Big Brain Awards 2013

Page 10 of 13

Instead, they posted photos of themselves eating pizza using cease-and-desists as napkins. PepsiCo's smackdown hasn't discouraged Man-Cat in the slightest.

"Quite the opposite," a Man-Cat member says. "The fact that we got this big corporation's attention made us feel like, 'Cool. What else can we do?'"

Work on their next album and a major project aimed at a "very successful" female pop icon in the weeks ahead, that's what. True to form, Man-Cat's mum on any additional details. We can't wait. — Benjamin Leatherman


Performance poet Leah Marche, a Phoenix native, says she's always been active in the local arts scene. "My mom put me in pageants when I was little," she recalls, "and there'd always be that question, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' And I'd always say, 'I want to be a writer.'"

Her love of writing led her to college courses in journalism (she was the editor-in-chief of Glendale Community College's weekly) and, later, to a job as art director at a local music magazine. Journalism was great, but Marche secretly yearned to perform.

"The first time I got up the nerve to get up on the mic as a performance poet was in 2005," she admits. "I used to go to poetry slams to be inspired by others, then I'd go home and write. But I always challenge myself, and so I forced myself to go on stage. I've been addicted to performing poetry ever since."

That addiction led Marche to co-found Black Poet Ventures (blackpoetventures.com), a performance poetry group based in Phoenix, that same year. "Artists can be finicky and sensitive," she says, "and that can lead to a lot of disconnection among us. I wanted to create a place where poets were coming together, collaborating, supporting one another in creating great new work."

That great new work includes an upcoming Mother's Day show called Evangelina in collaboration with local actor Rod Ambrose. "It's about the power of women and our voices, and how mothers can make a difference in the world," Marche says. Concurrently, BPV is producing an ongoing biorhythmic series, which presents biographical stories set to a poetic beat, as well as a show about the life of jazz musician Miles Davis.

Marche, who works in the Herberger Theater Center's marketing department, has also participated in National Poetry Slam teams and is putting the finishing touches on a program for poets who want to cast a wider net. "I'm calling it Send a Poet," she says of the project, "and it emulates the e-card model, but with videos. I'll teach poets how to put together a video of their performance that they can send in an e-blast. Poets can engage a larger audience by inspiring people via our digital world."

In what's left of her spare time, she hosts The Bungalow Show, a weekly interview program on Radio Phoenix, an all-volunteer station that streams at radiophoenix.org. "I interview artists about their perspective on culture and arts in the Valley," she says. "I really try to emphasize alternative arts — those unheard voices and unknown performers who are out there working."

Marche sometimes worries that poetry performance tops the list of those under-the-radar art forms. "There are so many poets working here, and constant events featuring poetry, and yet not many people know that we're out here, doing this work. I've sort of given part of my life to making sure that performance poets have a wider visibility in the Valley." — Robrt L. Pela


"We're like a home for wayward artists," says Shawna Franks, cofounder of Space 55 Theatre (space55.org), the tiny, off-beat playhouse that's lately been taking downtown Phoenix by storm. The nonprofit, all-volunteer company operates less like a conventional theater than a theater cooperative, offering late-night and series productions created and produced by a revolving cast of actors, writers, and directors.

Opening a theater, Franks says, was not part of her plan when she moved here from Chicago in 2005. "I didn't know anyone in town," she recalls, "but I'm a theater person, so I started to invite actors to my house for dinner. Actors are usually hungry, so I figured if I promised to feed them, they'd come. We read plays together, and we ended up liking one another, and it became a theater company."

The company, officially founded in 2006, took its time finding its proper audience. "When we first opened, people would walk in and say, 'Oh, take me back to Scottsdale!' But eventually, the people who love a writers' theater, and who really want to see original and contemporary work, were showing up and saying, 'Oh, this is just the thing I've been looking for!'"

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