In their unrelenting drive to create a thriving desert metropolis, leaders of the most populous city in the arid Southwest, Phoenix, Arizona, seemed oblivious to two essential elements that form a vibrant urban environment. The arts were noticeably absent and the city's urban core had dissipated into a vast and empty suburbia: a city lacking an urban heart. In 1980, a visionary - Dick Mallery, partner at the powerhouse law firm. Snell & Wilmer - emerged to take the first major step to shape Phoenix into a great city, not just a big one. A veritable civic drama, ""Play by Play"" illustrates the central role the arts hold when a city consciously reaches for distinction and demonstrates how cultural life can influence politics and business. This lively study traces ten years in the life of a city 1980-1990; a defining decade that saw Phoenix descend from boomtown to bust as the savings and loan crisis fractured its real estate market and the economy collapsed. These devastating events almost derailed the selfless efforts of a new group of urban leaders - led by Mallery, along with Gary Herberger, architect, businessman, and philanthropist - who devoted a significant portion of their lives, often in the face of overwhelming odds, to make a place for the arts in downtown Phoenix. This interpretive history - an inside look at the heart of this desert metropolis - is placed in regional and national context and in many ways defines the modern urban Southwest.
ELIZABETH B. MURFEE has been consultant to national foundations on cultural policy, worked with the Houston Opera, was manager of Texas Opera Theater, and written publications for the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. A cum laude graduate of Rider University, she married Dino DeConcini in 1998; they reside in New York and Tucson. JACK L. AUGUST, JR. is executive director of the Barry Goldwater Center and Visiting Scholar in Legal History at Snell & Wilmer. August writes on twentieth-century western political and environmental history, including Vision in the Desert, Senator Dennis DeConcini and Dividing Western Waters in 2009, August coauthored Adversity Is My Angel: The Life and Career of Raul H. Castro.