Robrt Pela: Review of "Lit Lounge"

May 29, 2013

The arts community around the Valley continues to shake things up with new, forward-thinking programs. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is right out front.

KJZZ commentator Robrt Pela had this perspective on an ongoing series called "Lit Lounge."

Typically, when we think about visiting a museum, we think about hushed rooms hung with ancient paintings, but once a month, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is not quite so quiet.

In an effort to draw younger crowds to its 14-year-old space, the museum last summer transformed one of its smaller galleries into something it calls the SMoCA Lounge. The bright, ultramodern interior was created by designer Janis Leonard, who hung the ceiling with old wooden shipping palettes, backed its stage with a wall-sized video screen and painted the entire space Crayola red.

SMoCA lounge program coordinator Tania Katan then set about filling the space with the sort of cutting edge programming she had seen as a performer in Los Angeles. Katan’s monthly Lit Lounge series features local and national writers who share personal stories about adopting a puppy, getting drunk and falling over, running into a neighbor at a nudist colony. A live band plays between each essay.

"I guess I was hired to break the rules, maybe contemp art museums aren't accessible to everybody or do things that are intimidating," Katan said.

SMoCA’s gamble on this hyper-mod program quickly paid off. Lit Lounge has sold out every month. Katan will take the series to Scottsdale Center for the Arts, where essayists will read some of Lit Lounge’s most popular stories from the main stage.

Katan is a writer, performer and educator who is best known for her memoir "My One-Night Stand With Cancer" and a one-woman show about surviving breast cancer. She said she wanted to carve out some time to develop the arts in the valley, rather than traveling out of town to see and hear the kind of culture she thought we lacked.

“People might come because they are interested. Shh, don’t tell anyone," Katan said.

Obviously, SMoCA is hoping that the young hipsters who come for Lit Lounge will wander through the museum’s exhibits, see something they like and return later for more.

"The Most of Lit Lounge" performs Thursday night at Scottsdale Center for the Arts. Robrt Pela's theater reviews appear each week in New Times.