100 Creatives

Joya Scott of Orange Theatre on Why Risk-Taking Work Is Rare in Phoenix

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 62. Joya Scott.

You know the sort of people who say they wear a lot of hats? Joya Scott is one of those people.

And she's not exaggerating.

The 35-year-old Boston native divides her days between teaching at both Arizona State University's School of Film, Dance, and Theatre and Scottsdale Community College's Theatre Arts program, as well as serving as the resident dramaturg and associate artistic director for the Phoenix-based experimental indie company Orange Theatre. 

"There was nothing else I could find to do that was as fulfilling," Scott says of her slash-ridden career in the arts. "It was less of a choice and more of a compulsion!"

Being a director/dramaturg/educator means that Scott is constantly collaborating. "As a part of the company's leadership, my job is to help create the conditions in which innovative art can happen," she says.

And dramaturg? It can mean a lot of things, she concedes. But in the context of Orange Theatre, she says, "I'm a second set of eyes on the work, a facilitator, a sounding board for the director and artistic team, and often a curator or adapter of textual material."

Again, with the hats. As an "adapter of textual material," Scott undertook the project of newly translating Federico García Lorca's Blood Wedding for Orange's 2013-14 adaptation of that play. Translating is one of her specialties, it turns out, along with adaptation, new work, and devising.

Now, though, she's prepping for Orange's next project. It's a collaboration with Scottsdale Community College, where she teaches as adjunct faculty. "We'll be creating a new piece inspired by Gertrude Stein's novel Ida, developing it with the students there, and performing it this October," Scott says.

Naturally, that's not all. Scott adds that she's also teaching script analysis at SCC this summer while prepping her fall classes there and at ASU.

I came to Phoenix with a cat and a bunch of books, but no furniture. I moved here for grad school from New York and didn't have a car, so everything I couldn't ship in boxes had to go.

I make art because of history.

I'm most productive when I'm working with inspiring collaborators. And when I've had enough coffee.

I've learned most from failing. Failure is a really phenomenal teacher.

Good work should always challenge assumptions. I'm most interested in art that confronts me with something I don't quite understand. I find that kind of art exciting to experience, so it's the kind of work I try to make and support.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more resources. Phoenix is diverse and has some wonderful people and real practical advantages, like the relatively low cost of housing and rehearsal/studio space compared to other major cities ... all things that should make it an hospitable environment for artists. Unfortunately, though, the arts are woefully underfunded here. Our state arts funding is pretty abysmal, hovering around last place in the nation. Thanks to dedicated advocates, we do a decent job of supporting arts education in some areas, but there isn't a truly robust scene for the young artists who grow up in these educational programs to join once they are ready to move into the field. Frankly, I think the overall scarcity of resources here leads a lot of Valley organizations to make safe choices, instead of taking risks on nurturing more exciting work that could put Phoenix on the national artistic map.

And, of course, too many artists have to work for free or for poverty wages, or they have to hold down multiple day jobs to stay afloat. Artists aren't alone in this – wealth inequality is a society-wide issue, and it especially disadvantages people of color, women, and the queer community – but it's one of the reasons it's hard to sustain a vibrant creative scene here. To get really good at something, you have to be able to put a lot of time into it, and that takes resources. Many talented young artists in the Valley are forced to relegate their art to hobby status. Many others leave, moving to other cities to seek out opportunities to do the kind of daring, risk-taking, career-making work that is rare here. As a result, our arts scene overall fails to rise to the level it should for a city of this size. Of course, there are bright spots – exceptions to the rule – thanks to some hard-working artists in this town, and by no means do I intend to diminish their efforts! I just hope that the community overall rises to the challenge to really support them and their work.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski