October 12, 2020

So, When Did Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation Start Rubbing Elbows with Hollywood?

It all started with a conversation I (Laura Hales, curator of learning and innovation) had with my colleague Janet Rees. We both run programs for older adults and were brainstorming ways we can engage different audiences in that demographic with virtual experiences. We both understood the necessity of moving our in-person programs online during the pandemic, but we also knew that there is a lot of reluctance amongst many of our participants to have to learn unfamiliar computer technology. 

Memory Lounge is a Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation program for older adults and is traditionally held at SMoCA on the first and third Fridays of each month.
Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Janet, who now works as the creative aging coordinator at the Jewish Family and Children’s Service, previously ran the Arizona Jewish Theater and has strong ties in the theatre community in Arizona and beyond. She mentioned that a playwright she knew, Robert Benjamin, had just sent a script to her that was about two neighbors—a man and woman who are both retired and have very different views about isolation—engaging with each other over Zoom. 

Why not offer this play over Zoom to our audiences? It is something people can relate to, and it could even entice non-Zoomers to Zoom—and find out how easy it is. 

The legendary Ed Asner stars in Hunker Down. Photo: Tim Leyes 

Then, in her very humble way, Janet mentioned that she knows Ed Asner and thinks he would be perfect for the male role. “I’ll ask Ed to do it”, she said.  

The rest, as they say, is history. With many thanks to our collaborators,  Janet Rees, The Jewish Family and Children’s Service, the legendary actor Ed Asner, playwright Robert Benjamin, and our own Meribeth Reeves, managing director of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts—who was the director—we presented a live reading of the play Hunker Down on September 22, which was streamed by over 1,300 people. 

Janet Arnold Rees reads the play Hunker Down with Ed Asner on September 22, 2020. Screenshot: Scottsdale Arts.

If you missed it, you can still view a recording of the live reading until the end of October. Visit our website and follow the simple instructions to access the recording. Once you register, you will have up to a week to view it. The cost is only $5, but 100% of all ticket sales will be divided equally between The Ed Asner Family Center, Jewish Family and Children’s Service, and us. The reading is approximately 30 minutes long, and remember: it was recorded live with mistakes, tech glitches, and all! Overall, I think these things ad more charm and validity to the script. 

I did ask Mr. Asner if he felt he was competent to play the role of Kevin, a grouchy curmudgeon—since that kind of role was new territory for him—he answered, “Hmph.” 

I hope you will take the time to see this timely production. Please share it with your family and friends—even those who live out of town! And thank you for your support of Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation programming!

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