hall.)
ZUZI! Dance always draws a crowd with its choreographers’ showcase. This spring’s No Frills—Have a Heart—Dance Happenin’ presents works both polished and still progressing. Composed by a wide variety of choreographers and danced by equally wide-ranging groups of dancers, the show is emceed as always by Carie Schneider (March 7 and 8). The theme for this year’s Spring Concert is powerful women. The troupe members, apprentices and youth dancers will dance modern work on the ground and on ropes and trapezes in the air (April 24 to 26). Both shows are in the ZUZI! Theater in the Historic YWCA.
Sadly, two companies shut down this season, first Chamber Music Plus and then Beowulf Alley Theatre, but elsewhere the show goes on. Here’s a look at highlights of the spring season.
The Rogue Theatre, now in its ninth season, can always be counted on for provocative work. Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, reviewed by Weekly critic Sherilyn Forrester in this issue, has been hailed by some critics as this clever playwright’s most profound work. Stoppard’s language is always beautiful, his stories are complicated, and his humor is black (through Jan. 26).
Other Desert Cities, set in the home of a well-off family in Palm Springs, was declared the "best new play on Broadway" by The New York Times in 2011, and it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2012. Playwright Jon Robin Baitz uses the familiar trope of a family holiday gathering to make a sharply witty investigation into politics, wealth and family secrets. Arizona Theatre Company gives the play its Arizona premiere (Jan. 24 to Feb. 8).
Fresh from its smash hit Cabaret, which reworked the old musical into something sinister and real, Winding Road tackles the tricky task of running two plays in back-to-performances. Boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb couples a contemporary tale of online sex and deception with worldwide Armageddon. In Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, two childhood friends reunite again and again—and again—over a period of three decades (Jan. 30 to Feb. 16. Playground plays at 10 p.m. following the Friday and Saturday evening performances of Boom). Winding Road winds down its season with a play by company favorite Lanford Wilson. Burn This, from 1987, follows a quartet of mourners trying to make sense of the accidental death of a young gay dancer (March 27 to April 13).
In 1951, scientist Rosalind Franklin, a young Englishwoman, made an X-ray photo that revealed the double helix structure of DNA. That picture, Photo 51, got into the hands of rival scientists Francis Crick and James Watson, who used it to create their groundbreaking model of DNA. Crick and Watson won the Nobel Prize and Franklin was forgotten. Live Theatre Workshop stages Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51, a gripping play that gives Franklin her due, while recreating the competitive race to uncover what scientists called the "secret of life" (Feb. 20 to March 22). LTW’s fare is not always so serious: Right now, the supremely silly French farce Boeing Boeing is on the boards. It’s reviewed by Weekly critic M. Scot Skinner in this issue (through Feb. 15). And the biting Joe Orton comedy, Loot, is also on tap (May 8 to June 7).
Invisible Theatre also goes from serious to silly, in two Southwest premieres. Richard Harris’s Dead Guilty (Feb. 4 to 16) is a dark psychological drama about a married man who dies suddenly in his car—and his female passenger is not his wife. Olive and the Bitter Herbs, despite its title, is a zany comedy by Charles Busch about a woman who looks into the mirror and sees a ghost looking back (April 15 to 27).
The ambitious new Speak the Speech Theatre Company started out last fall with a Sam Shepard play, no mean feat, and for its second outing tries out a commedia dell’arte-style play. A Company of Wayward Saints, a 1963 work by George Herman, is about troupe of traveling players who "wander by mistake into the eye of an allegory" (Feb. 21 to March 9).
If it’s Broadway you’re looking for, Tucson has Broadway to spare. Broadway in Tucson is now bringing its traveling shows to Centennial Hall. If you liked Mamma Mia at Christmastime, soaked with ABBA’s disco tunes (between you and me, it was ghastly), you’ll love The Australian Bee Gees Show. This disco tribute show has live musicians pretending to be the actual Brothers Gibb (Jan. 28 to Feb. 2). The Wizard of Oz is one of the great movie musicals of all time, but Andrew Lloyd Webber tinkered with the formula for his version, keeping the classic songs and adding new ones (Feb. 25 to March 2). I Love Lucy—Live on Stage casts the theater audience as the television studio audience: You’ll be watching the taping of two episodes of the classic TV comedy (March 25 to 30). I may hate ABBA, but I love the Four Seasons. The award-winning Jersey Boys brings back their songs and tells the rags-to-riches tale of these working-class kids from Joisey (June 17 to 22).
Beside taking on Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams (see above), the UA students of Arizona Repertory also dip into Broadway. They’ll belt out "we know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand" when they perform Oklahoma! (March 9 to April 6).
The Old Pueblo now has two homegrown playhouses producing their own tongue-in-cheek musical comedies. The venerable Gaslight Theatre is now performing The Belle of Tombstone, a Wild West satire about saloon gals and stage robbers, set right here in Arizona, during the 1880s silver boom of the town too tough to die (through March 30). Fast forward to the 1960s for Beach Blanket Be-Bop. The good versus evil story pits fun-loving California surfers against developers plotting to pave over their sandy paradise (April 30 to June 8).
The newcomer, The Great American Playhouse, goes all piratical in its third outing, Booty Island 3-D. Playing on the new craze for 3-D movies and on Americans’ newfound affection for pirates, the show has Captain Hazard and his nincompoop crew search for three-dimensional treasure (through March 22). Quest for the Cavemen follows (March 27 to June 7).
Sherilyn Forrester gave a rave in last week’s Weekly for Arizona Onstage Productions’ Forever Plaid at the Cabaret Theatre. The musical comedy about four dead pop singers who improbably get a chance to sing once more is "such an upbeat, feel-good experience that you can’t help but smile and savor the good vibrations" (through Sunday, Jan. 19). Next up for the troupe, in May, is 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, a hit off Broadway.
The Tucson Desert Song Festival, concentrating on mélodie française, is, if you’ll excuse my French, le plus grand évènement on the classical calendar. Make that the biggest events, plural. Nearly every day, leading singers from all over will be performing with local arts groups (Jan. 30 to Feb. 16).
To mention just a few: On Friday, Jan. 31, at the Fox Theatre, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor helps the Tucson Chamber Artists celebrate their 10th anniversary with a rendition of chansons by Debussy, Shéhérazade by Ravel and Duruflé’s Requiem.
Soprano Nadine Sierra, tenor David Margulis and baritone Nathaniel Olson sing at the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music’s Piano & Friend concert (Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Leo Rich Theatre) showcasing pianist Kevin Murphy.
Mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano sings with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in two separate concert series at the Tucson Music Hall: with the chamber orchestra (Feb. 8 and 9), and with the full symphony (Feb. 14 and 16). At that full concert, soloists Cano, William Burden and Jordan Bisch, along with the Tucson Symphony Chorus, sing The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz.
The festival ends with Carmen at Ballet Tucson (Feb. 15 and 16). The Tucson Guitar Society, UApresents and the UA School of Music also join in les amusements musicaux, staging their own shows. There are too many concerts and other activities to list here, but check TucsonDesertSongFestival.org. And check the Weekly’s listings for the regular concert schedules of all these arts groups.
Arizona Opera gets in on the French action, sort of, with La Bohème, Puccini’s 1896 opera, performed with full staging and orchestra. It’s about love among impoverished bohos in Paris, so that counts, but it’s written and sung in Italian. No matter. Puccini based it on a French novel, Henry Murger’s Scènes de la vie de bohème, and its performance dates (Feb. 1 and 2) put it within the Song Festival time frame. One of the most popular of the classic operas, La Bohème was adapted by Jonathan Larson in Rent, the Broadway musical about love among impoverished bohos of New York.
Verdi’s La Traviata is an Italian opera set in Paris. First performed in 1853, it was inspired by a French play, La Dame aux camellias by Alexandre Dumas. It’s the tale of a young nobleman who falls in love with a courtesan. Arizona Opera gives it a full production (March 8 and 9). The final opera of the season is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. A comic Italian opera, it has but one French connection: It premiered in Paris in 1843 (April 26 and 27).
The Tucson Symphony Orchestra turns to movie music Friday and Sunday (Jan. 17 and 19) at the Music Hall. Violinist Steven Moeckel, former TSO concertmaster, returns to solo in the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra from the film The Red Violin (Joshua Bell performed it in the movie). The orchestra delivers Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, whose adagietto haunted the film Death in Venice. George Hanson conducts. Come an hour early for talks by the conductor and guest artist.
Just to be contrary—is that the same as being Irish?—I’ll insert some Celtic fare coming up. Young Dubliners, American and Irish practitioners of regular rock ‘n’ roll infused with Irish riffs, play at the Rialto Friday night, Jan. 17 and Full Set, full of young musicians direct from Ireland, bring the music back to traditional with its concert at Berger Performing Arts Center (Saturday, Feb. 22). Tucson’s Tir Conaill dancers do some soft shoe and step-dancing. Danú, a longtime powerhouse of traditional Irish music, play the Fox Tucson Theatre on Mardi Gras (Tuesday, March 4). Also, check out the Soweto Gospel Choir of South Africa at Centennial Hall (Friday, April 18).
Tucson is a writers’ town, and readings start up again quickly after the holidays. At Casa Libre en la Solana on Fourth Avenue, the Edge Series for emerging and younger writers gears up next week (7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 22) with readings by three writers. D. Phillip Clifford, a published poet who has an MFA from the UA and teaches writing at Pima; Melissa Goodrich, another UA MFA, who writes fiction and has published a poetry chapbook, If You What; and Sara Sams, a poet, translator and editor from Tennessee, now living in Phoenix, who writes about Appalachian lore. Casa Libre hosts the Lamplight Reading Series from 4 to 6 p.m. the first Sunday of every month. Lamplight has been going on for 40 years in assorted venues of the Old Pueblo.
The powerhouse UA Poetry Center, now under a new director, Tyler Meier, has been bringing in renowned poets, novelists and nonfiction writers to read ever since Robert Frost did a reading to dedicate the enterprise in 1960. Tan Lin, author of more than 10 books, and a poet, videographer and visual artist, gets the semester going with the year’s first reading (Thursday, Jan. 30). All events are always free.
POG, which stands for Poetry Group, hosts regular monthly readings at The Drawing Studio, sometimes mixing music with poetry. Robert Mittenthal and jazz saxophonist Heidi Wilson perform Saturday night, Jan. 18. Next month, POG teams up with Chax Press for a Poetry & Jazz Event: Lyn Hejinian & Larry Ochs (Saturday, Feb. 15).
Antigone Books, everyone’s favorite indie bookstore, stages frequent—and fun—author events. Aurelie Sheehan, a UA fiction writing prof, reads from her new book Jewelry Box, a collection of short stories that "straddle fiction and memoir" (Friday, Feb. 7). She’s joined by Melissa Pritchard, a professor of English and women’s studies at ASU. Pritchard’s novel Palmerino is a "supernaturally shaded novel based on the true story of a brilliant Victorian-era writer and intellectual."
On Valentine’s Day, famous feminist author, poet and activist Margaret Randall turns up to read from the latest of her 80-some books Che on My Mind, an "impressionistic look at the life, death and legacy" of the revolutionary Che Guevara.
At the high end of etcetera arts, the Loft Cinema is one of nine theaters around the country chosen by the Sundance Film Festival in Utah to host a screening of a brand-new movie direct from the Utah festival. The Loft will show Young Ones, written and directed by Jake Paltrow and starring Michael Shannon and Elle Fanning. Paltrow will be on hand to take questions after the movie. The apocalyptic tale conjures a barren landscape where water is short, and where the few survivors must defend the patch of earth they occupy. Tickets for the Sundance event usually go fast (Thursday, Jan. 30).
At the grassroots, hyper-local end, arts groups have been reclaiming old ground for new arts uses downtown. Conrad Wilde Gallery is rehabbing a portion of the newly reopened Steinfeld Warehouse, with plans to exhibit contemporary abstractions in the new-old space.
Likewise Sea of Glass opens a new multimedia art space at 330 E. Seventh St., near Fourth Avenue, with a kickoff concert (Friday, Jan. 17) headlined by hip-hop artist Rahman Jamaal of San Francisco, Tucson DJs Kirkout and Humblelianess and VansGuard, an "eight-piece activist Global Change Music band." Fluxx has been enlivening 414 E. Ninth St. with an inventive array of live storytelling, poetry slams and Musical Mayhem Cabaret.
Solar Culture, a mainstay of alt-rock and art for 26 years, has found room in its warehouse space at 31 E. Toole Ave., to create a new gallery, Galactic Center. The opening (Saturday, Feb. 1) includes, and I’m quoting here, "an unveiling of the cave temples." You have to go to see what those are.
Circus groups, flame artists and puppeteers have been popping up in town like so many desert lupines and poppies in wildflower season. This surprising mini-explosion has yielded, among others, the troupe Puppets Among Us, which stages a full roster of puppet plays for kids in the afternoon and grown-up fare at night, and Cirque Roots, brings its "theatrical fire experience" next month to a high art setting at the Tucson Museum of Art (Saturday, Feb. 15).