In Tom Cruise’s Crosshairs

Stray Cat Theatre, Tempe Performing Arts Center
Tempe, AZ

Stray Cat Theatre delivers an unusual holiday show ever so cleverly. “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” looks at the Church of Scientology and its wealthy founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as a funny and very satiric parody of the Nativity. Author Kyle Jarrow presents his comic slams and thoughtful questioning where Hubbard’s birth and his search for religious truth are compared to Christ’s.

The entire show is presented by a talented ensemble of 8- to 12-year olds as a school pageant. Huge praise goes to director Gary Minyard who crafts miracles with these young but amazingly polished troupers.

Minyard asks a lot of his cast. They must learn Jarrow’s tricky satiric puns and off-center comic barbs and deliver them with non-stop but slyly skewed humor kids this age rarely understand. The audience laughed uproariously at the performance I attended. Minyard also expects them to learn cuttingly savage songs that further question the religion, some tricky but cute choreography, clever but intricate staging, handle myriad costume changes, shift scenery, and use endless props. That the cast brings this challenge off with nary a misstep is quite an achievement.

Jarrow picks and pokes at Hubbard, his teachings, and how Hubbard’s religious thinking has turned him into a wealthy man. The script asks all the questions you have ever had about Scientology. That this young cast can deliver this tongue-in-cheek commentary with such delicious abandon is quite a credit. That this young ensemble probably doesn’t fully understand the heady satire makes this exemplary production even more amazing.

Maxx Carlisle-King is poised and always in control as L. Ron. This young actor’s theatrical spark and comic flair suggests a long and successful stage career. No less sharp is Brittney Peters’ Angelic Girl. This character functions as the show’s narrator as she guides the ensemble through its questioning and probing of this unusual religion that inspires its followers by removing their emotions and relying on their analytical ability that uses weird and twisted logic. Everyone in the cast, though, has at least one standout moment.

“A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” isn’t for those who want a traditional holiday show but if pointed but thoughtful comic probing delivered by talented troupers is your thing, this show will delight. “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” continues through December 20 at the old Tempe Performing Arts Center in downtown Tempe. For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-820-8022 or go online at

Grade: A
Posted on 08 Dec 2008 by Chris Curcio

Monsoon Damage

The August 28 monsoon has turned out to be one of the worst in recent history, perhaps extended history. A condo building in downtown Phoenix lost its roof, several trees were uprooted, and a friend of mine caught a pic of a palm tree flattening a car near ASU. Add to this that the 100 mile/hour winds in parts of the city rivaled a Category 1 hurricane and well, you’ve got a city in shambles.

The following photos came from here.

The aforementioned building roof.

I have some pics I took myself that I’ll upload later…but this just gives you an idea of the kind of fury we’re subject to in “the land without natural disasters.”

Back in the (602)

When I left Maryland yesterday it was raining. Torrential rain during the tail end of rush hour is basically the equivalent of rush hour. I got Arden to the pet hotel without incident and made it to the airport on time, and then spent five hours inside the fuselage of a jet waiting to get home.

I got all my tying-up-moving errands done right away: closed bank accounts, got Beau to cut my hair. And then, in the night, there was a monsoon. Torrential rains. Trees blew out of the ground, palm fronds littered the freeways, and then there was the flooding, the road awash in several inches of standing water while a group of cars huddled together.

This morning, I saw a golf course covered in four feet of water. It looked like a manicured water feature, man made, and so common here.

Today: hot and humid. 99 degrees and tons of humidity. And people back East ask me how I like the weather there. I say, unless it’s raining or about to rain, there’s really not much difference.

Things I Will Miss About the Desert


For two reasons: on the one hand, in days like these, sunset means a slight reprieve from the oppressive, scorching summer heat. Variously, it signals “time to swim,” “time to venture outdoors finally,” or even “a chance to take out the trash.”

But Arizona does tend to make this worth one’s while, as the sunsets are often arresting, shocking, stunning, and even a little scary for anyone who’s ever lived near water. Routinely pulling in pinks, magentas, celery greens, pale blues, fiery oranges and reds, the sunsets complicate the skies like fractal drawings (if there are clouds) and like watercolor studies (in clear skies).

Last night’s sunset, as I drove back into central Phoenix from the Ahwatukee area of town, was a dark, cotton candy pink, marred by an escaping thunderhead that seemed to be releasing itself from the ground in the West Valley. I was looking for fire at its base, but there was none.

It was the day of the first monsoon. Those I will not miss.

Things I Will Miss About the Desert

Relative Speed Limits

One strange result of living in the new “Old West” is that lawlessness is still relatively common, especially in terms of what the “law” considers, you know, important.

Add to this the influx of Evil Knievel-like California drivers and you’ve got the automobile equivalent of a cattle stampede.

The general (unofficial) rules look like this:

In the city: speed limit + 10 mph
In the city at night: speed limit + 15 mph is ok unless it is between 11 pm and 3 am

On the freeway: speed limit + 15 mph
On the freeway in the desert: speed limit + 20 mph
On the freeway in the desert at night: speed limit + Autobahn (see also “driving to Tucson”)

I learned the hard way to never:
> Drive in the carpool lane without pooling (and seriously, I was in it for five seconds, people)
> Drive in the “gore zone” when exiting the freeway, something I learned not to do when I went to traffic school for the previous item.

Otherwise, I’ve never heard of anyone getting a speeding ticket (or any other kind of ticket) in Arizona except for these other non-speeding laws.

Of course, when it takes over an hour to drive from corner to corner of the city, 75 mph doesn’t always cut it, right?

Goodbye, “suggested” speed limits!

Things I Will Miss About the Desert

Hands down, quail are my favorite desert inhabitant. First of all, they are adorable, and second of all, once you see a little family of quail scurrying across the street, you can’t help but love the way they dash forward, their heads down, string of babies following behind the parents… It’s a delight to find them in the city from time to time, although they do tend to be on the skittish side.

They inspired me to write this poem some time ago.