The Ladies

The Ladies, comprised of Leanne Schmidt and Marlene Strang, have been doing offbeat, pop-up immersive theatre performances in abandoned parking lots throughout the Valley since April. Their next set of performances will take place on the upper level of the Scottsdale Civic Center Parking Garage in partnership with the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. 

The Scottsdale community asked for it and now Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is granting their unconventional wish.

For the first time ever, the center will host drive-up pop-up performances atop the Civic Center parking structure.

“The idea to perform in the unexpected venue of a parking garage came from our community,” said Diandra Adamczyk, the center’s senior programming coordinator. “The Scottsdale Civic Center parking garage works out great for what these artists had in mind for their respective shows.”

The center received two proposals from local artists Movement Source Dance Company and The Ladies looking to collaborate on off-site performances at the garage. 

The Ladies, a “zany, awkward pair of moms” stuck in the ‘90s, will perform “Room for Two” in October, an offbeat, immersive theater performance illuminated by car headlights. 

“You can expect the unexpected, that’s for sure,” laughed one-half of the Ladies, Marlene Strang. “Everything is as awkward as you can get.”

The premise of “Room for Two,” according to Strang, is the Ladies begin meeting at the top of a parking garage once a week to catch up, play board games, and eat Ritz crackers after feeling very cooped up due to the pandemic.

“And, we didn’t know this, but Stan, the parking garage attendant who has been letting us set up shop there, has invited all of these people to our catch-up session. So, now we have to incorporate all of these people into our impromptu party,” Strang explained.

Movement Source Dance Company in November will perform “Reconnect! The Parking Lot Dance Project,” a 30-minute performance of four dance pieces set to live music by guitarist Drew Bollmann and violinist Tobie Milford. 

“Half the treat for the evening, for sure, is hearing the beautiful, amazing, interesting music they play,” said Mary Anne Fernandez-Herding, the company’s director. “We created the score together with the movement and the music.”

The parking garage performances aren’t out of the ordinary for the Ladies or Movement Source Dance Company.

Strang and Leanne Schmidt spent from April through August performing dozens of 15-minute pop-ups in parking lots around the Valley.

“As soon as the pandemic hit, we got really tired of everything being on the screens. We were like, ‘Okay, how can we bring a live performance to people?’” Strang said. “I just had this idea, I thought, ‘Well, what if we use people’s headlights to light us?’”

Before the pandemic, the Ladies performed in venues such as bookstores and hotels. 

“So, it wasn’t that unusual for the Ladies to be performing somewhere unusual or different, like a parking lot,” Strang added.

As for Movement Source Dance Company, “we are the queens and kings of adapting dance to funky spaces,” Fernandez-Herding said. 

“We love being onsite and in different venues of environment,” she continued. “That’s been part of our mission from the beginning.”

Performing in a parking lot brought challenges for both groups.

Dancing on concrete is one of them.

“It’s not the best for dancers’ bodies, but we are making it work and modifying and it’s turning out really cool,” Fernandez-Herding said. 

For the Ladies, it was rethinking how they get the audience involved.

“Audience participation and how can the audience influence the work and be a part of the work – those are very important things to us. We want people to be in an environment, not just stand back and watch,” Strang said. “We have to have our audience be a part of it, which makes it much more fun and interesting.”

It was also difficult on Strang and Schmidt as performers, who typically feed off the audience’s energy.

“It was difficult to see, like, are people laughing? Are they enjoying it? Are they dancing along to the music we’ve created?” Strang said. 

But they made it work.

“I would sneak around and peek in people’s windows, which was hysterical. People would jump out of their seats,” Strang said. “So, we were able to embed at least one window moment.”

Both shows will feature food trucks.

Ahead of each performance, attendees will be able to pull in and grab food and enjoy live or ‘90s music, depending on the show they attend.

“Hopefully we’ll have things like meatloaf and biscuits, things that '90s moms would definitely be into making. And that will also work to thicken the experience a little bit,” Strang said.

According to Adamczyk, while a lot of the challenges to using a parking structure for arts performances falls on the artists’ side, including conceptualizing, rehearsing, performing in a public space with cement flooring and restrictions, the center had a handful of added logistics and permissions to acquire, but they were “totally worth the work.”

Adamczyk said she hopes hosting art performances outside of a traditional performance venue will allow for “many customs in the field to be reconsidered or redefined.”

“The center has long been interested in presenting or collaborating on more site-specific projects, especially with local artists,” she said. “There are plenty of possibilities to explore unique spaces around the Valley for performances in the future.”

“Room for Two” takes place Oct. 22 through 25.

“Reconnect!” takes place Nov. 13 and 14 and will be part of the annual Canal Convergence experience.

Convertibles must have the roof in place and Jeeps must have a soft or hard cover in place.

Motorcycles, industrial trucks, recreational vehicles, including motor homes and trailers, and vehicles taller than 6 ½ feet are not allowed.

Though confined to their vehicles, attendees must wear masks to both shows. 

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