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First Fiction was born. It was such a smash hit, on its 2003 debut at the outdoor patio at Monti's La Casa Vieja in downtown Tempe (including a reading by Nell Freudenberger, that year's It Girl of the fiction world), that Dach had requests to expand First Fiction outside Arizona.
So she took the authors on the road. Last fall, five debut novelists (including Joshua Braff, brother of Zach, whose New Jersey-set coming-of-age tale The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green is an amazing companion piece to Zach's Garden State) ended a six-city tour at Monti's in Tempe, laughing and joking and acting like teenagers who'd just returned from summer camp together. It was standing room only; the authors felt like rock stars. A tour this spring skipped the Valley, but in October, First Fiction starts in New York City and winds up back at Monti's, this time with three female authors whose work includes a fictitious take on the life of Rudyard Kipling.
We can't resist saying that this was a novel idea. And we're glad First Fiction can call the Valley home.
We gotta say, we didn't think it was funny at all when Ron Babcock and Ryan McKee, the dynamic duo behind the Modest Proposal mother ship -- which encompasses a magazine, short films, and a music night as well as this Third Saturday comedy showcase at the Paper Heart -- fled Phoenix for the L.A. scene. We certainly don't begrudge their career opportunities, but it's still nice to know that they've kept their ongoing comedy gig intact -- in downtown Phoenix.
Au contraire! Shaw's three-hour-long Dance in the Movies was the real thing, even if it never -- even for a single minute -- got around to teaching anything about dance. Or the movies. Or dance in the movies. Although we watched faithfully, week after week, Shaw never once discussed Rogers and Astaire; never uttered the names "Hermes Pan" or "Gower Champion" or even "Gene Kelly." There were hourlong discussions about how to turn in a term paper, and endless screenings of the most excruciating "student films" ever seen, and repeated references to something called "the male gaze." But nothing about the evolution of the MGM musical or Busby Berkeley's influential Golddiggers films.
Our favorite moments include the time Shaw had a guest speaker, a profoundly effeminate baldy who muttered for two hours about Marxism and sexism but who -- because this is Dance in the Movies! -- never got around to talking about choreography or the cinema. And then there was the single occasion that Shaw mentioned a movie musical and got all the facts wrong, claiming that West Side Story was a stage musical based on the movie and starring somebody named "Chita Moreno."
Sadly, we'll never see the likes of this sort of sidesplitting bon mot again, as Shaw's show was canceled after a single 13-week season, leaving us to watch ASU-TV also-rans like Learning Math and Essential Science, neither of which is as fun as Dance in the Movies, but both of which are nearly as enlightening about the art of dance on film.