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100 Years a Player


Get in the Game!







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Karen Werner

Andrea Tyler Evans



Neill Fox

Jillian Rivera



Tom Evans

The Sparkle Bar



Lesley Kitts

Saks Fifth Avenue Phoenix



Julie Coleman Shoshana Leon Judy Pearson Carey Peña Catie Richman McKenna Wesley

Marion Rhoades Photography

Beyond Print Our roots are in ink and paper, but our work goes far beyond the traditional.

On the Cover Michael Barnard, producing artistic director of The Phoenix Theatre Company, and Vincent VanVleet, The Phoenix Theatre Company managing director, along with photos from past productions.

Photo: Thurkill Studios

We’re strategists, creatives, campaign developers and producers. From concept to implementation, we provide innovative marketing solutions that go above and beyond.

Historical photos: provided by The Phoenix Theatre Company

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your key to the community GENERAL INFORMATION & PRESS RELEASES

info@frontdoorsmedia.com 3104 E. Camelback Road, #967, Phoenix, AZ 85016 480-622-4522 | frontdoorsmedia.com

Frontdoors Magazine is dedicated to the memory of Mike Saucier.

602 243 5777 | prismagraphic.com

TABLE OF CONTENTS {february 2020, volume 18, issue 2}

EDITOR’S NOTE...............................07 The Dress Rehearsal 10 QUESTIONS WITH...............10 Pat McMahon, actor, TV host and Valley legend BOOKMARKED.................................15 Heartfelt Reads


OFFICE DOORS...............................16 Debbie Castaldo of the Arizona Diamondbacks CAREY’S CORNER.......................20 Open Your Heart


COVER STORY.................................24 100 Years a Player NEXT DOORS......................................31 Promoting Civil Discourse in a Cynical Age STYLE UNLOCKED......................34 A Fashionable Fight A 2ND ACT.................................................39 Queen of Arizona Hearts CHARITY SPOTLIGHT............42 Black Theatre Troupe KITCHEN DOORS..........................46 The Eat Beat CHEERS TO THE CHAIRS.....48 Tracy and Louis Basile OPEN DOORS.....................................50 The Valley Arts and Culture Scene Is Blooming


+ Chandler Center for the Arts

+ Rosie’s

+ Arizona

Heart Association Musicfest + Arizona Questers + ASU Gammage + Ballet Arizona + Black Theatre Troupe

+ Child

+ The

Crisis Arizona + Diamondbacks Foundation + Open Hearts Family Wellness + The Phoenix Theatre Company

House Sandra Day O’Connor Institute + The Scott Foundation + Valley Youth Theatre

READY TO DO YOUR TAXES? THE FRONTDOORS 2019-2020 TAX CREDIT GIVING GUIDE IS HERE! Make sure to check out frontdoorsmedia.com/taxcredit

EDITOR’S NOTE {on the job}



ot long before this issue went to press, a few of us from the Frontdoors team — publisher Andrea Evans, contributor Carey Peña and myself — had the amazing opportunity to sit in on a dress rehearsal for “Americano!,” Phoenix Theatre Company’s groundbreaking new musical about Arizona DREAMer Tony Valdovinos, who went to enlist in the Marine Corps on his 18th birthday, only to discover that he was undocumented. Even though we were watching what was just the second full run-through at the time, we knew we were seeing something special. The show was created here in Phoenix and its authentic depiction of our community — particularly the DREAMers whose story is often untold — was powerful and meaningful. Here at Frontdoors, we take seriously the responsibility of representing our community by lifting up the good work of our neighbors. That’s particularly true this month, which aims the spotlight on long-serving nonprofit and community organizations that are celebrating milestone years. Arizona is considered a “young” state, but we have a rich history to laud. So, don’t miss Judy Pearson’s lovely piece about the Wrigley Mansion’s second act. Learn how the Black Theatre Troupe has evolved from being one woman’s dream to becoming an essential part of Phoenix’s cultural fabric. And be sure to read Tom Evans’ story about the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute and its vital mission to restore civic duty and civil conversation.

If you’re a fan of fashion, be sure to check out the beautiful period clothing worn by the Arizona Questers, an organization that is honoring another landmark anniversary — the passage of the 19th amendment. Women’s suffrage is celebrating its centennial this year, and the Questers have big plans to mark the occasion. It’s a fitting twist that the Questers are spending 2020 highlighting the importance of winning the vote. Just as it is apt that when Tony Valdovinos couldn’t enlist, he began to fight another war — empowering others to vote in order to play a role in decisions that affect them. In this election year, I hope you will be energized and engaged by Arizonans like these and exercise your right to vote as well. Whether you believe 2020 is the most consequential election of our lifetime or just another year, Arizonans like Frances Willard Munds, Sandra Day O’Connor and Tony Valdovinos are calling on all of us to participate. Because unlike my recent night at the theater, this isn’t a dress rehearsal.

Karen Werner EDITOR


10 QUESTIONS {fascinating people}

PAT McMAHON Actor, TV host and Valley legend

Photo courtesy of AZTV

1. Your parents were vaudeville performers. What was that like, growing up as a child? It was a dream childhood. My playmates were magicians, comedians and acrobats. I was homeschooled grades one to eight as we traveled through 50 states and several countries.

2. You were in special services in the Army and performed for troops across the U.S. What did you learn from this experience? Performing for the military was a fabulous way to serve. Besides, I would have been a lousy soldier. 10 FRONTDOORS MEDIA | FEBRUARY 2020

3. How did you come to Phoenix? After the stint in the Army, I decided to seek my broadcast fortune in New York, but stopped in Phoenix first. I never left.

4. How did you break into television? I was in radio in Davenport, Iowa, and started my own “American Bandstand” type of show for teens.

5. You were part of “The Wallace and Ladmo Show” for 30 years. What’s your favorite memory from that time? All 30 years make for one incredible memory.

6. Can you share any tips for talking to kids? Steven Spielberg said he learned NOT to talk down to kids from “The Wallace and Ladmo Show.”

7. Tell us about the Ladmo Bag and how it started. We used to have our winners pick out a toy. That process took forever, so we decided we’d put sponsors’ products like Twinkies and animal crackers in a bag that Ladmo signed. We could never have imagined what a “Super Prize” it would become.

8. The bag is back on a limited basis. Tell us about it.

10. The Wallace and Ladmo Foundation seeks to preserve, nurture and continue the Wallace and Ladmo legacy of encouraging creativity and camaraderie in Arizona’s children. What’s going on with the foundation today? The officers of The Wallace and Ladmo Foundation are Wallace’s son David Thompson, Ladmo’s son Robin Kwiatkowski and me. We have an advisory board helping us do “good stuff” for the community. We have some really exciting things coming up later this year, so stay tuned. Captain Super would want it that way.

It’s so limited only the CIA knows. But seriously, after all these years, they are still available exclusively to the lucky people who WIN them.

9. The Phoenix Zoo recently added a Wallace and Ladmo memorial bench. What does this mean to you? It’s far more than a bench. There are three life-size bronze sculptures of us. Imagine, along with Barry Goldwater and Coach Frank Kush, there’s a statue of Wallace, Ladmo and Gerald. Unbelievable.

Frontdoors publisher Andrea Evans recently won her first Ladmo Bag and framed the signature Ladmo caricature (above left). Pat McMahon joined “The Wallace and Ladmo Show” in 1960 and developed such beloved characters as Gerald, Aunt Maud, Captain Super and Marshall Good. FEBRUARY 2020 | FRONTDOORS MEDIA 11 

Presented at



Feb 7 thru 23, 2020 1-WEEK SPRING BREAK THEATRE CAMP (Ages 7-15)

Campers enjoy a week of engaging workshops with professional teaching artists specializing in acting, singing and dance, creating an active and immersive experience. On the last day of camp, students will showcase their stage presence, confidence and creativity on-stage before family and friends.

Cost: $275

Location: Valley Youth Theatre 525 N. 1st Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Session I: March 9–13 Session II: March 16–20 Monday–Friday, 9am–3pm Before- and after-camp experiences are also available.

For camp information/registration or to purchase tickets, visit:

www.vyt.com or call 602.253.8188

BOOKMARKED {Heartfelt Reads} February is American Heart Month, and with it a reminder that heart disease is the number-one killer of women. To shine a light on the vital work of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, Frontdoors Magazine asked the local Go Red for Women co-chairs for their book recommendations this month.


Chief nursing officer at Dignity Mercy Gilbert Medical Center and 2020 Go Red for Women co-chair


“The Engaged Caregiver” by Joseph Cabral, Thomas H. Lee, M.D. and Martin Wright

H E R TA K E “As the healthcare arena becomes more complex, ‘The Engaged Caregiver’ provides information and recommendations to build a workforce sustainable through all of the changes, without losing sight of our purpose of caring for patients. This read enhanced the work we are currently doing in our organization. It contains six pillars with goals that our organization strives to meet or exceed. They are safety, quality, patient experience, people, growth and finance — our strategic plan. As ‘The Engaged Caregiver’ communicates, ‘If it is important, it must be part of the plan.’ This message must be consistent and communicated clearly to all. We must speak the same language. ‘The Engaged Caregiver’ provides the reader with the what, the why and the how. It is a great resource to help leaders of today work toward a highly reliable organization focused on safety, quality, patient experience and the employee experience.”


President & CEO of Dignity Health Arizona General Hospital Phoenix and 2020 Go Red for Women co-chair


“The Power of Personal Accountability: Achieve What Matters to You” by Mark Samuel and Sophie Chiche

H E R TA K E “I first read this book in 2006 as part of a class I was taking, called Leading an Accountable Culture. I have reread it since then and refer to it frequently as I talk with leaders about methods that best support accountability individually and in a team. The book is based on a fairly simple model that is used to move oneself or others into higher levels of accountable behavior. ‘The Power of Personal Accountability’ is not long — it’s about 121 pages — and it is well organized and presents in a readable and easy-to-understand format a model that I have been able to use over and over again in my leadership career. There are exercises in each chapter to help practice each tool or aspect of the model discussed. I have used it as a ‘group read’ for a few leadership teams I’ve been fortunate to work with, and that’s a fun way to move this model into the culture. I feel I’m a better leader today as a result of working with this book.”


OFFICE DOORS {valley changemakers}


Senior vice president of corporate and community impact at the Arizona Diamondbacks and executive director of the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation As told to | Julie Coleman

5 a.m. >> STARTING AT HOME PLATE My husband, Vince, and I are empty nesters. One of our sons is in college and our other son is away at a soccer academy. So the mornings are our couple time. After we get up, we spend time just hanging out and having coffee together and talking about the day. We look at the kids’ schedules, where we’re going to be, and what we’re going to do. And then Vince heads off to the gym, and I ride my bike at home. By 7 a.m., I am in my home office. Major League Baseball is on East Coast time. So, I’ll have emails to look at from the night before, or things I can answer quickly. This allows our East Coast partners to be on their way, and then I head into the office.

8 a.m. >> THE DAY’S WARM-UP My entire team sits together in what we call our community pod. I typically don’t open my office 16 FRONTDOORS MEDIA | FEBRUARY 2020

door for quite some time as I first head to the team, go from office to office, say good morning and check in. I stay in our collaborative space for at least an hour, roll up a chair to each team member’s desk and see what they are working on and how I can help, such as approving verbiage or looking at the website. I love the time with my team in the morning. I’m excited when I get here, and I still love what I do every day. They know this is the time that I will show up, and they have their questions ready!

10 a.m. >> TEAM HUDDLES ARE THE NORM Every day, we have set meetings at this time, such as executive leadership, business operations, my staff, and corporate partnership teams. I meet often with our production and social media team, which does a lot to support our philanthropy. We spend time in the morning getting the business of philanthropy underway.

The Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation is a leader in all aspects of philanthropy, including charitable support for nonprofits that serve Arizona.

Noon >> HITTING IT OUT OF THE PARK I am a working-lunch person. I always try and grab someone and see if they want to walk to lunch with me to one of the many great places downtown. We work on concepts for partners or brainstorm how we’re going to cover things in social media. We’ll talk about our community partners and who we want to spotlight because our role is to amplify our community partners, help them raise more funds, and help the community understand what they’re doing. We’re also fundraisers. We discuss how we are going to fundraise through our gala, golf tournament or our 50/50 raffle. Because in the end, just like every other nonprofit, we start at zero every year and must raise money. In 2009, this role was created for me by Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall, who had the vision to be the best. Derrick and Ken Kendrick, the Diamondbacks managing general partner, are by far the most philanthropic people I’ve met in my life. They’re also passionate about solving problems in the community. The first year I joined the organization, we raised $1.9 million. And for the last three years, we’ve raised over $9 million each year. We’ve come a long way in 10 years! In 2020, we will surpass $70 million in total giving plus an additional $50 million in tickets, merchandise and experiences. We are Major League Baseball’s youngest team and will reach $100 million in giving long before anyone would have expected us to. Now we’re on a mission to see what more we can do.

The D-backs Boys & Girls Club in South Phoenix is a home away from home for Debbie and the D-backs.

1 p.m. >> A HEAVY HITTER PLAYING BALL I work in my office, bringing concepts and ideas to life. I think about the elements that are going to make it worthwhile for a partner to be involved and how we are going to make an impact. And then more importantly, how do we tell the story? How will we share with fans what we’ve done with the funds we’ve raised or how will we make sure we’re changing the face of hunger in Arizona and that people know there are nonprofits that are doing it well? Relationships are everything to me; it’s all about connecting with people. Throughout the day, I check in with our partners, people who are my mentors in the community, and big projects that I know are going on around us. For example, two Boys & Girls Clubs are merging. So, I reach out to other leaders and see how they’re doing and whether we can help with anything.

5 p.m. >> A BASEBALL FAMILY’S LEGACY My team stays and works every home game because we are fundraising and interacting with fans. Many times, we’re also working with Fox Sports Arizona on away games as we’re doing cool things with our corporate partners or our players. Particularly during the season, we work CONTINUED... FEBRUARY 2020 | FRONTDOORS MEDIA 17 



The Mortgage



MARKET UPDATE /// Started in 2012, the D-backs Race Against Cancer is an employee and fan favorite, allowing the community to come together in support of everyone touched by cancer.

very, very long days. Everyone who works here does so because they genuinely love baseball and philanthropy. They have the opportunity to work with fans through our 50/50 raffle. We have our community clubhouse and auctions that we do all the time. We have community partners that are here and groups that we donate tickets to. Hosting is our responsibility. And being a professional sports team, I’m proud that my team takes this very seriously. In the end, everyone’s all in. Our family is a baseball family, and baseball is supposed to be something more than just the game. Baseball is about the people we serve and the community where we live.

10 p.m. >> KEEPING AN EYE ON THE BALL One of my challenges is that I tend to focus on people, which means that I can be behind on emails and voicemails because if someone is with me, that’s where my attention is. I spend time at the end of the day scanning the day’s emails and voicemails and identifying what I need to respond to quickly so that people know I’m paying attention. To learn more, go to mlb.com/dbacks/community.

Experts expect Metro Phoenix to be among the top five housing markets during 2020. Looking at the area, 46 percent of panelists expect home values to grow faster than the national rate, 12 percent expect home values to grow slower than the national rate, and 42 percent of panelists expect home values to grow about the same as they do nationally. While Phoenix prices continue to rise, homeowners can still get more bang for their buck than they can in coastal cities such as New York and San Francisco. With higher loan limits in 2020 (Conforming and VA at $510,400 and FHA at $331,760), buyers and homeowners have more buying power and room to refinance.


I think it’s fantastic that Arizona’s birthday falls on Valentine’s Day. Being a native makes me realize there’s so much I love about our state and the people in it. Recently, I was asked to be a part of Phoenix’s 2020 Know Tribe. The “KNOW Phoenix Book” is a listing of the Valley’s female business owners, leaders and philanthropists who love doing what they do in their careers and communities. What a great way to show love to our beautiful state and to the ladies that live here!

Kiesha McFadden, Senior Loan Officer 480.252.9365 | Kiesha@Genevafi.net NMLS #198458

Julie Coleman CONTRIBUTING WRITER juliecolemanconsulting@gmail.com

Branch Address: 7272 E. Indian School Road, Suite 540 Scottsdale AZ 85251

Corp Address: 3155 S. Price Road, Suite 105 Chandler, AZ 85248

AZ BK #0910215 • NMLS #42056 ©2020 Geneva Financial, LLC.


BEHIND THE DOOR {the caniglia group}


Steve Caniglia

Shelley Caniglia

35 W Kaler Dr, Phoenix 85021 - $1,425,000

2111 E Colter St, Phoenix 85016 - $2,900,000

Taken down to the studs and completely remodeled throughout in 2013, this gorgeous home in the prestigious Madison Meadows subdivision of the North Central Corridor will blow you away. Perfection throughout, high ceilings throughout, gas fireplace, wood, tile and carpet flooring. Extremely high end finishes around every corner. The jaw dropping kitchen includes exquisite granite countertops, large island with breakfast bar, Wolf oven and gas cooktop, Miele dishwasher, Sub-Zero refrigerator and wine refrigerator. Three large bedrooms plus a large office/den that could easily be converted into a fourth bedroom. The exterior sports a charming front courtyard, large covered back patio, grass for play, built-in bbq, sparking swimming pool and block wall fencing providing ample privacy.

EXPERIENCE STATELY LIVING in this Lash McDaniel designed contemporary, nestled on an impressive 2.14 acre lot in the heart of the prestigious Bartlett Estates. Expansive floor to ceiling windows looking out to lush green lawns and spectacular water feature leading to the sparkling swimming pool. Huge walls for the most precious canvases of Contemporary and Traditional art and open spaces for dramatic sculptures. Jaw dropping master suite with floor to ceiling windows showcasing the park-like backyard, 360 degree inside/outside fireplace, his and hers bathrooms and multiple closets. The pictures tell the story. Sophisticated and truly a one-of-a-kind in one of the most coveted neighborhoods of Central Phoenix!

Just down the street from the Murphy’s Bridle path along Central Ave, Madison Schools, Brophy/Xavier, All Saints, numerous restaurants, boutiques, Uptown Farmers market and much more!

The Caniglia Group

Shelley Caniglia: 602-292-6862 | Steve Caniglia: 602-301-2402 TheCanigliaGroup.com | UrbanConnectionRealty.com

CAREY’S CORNER {carey peña reports}

OPEN YOUR HEART Local organization helps children and families see things from a new perspective Carey Peña | Contributing Writer

There is a big blue heart painted on an otherwise nondescript building near 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road in Phoenix. The heart slants slightly to the left and has a vast open space in the center. It sends the message that there, at Open Hearts Family Wellness, there is ample room for love, support, healing — and hope. The organization’s president and CEO Arjelia “Argie” Gomez is not afraid to show how much this mission means to her. Gomez broke into tears when we sat down for an interview. She said part of being a great leader, in her view, is not being afraid to let her true feelings show. Gomez speaks with both passion and purpose; it’s clear to see she’s determined to help more families and children in need — especially those in underserved and minority communities. “When our clients come in, they are broken,” Gomez said. “We help them put a plan together that is stabilizing, both mentally and physically.”


Open Hearts Family Wellness, formerly known as Youth Evaluation and Treatment Centers or YETC, first opened its doors in 1974 to develop a new model of community-based services. Today, the organization continues to build on that model focusing on life skills, interactive support groups, nationally recognized trauma therapies and medical oversight for psychiatric assessments and medical management. “The mental health crisis in Arizona is entrenched in opioid use, depression, suicide and child safety issues,” Gomez said. Her goal is to break down barriers and make sure more families get services, support and, if needed, medication without red tape. “The team-based model Open Hearts has embraced is nested in our sense of community well-being,” Gomez said. “By coaching and being

Arjelia “Argie” Gomez (left), the president and CEO of Open Hearts Family Wellness, believes that healing involves the body and mind as one, in the context of families, communities and the environment.



present and mindful with those we serve, we have been able to innovate, be agile and flexible. Those traits allow us to deliver services quickly and show up for our families.” Because Open Hearts has a wide range of services under one roof, it can activate a treatment plan right away, rather than putting adults or children suffering from mental and behavioral health issues on a long waitlist. My camera crew and I spent the day on the Open Hearts campus working on a video production project. One after another, team members sat down to share their stories. I asked many of them the following question: What does it mean to have an open heart? Responses ranged from “not passing judgment” to “being able to listen.”

I also asked them to share real-life stories that they have dealt with. One of the most excruciating had to do with a boy who was on the autism spectrum. He was undiagnosed and suffered terrible abuse at the hands of his parents (who were said to be “fed up” with his behavior). They ended up forfeiting parental rights, and the boy bounced from foster home to foster home. Along the way, someone brought him to Open Hearts, where they have the expertise to diagnose and treat complex cases, such as autism (and those on the spectrum). Because of the team approach, caseworkers, coaches, doctors and therapists all wrap their arms around clients — in this case, a boy desperately in need of love and support. He later said his coach — and the Open Hearts family — were the only ones who had ever believed in him. They gifted him a camera in hope that it would open up his views on life.

Monarchs in the west have declined by 99% and are at risk for extinction?

You can help by planting milkweed. Desert Botanical Garden’s GREAT MILKWEED GROW OUT sells milkweed seeds and plants at the Garden Shop and Spring Plant Sale March 21 - 22.


“The team-based model Open Hearts has embraced is nested in our sense of community well-being,” Gomez said. “By coaching and being present and mindful with those we serve, we have been able to innovate, be agile and flexible.”

This case turned into a success story. The boy, now a young man, attends Glendale Community College and hopes to be a police officer. One life saved, but there is still a long line of those who need the same kind of urgent help. As we were wrapping our day on campus, dozens of Open Hearts team members gathered in the courtyard beneath a big, beautiful tree that perfectly represents the ongoing growth of this organization. Our photographer flew his drone above the building to get a group shot. As I watched all of these people stand together shoulder to shoulder, I couldn’t help but think of the hope they represent. Because they come to this work with open hearts, they see what’s broken can be fixed. To learn more about Open Hearts Family Wellness, go to openheartsaz.org. To see more of Carey’s reporting, visit inspiredmedia360tv.com.



Photography for Life 602.677.3985 | MarionRhoadesPhotography.com

COVER STORY {by karen werner}

100 Years a Player


The Phoenix Theatre Company Celebrates its Centennial

oday, The Phoenix Theatre Company is an arts institution and one of the leading employers of actors, artists and theater techs in Arizona. But nearly a century ago, it operated out of a coach house on the Heard property and used fans and ice blocks to keep the audience cool. Travel back in time to learn how the city’s oldest theatrical institution came to be, and look ahead to its exciting future. 24 FRONTDOORS MEDIA | FEBRUARY 2020

“The Phoenix Players started in 1920 with a production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in a downtown park. They performed in a hair salon at one point,” said Michael Barnard, producing artistic director of The Phoenix Theatre Company. At the time, the population was a bustling 30,000, but there were few arts for the community to enjoy. Enter Maie Bartlett Heard of Heard Museum fame, who volunteered to let the fledgling troupe use her carriage house on Central and McDowell as a theater.

Photo by Thurkill Studios

She became president of the Phoenix Players and signed them up to become part of the national “little” theater movement of the time (“little” when applied to theater is a synonym for “community”), and the troupe became the Phoenix Little Theatre in 1924. Through good years and lean years and hundreds of productions, the theater has resided on that property ever since, becoming one of only six theaters in the country that has never closed its doors in its 100-year history. “During the Depression, they did everything on the cheap,” Barnard said. “Some of the shows were for donation only, so whatever you could afford, you put in the cup.” Phoenix Little Theatre also persevered through World War II, relying on creative casting and marketing to keep the theater from going dark. Because there was a shortage of male actors during the war years, shows were performed by all-female casts, or by men either too young or too old to serve. “They did USO events, and gave the military free tickets, so it kept the doors open,” Barnard said. “Bake sales and fundraisers also supported them. It was the only place in town to go for entertainment.”

Michael Barnard (left), producing artistic director of The Phoenix Theatre Company, is a historian of the theater, sharing such fascinating tidbits as the Church of Scientology’s roots in the theater. In the 50s, L. Ron Hubbard gave 14 lectures on the history and theories of Scientology there (above).

The 50s were a heady time that saw the construction of the Mainstage Theatre. The building was at the core of an arts and culture site that would go on to house Phoenix Art Museum and the Phoenix Public Library as well. “The 50s were all about collaboration,” Barnard said. Three nonprofits — a resident ballet company, Phoenix Musical Theatre and the Alfred Knight Shakespeare Festival — integrated with Phoenix Little Theatre, bringing ballet, musicals and Shakespeare to the stage. “Between the four entities, this place was nonstop. The festival and the ballet went away by the end of the 50s, but it was a very flourishing decade,” Barnard said. Over the years, the theater had its share of star-power. Clare Boothe Luce premiered her play “Child of the Morning” at Phoenix Little Theatre in the late 50s. (Her Broadway hit “The Women” had been a smash there in 1944.) Some well-known stars of the time also cut their teeth at Phoenix Little Theatre, including comedian Steve Allen, actors Andy Devine and Rosemary DeCamp and, later, Lynda Day George and Nick Nolte.


A 1949 production of “On Borrowed Time” and a young Steven Spielberg posing at Phoenix Little Theatre (right), where his first full-length film, “Firelight” (a precursor to “Close Encounters”), was shown in 1964.

Perhaps the biggest star of all never walked the boards but, rather, used the theater for another purpose. Steven Spielberg, who had worked backstage on a couple of shows doing props, asked to use the theater to show his first film in 1964 when he was just 17. He ran reel-to-reel sound for his movie, called “Firelight,” while his father ran the projector. “They ran it for two nights,” Barnard said. “They spent $520 on the film and raised $525 in ticket sales, so he walked away with a nice, crisp $5 profit.” The 70s wasn’t an easy time. “They probably went through more artistic directors in that decade than they did in the rest of the 100 years,” Barnard said. In the late 70s, federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act grants made it possible to bring in professional theater artists to mentor community players and raise production values. Unfortunately, the program only lasted a couple of years. “When that grant went away, the bottom fell out of the theater again,” Barnard said.

But there were bright spots. In the early 80s, the creation of a secondary theater called Theatre One made it possible to introduce edgier, Off-Broadway and niche-marketed shows that might not appeal to a broad audience. Around this time, Barnard began his first stint at the theater. A native Arizonan, he grew up in Glendale and returned to Phoenix after earning his master’s degree. Barnard was directing and performing in show bands around the country when he was spotted and hired in 1979 to be Phoenix Little Theatre’s first production manager as well as a resident director and choreographer. He eventually left in 1983 to work for the Disney Corporation in Anaheim. Some 16 years later, Phoenix Theatre contacted him again. The theater — which had dropped the “Little” from its name in 1985 — was not in good shape and asked if Barnard would be willing to return. At the time, Disney was going through an overhaul, Barnard’s mother had recently passed away, and his sister was in ill health.

Also celebrating MILESTONE Anniversaries in 2020 100 YEARS

95 years

85 years

65 years

60 years

Phoenix College

Valley of the Sun United Way

Junior League of Phoenix

Big Brother Big Sisters of Central Arizona

Phoenix Art Museum

Phoenix Panhellenic Association

Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show

100 Years “I thought it would be a good time for me to say, ‘Hasta luego’ to L.A. and go back to the theater where I got my professional start,” he said.

I would be the one to close the theater,” Barnard said.

Fortunately, he had an able ally in Vincent VanVleet, who started at the theater in 1998 as a stage manager. “When Michael got roped in and a lot of people left, no one would be the production manager. He said, ‘You have to do it,’” VanVleet said.

Little did he know when he arrived back in 1999 that the theater was half a million dollars in debt. “We had a mailing list of 11,000 — but only 2,000 of those members were alive. And the marketing director on the first show I directed after coming back forgot to place the ads for the first week.” The show? “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

As if that weren’t enough, four weeks before the show opened, the City of Phoenix decided to tear the stage out because it was termite-laden and rotting. Barnard called the mayor and told him the theater wouldn’t stand a chance without a stage. “Within three days, we had a new stage,” he said. Thus began years of work to return the theater to financial stability and strong attendance. “When I got here, there was less than $5,000 in the bank, and no vendors would take our credit. I was worried that

Originally from Wisconsin and a veteran of the Chicago theater scene, VanVleet sprang into action. With no money, VanVleet persuaded a board member who owned a lumber yard to drop off lumber to build sets. He got another board member who owned a steel yard to donate steel. Together, Barnard and VanVleet got much of the theater’s debt relieved and secured a new line of credit. The Arizona Republic donated free advertising and sponsors like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, SRP and APS ponied up support, as did philanthropists like Kax Herberger. “She said, ‘I hope this will help’ and handed me a $50,000 check,” Barnard recalled. “Then she said, ‘Now you come back when you need a little bit more.’”

The beloved musical “The Sound of Music” was instrumental in reviving the theater more than 30 years ago. The show recently enjoyed another run during The Phoenix Theatre Company’s 100th season.

50 Years

40 years

35 Years

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Arizona Heart Foundation

Make-A-Wish Arizona

CASS (Central Arizona Shelter Services)

Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central and Northern Arizona

Herberger Theater Center


Save the Family

The Phoenix Theatre Company looks forward to its next stage as a pillar of arts and culture in Arizona. Celebrity guest Derek Hough (center) emceed the theater’s recent Centennial Applause! Gala.

Phoenix Theatre’s Partners That Heal program uses improvisation and structured play to lift people’s spirits in a wide variety of care settings.

Through skillful management and a bit of begging, VanVleet led the administrative team toward successful increases in both audience development and revenue. But there were more bumps in the road. “9/11 happened and that was a nightmare for us, and the world. We went to the city council — this was the one and only time — and asked for a one-time $100,000 bailout, which the city council did,” Barnard said.

regional theaters that have made names for themselves by creating shows that have gone on to New York.

Phoenix Theatre paid back that bailout, weathered the Great Recession and completed an ambitious renovation that addressed space shortage and accommodated the growing needs of the theater’s programs. Today, the city’s first theatrical institution, which was renamed The Phoenix Theatre Company in 2019, is debt-free. “We’ve gone from seven people on staff to 60 full-time people. And we’ve gone from a $750,000 budget to a $9.5 million budget. It’s been a good turnaround,” Barnard said.

It’s not just about securing a reputation for The Phoenix Theatre Company. It’s about building Phoenix into an arts powerhouse. “When people come into town for tourism, they think about resorts and golf courses, but the museums and the rich, vibrant arts landscape is significant. And being the fifth-largest city in the country, Phoenix deserves a regional theater like The Phoenix Theatre Company to introduce art to the canon of American musical theater,” VanVleet said.

But Barnard and VanVleet, who is now the theater’s managing director, aren’t resting on their laurels. They’ve got big plans in store, most notably, the development of new work. They envision The Phoenix Theatre Company coming in league with nationally known theaters such as the La Jolla Playhouse, the Atlanta Alliance, Denver Center for the Arts, The Guthrie and a handful of other


100 Years 25 Years

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Arizona Foundation for Women

BHHS Legacy Foundation

Phoenix Film Festival SMoCA

Gabriel’s Angels Neighbors Who Care


“We’re sitting at a precipice,” Barnard said. “We’ve had Broadway producers that have come to us and said they would love to do a pre-Broadway workshop here. We’re in a great area of the country, especially in the winter. We’re well away from the New York critics, so you can develop work here.”

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust

15 Years

10 YearS

Human Services Campus

48 Arizona Women MIM (The Musical Instrument Museum) Ryan House

That’s the driving force behind getting phase two of The Phoenix Theatre Company’s Hormel Theatre built, which will turn it into a 500-seat, state-of-the-art space. “Then we can say yes to producers asking, ‘Can we start something in Phoenix and take it to New York?’ The money they’ll bring will be invested into the local arts community, and that’s critically important,” VanVleet said. “Phoenix is poised to make a name for itself.” Both Barnard and VanVleet talk about a burgeoning energy in the theater. A few years ago, The Phoenix Theatre Company’s largest demographic shifted from being 65-plus to being 45 to 64. Perhaps it’s the younger demographic moving downtown or empty nesters looking for a night out. Whatever the reason, the theater can program different shows than it did a decade ago. “We can do a ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ to sold-out audiences. We could have never put that on in 2011 or 2012,’” VanVleet said. In addition to bringing in new audiences, launching new shows, and building a state-of-the-art theater, Barnard has a few other goals. He conceived the Partners That Heal outreach program that’s now in its 11th year of training actors to bring improvisational theater to children in hospitals across Arizona. They just introduced the program at Colorado Children’s Hospital and are making strides to bring it to Nebraska, Puerto Rico and Canada. The theater also runs a thriving summer camp as well as outreach programs that introduce young people to theater. Barnard thinks it is vital to expand both programs in this screen-driven age. “Those are big dreams and aspirations, but if we can get any and all of that done, it will be time for me to turn things over to someone else,” said Barnard, who is now in his 20th year in his second stint at the theater. As The Phoenix Theatre Company celebrates its 100th year, it may be more relevant than ever. When Phoenicians gathered in a carriage house a century ago to watch the Phoenix Players perform, it was their only option for live entertainment. Today, in a world delivered to your door with a click, the ability to come together as a community is going to take place in venues like The Phoenix Theatre Company. “Something as ancient as Greece is more necessary than ever. It is critically important to hold onto live experience,” Barnard said. To learn more, go to phoenixtheatre.com.


A World-Premiere Musical The making of a musical right here in Phoenix is not a story you hear every day. But that’s the tale of “Americano!,” which recently had its world premiere at The Phoenix Theatre Company. The pioneering show is based on the life of Tony Valdovinos, a Camelback High grad who was brought to Arizona from Mexico by his parents when he was 2. Inspired by 9/11, Valdovinos walked into a Marine Corps recruiting station on his 18th birthday, wanting to enlist, only to discover he was an undocumented immigrant. Poised to become one of the most important new works of the year, the show was the brainchild of Scottsdale public relations executive Jason Rose, who pitched a collaboration to The Phoenix Theatre Company producing artistic director Michael Barnard at a wedding four years ago. Since then, the men have joined forces to bring to life a tale of a DREAMer who didn’t give up on serving the only country he had ever known.

Photo by Reg Madison Photography

The show was co-written by Barnard and Jonathan Rosenberg, a San Diego playwright who wrote the acclaimed musical “33 1/3 – House of Dreams.” Hoping to bring “Americano!” to a national audience, the theater has enlisted a top-notch team, including executive producer Ken Davenport, the Tony-winning producer of blockbusters such as “Altar Boyz,” “Kinky Boots” and “Once on This Island.” The music was composed by Carrie Rodriguez, a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter from Austin, Texas. Barnard serves as director and Jason Rose as producer. “I believe ‘Americano!’ has a chance to be the most emotionally resonant musical to ever come out of Phoenix,” Barnard said. “It’s an Arizona-grown story, and I think it’s important to try to put a spotlight on a population of individuals who have been misunderstood.” The timely new show runs Jan. 29 through Feb. 23, 2020, at The Phoenix Theatre Company. For more information, go to americanothemusical.com.


NEXT DOORS {ahead of the curve}

PROMOTING CIVIL DISCOURSE IN A CYNICAL AGE Sandra Day O’Connor Institute sees opportunity in the clamor Tom Evans | Contributing Editor

We live in a time when it’s difficult to discuss our differences calmly and rationally. This fact has dominated recent news cycles, when black seems white, and white seems black, and there’s no other point on the spectrum. Our country has faced moments like this before — to the point of civil war, even — but for anyone living today, the environment around public discourse may seem more fractured than ever. When we must debate what truth is and what truth even means, we’ve reached a new frontier; one that could lead in a number of directions, many of them bad.

So you might think that an organization founded to promote civil discourse and public engagement would find these challenging and frustrating times. But if you ask Sarah Suggs, president and CEO of the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute, she’ll give you a different opinion. “Because of what I do, I have a sense of optimism,” she said. “It’s an interesting silver lining with what’s going on today with the divisiveness and lack of civility. Until something is missing, you don’t know what it’s like to live without it.” FEBRUARY 2020 | FRONTDOORS MEDIA 31 

A quick step back, for those of you unfamiliar with one of the most famous and impactful Arizonans and her namesake nonprofit institute. Sandra Day O’Connor was one of Arizona’s most prominent political and legal figures for decades before being tapped by President Ronald Reagan as the first woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court. From her time in the state Legislature to her time in the nation’s highest court, she was known as someone who would look for common ground with her colleagues, someone who placed a high value on civil discourse and public service. “When Justice O’Connor was in the state Legislature as majority leader, she often clashed with her colleagues,” Suggs said. “But she would also invite them to her home and cook them dinner, to share a meal, to listen and learn. As she said, we would often start on the fringes and work our way in until we found common ground. She took that spirit to the Supreme Court.” The Sandra Day O’Connor Institute was started in 2009 by Justice O’Connor, with the catalyst being to save her historic adobe home in Paradise Valley,

Founded in 2009 by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the mission of the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute is to continue her distinguished legacy and lifetime work to advance civil discourse, civic engagement and civics education.


which was scheduled for demolition. Through the hard work of a dedicated group of community leaders and philanthropists, the house was moved brick by brick to Papago Park near the Arizona Heritage Center. Once it was moved, Suggs said, O’Connor was gratified. Still, she was not one to have monuments unto herself and wanted to know what action could be taken from there. The charity itself was initially called O’Connor House, but its board of directors was reconstituted in 2015 and the organization was rebranded to be the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute. The mission changed to civic engagement, civic education and civil discourse — the three pillars that drive its work. “We have sort of a motto here, ‘Civics for life,’” Suggs said. “When you look at what we do in our programs, we believe in civics for every generation, and we believe in lifelong learning.” For kids and teenagers — from across the country — the main focus is Camp O’Connor, a “democracy boot camp” for seventh and eighth graders that includes immersion into the branches of government. They learn how to interact

The O’Connor Institute’s vision is to create a nation where important policy decisions are made through a process of critical analysis of facts and informed participation of all citizens.

“We have people coming to us online and at events seeking a higher level of thinking and dialogue.”

around issues, the machinery of democracy and voting, learn why every vote matters, and how representative government works. For young adults, the Institute puts on an Emerging Leaders Network, which they consider to be an on-ramp for civic engagement. “A lot of millennials were not taught civics in the classroom, and what we find is the majority of adults cannot identify three branches of government,” Suggs said. “These are fundamental things they lack, but they are bright people and just don’t have the information.” The program teaches them how to interact with all levels of government and create civic engagement opportunities. And for adults of all ages, the O’Connor Institute puts on a broad spectrum of events designed to create engagement and discourse, ranging from regular forums to their Legacy Luncheon and Annual History Dinner coming up in November, which examines key historical topics and how they were discussed and debated at the time.

The organization also keeps a digital archive of O’Connor’s life and writings for use by current and future generations, as well as provides scholarships to law students at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Overall, the work the Institute does focuses on the three pillars — civic engagement, civics education and civil discourse — that are often so lacking in today’s America. But they are not lost on everyone. Many Americans long for a return to better public discourse. “As a consequence, the O’Connor Institute is a beacon,” Suggs said. “We have people coming to us online and at events seeking a higher level of thinking and dialogue. I think we have a tremendous opportunity to carry our message forward. We’re growing, and our mission has never been more needed.”



STYLE UNLOCKED {living fashionably}

A FASHIONABLE FIGHT Arizona Questers shares the story —and clothing — of women’s suffrage

Arizona Questers, left to right, Linda Starr, Diana Magers, Toni Lowden, Debbie Hansen and Mary Miller.

By Karen Werner

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave American women the right to vote. Ratified on Aug. 26, 1920, women’s suffrage will celebrate its centennial this year. To commemorate the milestone, the Arizona Questers — a nonprofit group dedicated to historic preservation, restoration and education — spearheaded a statewide project. Questers has worked with other nonprofit, civic and 34 FRONTDOORS MEDIA | FEBRUARY 2020

governmental organizations to raise funds for and create traveling displays that reveal the monumental significance of the 19th Amendment. But the fight to get the vote stretches back more than a century. It dates back 72 years earlier to when a group of women took the radical step of asking for the vote in Seneca Falls, New York, at the Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848.

Hats, train cases, vintage automobiles — the Arizona Questers are fascinated by all areas of antiques, history and preservation.

Photos by Jillian Rivera Photography

It’s a story Questers members are eager to tell. “We are knocking everybody’s socks off because we decided to go big or stay home,” said Debbie Hansen, a member of the Desert Sage chapter of Questers and co-chair of the Arizona Questers Women’s Suffrage Centennial Project. “We have created a magnificent portable traveling exhibit explaining the 72-year struggle for the vote in fourth-grade language, in six panels. These will be distributed for free to libraries, museums, schools, city governments, other organizations and special events throughout the state of Arizona in 2020 and beyond.” Questers membership is open to men and women, but the group is made up mostly of women. “We’re fascinated by the physical artifacts of culture,” Hansen said. Drawing on members’ combined expertise in period costume and suffrage history, Arizona is the first state Questers organization to adopt a significant public education campaign.

Recently, several Questers members came together at the Rosson House in Phoenix to share a few of their personal items. Toni Lowden, of the Four Peaks chapter; Linda Starr, from the Sedona chapter; Mary Miller, of the Hayden’s Ferry chapter; and Diana Magers, from the Four Peaks chapter, donned clothing that makes women’s suffrage come to life. Because it took so long to achieve the vote, their outfits reflected different eras of American history. Linda Starr wore a hat from the 1890s, along with a matching sash that she purchased in a Phoenix antique story some 40 years ago. “I added my own things to go with them because very few people back then were 5’8” and a size 12,” she said. Toni Lowden sported a delicate overcoat decorated with tiny French knots. “I thought it was a bed jacket but later learned it was a topper, and it goes on top of a little summer dress,” she said. FEBRUARY 2020 | FRONTDOORS MEDIA 35 

real human beings — and the passion that drove them,” Hansen said. Accordingly, working on the Centennial project has offered the women a closer understanding of history. But it’s not just clothing they collect; their collections include buttons, hats, glassware, flatware, dolls, vases, shoes, parasols and purses. Toni Lowden collects crystal inkwells while Mary Miller amasses cameos. “Some people collect antique commodes!” Diana Magers said.

The Questers restore items that have historical significance so that future generations can learn from and appreciate them.

Debbie Hansen was dressed to represent Frances Willard Munds from the historic Arizona family. “She was the first female member of the Arizona senate in 1915,” Mary Miller explained. Hansen’s outfit was comprised of a 1920s militarystyle walking suit. Under it, Hansen wore long stockings, period shoes and a chemise. “Then I am wearing a handmade corset, which I was able to drive in,” she said. “Can you imagine what it would be like to be laced up into a whalebone straitjacket and have to function?” Some of the clothes were authentic, and some were vintage. Several outfits had suffered from cloth disintegration, but the form and stitching were intact. The Questers said restoring items with historical significance has made them learn what it was like to have lived in the past. “Touching the vintage clothing, like touching any antique, connects you to the people who wore them. It makes you think about them as 36 FRONTDOORS MEDIA | FEBRUARY 2020

Throughout 2020, the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Project will take its traveling exhibits to Arizona libraries, historic sites, schools and businesses, as well as provide presentations on the women’s suffrage movement through a speaker’s bureau. All told, the Questers expect it will reach more than 200,000 people. And Questers members will periodically dress the part. “We are planning to dress as suffragists for our state meeting and private reception at the Arizona Capitol Museum, as well as for an open house at the Museum on April 25,” Hansen said. The exhibit is now on display at the Arizona Capitol Museum and will remain so throughout 2020. To learn more, go to azquesters.org. To learn about the traveling exhibit, visit Questers’ Women’s Suffrage Centennial Project on Facebook.

Location: Rosson House Special thanks to David Miller for loaning his 1929 Mercedes Gazelle SSK for the shoot.



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A 2ND ACT {helping is healing}

The sprawling Italianate mansion was built by William Wrigley Jr. in 1929.

QUEEN OF ARIZONA HEARTS Baseball, gum and a sunny hill Judy Pearson | Contributing Writer

The “czar of chewing gum” already owned four palatial homes. But he was building something special on the 100-foot-high La Colina Solana, a sunny hill above his Arizona Biltmore Hotel. It would be an anniversary gift for his wife, Ada. William Wrigley Jr. had made his fortune selling penny sticks of chewing gum and could well afford the home’s $200,000 price tag (over $3 million in today’s dollars). And oh, what a home it would be. Built nine miles north of what was then considered Phoenix city limits, the 16,850-square-foot mansion would sit on 10 acres, with a 360-degree view of the Valley of the Sun. The 30-foot-high foyer rotunda was adorned with a gold-leafed and hand-painted ceiling. And the floor below was laid with tiles made in Wrigley’s Catalina Island estate kiln. The rest of the home boasted pegged oak floors covered in beautiful, hand-woven Spanish

rugs. The oak Steinway grand piano in the living room was one of only two in existence, doubling as a player piano. And all of the chairs were carefully crafted lower than usual to accommodate Ada’s petite frame. The chartreuse, black, turquoise and royal blue art deco ceramic tiles used in the 11 bathrooms also came from Catalina Island. They arrived at the building site via boat, then locomotive, and finally mule train. Every doorknob, hinge, window fixture and switch plate in the mansion was brass, except those in the family bedrooms. They were sterling silver. The mansion took three years to reach its splendor, and William Wrigley planned to spend the early months of 1932 there. But a few weeks after arriving in January, he was stricken with acute indigestion, from which he died at the age of 70 on January 26. FEBRUARY 2020 | FRONTDOORS MEDIA 39 

The colorful history and memorable details of two grand families — Wrigley and Hormel — make the Wrigley Mansion one of Phoenix’s most storied landmarks.

The Wrigley Mansion, as the home came to be called, remained a much-loved family destination until it was sold in 1973. Like a stray dog, it passed from owner to owner: a developer who died of a heart attack, a savings and loan caught up in scandal, another developer who filed for bankruptcy. All the while, its lovely rooms and grounds welcomed business conferences, dozens of brides and grooms, and celebrity parties. And then, the end of the line came: a 1992 rumor reported that this graceful landmark would be demolished for condo construction. Enter Geordie Hormel, whose family owned Hormel Foods, based in Austin, Minnesota. In the first few minutes of his Wrigley Mansion tour, Geordie was transported back to his childhood home. Having turned it into a supper club, where he entertained guests with his accomplished piano playing, he knew he could do the same with this mansion. The stray dog won Geordie’s heart. He could envision a splendid second act for the mansion and bought it immediately.

Jamie Hormel, Geordie’s widow, and now the mansion’s proprietor said, “I have so many memories of my children growing up here. They’d sneak napkins out of the dining room and slide down the hill on them. Our pastry chefs could always be charmed into giving them treats. We had birthday celebrations and family holidays, and even renewed our wedding vows here.” The couple began restoring the mansion, and Geordie continued entertaining Sunday brunch guests. “He always played ‘Happy Birthday,’” Jamie explained, “because every day is someone’s birthday.” The mansion now boasts plaques as both a Phoenix “Point of Pride” and a National Register of Historic Places. Continuing what her husband had begun, Jamie has brought the mansion kitchen into the 21 st century, making it a world-class restaurant, while lovingly updating rooms to former grandeur. The spectacular wine cellar is well stocked, outstanding Phoenix chef Christopher Gross is at the helm in the kitchen, and the national awards keep rolling in. The Wrigley Mansion and the Wrigleys, in general, hold a special place in my heart. My mother was a die-hard — and lifelong — Chicago Cubs fan, the


Inside the main entrance, a gorgeous room greets guests with a curved stairway and this hand-painted, gold-leafed ceiling.

baseball team William Wrigley bought in 1920. Just as she had spent her childhood at Wrigley Field, my brother and I have fond memories of games there, too. I discovered the magical charm of the Wrigley Mansion shortly after the Hormels reopened it as a private club and restaurant. After having taken my father there when he came to Phoenix on a business trip, he and my mother hatched the idea of a surprise 40 th birthday party for me. Every time I walk into the majestic foyer, I’m reminded of that night in 1993. My mother was never able to visit the czar of chewing gum’s beautiful Phoenix mansion. But I know she would chuckle at one particular detail. Through all of the owners and renovations, one room remained just as William Wrigley created it. To the left of the double front doors is a tiny closet with a small table and a phone. Presumably, the butler used the room to call family members when visitors arrived. It has a unique silver sheen on the walls and the faint odor of mint. It is the “gum room,” and, as is the case in all of the other Wrigley homes, it is wallpapered with foil from my favorite Wrigley chewing gum — Doublemint. Go to wrigleymansion.com to learn more.




THE MAKING OF A MOVEMENT The Black Theatre Troupe is doing some of the community’s most vital theater By Karen Werner

THE STORY The Black Theatre Troupe began as a way to alleviate some of the racial tensions of the late 1960s and early 70s that were brewing in most major U.S. cities. In an effort to serve the community, Helen K. Mason, a supervisor in the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, was asked to design and implement a program that might head off the riots that had plagued other cities. 42 FRONTDOORS MEDIA | FEBRUARY 2020

What started as a series of open-door “rap sessions” for minorities blossomed into an inclusive theater troupe that has gone on to play an essential role in Phoenix’s development. “It was formed on a platform of activism and a belief that it was important to share the African-American experience,” said David Hemphill, the executive director of Black Theatre Troupe. “It is also a notable bridge to unite all cultures through stories — all of the company’s productions have universal themes and appeal.”


Today, this respected professional theater company continues both to promote excellence in the performing arts and provide opportunities for people of color. The only professional AfricanAmerican theater company within the four-corner states, the Black Theatre Troupe conducts educational workshops and produces plays that reflect the African-American experience.

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All of Black Theatre Troupe’s programs are community-based and encourage community participation and educational development. “Our training programs give all that are interested the opportunity to pursue their dreams. They are able to learn and hone their skills to become proficient and competitive performers,” Hemphill said. Still, many people outside the black community ask Hemphill why they only do “black plays with black performers.” To which he has a ready answer. “It is imperative that they remember that the black experience in America has been and continues to be influenced by many

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“Without our company and the productions we present, many artists of color would not have many — or in some cases, any — outlets or platforms to develop their skills and talents,” Hemphill said. “Black Theatre Troupe is the place where people of color can ‘see themselves’ onstage and feel secure in having those same aspirations.”


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David Hemphill, Black Theatre Troupe’s longtime executive director (left), strives to present timely, relevant productions that will give audiences something to think about, such as the 2017 production of “Caroline, or Change” (right).

different cultures. This impact is reflected by our performing many works, like our current production ‘Trouble in Mind,’ which has an ethnically diverse cast,” he said. One production that is a mainstay of Valley theater is the company’s annual production of “Black Nativity,” written by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. “It has become the Black Theatre Troupe’s holiday card to the community,” Hemphill said. “It’s performed at a time of year when we’re all looking for something to lift our spirits and help us feel the joy of the season. For many African-American arts organizations around the country, it has become as popular and meaningful a holiday tradition as ‘A Christmas Carol’ or ‘The Nutcracker.’”


future generations. “This can only happen by concentrating on the financial stability of the group for the next 50 years,” Hemphill said. “It is our goal to expand our programs and grow our audiences and supporters.” Luckily, Black Theatre Troupe has a strong base of support, which Hemphill attributes to the troupe’s ability to stay true to its mission and share the experiences of a culture. But to those who haven’t seen a Black Theatre Troupe production, Hemphill issues this promise. “They will not only be entertained, but they will also be able to learn and understand the power of the arts to shape a community and change minds. They will see some of the country’s most courageous and powerful theater.” To learn more, visit blacktheatretroupe.org.

2020 will mark the kickoff to Black Theatre Troupe’s 50th year, a time for the company to reflect on its roots while looking ahead to its future. As the fifth-largest city in the country, Phoenix needs Black Theatre Troupe more than ever. “With the large influx of people coming to Phoenix from other areas of the country — and most of them from cities that have a vibrant and diverse arts scene — the power of diversity must be at the forefront of what a great city has to offer,” Hemphill said. And so, Black Theatre Troupe is doing all that it can to focus on sustainability so that it can remain a significant piece of the city’s cultural fabric for 44 FRONTDOORS MEDIA | FEBRUARY 2020

Photo by Laura Durant

CONNECTING WOMEN WHERE THEY WORK, LIVE OR PLAY Join us where you live, work or play to connect with like-minded women to share information, ideas, contacts and opportunities. Learn more at: eastvalleywomen.org | centralphoenixwomen.org womenofscottsdale.org | northvalleywomen.org

KITCHEN DOORS {the eat beat} Photo by Kenna Douds

When he’s not in the kitchen, Chef Brett Vibber can often be found foraging in the desert for local ingredients that he uses to create beautiful, seasonal and unique dishes.



In addition to cooking and foraging, Vibber leads the culinary arts program for the Scott Foundation, which helps prepare Arizona’s foster youth for the future by providing valuable life skills and exposing them to several career fields. The kids work alongside Vibber and other local chefs to get hands-on experience in restaurant kitchens and culinary events.





“We plan to implement a curriculum for the kids from beginning classes to job placement,” said Vibber. “The idea is not to turn them all into chefs but to expose them to real-world responsibilities.” Photo by Debby Wolvos

1325 W. University Drive | TEMPE Tracy Dempsey is well-known for providing sensational sweet and savory desserts to several Valley restaurants. Her packaged confections are found at shops, resorts and wine-tasting rooms around the state. A graduate of Scottsdale Community College’s culinary program, Dempsey embraces local ingredients and supports local suppliers. Dempsey’s creations are sold at Tracy Dempsey Originals in Tempe, where she works alongside her husband, who runs ODV Wines. The shop offers wines from around the world, including a large selection of Arizona wines, desserts, confections and local products. In addition to selling desserts and wine, the shop hosts cooking classes and wine tastings.

Vibber has developed a close relationship with the Scott Foundation kids. Some have foraged with him, and some have become his employees. “I was taught to help those in need, and this is a group of kids that really needs love and support,” said Vibber, who also participates in local fundraising events for the American Liver Foundation and March of Dimes. “These kids know they can call me for anything they need.” The Scott Foundation kids were very involved with Vibber’s restaurant, Cartwright’s Modern Cuisine in Cave Creek, which closed in 2019. They will continue to be involved in his new restaurant, WILD Arizona Cuisine. “We have also started a farm in New River,” Vibber said. “My hope is that it will eventually turn into an educational farm where children and adults can come learn about wild food, farmed food and animals that thrive in Arizona.” For more information, visit scott-foundation.org.

“Tracy Dempsey Originals and ODV Wines are proud members of Local First Arizona and endeavor to support our local business community as much and as often as possible, and we encourage our supporters to do the same,” said Dempsey. “When we were first starting, so many local businesses were supportive of us, and we feel it is important to support other local businesses and artisan producers in return.” Dempsey derives great joy from her work. “I love desserts as an outlet for creativity,” she said. “I love tinkering with savory items to see what is possible on the sweet side, such as our blue cheese cheesecake with cranberry chutney and our signature bacon pecan brittle. It brings me happiness to make people happy with my desserts.” For more information, visit tracydempseyoriginals.com.


Photo by Aaron Markus

photo by FLINT by Baltaire


NEW IN TOWN: FLINT BY BALTAIRE 2425 E. Camelback Road | PHOENIX Created by the team behind the successful Baltaire steakhouse in Los Angeles, FLINT by Baltaire opened at the Esplanade in the Biltmore area of Phoenix in fall 2019. Customers love the elegant two-story space, the attentive service and the wood-fired cuisine featuring American fare accented with coastal Mediterranean and bold Middle Eastern flavors.


The diverse menu offers a variety of shareable dips and spreads, including short rib hummus served with fresh wood-fired pita, smoked eggplant and olive tapenade. Small plates include oysters, wood-grilled Spanish octopus, spicy lamb meatballs and wood-roasted cauliflower. “The inspiration for the menu and the concept as a whole is really centered around our wood-fired grill and hearth oven,” said Executive Chef Travis Strickland. “We’re celebrating flavors of the Mediterranean. We’re relying heavily on great quality meat and seafood, in-season vegetables and lots of fresh herbs to bring brightness and vibrancy.” Wood-fired pizzas include roasted mushroom and spicy fennel sausage. Specialties from the wood-fired grill include diver scallops, lamb chops, whole branzino and filet mignon. The roasted chicken for two is carved tableside for a unique experience. Desserts include burnt Basque cheesecake, warm donuts with cinnamon cardamom sugar and Turkish coffee mousse, and a chocolate sesame ganache tart. In addition to an extensive wine list, FLINT offers creative cocktails including Berried Bliss with sparkling rosé, raspberry liqueur, pomegranate and lemon, and Eve’s First Choice with bourbon, apple, ginger and lemon. Happy hour is offered daily in the bar from 3 until 6 p.m. The restaurant offers a spacious and sophisticated bar, an outdoor terrace with a two-sided fireplace and shade system, space for private events, and an upstairs open-air rooftop lounge. To learn more, go to flintbybaltaire.com.

The Valley is home to several beautiful resorts ideal for romantic getaways and intimate dinners. While many offer Valentine’s Day dinner specials and hotel packages, romance is on the menu year-round. Photo by Different Pointe of View

DIFFERENT POINTE OF VIEW 11111 N. 7th St. | PHOENIX With its incredible views, Different Pointe of View, located at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Resort in North Phoenix, has been a longtime favorite for Valentine’s Day and other special occasions. “We’ve been so privileged to be the site of countless romantic events, proposals and celebrations for more than 25 years,” said Executive Chef Anthony DeMuro. “There’s something extraordinary about dining on top of the city. Our guests are treated to an incredible experience that appeals to all of the senses.”

LON’S AT THE HERMOSA INN 5532 N. Palo Cristi Road | Paradise Valley Another resort restaurant recognized as one of the Valley’s most romantic is LON’s at The Hermosa Inn. “Nestled in the heart of Paradise Valley, LON’s is a hidden gem that speaks the language of love 365 days a year,” said Jon Dils, LON’s general manager. “The expansive patio offers all the right touches for a romantic night out — a crackling fireplace, a trickling fountain, tables lit by small lanterns and an acoustic guitarist on Friday and Saturday nights.” In addition to the setting and ambiance, Photo by Debby Wolvos the food can enhance the romance. “For a romantic dinner, LON’s menu offers many items that are perfect for sharing and also happen to be aphrodisiacs,” said Dils, who recommends the Pacific oysters, lobster tempura, roasted branzino and a special dessert. “LON’s churro tree boasts the lightest housemade churros imaginable served with horchata ice cream, Mexican chocolate and strawberries. Finish the night with a glass of Taylor port cozied up with your partner next to one of LON’s Last Drop’s severn fireplaces.” For more information, visit tapatiocliffshilton.com and hermosainn.com.


foodiefosho.com 47 FRONTDOORS MEDIA | FEBRUARY 2020


Society of Chairs } Why do you support Child Crisis Arizona? TRACY: At the time we became aware of Child Crisis Arizona and their work, we had our own young kids. It became very apparent to us that our kids had every opportunity in the world, and not every child has that. LOUIS: We’ve always made it a personal priority to give back to our community. We knew as we grew our business, the heart and soul of our business had to grow with it, in the company and the community.

Describe this year’s event.

Tracy and Louis Basile Co-chairs of the 2020 Gala: A Night in Morocco benefiting Child Crisis Arizona childcrisisaz.org Brought to you by

LOUIS: At this year’s gala, we will receive the inaugural Legacy of Love Award to honor our years of service to Child Crisis Arizona. The award is a tremendous honor and will be a tradition moving forward.

Why do you feel so strongly about this organization? TRACY: I was adopted by my stepfather when I was young and have been blessed to have that strong father figure in my life. As a couple, we have always tried to teach our kids the importance of giving back, and we’ve had several experiences where we have been able to see the impact our giving has had.

Favorite restaurant in Arizona: Custom Logo Gifts to Brand Your Cause and Define Your Event


Thank you to our February 2020 Cheers to the Chairs Runners-Up: Latasha Causey & Drena Kusari Tribute to Leadership “Dare to Be Powerful” luncheon co-chairs benefiting Arizona YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix

Dr. Sheetal Chhaya & Kerrie Addante Jacobs Dancing with the Stars Arizona 2020 co-chairs benefiting National Kidney Foundation of Arizona

LOUIS: While we do love Wildflower, we also love Rancho Pinot in Scottsdale. We’ve known the owner for many years, and she is incredibly creative and talented.

Favorite place to travel: TRACY: The Jersey Shore. We love to spend time there as a family. Not only do we love being on the water, but we also love being surrounded by family and friends at every single meal and sharing good food with the people we love.

Fun fact about you: LOUIS: I have been in the restaurant industry since my childhood, and Wildflower has been around since 1996, but I am not a trained chef.

Frontdoors is proud to recognize those who volunteer their time, treasure and talents to support local organizations in a leadership role. To Nominate Your Event Chair, Co-Chairs, Honorary Chair or Board Chair, Contact publisher@frontdoorsmedia.com. 48 FRONTDOORS MEDIA | FEBRUARY 2020

OPEN DOORS {publisher’s page}



It’s time to take another peek into the Frontdoors Arts & Culture Calendar and reserve some dates and tickets before I blink and miss it. The next few months are filled with classics, new works, tons of Broadway shows and so many grandparentapproved things to do. I hope to see you out and about. Enjoy!



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Feb. 16-23 | Arizona Musicfest will present its Festival Orchestra Week in North Scottsdale led by Maestro Robert Moody, an old friend from my days at The Phoenix Symphony. Concerts include Beethoven’s 7th, Music of La Mancha and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” as well as a special salute to John Williams and a collaboration concert with the The Phoenix Theatre Company. azmusicfest.org

Feb. 28–March 1: Head to East Street, where the annual Carefree Fine Art & Wine Festival is celebrating 25 years. I’m told to expect more than 165 artist booths filled with something for everyone — sculptures, pottery, photography, one-of-a-kind jewelry, stained glass, paintings and mixed-media art in all forms. The event is paired with wine tastings, delicious chocolates and live music ... I am so in. thunderbirdartists.com


I've known the music director of Arizona Musicfest, Maestro Robert Moody, for years.

The Carefree Fine Art & Wine Festival combines art and wine — what’s not to love?



March 7 | Broadway legend and Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters is coming to Chandler Center for the Arts to dazzle us with iconic numbers from stage and film. I’m hoping to hear a little “Hello, Dolly!” chandlercenter.org Anytime | Have you tried glamping? The Cozy Peach at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek now offers 10 different trailers and Airstreams for a quaint weekend adventure and a taste of life on the farm. Ladies, who’s in for a weekend retreat? schnepffarms.com

From divas to ballet dancers to talented youth, there will be so much art and culture to enjoy this spring.


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April 19 | The always impressive young musicians of Rosie’s House will be presenting their annual Great Performers Showcase at the historic Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park. The concert is free and will leave you in awe of the talent and provide a glimpse of the bright futures of kids served by this incredible program. rosieshouse.org April 21-26 | Grab your teenager (or your teen spirit) and head to ASU Gammage for “Mean Girls.” I’ve only seen the movie, so I’m curious to see what Regina George has up her sleeve as she travels to Tempe from Broadway. asugammage.com



May 16-June 6 | Ballet Arizona is presenting a world premiere at Desert Botanical Garden, “The Four Seasons.” I hear it will be a sensation overload! And, don’t forget to get your reservation for pre-dinner at Gertrude’s. balletaz.org



June 12-28 | It will be time to escape the heat for air-conditioned activities, including the return of “Peter Pan” by Valley Youth Theatre, which will close the season at the Herberger Theater. vyt.com

Andrea Tyler Evans PUBLISHER



MARCH 8, 2020 | 11 A.M. TO 4 P.M.

ORANGE DRIVE AT 2ND STREET Street Fair, Beer Garden, Food Trucks and Architectural Tours Tickets Available Online at windsorsquarephoenix.com

Profile for Frontdoors Media

Frontdoors Magazine February 2020 Issue  

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