Best Of :: People & Places
Phoenix is lousy with little theaters, and most of them are a revolving door for would-be thespians who aspire to community productions of Neil Simon comedies. These petite playhouses cater to theatergoers who'd just as soon rent videos and don't want to be troubled with shows they haven't already seen. Then there's teeny Is What It Is Theater, a group of Camelback High School alumni who for the past five seasons have pushed the arts envelope with quirky and rarely produced shows that we'd never see otherwise. Last year the kids at Is brought us the seldom-seen Gingerbread Lady; a tidy take on What I Did Last Summer; and a risky adaptation of Orson Welles' radio drama The War of the Worlds. While not every one of this tiny troupe's productions is a winner -- its production of hoary old The Curious Savage was a reminder of why no one mounts this show anymore -- it's set a standard for alternative but still commercial theater. More impressive is the fact that the troupe has done it all on a shoestring.
BEST PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE
BEST TOURIST TRAP
Rawhide Wild West Town
23023 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
BEST USE OF TAXPAYER MONEY
BEST TV NEWSCASTER
BEST NEWS STATION
KPNX Channel 12
BEST ART GALLERY
Phoenix Art Museum
1625 North Central
BEST THEATER TROUPE
Phoenix Theatre's Little Theatre
BEST PLACE TO ACT LIKE A NATIVE PHOENICIAN
Bank One Ballpark
401 East Jefferson
BEST LOCAL HERO
How could one guy hurt so many people and maintain the highest approval rating of any elected official in the county? We've gotta hand it to you, Sheriff Joe: You are one fine politician. We'd like to bottle the sheriff's elixir and sell it for those interested in doing good, rather than evil, but for now we'll applaud Arpaio for making the decision not to run for governor this fall. The mark of a good politician is not just knowing when to run, it's knowing when not to run -- and somewhere beneath all that hair grease, Arpaio must have had some self-awareness (or some political consultant) telling him his record in office just wouldn't have held up in the shadow of the governor's race.
Joe Arpaio's not going to win any awards for promoting human rights, and like others we've elected, he's dangerous. But as a politician, he's got all the rest of you losers beat.
Really, we're not making this one up. Court Rich is a first-year associate at Nearhood Law Offices in Scottsdale, and a recent graduate of Arizona State University's law school. Since he'll be specializing in business litigation, he may even see the inside of a courtroom -- a rarity for a lawyer these days. But will he be rich? Remains to be seen, although he does have a head start in the public relations department. Turns out Court Rich is the brother of Jordan, who's married to Jason Rose, who runs a PR firm in Scottsdale. And Rose can already see the ad on the back of the phone book: "Need to go to court? Want to get rich? Call Court Rich. 1-800-COURT-RICH."
So often, people in our (un)fair city use their power for evil. We're happy to celebrate a couple of powerful Phoenicians who, as far as we can tell, do nothing but good.
Instead of building skyscrapers, Cindy Dach and Greg Esser are busy constructing culture. Dach is director of events for Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. Esser runs the public art program for the City of Phoenix. Thank Dach for bringing Amy Tan, David Sedaris, T.C. Boyle and Dr. Andrew Weil to town for readings. Expect Garrison Keillor this fall. Esser gets credit for that cool mountain-like bridge over the 51 and the public art coin project along Central Avenue.
On the side, Dach writes fiction and Esser paints. In their spare time this year, they created two of the city's most vibrant art spaces.
Dismayed by the lack of artist-run galleries in the Valley, earlier this year Dach and Esser opened eye lounge, in a building they bought and refurbished. The space -- at 419 East Roosevelt, next to Modified Arts and across from the Paisley Violin -- quickly became a favorite stop on First Fridays, and, in September, Esser opened 515, a spin-off gallery just a few doors down from eye lounge.
We can't wait to see what Dach and Esser do next. We're exhausted just thinking about it.
A few blocks north of Phoenix's business district sits Trinity Cathedral, the 82-year-old Episcopalian church that houses the perfect getaway for those looking for some artistic time off. Between the cathedral itself (surprisingly modern and warm inside) and Bishop Atwood Hall you'll find the Cathedral Center for the Arts show space, a light, narrow gallery that makes for the perfect aesthetic refuge. CCA hangs art there regularly, oftentimes the work of lesser-known artists, and the quality of the shows is consistent.
But it also offers a kind of cathedral-like quiet that many downtowners seem to crave; the gallery's guest book is salted with thanks from midday visitors for providing an oasis where they can sit, look and ponder. Now the secret's out.
And another tip: The brickwork labyrinth in the courtyard -- modeled after one at the medieval Chartres Cathedral -- makes for another neat diversion, especially for the kids.