Ashley Naftule: Actor, Improviser and Theater Performance Organizer

Ashley Naftule, actor, improviser and theater performance organizer, photographed at Desoto Central Market in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Ashley Naftule, actor, improviser and theater performance organizer, photographed at Desoto Central Market in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero


Ashley Naftule
www.ashleynaftule.com

For followers of the Phoenix community theater scene, Ashley Naftule is a constant fixture, whether he’s organizing shows like 7 Minutes in Heaven at Space 55, performing characters such as professional arm wrestler Thunderbolt Tsunami on stage, or presenting short plays he has written at events such as Phoenix Fringe. The 32-year-old Scottsdale resident constantly comes up with creative personalities and ideas for the stage to keep audiences entertained, and you can catch him next this Thursday, December 3, when he’ll be performing at the PEP (Phoenix Educational Programming) Rally variety show at Lawn Gnome Publishing in Phoenix. The show kicks off at 8 p.m., and this week’s theme spotlights vignettes about the occult.

Naftule, who works as a copywriter for marketing agency Loud Rumor during the day, is the “Czar of Limited Engagements” at Space 55, where he runs special events at the theater. He shared why he’s so passionate about the stage and the local theater scene, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised here. My whole family is from France. My mom is from Algeria, and my dad is from Switzerland, and they moved to the States around 40 years ago and drifted here.

I was born in Phoenix, went to Horizon High School, and went to ASU for a few years. Continue reading

Stacey Gordon: Founder of Puppet Pie, Puppeteer with Die Puppet Die

Stacey Gordon, founder of Puppet Pie and puppeteer, photographed at her Puppet Pie studio in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Gordon, founder of Puppet Pie and puppeteer with Die Puppet Die, photographed at her Puppet Pie studio in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Gordon
www.puppetpie.com

Stacey Gordon believes people should never grow up, and that they should always strive to inject imagination, creativity and fun in their lives. What better way to do that than by using puppets? As founder of Puppet Pie in 2006, Gordon creates one-of-a-kind puppet creatures she sells and uses in theater performance, as co-founder of the puppet theater and puppet improv troupe Die Puppet Die. The 37-year-old Phoenix resident has had a love for puppets since a young age and now travels to conventions and festivals around the country spreading her passion for the art form.

You can catch her performing as Claire the sheep in the Settlers of Catan-based web series The Bob & Angus Show, sponsored by the board game company Mayfair Games. The new series starts this Thursday, October 1, and you can view episodes at www.thebobandangusshow.com.

Watch Gordon’s puppets live in action this Friday, October 2, and Saturday, October 3, at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater at 8 p.m. She performs with Die Puppet Die there every first Friday and Saturday of the month, other than summer months.

Kids can take a mask-making workshop with Gordon on Saturday, November 14, in conjunction with the Grand Avenue Festival and Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts — check out www.puppetpie.com for more details.

Gordon, who has made thousands of puppets, has a presence at local arts festivals, and can puppet-ize anything from mirrors to chalkboards, talked about why she has made puppetry her career. You can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video below.

What brought you to Arizona?

My husband got a job down here right after we got married, and we moved here in 2001 from Littleton, Colorado.

I grew up in northern California in a really small town called Ripon. I met my future husband while visiting a friend in Colorado and moved there after high school to go to community college and was going to study education. I ended up going on the Disney College Program in Florida, shadowed the puppetry department there, and decided to skip having student loans and dive straight into puppetry and theater. Continue reading

Kathleen Berger: Singer, Musical Theater Actor and Teacher

Kathleen Berger, singer, musical theater actor and teacher, photographed at her home in Litchfield Park, Arizona, by Nicki Escudero

Kathleen Berger, singer, musical theater actor and teacher, photographed at her home in Litchfield Park, Arizona, by Nicki Escudero

Kathleen Berger
www.kathleenberger.com

Kathleen Berger knows how to hit the high notes. The classically trained singer, who has had extensive experience singing opera in Europe, can be seen often on local theater stages as a musical theater performer. The 43-year-old Litchfield Park resident comes from a musical family and continues to carry on the legacy, as a performer, teacher and artist manager.

Catch her playing the Queen in Southwest Shakespeare Company‘s SpellBound! beginning May 7, and see her in The Joy of Sextets at Desert Foothills Theater beginning May 29.

Berger shares what fuels her passion for singing, as well as shares some tips, and you can watch her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I grew up here. I was born at Maryvale Hospital and grew up in Litchfield Park. I went to Agua Fria High School, then to ASU, where I majored in vocal performance and minored in French. I finished my degree at University of Missouri—Kansas City.

After that, I moved to New York for 10 years, and in 2006, I got an offer to sing on a tour of La Traviata in Madrid, Spain. I took it, I learned the role in two weeks, got on a plane, and went to Spain without speaking a word of Spanish. I spent seven weeks on the tour and decided I wasn’t going back to the United States, so I deliberately missed my plane and stayed in Spain for seven years.

I met my husband there, and when the economy collapsed in 2013, we decided to try moving to Arizona so my family could meet my husband, and so we could make a living instead of being in a country with 25 percent unemployment. We’ve been back ever since. Continue reading

Hector Coris: Actor with Scottsdale Musical Theater Company

Hector Coris
facebook.com/ScottsdaleMusicalTheater

Hector Coris loves inhabiting different characters and bringing them to life on stage. In the past four years, the Phoenix resident has performed in more than dozen local theater productions, having caught the theater bug back in college in New York before bringing his talents to the Valley. He’s gearing up to next star in Scottsdale Musical Theater Company‘s The Producers, at Tempe Center for the Arts Wednesday, December 31, Friday, January 2 and Saturday, January 3. The New Year’s Eve show also features a post-show gala.

Coris, who works at ReachOut Healthcare America in Phoenix, also is the associate producer for Scottsdale Musical Theater Company, as well as works in marketing and publicity. He talked about why he’s so passionate about local theater and what he’s looking forward to about starring in The Producers. Continue reading to watch a video of Coris name his favorite parts about living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I grew up in New York. I did a show here in March of 2009 for two weeks at the Mesa Arts Center, and I loved being here in March because it’s perfect weather. When I went back to New York, I got laid off from my job, so my partner and I were looking for a change. We decided to move to Phoenix. Continue reading