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Word S11.6 – Jackie Balderrama and poetry, Siskel and Ebert freak out and spies with David Ignatius

On this episode of Word, Arizona State University will host a CantoMundo retreat with Latinx poets; a new play about two beloved film critics comes to the stage in the Valley; and David Ignatius from the Washington Post talks about his new fictional spy thriller, and real-world technology that poses a serious national security concern.

Latinx poets retreat at ASU

Professor and poet  Jacqueline Balderrama is a fellow-in-residence at ASU’s  Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and director of CantoMundo.

When we spoke last fall for a news story, she was planning a retreat which happens May 31-June 1. For those who didn’t hear  that interview, she recaps the mission of CantoMundo in this one, and what’s planned for  the upcoming events with featured Latinx poets,  Rodrigo Toscano and  Yesenia Montilla.

'Roger and Gene' at Space 55

A new play about two beloved film critics hits the stage soon at Space 55 in the Valley. It’s called “Roger and Gene” and was written by Valley-based playwright Ashley Naftule.

The work is an absurdist and timely comedy about two familiar personalities, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, who are forced to navigate new territory in the landscape of film, which involves on-demand content and an increasing use of artificial intelligence for performances.  

The show is led by Spacev55 artistic director BJ Garrett, who joined me recently to talk about it. He opened by discussing why he was attracted to Naftule’s script.  

According to a release, "Roger and Gene unleashes a torrent of profane & hilarious conversation about modern Hollywood movies, toxic male friendships, ABBA, basketball, and the inevitable extinction of the human race. Starring Matt Clarke as Roger, Steve Wilcox as Gene, and Shelly Trujillo as Pauline, the show runs at Metro Arts in Phoenix, June 7-16. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday shows are at 2 p.m. There will be a special Saturday matinee performance at 2 p.m. on June 8 and a "Pay What You Want" performance on Thursday, June 13, at 7:30 p.m."

David Ignatius from the Washington Post talks his new spy novel, real threats to national security

Washington Post foreign affairs columnist and editor  David Ignatius has a new fictional spy thriller titled “Phantom Orbit.” But the story includes technology that’s based on very similar real-life applications that could pose a serious threat to national security in the West. 

According to a release, Ignatius "presents a story both searing and topical, with stakes as far-reaching as outer space. It follows Ivan Volkov, a Russian student in Beijing, who discovers an unsolved puzzle in the writings of the 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler. He takes the puzzle to a senior scientist in the Chinese space program and declares his intention to solve it, as it holds untold consequences for space warfare. Volkov returns to Moscow and continues his secret work. The years pass, and they are not kind to Volkov. After the loss of his son, a prosecutor who’d been too tough on corruption, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Volkov makes the fraught decision to contact the CIA. He writes: "Satellites are your enemies, especially your own … Hidden codes can make time stop and turn north into south. If you are smart, you will find me."

With this timely novel, Ignatius addresses our moment of renewed interest in space exploration amid geopolitical tumult. The book brims with the author’s vital insights and casts Volkov as the man who, at the risk of his life, may be able to stop the Doomsday clock."

We’re back on June 11 with our penultimate episode of the season. Thanks so much for listening to KJZZ’s Word podcast, and also for  supporting public radio

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Tom Maxedon was the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition from 2017 to 2024.