Tags Articles tagged with "entertainment"


DSPA Gems perform at the MHS Performing Arts Center.

: ArtsFest Maricopa “Music & Movement”
When: Oct. 19, 7 p.m. (doors open 6 p.m.)
Where: MHS Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: One night $18 at the door; two nights $24 thru Oct. 7 and $30 afterward
Tickets: ArtsFestMaricopa.BrownPaperTickets.com

A new, two-part cultural event for Maricopa will take a bow this fall showcasing the works of local professionals and student artists and performers.

ArtsFest Maricopa, organized by the city’s arts organizations, is scheduled to debut at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. with the showcase “Music and Movement.”

The main-stage performances feature orchestral music by Maricopa Music Circle and dance by Desert Sun Performing Arts, plus introductions and commentary by actors from Maricopa Community Theatre. The intermission “Intermezzo” lobby performance will be by a small ensemble from a Maricopa school, to be enjoyed as audience members walk about viewing wall-art and sculptures by MHS students and established artists and crafters.

“ArtsFest Maricopa aims to present a core sample of all Maricopa’s artistic riches in fresh, glorious ‘re-introduction’ to our city,” said Judith Zaimont, co-founder of MMC and one of the organizers of the event, “especially so we all can savor together the demonstrated richness of talent in our hometown. New residents will gain first-hand experience of how the city’s cultural prong has grown and flourished over Maricopa’s first 16 incorporated years.”

The evenings have their presentations grouped around two themes: arts without words, and arts with words.

The second part of ArtsFest will be Feb. 1 with the “Song and Story” showcase. Main-stage performances will be by Maricopa Chorus and Copa Shorts Film Fest, with introductions and commentary by MCT actors. The intermission lobby performance will be by Poetry Slam performances, and there will be another art walk of local professional and student creations.

Both parts of ArtFest will have food trucks stationed nearby for refreshments throughout the evening. Doors will open at 6 p.m. so audience members can view the visual art displays in the lobby at length.

ArtsFest Maricopa is sponsored by the City of Maricopa Arts Committee and the independent nonprofit Maricopa Arts Council.

This story appears in the September issue of InMarciopa.


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Coyote Joe Daigneault. Photo by Erin Ward

By Jim Headley

“I came to Maricopa to create a music scene, and it’s damn hard here.”

Coyote Joe began playing music when he was 7. Today he’s one of the busiest musicians in the Valley.

Blame his wife. Joe Daigneault said he met his wife Cathy at 12 and knew she was the one for him.

“I’m the first boy that ever kissed her,” Coyote Joe said. “We got married at 21. I said, ‘Kathy, I’m going to work really hard for five years and pay the house off. As soon as I get the house paid off, I’m going to go and be a ful-ltime musician.’ I paid the house off when I was 57.”

Kathy told Joe to become a full-time musician and live up to his end of their deal.

“If you want to have health insurance and a new car every four or five years, maybe go on a vacation now and then and fix the air conditioning unit when it breaks, you better have a different career than music,” Joe said.

He said playing music in Arizona allows him to make some good pocket money.

“The average guy, who’s a weekend warrior in Arizona, goes home, if he’s lucky, with $80 a night,” he said. “I do a little better than that, but I play a lot. This time of year, I play all the time. Sometimes, I’m playing because I want to play. Sometimes, I’m playing because I want the money.”

Coyote Joe playing at Copper Sky in 2018. Photo by Bruce P. Jones

Instead of Daigneault, he’d rather just be called Coyote Joe, on and off stage. It gives him an identity as he tries to rally Maricopa musicians to gather and mentor each other.

“I think I’m doing who I am,” Coyote Joe said. “I came to Maricopa to create a music scene, and it’s damn hard here. The Raceway Bar and Grill has been great, and I play there often. I also play at A Latte Vino in Casa Grande. It is our job for every musician in this town to get to know each other. What this town is missing is some of those more soulful things. We need some cool little coffee shops and a little wine bar.”

While best known for his five seasons as host and writer for ABC15’s Emmy Award-winning television cooking series, “The Sonoran Grill,” Coyote Joe has also made over 400 appearances on ABC15’s “Sonoran Living” and authored an impressive catalogue of southwestern cookbooks.

He also sculpts and writes poetry.

Coyote Joe said he’s been “serious about playing” for several years now. He spent almost two years learning one specific guitar-picking technique and “getting it right.”

It is a hybrid method with strumming and a finger pick at the same time.

“I try to get my music down first, then I think of a melody and then I think about lyrics,” he said. “I’m thinking about the drums and I’m thinking about the baseline. Then there’s a melodic line over the top. At the same time, I’m thinking about the kick and the snare.”

What this all boils down to is Coyote Joe’s unique sound on stage.

Professional musician J.C. Scott is one of Coyote Joe’s friends and they often play music together. Scott said he first met Coyote Joe about 10 years ago.

“His nickname is actually Mad Coyote Joe,” Scott said. “When we first met him, he was delivering bread and food to people. He is a musician who is very entertaining. His selection of songs – he’s the only musician I know that plays a plethora of TV tunes. He has a very eclectic group of songs, and he has a broad range.”

Coyote Joe developed his style inside a group of peer/mentor musicians in the Valley. He works a lot with Blade Wilson of Blade Wilson and the Mixups and Tim Brady with T-Bone and the Bastards.

“For me, what has been the valuable part of learning has been this peer/mentor relationship,” he said. “When you first start playing with somebody and I say, ‘you’re not getting your pitches,’ what most people hear is … you’re a bad person and you don’t deserve to be an artist. I need a group of people that will dispassionately analyze my music with a critical eye and understand how to deliver that information in a way that I’ll understand.”

Scott said Coyote Joe is well known in Cave Creek, where he is “one of the crew” among a group of musicians.

Coyote Joe plays around the area including at Raceway Bar & Grill, The Havoc at Harold’s and Buffalo Chip Saloon in Cave Creek, and hosts A Cuppa Joe, every Saturday morning at Janey’s in Cave Creek, The Tavern at Tarbell’s, JJ Madison’s in Mesa and many more locations.


This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

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The DSPA Gems went to the movies for their 13th annual recital June 8 at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center. With performances in the afternoon and evening, the all-ages troupe (from age 2 to adult) showed off what they have learned this year, dancing to cinematic choreography in large and small groups.

Josh Turner will perform at the Events Center at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino in September. (Submitted photo)

Josh Turner, MCA Nashville recording artist, will be bringing his rich bass/baritone and distinctive sound to The Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino on Sept. 28.

Who: Josh Turner
When:  Saturday, Sept. 28 Doors:  7 p.m. Show Time:  8 p.m.
Where:  The Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino
How much:  Starting at $35; Tickets on sale through Ticketmaster
Ages: All

As one of country music’s most recognizable talents, Turner has been honored with multiple Grammy, CMA and ACM award nominations, as well as received six Inspirational Country Music Awards. Turner is known for his unique voice and many hits, including “Your Man,” which topped the country charts and went platinum in 2006, “Would You Go With Me,” which was also a No. 1 single, and his self-penned, debut smash hit “Long Black Train.”

In addition, Turner is one of the youngest members inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, selling more than 8 million units and topping more than 1.5 billion in global streaming and populated radio.

Along with his success as a musician, Turner has also tackled the written word as an author. He released his first book, “Man Stuff: Thoughts on Faith, Family and Fatherhood,” in 2014, highlighting songwriting and performing in his childhood. In support of early music education, Turner created The Josh Turner Scholarship Fund to assist other children following the same path and mirroring his own upbringing.

Lucinda and Rob Boyd. Submitted photo

No Way Out Films is working on developing a film project about Maricopa’s Rob Boyd and his younger days of gang activity starting at the age of 10 on the east side streets of Detroit. Boyd described the project as “the 100-percent real, never-before-told story about the gangster and the woman, Lucinda, who would come into his life and change the path of darkness and destruction.”

The film is to reveal Boyd’s past of guns, violence and drugs how he met his wife Lucinda and then formed their organization The Streets Don’t Love You Back, which has programs in 155 prisons across the country helping inmates develop the tools needed to stay out of the system.

The Boyds will be making a trailer for the film in Maricopa June 23.


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Cast members of Maricopa High School’s production of Fiddler on the Roof performed “Tradition” from the musical on the ASU Gammage stage Saturday for the High School Musical Theatre Awards. MHS Theatre Company was among 26 troupes competing for prizes. It was the third straight year they have participated. Three performers – Antonio Gonzales, Douglas Moulton and Taryn Story – were Top 10 finalists in their individual categories, and MHS Tech Theatre was a finalist in sound design and set/prop design. The night was dominated by Mingus Union High School’s “Newsies,” a Broadway musical schedule to be performed next spring by MHS Theatre Company.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School Performance Company performed its spring dance concert, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” Friday night and will take the stage again tonight at the Performing Arts Center. The students pack 31 pieces into two hours, featuring choreography by the students and artistic director Alexandra Biggs. Dancers are from the MHS Performance Company as well as Dance I and Dance II students.

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Jim Headley with a glider at Arizona Soaring. Photo by Kyle Norby

Earlier in April, the fine folks out at Arizona Soaring invited me to go on an aerobatic ride in one of their gliders.

I can handle it. I’m tough and I love to fly.

It wasn’t just fun, it was a total blast at the Estrella Sailport, just a few miles west of Maricopa on State Route 238.

I was taken care of by Shad Coulson, who isn’t just a pilot but the company’s operations manager. Coulson was smart, well-trained and full of confidence. I felt comfortable in that little plane even if it didn’t have an engine.

I’ve always been taught that altitude and speed are big insurance policies when it comes to flying. Because of this theory, a ride in a hot air balloon a few years ago was just too much for me.

You stand in a large wicker basket with propane tanks surrounding you. Some joker lights a giant flame over your head and the balloon doesn’t go very high or very fast. Oh yes, and the pilot will tell you they really can’t control where the thing will eventually go very well. Of course, he doesn’t mention that part until you’re already in the air.

I just wanted to get out of that contraption.

I feared the glider ride might be a similar experience.

After being strapped to a parachute, I wiggled my way into the front seat of the glider. Coulson helped me get strapped in and he started on a safety briefing.

This is when the real nerves first appeared. Coulson showed me how to jettison the canopy, clear the plane, if its right side up or upside down, and pull the cord on the parachute. The reality of what could happen became crystal clear.

This glider ride is serious business and not just fun and games.

I can still do it. I’ve come this far and I’m not backing down.

The tow rope was attached, and the plane started pulling us down the runway. We were airborne in seconds.

The noise intensified as the glider floated with the greatest of ease. Coulson talked me through every bump and rattle I heard and felt. All was normal as we just kept going up and up.

Coulson told me the history of the area and showed me the mountain tops of the Estrallas. I saw Phoenix in the distance, and he warned me of a bump that’s coming as we detached from the tow plane. We were at 6,800 feet.

The bump tickled my tummy a little, but I had no idea what was about to happen.

We were free from the noisy tow plane. There was nothing but peace and the voice of the pilot.

Coulson told me how he became a pilot and that he is from Limon, Colorado. That’s not far from my neck of the woods. I’m from just north of there in Sidney, Nebraska.

He told me of the wonderful history of the company and all about the area we flew over. He even let me take the stick and rudders and fly the glider a short bit.

After a few minutes, I stowed away my cellphone that was recording the audio of our conversation. I had to sit on my cellphone to ensure it was secure.

Peace and serenity were suddenly replaced with speed, noise and nerves as the glider went into a dive.

Holy cow, this engine-less craft was as fast as most of the planes I have been in. Coulson pulled back on the stick and it was on.

Here’s comes a loop.

I’ll admit, I was terrified going into that first loop, but there was more, a lot more.

Coulson just kept on looping and looping the glider. One, two, three, a cloverleaf sideways stall and eventual dive and back up to speed. After the fifth inversion, this boy was done.

“I think I’ve had enough,” I told Coulson while we were upside down on the fifth loop de loop. He said, “no problem” and “I’ll level it off after this one.”

Comforting words when you’re pulling four Gs and weigh 750 pounds.

I know he does this every day, but for me five loop de loops was my limit. I was clearly shaken but not stirred. No, I did not get sick.

I am pretty sure Coulson was concerned about me and we landed shortly after. The landing was smooth and quick. I was so glad to get out of the cockpit, but I was still very exhilarated by the ride.

It also took a minute to get my sea-legs back under me.

That was one of the most intense, fun and enjoyable flights of my life. It is unlikely that I will take up the glider flying habit on a regular basis, but I would go again, and I can’t say that about a hot air balloon.

Thanks to Shad Coulson, Jason Stephens (who is one of the owners of Arizona Soaring) and all the fine folks who helped us at the Estrella Sailport, the home of Arizona Soaring. They also offer calm non-aerobatic flights if you’d prefer.

Please check out my story in the May edition of InMaricopa Magazine about Arizona Soaring, APEX Motor Club, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Course and Skydive Phoenix as we focus on the SR 238 Entertainment Corridor developing west of Maricopa.

Some of the hottest fun in the Valley of the Sun happens right here.

Jim Headley is a reporter and photographer for InMaricopa.

Eddie Money. Submitted photo

: Eddie Money and Starship
When: May 26, showtime 6 p.m., doors open at 5 p.m.
Where: The Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino
How much: Starting at $44.50
Ages: All

Eddie Money and Starship, featuring Mickey Thomas, will be bringing their iconic sounds to the Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino for one can’t-miss event on Sunday, May 26. The Events Center, which opened in early 2019, seats 2,000 people and is part of the Casino’s multi-million dollar renovation.

Money (born Edward Joseph Mahoney) burst onto the scene with his eponymous debut album in 1977. Fans immediately fell in love with Money’s sound, and the album, which went double platinum, featured hits like “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise.”

His talents have earned him spots on multiple lists, including the Billboard Top 100 for “Take Me Home Tonight,” the Top 40 for “Walk on Water” and Top 10 for “I’ll Get By,” in addition to winning him multiple platinum awards. Money’s award-winning combination of rock and pop is made possible by his ability to play multiple instruments, including the saxophone, harmonica, keyboard and guitar.

Starship, featuring Mickey Thomas, has been entertaining fans for more than two decades. The rockers are best known for various No. 1 hits, including “We Built This City” and “Sara.” Although the band has switched out multiple members over the years, they have maintained their iconic sound, which has won them spots on the Billboard Hot 100 in addition to platinum awards. With Mickey Thomas, the band has continued to release singles in recent years, including “Get Out Again” and “My Woman.”



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Larry the Cable Guy jokes with the crowd at the Pinal 40 Gala. Photos by Jim Headley

The annual Pinal 40 Gala brought comedian Larry the Cable Guy, former Diamondback Luis Gonzalez and artist Randall Hedden to Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Events Center Saturday for dinner and entertainment to help fund local youth programs and agricultural scholarships in Pinal County. Comedian Mark Cordes hosted the evening, which say Hedden do on-the-spot art, including a painting of Gonzalez that was auctioned off. Larry the Cable Guy was the spotlight entertainment. Live and silent auctions included high-end items like skydiving trips, baseball tickets, electronics, signed jerseys and more.

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Desert Wind Middle School students are conducted by Roger Wagner. Photos by Kyle Norby

The fifth annual Music-a-Thon hosted by Maricopa Unified School District was Saturday, featuring student musicians from high school and the middle schools. Ivan Pour, Roger Wagner and Tanya Hobt conducted the orchestras through the five-hour event at the Performing Arts Center.

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Homestead residents JC and Laney perform at A Latte Vino in Casa Grande. Photo by Jim Headley

Sometimes harmonizing with someone else is just magical.

“We bought a million-dollar house for a quarter million dollars, because it is a desert surrounded by an Indian reservation and cows. It is a huge bang for your buck.” JC Scott

Nine years ago, Jay “JC” Scott and Laney Greynolds met and were on stage playing music together a half hour later. Little did they know that moment would propel them together into a love affair and a full-time musical career.

It just clicked.

“It the luck of the draw when you have your harmonies smack into each other,” Laney said.

JC said when his voice collided with Laney’s voice, a third magical voice of harmony was instantaneously created.

Today they are performing as the Americana singer/songwriter duo JC & Laney and they travel the nation singing to JC’s acoustic guitar playing. To say that they’re good is clearly an understatement.

In 2016, one of their songs, “When it Comes to Love,” was nominated for a Grammy Award.

“We just did our ninth Glendale Folk Festival and that was when our first album came out in March of 2010,” Laney said. “We knew each other five months when our first album came out.”

At the time, they lived in different states, with JC in California and Laney in Arizona. Their first album was mostly a collection of acoustic recordings. JC was already recording the album when he met Laney, and they “started singing together, and my heart went (pitter patter),” JC said.

Laney Greynolds joined up with JC in 2009. Photo by Jim Headley

When they met, Laney was in a rock band and went to hear JC perform at Whiskey Row in Gilbert. That’s when they ended up on stage together. Their first song was “Bell Bottom Blues,” and they have never sung it together since that night.

“We really spent the first five or six years only doing original music,” she said. “About the sixth album in, we got a job in Williams playing all summer, and we started learning covers.”

JC said when they started playing in the Arizona town near Flagstaff, they only had 15 cover songs worked up together. Almost every day they learned at least one new cover to entertain the tourists coming off the Grand Canyon train in Williams.

“We knew plenty of songs, but we didn’t know them with our harmonies together,” JC said.

The seasonal gig was canceled the past two years, but they’ll be back in Williams this year May 29-Sept. 2.

In nine years, they have come a long way from their humble beginnings.

“We have bigger and better shows,” Laney said. “We travel a lot. We were in the first round of the 58th Grammys for our album Hard Road Easy Street. He was in for songwriter for the song ‘Hard Road Easy Street’ and we were in for best Americana performance for ‘When it Comes to Love’ – that’s the one that got a lot of legs.”

She said there was a contest called the Grammy Amplifier sponsored by the Recording Academy, and JC & Laney received 194,000 hits to capture first place for “When it Comes to Love.” The win propelled them to Hollywood and the 2016 Grammys at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  On Spotify the song has over 100,000 streaming clicks.

“All our friends say they never want to hear that song again,” JC said, adding he wrote the lyrics to “When it Comes to Love” on an airplane and matched the words to music later.

JC usually writes most of their songs, but Laney has joined in to write three songs with JC.

“They’re not on albums yet, but they will be,” she said. “One is a wedding song that I wrote for my son.”

They have chosen Maricopa as their home and have purchased a house in Homestead. Before the resident gig in Williams begins, they’re entertaining crowds in Flagstaff, Casa Grande, Prescott, Tempe, Eloy and in California with gigs in Pasadena and Santa Rosa.

During the summer they will be playing at A Latte Vino in Casa Grande every three weeks. Diann Prechel, owner of A Latte Vino has been booking JC & Laney on a regular basis over the past year.

“They have a following here,” Prechel said. “They have people that come just for them. They play here on average twice a month but sometimes three times a month. There are some repeat customers because of them.”

Many people ask them why they’ve picked Maricopa as their home.

“We bought a million-dollar house for a quarter million dollars, because it is a desert surrounded by an Indian reservation and cows. It is a huge bang for your buck,” JC said.

Laney said they came to Maricopa in October 2017, looked around and “really liked the town.”

JC said then it was 40,000 people, no gangs and everybody talked to each other.

“It smells like cow stuff sometimes,” JC said. “It’s 16 miles from the I-10 and people go, ‘Why do you live in Maricopa?’ We say because it’s 16 miles from the I-10 and people don’t like to come there. We travel a lot anyway.”

They are building a recording studio in their home, where they can do blogs and musical recordings.

He said the average song on the Internet has a seven-second shelf life.

“We have to constantly put out new songs and videos,” he said. “That’s what the new room (studio) is going to be. It’s hard to keep up with, so we’re going to do it ourselves.”

He said JC & Laney isn’t a household name, but they’re working on it.


Photo by Jim Headley

This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.


Whether you realize it or not – coming to Maricopa is cool. Some of the hottest fun in the Valley of the Sun happens in western Pinal County. Nestled along State Route 238 west of Maricopa is a developing entertainment corridor.

Photo by Jim Headley

Arizona Soaring

It all started 50 years ago, when the Horvath family opened Arizona Soaring, a unique professional glider training and flight site.

The Stephens family purchased the Estrella Sailport, where Arizona Soaring operates, in 1987.

“My brothers and I own the place together now,” Jason Stephens said, calling the sailport a family affair.

“I could be doing a lot of other things, but this is what I want to do. I started glider-flying when I was 13; that’s when we moved down here from Alaska and that’s when my family bought the operation. I worked out here all through high school and college. I did a few other flying jobs for a while before I came back and took over the place.”

Photo by Jim Headley

Arizona Soaring and Stephens are famous in the glider world. The Estrella Sailport is considered one of the earliest, most historic and best places in the world to go up in a glider. The weather is usually very good for gliding with high temperatures, light winds and clear skies on most days.

That is why the Horvath family built it just west of Maricopa half a century ago. Maricopa was 400 people at the time and only a dirt road connected the town to Phoenix.

Stephens was the World 2008 Unlimited Glider Champion. One of the top awards in the glider world is called the Hovarth Trophy. People from around the world travel to the Estrella Sailport to take classes or just go for a ride in a sailplanes. Trained pilots can rent sailplanes.

The aerobatic ride is an amazing, peaceful experience filled with calmness and beautiful views of the Estrella mountains and the Valley of the Sun. Suddenly, the daredevil of gliding kicks in and you are upside down doing your fifth loop-to-loop and smiling from ear to ear.

“We get customers here from all over the world. A lot of international customers come here for training or for recreational flying,” Stephens said.

Stephens is also a teaching pilot and takes many customers for rides. He teaches everything from basics to advance aerobatics. He can also be seen riding the tractor and grading the runways.

“Our No. 1 mission is to create the best pilots around,” Stephens said. “The pilots we create can go out into the world and become good, safe pilots who exercise good judgement and impress people when they travel. Most of our work here is teaching.”

He said they might have two or three riding customers a day, but they will put up 30 to 40 flights daily with classes.

“It’s been good for us, and we’ve been good for Maricopa. We have been bringing in customers from outside into this area and spending dollars for 50 years. We want to keep that going,” Stephens said.


Entry to Ak-Chin Southern Dunes clubhouse. Photo by Jim Headley

Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club

Ak-Chin Southern Dunes hosts about 40,000 rounds of golf annually and is one of a handful of championship golf courses in the region.

Photo by Jim Headley

Designed by Schmidt-Curley Design and Fred Couples, Southern Dunes was built in 2001 as a private men’s club. It has changed ownership a few times since, and in 2010 was purchased by the Ak-Chin Indian Community and made it into a daily-fee, public golf course.

“We don’t have memberships. We have a couple loyalty programs. We also have local pricing and different things like that,” General Manager Brady Wilson said. “It is meant to be very utopian and very democratic. We sell the times and it is first-come, first-served in the bookings.”

The Troon-managed facility consists of an 18-hole championship course and a six-hole short course dubbed #miniDunes. The site is a driving range in the morning and converts into the short course in the afternoon. All #miniDunes holes are under 100 yards.

There are no homes on the golf course.

“The golf course plays host to quiet a few championship events,” Wilson said. “Next to TCP Scottsdale, we probably are the premier championship venue in the state. The golf course is really big, and it has been ranked as high as fifth in the state. It is a high-quality venue, and it is challenging.”

While the course may be one of the premier championship courses in Arizona, it also caters to all skill levels of golfers, with six-sets of tees.

“We cater to female golfers, elderly golfers to novice golfers. It is meant to be for everybody,” Wilson said.

On top of golf, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes also has the Arroyo Grille.

Arroyo Grille. PHoto by Jim Headley

“Arguably, probably the best restaurants in Maricopa,” Wilson said. “It is open to the public. It is here to service our golfers, but we are open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week. We serve a dinner menu Wednesday through Saturday night. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we are still open until the last golfer and we serve the lunch menu until the end of the day.”

The chef at Arroyo Grill is “very accomplished and has become very well known,” Wilson said.


Cars tried out the new track at Apex Motor Club on opening day. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Apex Motor Club

The new kid on the entertainment block is Apex Motor Club, which just built a new club track between Ak-Chin Southern Dunes and Arizona Soaring.

Photo by Kyle Norby

Apex finished the paving Phase I of their track in March. The 2.3-mile track has 12 turns on 140 acres. There is an additional 140 acres for Phase II of the project just north of the first track. Upon completion, the Apex Motor Club track will be up to 4.2 miles long.

The course is a road track, but it is a fast road track with speeds of 160 mph possible in the right car on the straightaways.

Car condos will be under construction soon as well as a clubhouse, restaurant and pool.

Apex is a private club. All styles of cars are welcome into the club including open wheel, vintage and modern cars.

“We’re not developers that are going to move on to the next city and sell this. We want to have our kids and their kids work here and have something that a lot of people can enjoy for a long period of time,” Apex President Jason Plotke said. “We want to be a vibrant part of the community.”

Apex Motor Club is owned by Scottsdale-based Private Motorsports Group.


Skydive Phoenix

South of Arizona Soaring is Skydive Phoenix Inc., which used to be located at the glider airport but moved to have safer airspace for jumps.

For many, skydiving is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Others discover a passion that will open a whole new world.

​Adventure sports don’t get much more extreme than leaping from an airplane in flight, and Skydive Phoenix is ultimate observation deck with views of the Phoenix skyline, Camelback Mountain and Four Peaks.

Tandem skydive jumps are the easiest, safest and most comfortable way to make your first jump. You experience all the exhilaration of skydiving, secure in knowing a trained instructor is harnessed snugly on your back.

The Accelerated Skydive Program is the most popular as it combines the tandem and Accelerated Freefall Programs. ​Skydive Phoenix also offers services for experienced jumpers.


This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Antonio Gonzales, an MHS senior, leads "Fiddler on the Roof." Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

A hearty, energetic and often very touching rendition of “Fiddler on the Roof” opened Thursday at the Maricopa Performing Arts Center.

The latest production of the Maricopa High School Theatre Company hit all the big, showstopper expectations as well as the intimate notes of family, love and faith. The cast of over 100 was accompanied by an under-stage orchestra of student and adult musicians.

There’s solid story-telling, there’s singing, there’s dancing, there is a faux dream and a living nightmare. It’s a heck of a show.

“Fiddler” inherently lives or dies on the shoulders of whoever plays Tevye the dairyman, around whom everyone in the Russian village of Anatevka seems to revolve (literally at one point). In this case, senior Antonio Gonzales is at his best, carrying his scenes with authority and conveying the complexities of a simple man being tossed about by changes he cannot control.

He and Emma Schrader as Tevye’s wife Golde have some particularly strong sets together. They are a poor couple with five daughters, three of whom are of marriageable age and are portrayed by three of the company’s most accomplished actresses. All are excellent.

Aidyn Curtis as the oldest daughter Tzeitel must accept an arranged marriage to a much older but well-off Lazar Wolf (Douglas Moulton) or defy her father for a poor tailor she has loved since childhood (Brandon Korittky). Kjirsten Lemon as Hodel falls for a scholar with revolutionary ideas (Ricky Raffaele), which does not please Papa at all. Taryn Story as Chava commits the almost-irredeemable sin of marrying a Gentile (Derek Blakely), a break from faith and tradition that Tevye cannot bear.

Korittky as Motel the tailor rounds out four years as arguably the troupe’s most reliable character actor. He’s terrific here. Mary Brokenshire is a scene-stealer as Yente, as is Fallon Fruchey as long-dead Grandma Tzeitel.

The set is top-notch, effectively using small parts to convey larger scenes. The Fruma-Sarah entry with Astraya Ellison in the very funny dream sequence is a tour de force. The live orchestra was a good call on the part of director Alexandra Stahl. It was also transforming to have the actors choreographed into dancers by MHS dance teacher Alexandra Biggs.

Performances continue Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., plus a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office.


It takes a lot of talent to take the stage but that is exactly what Maricopa seniors will do Saturday night at the 2019 Spice of Life talent show.

Spice of Life is a senior talent show Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center. Ticket are $15 and available at the door, online at brownpapertickets.com or by calling event coordinator Helen Brown at 520-868-6111.

The show originated out of Chandler but has grown to a performance in Maricopa. This year will be the fourth time Spice of Life will take place in Maricopa.

The show will consist of 25 well-polished acts. Performers must try out and be approved to be in the show.

Jim Irving, a volunteer organizer of the event said, “Helen Brown saw it and thought it would be a good idea to bring it to Maricopa. She’s done it for three or four years.”

He said he has teamed up with Brown to work with a group of Copa Seniors to bring this event to live this year.

“I’ve been to it twice and it is a lot of fun. There are some really talented people, musical acts, dance, comedy. It’s just a fun time,” Irving said.

Brown said she went to the Spice of Life show a few years ago to support a friend who was singing in it.

“When I went there it was a variety show,” Brown said. “All of the performers were singers. It just blew me away,” she said. “I was just so surprised that there was so much talent. During the intermission I went down where they were and asked if they would bring the show to Maricopa. They said yes.”

She said the performers are “from all over” but they perform mainly in Chandler.

“They have to audition for this show. This is not just people getting up there and performing. It is very professional,” she said, adding many of the people in the show were professional performers years ago.


Maricopa Music Circle

The most impressive concert yet by Maricopa Music Circle chamber orchestra will be performed on Saturday evening at the University of Arizona’s Maricopa Agricultural Center.

Who: Maricopa Music Circle
What: Masterworks – Music for Spring
When: April 6, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Maricopa Agricultural Center, 37860 W. Smith-Enke Road
How much: $15
Info: MaricopaMusicCircle@yahoo.com, 520-316-6268

Majesty, beauty, mystery – and humor – combine with limpid melody, sumptuous harmony and riveting rhythms in a program called Masterworks devoted to some of the most profound and beloved music ever written. And just about every work programmed is a first performance ever for Maricopa.

Major works anchor each half of the program. The complete overture to Cosi fan tutte ushers in a full operatic suite drawn from Mozart’s great operas in the first half, flanked by Gershwin’s Our Love is Here to Stay, a group of short works by Claude Debussy, including the gorgeous Romance, a suite of folk-songs, and Fritz Kreisler’s lovely Schön Rosmarin for violin solo and orchestra.

Part Two begins with the ethereal and very lovely The Swan by Saint-Saens, then moves on to feature Modest Mussorgsky’s towering Pictures at an Exhibition, complete. Originally composed by Mussorgsky to pay homage to the works of renowned Russian painter and architect Viktor Hartmann, Pictures paints images in sound of many subjects, all framed by a memorable Promenade melody as viewers walk through the gallery. The music evokes images of an old castle, children at play, chicks in their shells, a plodding oxcart, forbidding catacombs, a witch’s hut that walks on chicken legs and, of course, the majestic, grand Great Gate of Kiev. Readily acknowledged as one of Mussorgsky’s three greatest works, Pictures at an Exhibition marries the inspirations of the visual arts with ‘pictures in tones’ by one of music’s most beloved composers.

Now beginning its 11th season, MMC is unique because it performs standard orchestral music and popular favorites entirely without a conductor. Its instrumentation morphs regularly as new performers come on board – producing a rich, colorful and true symphonic sound – and every MMC performer from flute to bass clarinet serves as coach several times each season.

Adult tickets are $15 at the door (cash, check or card), with tickets for children under 12 at $10. Light refreshments for the audience and performers will be served as a post-concert reception, offering a perfect chance to mingle with the musicians.

The Mavericks (left) and Los Lobos are coming to the Maricopa area over the Fourth of July weekend.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino will welcome The Mavericks and Los Lobos to The Events Center stage July 5, 2019. The Events Center, which opened in early 2019, seats 2,000 people and is part of a multi-million dollar renovation.

The Mavericks’ genre-defying music has been connecting with fans for the last three decades, with hits such as “What A Crying Shame” and “All Night Long.” They also took home the American Music Association’s award for Best Duo or Group of the Year in 2015. With such diverse musical abilities, the band is able to seamlessly blend elements of Tex-Mex, Cuban bolero, R&B, blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll.

These multi-faceted artists have also been able to translate their musical talents behind the scenes, founding their own record label Mono Mundo Recordings in 2016. With their newfound independence, they were able to produce their own album, “Brand New Day,” in 2017.

Los Lobos is a Mexican American band with hits such as “La Bamba,” “Too Small Heart” and “Son of the Sun.” The award winning band has taken home a Grammy for Best Mexican American/Tejano Music Performance, as well as a nomination for Best Americana Album. Their dynamic songwriting and eclectic style also shot “La Bamba” to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987. In recent years, the band released their album “Gates of Gold,” continuing to foster their unique sound with a blend of Tex-Mex, country, folk, blues and traditional Spanish and Mexican music.

The Mavericks and Los Lobos – Live in Concert

Date: Friday, July 5, 2019
Doors: 7 PM
Show Time: 8 PM
Location: The Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino
Tickets: Starting at $34.50
Ages: All

Ticketmaster.com on Sale: Friday 3/29 at 10 a.m.

Coyote Joe

By Tommy Ronca

Tommy Ronca

Hi everyone, as you can see our town is jumpin’. People are out and about and everywhere. Our economy is strong and folks are having fun with the family. I have never seen so much activity at Copper Sky as I do now with Little League Baseball, Soccer, La Cross and Volleyball on Copper Sky’s fields also Zumba Fitness Classes at Copper Sky with Nancy J Alex Scott. Call: 520 316-4600 for all Copper Sky activities.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has some fabulous shows coming to their brand-new 2,000 seat event center a very exciting and fabulous new venue. Plus their Casino Lounge has different entertainment every night featuring a variety of acts.

My Pick of Concerts coming to Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino

Dave Chappelle – Live in Concert
Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6

Dwight Yoakam – Live in Concert
Saturday, May 11

Los Lonely Boys and Ozomatli – Live in Concert
Saturday, June 8

This month I also interviewed Coyote Joe.

Joe is a fabulous local entertainer with a very large background in television and live performances. While best known for his five-seasons as host and writer for ABC15’s Emmy Award-winning television cooking series The Sonoran Grill, Coyote Joe entertains live at many local events in Maricopa and around the valley. Joe is a very special entertainer.

Please, if you have a chance to see him perform, you will be very well entertained. Each month I will be interviewing another outstanding Maricopa personality.

See ya around town everyone.

An original member of the doo-wop group The Chaperones, Tommy Ronca produced several shows in Las Vegas. He is a member of the Maricopa Parks, Recreation & Libraries Commission and can be reached at TheBeat.InMaricopa@gmail.com.

The annual Against Abuse fundraising gala is Saturday in Province.

The 14th annual Seeds of Change Gala will take place Saturday at Province.

The annual Against Abuse Gala will feature a “That ‘70s Gala” theme this year, with all money raised going to operate the nonprofit group’s women’s and children’s shelter.

The gala is Saturday from 6 to 10:30 p.m. at Province Community Association, 20942 Province Parkway in Maricopa.

“Seeds of Change started as a way to build our women’s and children’s domestic violence shelter,” said Torri Anderson, gala chairperson and board member. “Against Abuse has been an organization since 1981, and we are a private non-profit. We knew there was a need for services here in Maricopa, so we started the gala.”
She said the shelter helps those involved in family dysfunction, child abuse and domestic violence.

“Now the event is going strong and all the funds go towards our operational expenses,” she said.

The Gala sells out every year, according to Anderson. Only 300 total tickets are available for the event.

“We still have a few tickets and, remember, it is a fundraiser. This year it is a 1970s theme. We try to change the theme, so people can go and have fun. It’s a great place to network,” she said.

Partnered with Against Abuse for the gala are headline businesses like Ace Hardware, Ak-Chin and Meritage Homes.

“The local business donors make this event even more incredible,” she said.

Tickets must be purchased in advance of Saturday’s event and are available online at seedsofchangegala.org and are $75 per person. Those coming to the event must have their name on the list to get into the Province gate.

Some people will dress up for the event in the ‘70s theme, but it is not required, according to Anderson.

“We want people to come out and have fun, but we also want people to come out for the cause and understand more about the services that we provide in Maricopa,” she said.

If you need housing, counseling or supportive help to move away from an abuser, call the Against Abuse Hotline at 520-836-0858. They are open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

Los Lonely Boys

Los Lonely Boys AND Ozomatli – Live in Concert

When:  Saturday, June 8, doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.
Where: The Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino
How much: $25; $40;  $55
Ages: All
Info: TicketMaster.com

Los Lonely Boys and Ozomatli take the stage at The Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino in June. Tickets are on sale now. The Events Center seats 2,000, opened in early 2019, is part of the property’s multi-million dollar expansion.

The Grammy-winning Los Lonely Boys are an American Chicano rock power trio from San Angelo, Texas. They play a style of music they call “Texican Rock ‘n’ Roll,” combining elements of rock ‘n’ roll, Texas blues, brown-eyed soul, country and Tejano.

Brothers Henry (guitar, vocals), Jojo (bass, vocals), and Ringo (drums, vocals) Garza, follow in the tradition of their father, Ringo Garza, Sr., who formed a band with his brothers called the Falcones.

The debut single for Los Lonely Boys, “Heaven,” was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard adult contemporary chart and reached the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2004. It received the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

In 2009, they signed to an Austin-based indie label, Playing in Traffic Records, and released an EP, “1969” and three albums under their LonelyTone label, Keep On Giving: Acoustic Live!, Rockpango, and Revelation.

Since its inception in 1995, innovation and creativity have defined Ozomatli. Hailing from Los Angeles, the group found a way to represent the city’s eclectic culture through music that appeals to the local community and the world beyond. They received Grammy Awards in 2002 and 2005 for Latin Rock/Alternative album. Ozomatli’s success is exemplified in an impressive variety of genres from classic to modern Latino, urban, hip-hop and other world styles.

The “Dioses del Baile,” or “Gods of Dance,” have created one of the most exciting, captivating and flat-out fun live shows touring today. They continue to harness their musical instincts by conceiving new concepts and forging new sounds that keep fans on their toes and the world dancing.


by -
The second day of Copa Shorts Film Fest took place at City Hall.

Copa Shorts Film Fest finished its two-day run Sunday with awards for category winner and the overall prize-winner after the celebration of short films.

Winning films:

Animation: “Icons”
College: “American letters”
Comedy: “Finding Happy”
Documentary: Ongtupqa
Foreign: “Swept Away”
Horror: “Graveyard shift”
Military veteran: “Mount Liptak”
Native American film: “Running Shadow”
Sci-fi: “17 minutes”
Best screenplay and drama: “Mia”
Best of festival: “Sundown”
Special recognition: “Tin Can”
Audience choice: “Tin Can”

Larry the Cable Guy will be part of the entertainment for the Pinal 40 Foundation Gala at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino.

The Pinal 40 Foundation presents its annual gala reception and dinner fundraiser scheduled for May 4.

What: Pinal 40 Foundation Gala Reception & Dinner
When: May 4, 5 p.m. cocktail reception, 6:30 p.m. dinner, auction, awards, entertainment
Where: Harrah’s Ak-Chin Events Center Grand Ballroom, 15406 N. Maricopa Road
How much: $300/person
Info: Pinal40.org/gala, 520-840-5758

The annual gala raises funds to benefit the Pinal 40 Foundation and their annual charitable giving. This year’s event features Master of Ceremonies Marc Cordes and live tribute artist Randall Hedden. The evening’s feature entertainment is comedian and voice actor “Larry the Cable Guy.”

The evening begins with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner, a live auction, the presentation of the Life Achievement Award and entertainment.

The drawing for the winner of the grand-prize raffle for a choice of a 2019 Polaris model RZR 570 trail or a Ranger 570 Mid Size will take place at the end of the evening. Winner need not be present to win. The winner is responsible for income taxes. No cash value or substitutions. Go to Pinal40.org for more information and official rules.

Tickets for the grand prize are on sale now. For information on purchasing raffle tickets, please contact David Vermillion, event director, at 480-986-9238/602-628-5777 or dvermillion4@q.com.

Pinal 40 is a fraternity of community members organized with the primary objective of promoting Pinal County and its youth as well as farming and agriculture- related businesses. Philanthropically, Pinal 40 and its membership focus on providing support and funding for youth and education through agribusiness-related scholarships and support of local charities.


The third annual Copa Shorts Film Festival is Feb. 23-24 at two locations. The weekend includes free workshops, a table reading and food trucks.

Films were submitted locally, from across the country and from around the world. As short films they are limited to 20 minutes in length.

“We have so many well-rated films,” organizer Shelley Gillespie said. “We have more films ranked 9 or higher (out of 10) than the past two years.”

Food trucks will be available both days of the festival, and those not attending the festival are welcome to drop by for a bite, too. The food trucks scheduled to participate Grandma’s Navajo Frybread, which will be on location both days, La Petite Provence, which specializes in French desserts, The Lemongrass Shack (Cambodian street food) and, possibly, When Pigs Fly.

Saturday, the films will be by high school and middle school students, including seven films made by Maricopans. They will be shown in the Performing Arts Center auditorium at Maricopa High School.

The Black Box Theatre at the PAC will be the site of Saturday’s workshop, as well:

10 a.m. – “Money for Low-Budget Films” with Ben Juhl and Jason Ryan
11:30 a.m. – “Makeup SFX on a Budget” with Aeni Domme
1 p.m. – “Enhancing Your Movie with Music” with Brent Michael Davids

Register for the free workshops at CopaShortsFilmFest.org.

MHS students from DECA and National Honor Society will help run the festival. DECA also created shirts for the event.

“DECA are going to do amazing things for us,” Gillespie said. “We know they’re really solid. They’re hard-working. They’re thinking about business, and that’s helpful.”

The film blocks start at 2:30 p.m. with high school films that are ostensibly rated PG-13, followed by middle school films and general-audience high school films.

Sunday, the action moves to Maricopa City Hall. There will be a silent auction on display starting at 11 a.m. The film blocks start a noon featuring movies by professional filmmakers. The second block includes a table read by local actors of a screenplay, followed by the screening of the filmed version.

Tickets are sold by block, day pass or VIP.

The Wrap Party is at 7 p.m. with entertainment by musician Beth Lederman and presentation of awards. Because the night coincides with the Academy Awards, there will be a red-carpet Oscar Night celebration, and attendees are encouraged to glam it up.

Admission to the party is $25.


This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

Dave Chappelle will perform at the new concert venue at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino. Submitted photo

Who: Dave Chappelle
When: April 5 and 6, doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.
Where: The Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino
Ages: Adult-only show
Info: TicketMaster.com

Dave Chappelle, two-time Grammy-winning stand-up comedian and actor, will take the stage at the Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino for two nights, April 5-6, at 8 p.m. Chappelle’s performances are part of Harrah’s Grand Opening Celebration, marking the completion of the resort’s multi-million-dollar expansion project.

Chappelle has performed more than 1,500 concerts in the past four years, selling out shows within minutes of the announcements. In 2017, Chappelle celebrated 30 years in comedy by releasing four highly anticipated stand-up specials on Netflix including The Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas. He received an Emmy Award for his debut episode on “Saturday Night Live.” He capped off the year by releasing the remaining two stand-up specials, Equanimity and The Bird Revelations.

In 2018, Chappelle received Pollstar’s Comedy Tour of The Year Award as well as a Grammy Award for the Best Comedy Album for his double feature, The Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas, delivered on vinyl. Equanimity and The Bird Revelations won the Grammy for best comedy album this year.

Chappelle was the mastermind behind the 2003 sketch comedy hit, The Chappelle Show – one of the highest-rated programs on Comedy Central. The show earned three Emmy nominations and went on to become the bestselling TV show in DVD history.

The Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin seats 2,000. Tickets go on sale Friday at TicketMaster.com. There is a limit of four tickets per purchase.

Also note, no cellphones, cameras or recording devices will be allowed at this show. Upon arrival, all phones and smart watches will be secured in Yondr pouches that will be unlocked at the end of the show. Guests maintain possession of their phones throughout the night, and if needed, may access their phones at designated Yondr unlocking stations in the lobby. All guests are encouraged to print their tickets in advance to ensure a smooth entry process. Anyone caught with a cellphone in the venue will be immediately ejected.


Dwight Yoakam is scheduled to return to Maricopa in May.

Who: Dwight Yoakam
When: May 11, doors open 7 p.m., showtime 8 p.m.
Where: Harrah’s Ak-Chin Concert Venue, 15406 N. Maricopa Road
How much: $84.50. $64.50. $44.50 (plus tax/fees)
Info: HarrahsAkChin.com, Ticketmaster.com

Dwight Yoakam will bring his chart-topping music to Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino May 11 at 8 pm. Tickets go on-sale to the public on Friday.

Yoakam previously performed an outdoor concert at Ak-Chin Circle in 2015.

He has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide and is a 21-time nominated, multiple Grammy Award winner. Pulling from 12 gold albums, nine platinum or multi-platinum albums, five topping Billboard’s Country Albums chart and another 14 landing in the Top 10, this show promises to have something for everyone to enjoy

Nearly 40 of Yoakam’s singles have charted on Billboard, with 14 peaking in the Top 10. He is also the recipient of the Artist of the Year award from the Americana Music Association, the most prestigious award offered by the organization.

In addition to his musical career, Yoakam has appeared in more than 40 feature films including Sling Blade and Panic Room. In 2016, he recurred in David E. Kelley’s Amazon series “Goliath.” Recently, he appeared in director Steven Soderbergh’s film Logan Lucky with Channing Tatum and Daniel Craig.

Yoakam is capable of seamlessly melting into his roles and impressively standing toe-to-toe with some of the world’s top thespians over the course of his storied and successful acting career, including Jodie Foster, Tommy Lee Jones, Jared Leto, Forest Whitaker, and Matthew McConaughey.

The Harrah’s Ak-Chin Concert Venue seats 2,000 and is part of the property’s multi-million-dollar expansion.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School Theatre Company launched “Peter Pan” Thursday night for its weekend production. Starring Taryn Story as Peter and Antonio Gonzales as Hook, the play puts its actors and stage crew to the test with very fun results. The well-known story follows the Darling children as they take up with an ageless boy for a bit of adventure. Using a bit of fairy dust, they fly to Neverland and have a jolly old time with its inhabitants of Lost Boys, warriors and pirates. While there are plenty of opportunities to ham it up for the high-energy cast, there are moments of genuine pathos with the worried Mrs. Darling (Kjirsten Lemon) and the core yearning of the Lost Boys for a mother.

This is Story’s first time in a starring role for the company, and she excels as the petulant, boasting, lonesome child that is Peter. As Hook, Gonzales is a preening, scene-stealing pirate captain, a role that is a near opposite of his previous lead role in last spring’s musical “The Baker’s Wife.” Tots in the opening-night crowd loved him, which is high praise. The Darlings getting to fly with Peter Pan are Genevieve Burno as Wendy, Simon Ty and John and Taya Johnson and Michael, and all are just as they should be. The play is full of action and colorful characters, and the cast goes at it with enthusiasm.

The play is directed by Alexandra Stahl, who draws from her cast a high level of performance that is now expected of MHS Theatre Company. Technical Director Kevin Piquette and his crew put together complicated set pieces that sometimes upstaged the actors with their cleverness. Sound and lighting were near perfect. “Peter Pan” continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and there is also a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Kaden Rogers started doing magic tricks when he was 4. Photo by Mason Callejas

Magic or movie magic, imagining or engineering, Kaden Cruz Rogers has a side business as an entertainer, even a stage name, and a fledgling career in filmmaking.

“I think the reason I like magic and filmmaking so much is because they both bring wonder.” — Kaden Rogers

He’s also a high school freshman who turned 15 in July.

As Kaden Cruz, he performs close-up magic shows for private, public and corporate gatherings. He received audition call-backs from “America’s Got Talent” and was a hair’s breadth from appearing on the show a season ago.

As Kaden Rogers, he is director in a young crew of moviemakers with a film about to screen at the inaugural Show Low International Film Festival. He is also president of the new film club at Maricopa High School. And he’s in band. And has been part of prize-winning Future City teams.

His mother calls him “crazy creative.”

“I think the reason I like magic and filmmaking so much is because they both bring wonder,” Kaden said. “They take people out of their everyday life and put them momentarily into some different reality.”

He and his family have lived in The Villages for 12 years. The family consists of parents, Charlie and Amy Rogers, who own a karate business, and two younger siblings, Gracie and Mason. Kaden’s education has come through Butterfield Elementary and Maricopa Wells Middle School.

“From a young child he loved to just take things apart and look at all the pieces inside,” Amy Rogers said. “He’s always had that engineering kind of mind. I guess we never expected it to take this film course. We really thought he’s just going down this engineer kind of path.”

“Everything that I like has to do with creating something and then showing it,” he said.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Kaden discovered his knack for creating magic after a trip to a magic shop at Disneyland when he was 4 years old. For the next four or five years, he asked for magic kits at every Christmas and birthday. The interest lapsed for a couple of years but reignited when he was 11.

“I think a 15-year-old wearing a cape and a hat doing all these hocus-pocus things is just cheesy.” — Kaden Rogers

He was on a birthday trip with his grandmother to Lake Tahoe when they stopped off in Las Vegas. They caught a magic show by Alex Ramon and bought his CD of magic tricks. For the rest of the trip, Kaden was locked into learning the new tricks and even uploaded a phone app that taught more tricks.

“And that’s all I was doing,” Kaden said. “Here’s this beautiful lake outside, and I’m inside the hotel watching magic tricks.”

Soon he was not just “doing tricks” but forming an act. He even performed for a non-family audience for the first time during that trip when his uncle, then an activities coordinator at a Lake Tahoe dude ranch, convinced him to do a magic show for the guests.

“I remember this guy in the audience,” Kaden said. “I did this rubber-band thing where the rubber band jumps on my fingers. He flipped out, like ‘Oh my gosh.’ That’s where my love of performing came, making people smile and putting them in that place of wonder.”

He’s been building the act ever since and makes a point of making it fit his personality.

“When you think of a magic trick or a magician or anything magical, you think of a top hat and a rabbit and a guy in a cape dancing around on a stage,” Kaden said. “I think a 15-year-old wearing a cape and a hat doing all these hocus-pocus things is just cheesy. Any other teenager wouldn’t do that. They wouldn’t go up on a stage and act like that. So, I do it more to my age.”

Photo by Mason Callejas

Amy Rogers said a lot of the tricks he uses have come from antique magic books, tricks he has adapted with a new spin.

“When I read a magic book, I open it up to a random page, I find a random thing on the page and I start reading it. And then I learn that little technique,” Kaden said. “And then I throw away all of the things that they’re telling me to do, and I just learn the technique that I need to know. And then I build by own thing out of that.”

That is the case with the trick he auditioned with for “America’s Got Talent.”

After seeing a series of AGT magicians doing card tricks he already knew, including season 9 winner Mat Franco, Kaden began to think he could do the same. What he thought was an off-hand comment at dinner – “Why don’t we just sign up for the show” – turned into his mother signing him up to audition in Vegas.

That was at the beginning of his eighth-grade year at Maricopa Wells Middle School. With just a few weeks to come up with a big trick for television producers, he studied what had been done before. He worked out a routine that incorporated photos of all previous contestants and the judges on a deck of cards. The center of the trick is a missing piece that ends up somewhere unexpected. His goal, he said, wasn’t to get on the show but to be able to say he tried out.

Submitted photo

He practiced the trick relentlessly, performed for customers at a Wendy’s on the way to Vegas. He met the comic magician Piff the Magic Dragon, a previous AGT contestant, after being called out of the audience to participate in Piff’s show at the Rio. Afterward Piff took Kaden and Amy to his dressing room and told him to show him the trick.

“The whole thing was just like shock. I don’t remember half of it, I was so amped up on adrenalin.” — Kaden Rogers

“So, I did the trick for him,” Kaden said. “He said ‘Wow, that’s really cool.’ Told me some tips, like just be yourself. It was one of the highlights of the whole trip.”

To audition, the Rogers family was in line at 5 a.m. at the Rio. When they finally got inside, they found a giant holding room with random acts waiting “just like the TV show.” They waited about four hours before Kaden’s group number was called. With only one parent allowed going forward, Amy accompanied him to another holding room to wait another hour.

Then Kaden was ushered into a room where an AGT producer sat with a camera and camera operator behind them.

“He said, ‘Stand on the X, and you have 90 seconds and good luck.’” The producer showed little reaction during the course of Kaden’s trick.

“I finished the trick, and he just looked at me and said, ‘That was amazing. You just showed me the last 12 years of my life in a card trick.’ That, to me, was just really cool. He said, ‘Can you show it to my other producers?’”

After another hour in another holding room, and filling out more paperwork, he was asked to have his picture taken in case he was cast.

“And I said, ‘Wait, there’s a small chance you would cast me?’ The whole thing was just like shock. I don’t remember half of it, I was so amped up on adrenalin. This time there’s like five producers in a row. I did the trick for them, and they pretty much had the same reaction as the guy before: ‘Wow, this is really good. We are considering you.’”

Photo by Mason Callejas

Weeks and months went by. After the holidays, Amy Rogers was shopping when she received a call from casting producer Renee Massie. AGT wanted videos of Kaden performing and wanted him to develop bigger tricks for a large stage. He worked late to put together a documented video presentation to send in. That project kept him up until 3 a.m., and he had to get up at 5 a.m. to go to the regional Future City competition.

“I like the part of making it my own – the creative part that no one else knows about except for me.” — Kaden Rogers

Then AGT added Phoenix as a last-minute audition location. Massie called Amy at 10 a.m. the morning of those auditions and asked if Kaden could come in that afternoon to see more producers. Despite not having perfected his new tricks, he decided to give it a shot.

They were told to bypass the long line and go straight to the doors, where a man greeted them with “Are you Kaden Cruz?” Five minutes later they were standing in front of producers. Kaden said he nailed the first trick but “messed up a little bit” on the second. Though he didn’t think the producers noticed, it affected the confidence of his performance.

One of the producers told him she liked the act, but it was obvious he had been rushed in creating his tricks. She said there were five spots left and they were still “on the fence” about him. In the end, he was not selected.

“I was still really amazed that I auditioned twice in Vegas and then they called me back in Arizona,” Kaden said. “Even though I didn’t make it on the show the whole experience was crazy.”

He is considering trying out again. In the meantime, word of mouth has become Facebook bookings for schools, libraries and businesses.

“My goal isn’t to become a performer in Vegas and make millions of dollars,” he said. “My goal is to make people happy and to take people out of the world they’re sitting in.

“I like the part of making it my own – the creative part that no one else knows about except for me. All they see is this finished product, but they don’t know how many other tiny things go into it. I think that’s what I like, coming up with this crazy plan and hiding it. That’s also like directing. There’s a ton of stuff going on that you don’t see, and then you end up seeing just this flat screen. But there’s people with boom mics and lights and all this stuff happening in the background.”

Submitted photo

Kaden wasn’t exactly smitten with making videos from start. His first experience was a “silly” project in Kristin McMullin’s fifth-grade class when students had to improvise a play in front of the room and make a movie trailer on iMovie.

“I thought it was a lot of fun making it but didn’t realize what the actual outcome was,” he said.

“That is when I first saw his passion for film-making grow.” — Joe Szoltysik

In the blended learning program at MWMS called MUSD 20+1, teacher Joe Szoltysik gave Kaden and his classmates video assignments.

“What’s interesting about Kaden’s evolution into film is at the beginning of seventh grade he ‘hated making videos,’” Szoltysik said. “I distinctly remember a Language Arts assignment I assigned at the beginning of his seventh-grade year in which students made informational videos. Kaden and the Abel twins [Joseph and Thomas] worked together and produced a video that was not technically sound, and I was certainly critical of it. That is when Kaden revealed his disdain for making videos.”

The disdain did not survive long, as a later video project, The Fault, was among student projects screened at the inaugural Copa Shorts Film Fest.

“I hadn’t before that even thought about making movies at all,” Kaden said. “And we just made one in school. It didn’t compete in Copa Shorts, but they showed the movies that everyone made in the class at the film festival and when we went there, I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. Keep doing this.’”

He analyzed the experience and worked out improvements in the whole process of making a successful movie. No one had real role assignments and ‘everyone was doing everything.’ He realized he did not like acting at all and wanted to just be behind the scenes and direct. For their next movie, Kaden was just the director.

“I remember him telling me ‘I think we can do a lot better next time,’ and that is when I first saw his passion for film-making grow,” Szoltysik said. “That passion grew throughout his eighth-grade year; his second film, The Inverted, was shot in various locations in Arizona, and won the student category of the 2018 Copa Shorts Film Fest. That’s when Kaden exploded onto the scene.”

Movie still from “Kindness Equals Calm”: (from left) front row – Joe Szoltysik, Aubrey Pick, Kaden Rogers and Rori Gosiak; back row – Thomas Abel, Zoie Zimpleman and Joseph Abel. (Submitted)

For the third time, Kaden and the Abel brothers collaborated on a film with classmates after the film class was able to acquire better equipment. The production of Kindness Equals Calm extended well after they finished eighth grade. The full-length film is a comedy about a group of young people on a weekend trip to Camp Shinebright. That cast includes Szoltysik and Butterfield teacher Liz Zimpleman.

“I believe these students are going to be doing some really cool things here in Maricopa, and for the rest of their lives.” — Reid Martin

“One word to describe Kaden as a young director would be ‘precise,’” Szoltysik said. “I’ve worked as an actor on Kaden’s latest feature film, and I will tell you, on set he is in charge; respectful of course, but in charge. He has the precision it takes to be a young director and make a name in a very difficult but lucrative field. Most of all, he has the work ethic it takes to be a director.  Kaden will spend hours a day working on his craft, but he is humble enough to understand that there is still much to learn.”

Kindness Equals Calm will appear multiple times in the Show Low Film Fest Oct. 11-14.

Kaden and the Abels came to MHS with the assumption there was a film club. They found that not only was there no club but there was no longer a class or program of study for video. “So, we’re like, ‘Looks like we’re going to have to make one ourselves,’” Kaden said.

He composed a lengthy email about the need for and opportunities that could arise from having a film club and sent it to all MHS staff. He received only one response, and that was from a staff member who said he couldn’t help. At that point, the boys were prepared to start a private club. But Administrative Assistant Danielle Byers spoke to Amy Rogers about the situation and was insistent on making the club happen.

Byers gave Amy a list of staff possibilities, and they decided Reid Martin was the guy. Martin, a RAM Academy teacher, emailed them back and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

The club currently has 17 members, most of them freshmen who had been involved in the 20+1 filmmaking projects at MWMS and Desert Wind Middle School.

“I have been teaching and involved in HS culture for 17 years and never seen a club so focused, energetic and excited about what they are doing,” Martin said. “Primarily freshmen, I believe these students are going to be doing some really cool things here in Maricopa, and for the rest of their lives.”

Kaden and the Abels envisioned a club that could bring together skills and talents from all other campus programs – theater and theater tech, design, computer graphics, music, even culinary. To achieve that goal, they created an ad video based on “Guardians of the Galaxy” to be played in all home rooms in hopes of recruiting more potential filmmakers.

“When he first started talking about this, he was so excited to think about all the different interests he could draw into this club and really pull a little community together to make something big,” Amy Rogers said.

At the first meeting, seven friends elected Kaden president with Joseph Abel vice president and Thomas Abel secretary.

“Kaden is doing an amazing job leading the club, learning what that role means, and is excellent at directing some really cool experiences for his peers,” Martin said.

Whether Kaden Rogers or Kaden Cruz, he continues to evolve his magic and balance his other activities and schooling while educating himself on the business end of the film festival circuit and moviemaking.

“Through these filmmaking experiences, Kaden has not only developed a passion for the filmmaking process,” Szoltysik said. “From lighting, camera angles, and editing, it’s the process that he loves and wants to share with others.

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

ONYX Dance Company in rehearsal

For the second year, the ONYX Young Choreographers Showcase will take flight in the Maricopa Performing Arts Center.

What: ONYX Young Choreographers Showcase
When: June 30, 3 p.m.
Where: Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Road
How much: $7
Info: Dance@DesertSunPerfomringArts.com, katherinesherrod@yahoo.com, 520-483-8915

Started last year as part of the Maricopa Arts Council’s arts expo, the event is a performance and a contest. Choreographers in their teens and early 20s have created dances developed by the ONYX Dance Company, resident troupe of Desert Sun Performing Arts.

The showcase will feature approximately 15 dances and will start at 3 p.m. June 30.

Following the slate of performances, audience members are asked to pick their favorites. People’s Choice prizes will be awarded to the top three. First place receives $300, second place $150 and third $50.

Award funds are underwritten by Maricopa Arts Council and Desert Sun Performing Arts.

The showcase is a long-term dream of DSPA’s founder and director, Ceylan Gentilella. Herself a talented choreographer, Gentilella knows first-hand the excitement of bringing a dance creator’s personal artistic vision to life in real-time presentation before the public – definitely an acid test for the work.

“ONYX dancers and choreographers have been working hard all season to bring an amazing show to the city of Maricopa,” said Katherine Sherrod, president and co-founder of ONYX Dance Company. “We cannot wait to see you there.”

This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Adrian DeGuzman, playing Angel, rehearses with the company for the production of "Rent."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Rent” is coming to Maricopa in June.

What: “Rent”
Who: Maricopa Community Theatre
When: June 6-8, 7 p.m., June 9, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Where: Leading Edge Academy, 18700 N. Porter Road
How much: $10/advance; $15/door
Info: MaricopaCommunityTheatre.org

Maricopa Community Theatre will present the rock musical in five performances June 6-9 at Leading Edge Academy. Director Carrie Vargas said it took two months to get royalties for the show. MCT is an AriZoni Theatre.

Vargas calls “Rent” a musical about “expressions of love,” whether love for others or self-love. She also said it will be a “unique interpretation.”

“Rent” was first performed in 1996, set during the AIDS epidemic of the late ‘80s in New York’s East Village. Inspired by Puccini’s “La Bohème,” it features characters trying to get ahead while dealing with poverty, drugs, loss and illness.

Randy Rice, who plays Mark, the narrator and a pivotal character in the ensemble, noted “Rent” was a “shocking and provocative show when it premiered. I don’t think you should go to anything that’s just comfortable.”

Like MCT’s “Sweeney Todd” before it, “Rent” is not kid-friendly and has adult content and language that Vargas describes as PG-13 or stronger. She said Maricopa has grown enough and evolved enough to be prepared for “Rent.”

“I liked how divine this show is,” said Adrian DeGuzman, an ASU student who plays eccentric Angel, a cross-dressing performer dying from AIDS who “brings everyone together.”

Maria Santillan plays Mimi in “Rent.”

Gay, lesbian or straight, many of the characters are artists in one medium or another. Several are HIV-positive but pushing forward, a fact that has continuing implications in the plot.

Jerry Allen, a familiar face for MCT, plays Roger, a songwriter whose girlfriend has died and left him in deep depression.

“I’m more like Roger than I think,” Allen said, adding that is what makes the character such a struggle for him. “The music is what pulled me in.”

The score earned one of the four Tony Awards given to the original Broadway version of the musical.

Brittany Randolph, also a returning MCT player, is Joanne, a lesbian and a confident lawyer with connections.

“I was extremely excited when I heard we were going to do ‘Rent,’” Randolph said. “I loved the story and the fact it is focused on love.”

For those who have only seen the film version, Randolph warns the stage version is different.

“It’s very human,” said Maricopa High School graduate Maria Santillian, who plays the complicated addict Mimi. “And it’s very real. It has a lot of awareness of things that are real.”

Opening night for the Maricopa High School Theatre Company’s spring musical, “The Baker’s Wife,” was Thursday. Met with a warm reception, the production features an entertaining if challenging score for a talented cast. The show stars Antonio Gonzales as the baker and Kjirsten Lemon as his wife, who becomes the center of a village scandal. Both give touching performances amid a town of comically feuding neighbors who will do just about anything to get their daily bread – even learn to get along. In support are Britney Montgomery, Collin Martin, Brandon Korittky, Carlos Aguilar, Douglas Moulton and many more. Performances continue Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students.