Friday, December 6, 2013

miracle on south division street

  photo by Tim Fuller

Shocking news surprises the Nowak family (from left) Beverly (Alida Holguin Gunn), Clara (Toni Press-Coffman), Jimmy (Seth Fowler) and Ruth (Carley Elizabeth Preston).
 A lovely warm-up for an ecumenical holiday season is found at Invisible Theatre in its sprightly production of "Miracle on South Division Street" by Tom Dudzick. Not to be confused with Kris Kringle's Christmas shopping "Miracle on 34th Street," this miracle of a much different kind is set in Buffalo, New York, in 2010.

Gail Fitzhugh directs a tightly knit cast of four to deliver plenty of laughs while reminding us that family devotion will always be more important than religious differences. Anyone who grew up back east will recognize the spot-on characterizations in three generations of the Nowak clan of Polish-American Catholics who staked their claim to the New World just before World War II.

First, we are reminded how urban blight has taken its toll on the once prosperous upstate city of Buffalo. Clara (Toni Press-Coffman) has grown up in this house on this street where her deceased father ran a barber shop for 60 years.

Back in 1942, Clara's grandfather was visited by the Virgin Mary shortly after he opened his Buffalo barbershop. To honor this occasion, he had a statue of the Holy Mother erected on the spot. Although the Church has refused to recognize this miracle, Clara has become the keeper of its flame.

Her grown children – angry Beverly (Alida Holguin Gunn), bitter Ruth (Carley Elizabeth Preston) and genial Jimmy (Seth Fowler) – have not embraced their grandfather's shrine with any particular devotion, which only increases Clara's determination to keep the faith.

As the neighborhood has deteriorated, the shrine has become ever more important to Clara. Her sincerity and her dizzy grasp of current events are portrayed with smiling sympathy, even as Ruth and Beverly seem to lose patience with their mom.

Jimmy, the youngest, is the typical little brother in his 20s who always tries to keep balance in the family. All this interplay makes "Miracle on South Division Street" a wonderful ensemble piece that just becomes more buoyant the more complications set in.

Performed in 90 minutes without an intermission, once all the characters have established their identities, Ruth kicks over this house of traditional beliefs with her news of a deathbed confession that rattles this family to the core, but in a humorous way that has a happy ending.

"Miracle On South Division Street" continues through Nov. 24 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, plus 4 p.m. Saturday Nov. 23, at the Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.

Tickets are $28. For details and reservations, 520-882-9721, or visit







Monday, December 2, 2013


University music prodigy to perform on stage with Jazz Legends, Oct. 18

Elvis Presley once said, "Rhythm is something you either have or don't have, but when you have it, you have it all over."


In the case of Max Goldschmid, he "has it." This 19-year-old prodigy of music, now attending the University of Arizona, has won awards all over the nation for his extreme talent.


His cache of instruments includes soprano, alto, and tenor saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet, trombone, trumpet and slide trumpet, electric guitar, upright and electric bass, and whatever else he can get his hands on.

Jazz Legend's 2012


With jazz running through his fingers since age 6, Goldschmid has been invited to perform during this year's Jazz Legends on Friday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. - an honorable invitation never bestowed on an emerging artist in the concert's 13-year history.


Goldschmid will play a trumpet duo with the internationally-acclaimed Byron Stripling, and five additional famed musicians, during Jazz Legends benefit concert at Tucson Country Club, 2950 N. Camino Principal.


Millions have heard Stripling's trumpet and voice on television commercials, theme songs ("20/20" and CNN) and soundtracks of beloved movies.


Los Angeles' first-call trombonist Andrew Martin has contributed to albums with Pussycat Dolls, Coldplay, Kanye West and Michael Buble.


Saxophonist Rickey Woodard has performed with Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall, Frank Sinatra and The Temptations as well as toured with Ray Charles Band.


Kenny Drew played a solo piano tribute to Duke Ellington on Ellington's 100th birthday and was winner of the 1990 Great American Jazz Piano.


Drummer Joe La Barbera's first professional appearance was at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas with Frankie Randall and the Buddy Rich band in 1968. He later joined world renowned singer Tony Bennett, recording some of Bennet's finest albums.


Nicki Parrott, on bass and vocals, has worked side-by-side with guitar greats like Paul McCartney, Slash and Steve Miller, performing at major festivals around the globe, in Broadway shows and documentary appearances.


These memorable musicians will come together for Jazz Legends - a performance invigorating a passion for jazz from listeners, enthusiast to novice, each year.


With a range of ticket prices, the experience is available for all to attend. Front row seats include a three-course dinner before the show for $125, preferred seating tickets are $60 and general admission is $45. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. and the concert starts at 7 p.m.  


Proceeds raised from the event help SAACA continue free arts education and therapy programs in the schools and the community.


An emerging legend

Goldschmid received his introduction into jazz music with the Tucson Jazz Institute (TJI) as a youngster. There he learned from Doug Tidaback, Scott Black and other Tucson favorites, and he was quickly absorbed by Tucson's jazz scene. 


He plays weekly with the Arizona Roadrunners, a traditional Dixieland jazz band that was featured in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in the Jerry Lewis Telethon on live television.


He has received awards at numerous competitions, including the Outstanding Soloist award at the prestigious Fullerton College Jazz Festival; first chair alto sax in the Arizona All-State Jazz Band; the 2008-2009 Outstanding Musician award from the TJI; soloist awards for alto sax and trombone at the 2010 Next Generation Festival in Monterey, Calif.; the double solo award for clarinet and saxophone at the 2010 Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center in New York City; and most recently second place in the International Trumpet Guild jazz improvisation competition in Grand Rapids, Mich.


Goldschmid is also a composer. He wrote several original tunes for his studio album, "Maximum Exposure," and participated in the Tucson Symphony Orchestra's Young Composers Project for four years, producing a full-length symphony each cycle.


2013 Jazz Legends benefit concert

When: Friday, Oct. 18 - 5:30 p.m. dinner (optional ticket upgrade) and 7 p.m. concert

Where: Tucson Country Club, 2950 N. Camino Principal

Cost: VIP concert seating with three-course dinner $125 per person, $60 for Section B and $45 for Section C (no dinner with Section B and C prices)

        Phone: 520-797-3959 (SAACA office)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

INEQUALITY FOR ALL loft documentary nov 2013


Robert Reich makes his audience believe in the power of economic forces.

If you believe in and stand by Matt Damon's "Inside Job" documentary on the collapse of Wall Street (and the federal government's response), then you will absolutely want to buy "Inequality for All," a newly released documentary studying the causes of America's shrinking middle class, now playing at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.

Robert Reich, the personable Secretary of Labor during Bill Clinton's first term in office, is the star here. Blessed with the skill for making economics feel as up close and personal as any date on, Reich uses news clips, animated graphs and catchy photography to takes us through the past 30 years of America's economic history.

But first take a minute to realize how the nation's major newspapers have failed its readers by providing only superficial coverage of this glacially developing story on the growing income gap and how news entertainers such as Jon Stewart and his "Daily Show" have become the main real-news conduit to a numbed out national audience.

If Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his famous fireside chats today on any television network, he'd have to include dazzling special effects.

But back to Reich. He makes the convincing argument that if democracy is to survive in this country, there must be a thriving middle class to facilitate the rise from poverty to wealth that is at the heart of everything American.

Once that dream is dead, says Reich, so is the United States as we know it.

While prickly Republicans will be eager to shoot down the economist's every basic assumption, and progressive liberals will do the same, there is a progression of logical developments that begins in the late 1970s.

That's when several technological developments made it possible for large American companies to shift their means of production to other countries.

Thus, iIntricate parts designed in one country could be built in another country, and in yet another country several of these off-shore manufactured parts could be assembled even more cheaply into a new product that could then be sold at a very high price in the country of origin.

Thus the big American company takes in lots of money, though all the jobs to create that product were paid to workers in other countries. Is this sounding familiar?

Reich pulls in other factors such as the mantra that giving tax breaks to American companies means more jobs for American workers. Nope. That hasn't happened and Reich has the research to prove it.

The bottom line is that the United States is the richest country in the world, but now has shriveled up public schools that fail its students and unemployment rates worse than many so-called Third World nations.

Though "Inequality for All" tackles dense subject matter its conclusions are easy to appreciate for any member of the middle class – whether rising, falling or struggling to make that mortgage payment.

See it now and buy a copy when it's available. Keep it right alongside your copy of "Inside Job" in that special spot next to the TV.

Monday, November 25, 2013

ENDERS GAME movie nov 2013


Harrison Ford tells Asa Butterfield to straighten up and fly right.

On paper, the idea of Harry Potter in Outer Space sounds appealing. Visions of a gravity-free British boarding school with a faculty of caped alien academics definitely has some possibilities.

But the film version of Orson Scott Card's best-selling young adult fiction novel "Ender's Game" doesn't equal the opportunities. This movie featuring Harrison Ford as the grumpy headmaster at a military cadet training school orbiting Earth was a generation in the making, it has been said.

If that's true, the teams of writers and whatnot who failed over the decades to capture what made the book so popular still haven't found it.

All the super-digital computerized battles-in-outer-space blather have about as much weight on the IMAX screen as airy clouds on the feathery wings of restless winds. And that's the grand climactic battle, as well.

The first half of "Ender's Game" (rated PG-13) documents the superior skills of 12-year-old Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield) whose supreme confidence is often interpreted as arrogance by those around him jealous of his success.

What message this conveys to the present tweener generation is open to adult discussion, but the word "fascist" could be whispered now and then.

For those keeping score at home, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley do bring some weight to secondary roles. All the villains are animated insect-looking creatures which is another miscue. Without a vivid villain to defeat, the hero will never be very powerful.




ROGUE THEATRE measure for measure nov 2013


From left, Connor Foster as Claudio, Joseph McGrath as Duke Vincentio and Marissa Garcia as Isabella.

Marissa Garcia gives the performance of her life in the Rogue Theatre production of Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure, a play of moral ambiguities and blurred ideals – where standing for something can create a lot of problems for others.

Garcia as innocent Isabella, in the white robes of a novice nun dedicated to Christ, is the only pure spirit in the Viennese court of Duke Vincentio (Joseph McGrath).

The play is set in the early 1600s (with elaborate costumes to match) performed on a bare black stage built with six step-like levels, a towering trio of arches defining the space behind them. People have barely begun to move about when the Duke, venturing onside his palace, realizes that under his lax reign debauchery has become rampant in the city.

But lacking the temperament to close the brothels and enforce harsh laws prohibiting sex outside of marriage, the Duke appoints aggressively upstanding Angelo (Matt Bowden), dressed completely in black, to take the Duke's place while he takes a long trip. Only the Duke doesn't leave, he hangs around disguised as a monk to see what happens under Angelo's faux-reign.

With the eagerness of a Tea Party patriot, or maybe a fundamentalist Muslim, Angelo condemns Claudio (Connor Foster) to death for getting his fiancée Juliet (Kayla Bernays) pregnant. Claudio, wouldn't you know, is the brother of Isabella.

Juliet is an equally nice person, just maybe anticipating the joys of marriage a little prematurely. Isabella the pure one is helplessly distraught. She will do anything to save her brother. Shakespeare makes sure she has that opportunity.

The comedic moments, so essential to every Shakespeare production, are generously spread among several secondary characters here. Primary among them is Lucio (the amazingly versatile Lee Rayment), Pompey (Ryan Parker Knox) servant to the delightfully named Mistress Overdone (Cynthia Meier) who runs a brothel and is also delightfully costumed.  

David Morden directs with a sure hand and keeps things moving along as the demands of morality clash with the emotional desires of human nature. The timelessness of conflicts Shakespeare has dreamed up continue to prove his genius. Today's rudderless society filled with its willingness to compromise any issue for financial gain clearly parallels Vienna of that time.

Garcia makes her Isabella quite sympathetic to the ruthless machinations of Angelo, who just can't resist a helpless novice in white. But she's also possessed of steely fortitude when the Duke in disguise needs her participation in a plot to disarm Angelo.

The blurry morality, the comedy and the cleverness of people doing the right things for maybe the wrong reason have always made "Measure For Measure" a tart comedy rather than a silly one.

Rogue Theatre has responded with a measured production that keeps these competing forces in balance.

"Measure For Measure" continues through Nov. 24 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays (plus a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday, Nov. 23), at the Rogue Theatre in the Historic Y, 300 E. University Blvd. All tickets are $32; student rush (with ID) tickets are $15, on sale 15 minutes before curtain when available.

For details and reservations, 520-551-2053, or visit









Sunday, November 17, 2013

SAVAGE BOND beowulf alley theatre nov 2013


photo by Bree Boyd
Cast members eye a glum future in "Savage Bond."

Maybe the truth can set you free, but it can also tie you in knots – especially if the truth is something you want to keep from friends and relatives. No doubt every Catholic priest for centuries has taken to his grave the personal secrets of parishioners that would have completely unraveled the community had these secrets become known.

But what if this particular counselor wasn't a priest. What if he was just a normal kind of guy, who happened to know lots of other people's secrets but had no particular professional, or moral, obligation to keep these secrets secret?

Such is the quandary pondered by playwright Steve Holiday in "Savage Bond," which won the Arizona Theatre Company's 2012 Arizona Playwriting Award.

At Beowulf Alley Theatre, Katherine Monberg directs an informal production which seems to gather menace for its folksiness, a sort of this-could-happen-to-anyone air that sounds about right.

It is the day before Thanksgiving, ironically enough, when six friends return for the funeral of a departed mutual friend. They feel like a modern-day version of the Magnificent Seven, gathering to protect their friend from threats of outside forces.

They also, each in a different way, feel relief that the possibility of a sinister secret being discovered has died, as well. All of them have told something  very personal to this fellow at one time or another.

Imagine their collective horror discovering this beloved pal now passed away wrote a journal over the years that contained all these secrets.


Nobody wants to act too interested in the journal, lest it appear the journal might contain some embarrassing secret about them. On the other hand, they must decide if the friendships they have now are more valuable than the truth that would be in the journal.

What would you choose?

"Savage Bond" continues through Nov. 17 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, at Beowulf Alley Theatre, 11 S. Sixth Ave.

Tickets are $25 at the door, $23 online; students at the door and online, $10. For details and reservations, 520-882-0555, or visit