Maria Vassett: Owner of Maria Vassett Photography

Maria Vassett, owner of Maria Vassett Photography, photographed at her home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Maria Vassett, owner of Maria Vassett Photography, photographed at her home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Maria Vassett
facebook.com/MariaVassettPhotography

Maria Vassett has an extremely challenging day job. As a clinical service liaison for EMPACT-Suicide Prevention Center for the past year and a half, the 46-year-old Tempe resident works with more than 25 families at a time as the contact between the families and agencies such as Child Protective Services and Division of Developmental Disabilities, and schools and other agencies involved with the team. In her free time, though, Vassett is able to get her creative juices flowing, as a photographer for everything from concerts to boudoir shots, having shot for everyone from Phoenix New Times and The Arizona Republic to US Airways and Jose Cuervo — including more than 300 concerts. Vassett, a veteran in the local music industry, also has managed bands and helped open Clubhouse Music Venue, among other exploits, and is now part of Pita Jungle‘s rotating photography series. She talked about her passions for helping people and capturing precious moments, and keep reading to hear five reasons why she loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents brought me here when I was 2. I was born right outside of San Francisco in Walnut Creek. I went to Pueblo and Mohave for elementary school and Saguaro High School in Scottsdale. I graduated from ASU with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Criminal Justice. Continue reading

Philip Haldiman: ‘The Room’ Star

Philip Haldiman, 'The Room' star and 'The Arizona Republic' reporter, photographed at Sidebar in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Philip Haldiman, ‘The Room’ star, photographed at SideBar in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Philip Haldiman
http://twitter.com/PhilipHaldiman

As someone who always dreamed of making an impact on people through movie acting, Philip Haldiman has certainly achieved his goal — though not quite in the way he envisioned. As a star of what’s been called the worst movie ever made, The Room, the 35-year-old Phoenix native will forever be remembered for his character, Denny, a man child who couldn’t figure out social graces. The Room was released in 2003, and since, it’s been shown hundreds of times all over the world and has gained a Rocky Horror Picture Show-style cult following, where audiences shout things out in theaters and throw plastic spoons as a homage to one of the many weird scenes in the odd and bizarre film with no clear plot. Haldiman chronicled his journey as a struggling actor in Los Angeles in his new comic book series, My Big Break, which he’ll be signing at a release party this Saturday, February 23 at FilmBar in Phoenix at 9 p.m. Keep reading to learn more about the story behind Denny and The Room, and scroll down to hear five reasons why Haldiman loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born here in Phoenix. I have lived in a few other places throughout my youth and as an adult, but, hey, I guess I can’t stay away. Continue reading

Ryan Gaumont: Bully Mammoth Sketch Comedian

Ryan Gaumont, Bully Mammoth comedian, photographed at the Tempe Center for the Arts, by Nicki Escudero

Ryan Gaumont, Bully Mammoth comedian, photographed at the Tempe Center for the Arts, by Nicki Escudero

Ryan Gaumont
http://twitter.com/RyanGaumont

Since 2007, Ryan Gaumont has been seen on Valley stages making people laugh as one of the founding members of Bully Mammoth, a local sketch comedy troupe that has performed more than 40 shows since its inception. The 25-year-old Scottsdale resident and video editor at Sequence Media Group always loved watching sketch shows growing up, and now he and the six-member troupe craft new scenes regularly for the Arizona masses. Gaumont, along with the rest of his troupe members, can also be seen doing stand-up comedy at various venues. Catch him with Bully Mammoth at Tempe Center for the Arts Friday, April 19 and at Brigett’s Last Laugh on Tuesday, February 19 doing stand-up, and scroll down to hear what got him interested in comedy and why he loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My mother’s vagina — just kidding, but yes! I’m a native. I was born in Mesa and went to Dobson High School and Scottsdale Community College. I got my bachelor’s degree in theater from ASU and an associate’s degree in screenwriting. Continue reading

Aaron Johnson: Owner of Lawn Gnome Publishing, Phoenix Poetry Slammaster

Aaron Johnson, owner of Lawn Gnome Publishing in downtown Phoenix, photographed at the store, by Nicki Escudero

Aaron Johnson, owner of Lawn Gnome Publishing in downtown Phoenix, photographed at the store, by Nicki Escudero

Aaron Johnson
twitter.com/LawnGnomePub

Aaron Johnson has always loved the quirky side of life, forgoing a desk job for more creative endeavors. The Phoenix native and resident, 30, has lived in an artist commune at the Firehouse and was the first crepe slinger at Jobot Coffee Shop in downtown Phoenx, but now he’s the owner of a shop he’s always wanted to open: independent bookstore and printing house Lawn Gnome Publishing, also downtown. Johnson, a longtime slam poet, says the inspiration for Lawn Gnome came from his love of the independent bookstores he visited throughout the country during his travels as a performance poet, and now his literary haven has celebrated its 1-year anniversary. But Lawn Gnome isn’t just for interesting reads — the charming shop (which boasts more than 20 volunteers) also hosts nightly events, ranging from scientist presentations, to storytelling, to slam poetry. Johnson is still writing poetry, too, and he’s the slammaster for the Phoenix poetry slam team that will head to the National Poetry Slam this August. And while he’s not spitting rhymes or managing the store, Johnson designs flyers — he created more than 100 last year. Read on for how Lawn Gnome came to fruition, as well as to hear five reasons why he loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born here in Phoenix, and I’ve traveled a lot of places since, but I always come back. I have family and friends here. Continue reading