Michelle Donovan: Nile Theater Concert Promoter and The Mantooth Group Founder

Michelle Donovan, concert promoter for Nile Theater and The Mantooth Group, photographed at Nile Theater in Mesa, by Nicki Escudero

Michelle Donovan, concert promoter for Nile Theater and The Mantooth Group founder, photographed at Nile Theater in Mesa, by Nicki Escudero


Michelle Donovan
twitter.com/NileTheater

Michelle Donovan is one of the strongest female presences in the local music scene. At only 31, the Tempe resident has been promoting local shows with the concert promotion company she helped found, The Mantooth Group, for nearly 10 years. The Mantooth Group has been leasing out the Nile Theater in Mesa for shows since 2010, giving people of all ages a venue to share in their passion for music. Donovan books hundreds of shows a year at not only the Nile, but also at local spots such as Yucca Tap Room and Pub Rock Live, while substitute teaching on the side. She’s currently working on renovations to the 100-year-old Nile basement, where shows also take place, and talked about where her love for rocking bands comes from, as well as five of her favorite things about living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents got a job transfer when I was in junior high. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I went to Highland High School and got a history degree from Arizona State University. Continue reading

Sadie Such: Owner of Sadie Such Photography and Films

Sadie Such
twitter.com/SadieSuch

Sadie Such has been able to combine two of her biggest passions — photography/videography and helping people — with a really cool layer: traveling around the globe. The 23-year-old Phoenix resident, who has owned Sadie Such Photography and Films for the past 3 years, also goes on volunteer mission trips to places such as Central America and West Africa. Such, who has a degree in film production from the Film School at Scottsdale Community College (and played tennis there), has worked with organizations including PhotogenX to document social injustice around the globe, as well as teach photography and video skills. She’ll be headed to Zambia in June and has ideas for films of her own, and she talked about what drives her passion. Keep reading to hear five reasons why Such loves living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised in Phoenix. Probably about 4 years ago, I started traveling internationally and living in different states, but I always ended up back here because my family is here. Continue reading

Jef Rawls: Jester’Z Owner, Actor

Jef Rawls, Jester'Z owner and actor, photographed at Jester'Z in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Jef Rawls, Jester’Z owner and actor, photographed at Jester’Z in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Jef Rawls
twitter.com/JesterZImprov

Jef Rawls helped create one of the Valley’s longest-running comedy theaters, Jester’Z in Scottsdale, which he co-owns with his wife, Shurlin Rawls. For more than 12 years, Jester’Z improv has been entertaining audiences in their 135-person theater (which they often sell out), as well as in corporate trainings around the country. Rawls, a 39-year-old Mesa resident who attended Thunderbird High School, also teaches more than 200 students throughout the year in courses such as musical improv and teen classes, as well as directs the Jester’Z troupe, which includes almost 20 members. Read on for how he’s become one of the Valley’s most successful comedy business owners, as well as to hear five reasons why he loves calling Arizona home.

What brought you to Arizona?

My mother’s womb. I’m a Phoenix native, but I’ve lived everywhere from Hawaii and California, to Washington and Utah, to Colorado and Washington, D.C. This is where my heart is and where I call home. I’ve been back in Arizona since ’94. Continue reading

Nicole Laurenne: Singer for The Love Me Nots and Zero Zero, Gilbert Judge

Nicole Laurenne, The Love Me Nots and Zero Zero singer and Gilbert Municipal Court judge, photographed at Martini Ranch in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Nicole Laurenne, The Love Me Nots and Zero Zero singer and Gilbert Municipal Court judge, photographed at Martini Ranch in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero


Nicole Laurenne
twitter.com/thelovemenots

Nicole Laurenne wears two very distinct hats. By day, the 43-year-old Phoenix resident, whose real name is Nicole Laurin-Walker, is a judge in the Gilbert Municipal Court and a mom to 15-year-old twins. By night, she sings and plays keyboards and organ with her husband, Michael Walker, in two of the Valley’s most popular rock bands — The Love Me Nots and Zero Zero. The Love Me Nots sell out shows in France, where they’re signed to French record label Bad Reputation, and the couple also writes music for a licensing agency on the side. Laurenne, also a breast cancer survivor after a 2010 diagnosis, talked about how she finds a balance in her very busy life, as well as talks about five reasons why she loves living in the Valley, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I grew up in Chicago, I went to college in Michigan, and I came to Arizona for law school at University of Arizona because they offered me a really nice scholarship. It’s cheap to live here, the weather’s nice, you meet a guy, pass the bar, and you just stay. I moved up to Phoenix for my first job. Continue reading