Best Poetry Slam 2014 | Phoenix Poetry Slam | People & Places | Phoenix

As poetry slammers go, these folks are the champs. Headed up by Lawn Gnome Publishing, this slam team isn't about rhyming moon and June. These poets not only write, practice, and compete on a national level with other laureates, but also perform at private parties, speak at local schools, and support themselves with fun-infused fundraisers. Performing at Lawn Gnome and in other cafes and galleries around town, PPS continues the slam's tradition of talented hosts, amazing performers and heart-stopping performances. This year, the group is playing host to the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam, a three-day competition and arts festival co-produced by the Arizona Humanities Council. Why do we have a feeling these guys are going to come out on top?

Insightful coverage and reporting from nationally syndicated programs like Talk of the Nation and PRI's The World provide excellent national and international coverage, but it's KJZZ's Arizona and Southwestern-centric reporting that sets it apart from other news outlets in Phoenix. Whether it's The Show, covering adaptive reuse of historic properties and gender dynamics at Phoenix Comicon or reporting by Fronteras: The Changing America Desk on border crossings from Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and California, KJZZ's news reporting is second to none.

When we heard Phoenix's airwaves would soon be home to a new community station, you better bet we were all ears. Though 102.9 FM is currently static, the frequency is also filled with possibilities. A full schedule of programming is expected to launch in August 2015, and a few shows could be on the air as soon as early 2015. But before that happens, the fine folks launching this station are pounding pavement, engaging the public, and hosting events around Phoenix to figure out what exactly the community wants in a radio station — be it indie rock and live DJs or in-depth arts and culture coverage — what stories they want to tell, and what stories they want to hear. Stay tuned.

When Scorpius Dance Theatre presented A Vampire Tale for the 10th year in a row, we couldn't take our eyes off Gavin Sisson. Between completely selling his role as a creepy vampire to moving with unparalleled energy and leading the troupe in its aerial work with silks draped from the ceiling and spinning and twisting around, we imagined how much more we'd dig the production if he were to play the male lead, a vampire king named Viktor. Turns out, we're not the only ones who couldn't take our eyes off Sisson, who has been with the company since 2011 and works as its assistant director. Scorpius announced that he'll take on that lead role come October. And we'll be there to watch him take the production to new, probably terrifying heights.

Martha never looked this good — at least, she hasn't for a very long time. Emma bills itself "for the modern domestic goddess" — and it's clear the magazine is targeting the Stewart-inclined millennial. Smart thinking.

From how to make fork pompoms to how to make a faux bob, with beautiful holiday vignettes and Phoenix-based features like GROWop boutique and a caramel corn hot dog from Short Leash, this is a magazine with staying power and we can't wait to see where the editors take Emma next.

Phoenix may not have open-air theaters like London or Shakespeare in the Park like New York City, but, as it turns out, the desert makes an even more interesting performance art venue. Performance in the Borderlands is an ASU initiative that has been responsible for the curation of all kinds of performance pieces that deal with issues of borders, politics, and identity. This past year, the initiative brought two notable pieces to the Deer Valley Rock Center, where performers found themselves interacting directly with the Arizona landscape. Performance in the Borderlands also is responsible for a series of banned-play readings that regularly take place at the Phoenix Hostel and Cultural Center. With the ever-mounting prominence of border politics in Arizona, Performance in the Borderlands provides the perfect way to explore these intense issues: through art.

It's amazing to think that Jon Gentry, one of our longtime most dependable stage players, made his Arizona Theatre Company debut this year in that company's production of Jules Verne's classic Around the World in 80 Days. In Mark Brown's adaptation directed by Childsplay's David P. Saar, Gentry's Passeportout, manservant to wacky adventurer Phileas Fogg, was a revelation. The actor's talent for physical comedy got a workout; Gentry wowed ATC audiences by literally climbing the 80 Days set in scenes in which he saved damsels in distress and rescued passengers from a runaway train. Gentry's quieter moments featured his distinctive voice and turn of phrase, and all of it reminded us that this actor's actor is among our very best.

Tracy Letts' epic, relentlessly dismal yet moving and entertaining August: Osage County won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. And in last year's Mesa Encore Theatre production, Shari Watts takes local honors for her performance in the lead. She assayed the role of Violet with a heartbreaking resignation that never quite masked her pain. Vi is one of the nastiest, most unpleasant characters in contemporary drama, and while Letts has given her cancer and a crappy childhood to help the audience (and her family) tolerate her, Watts was able to sell Vi's raging pill habit and torrent of insults anyway, because she was just that good.

Best Performance by a Child Actor in a Professional Production

Riley Glick in Ruthless! The Musical

Packed from end to end with faultless performances, Phoenix Theatre's Ruthless! The Musical was a stunner. Joel Paley's book and lyrics — about a little girl who'll do anything to play the lead in the school musical — provided a convulsion of nudging and winking at anyone up on their backstage stories. But a cast made up mostly of Phoenix Theatre veterans (including Debby Rosenthal, whose send-up of Mama Rose as a clueless stage mother who winds up a star was a scream, and Rusty Ferracane, in a glittery black skirt and eyelashes out to there, singing about stardom) nearly vanished from sight whenever little Riley Glick appeared onstage, singing and stomping about as 9-year-old Tina. Glick's way with a scene-stealing brat was surpassed only by hearing her shout an expletive early in Act Two. And her ballet combination wasn't bad, either.

Even if Ron May, founder of Stray Cat Theatre and recent star of the one-person show The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, had only brought us his company's production of The Whale last season, that would have been enough to snag him our undying gratitude and admiration. In that play, about an obese man at the end of his rather sad life, May kept a fine cast from chewing scenery and helped lead actor Damon Dering create a career-making performance. But May, who handles frantic comedies with the same grace as he does murky melodramas, also worked his directorial magic last season on the extremely tricky The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, making a small, dark comedy set in the world of semi-pro boxing into something everyone could love. This month, May is directing Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brothers Size, so here's to another year of dynamic direction from our own Mister May.

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