» Blackbeard wins 9 AriZoni Theatre Awards

   » AZ Republic: Musician composes success

Blackbeard wins 9 AriZoni Theatre Awards

First, the 2007 workshop production of Rob Gardner's Blackbeard was nominated for 15 AriZoni Theatre Awards (more than any other production). Then, at the awards ceremony September 29 (2 days after the world premiere production of Blackbeard closed at the Herberger), the show brought home 9 awards -- again more than any other production this year! Congratulations to all the winners. Here's a list of the nominations and wins:

Best overall production: original musical WINNER!
Original script: musical - Rob Gardner WINNER!
Original music composition - Rob Gardner WINNER!
Actress in a major role - Linsey Maxson WINNER!
Actor in a major role - Tyler Maxson WINNER!
Actress in a supporting role - Tiffany Clark Mortensen
Actor in a supporting role - Aaron Ballard
Guest actor - Mark Kleinman
Director - Sue Anne Lucius WINNER!
Music Direction - Cathy HauanWINNER!
Scenic design - Dane BurkWINNER!
Hair and make-up design - Nancy Arrington, Sabrea Swann
Fight choreography - Mark Kleinman
Lighting design - Jeff Wild, Alan MoerdykWINNER!
Sound design - Gary Towne

For a comprehensive list of all of the 2007-2008 AriZoni Award winners, click here.

Musician composes success

by Kerry Lengel - Aug. 29, 2008
The Arizona Republic

Rob Gardner is a just-do-it kind of musician. A self-taught pianist, the Mesa native says, "I'd sort of already ruined myself with bad techniques," by the time he started studying the instrument in high school.

That didn't stop him from making the leap to composing full-scale works for orchestra and choir, again without much bothering with formal training. Now 30, Gardener is founding president of Spire Music, a non-profit that develops contemporary orchestral projects both sacred (focused on his Mormon faith) and secular.

His latest project falls into the latter category. Blackbeard is an epic-scale musical inspired by the notorious pirate of the Caribbean from the early 18th century, Edward Teach.

Gardner says he was fascinated that despite Blackbeard's reputation as a ruthless butcher, there's little evidence he is guilty of the most, um, flamboyant crimes. He also was reputed to have married 14 times and may even have given up his life of piracy for the last.

"My take on him is that he was a showman with a real weakness for women," Gardner says. "My idea was to introduce him as the legend and then slowly peel away the layers of his character."

Gardner staged a workshop production of the musical last year at Mesa Community College, which also put on his first foray into musical theater, 2004's Twelve Princesses. This week, Blackbeard gets its formal premiere at Herberger Theater Center. Gardner has invited representatives from a number of production companies to see it, with an eye toward taking it to New York.

That's a lofty ambition for a 30-year-old "indie" trying to break into the showbiz big leagues, but Gardner is anything but shy about what he has to offer.

"I don't pretend to be a musical genius," he says, "but I do know that what I write touches people."


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