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Spotlight: Sophia Caruso to play Tina Denmark

Sophia Caruso is finally getting a shot to play Tina Denmark.

The 12-year-old Caruso, a Spokane native who now lives in New York where she’s pursuing an acting career, was set to play the tempestuous child star in the musical comedy “Ruthless!” back in 2012 at Interplayers. That production, however, was canceled before opening night after actor David Gigler collapsed and died during dress rehearsal.

Now, Caruso will appear in a staged, concert production in September at Stage 72 at the Triad, a benefit for Broadway Care/Equity Fights AIDS. Appearing with her will be composer Marvin Laird as Sylvia St. Croix. For three of the nine performances, author/director Joel Paley will play the “demented 8-year-old diva” – a repeat from a recent run in Connecticut in which the lead actress took ill, and Paley stepped in.

Still, Paley told, “I may be doing a few performances but this is Sophia’s part. She’s the new face of Tina Denmark.”

Caruso, who played Little Orphan Annie in Civic’s 2012 production, told, “I have to play this part. I mean, really, once you’ve played Tina, you just can’t go back to being Annie.”

The show will run Sept. 5-8, 12-13, 19-20 and 22. For information, visit

Shannon Halberstadt, who became the executive director of Spokane Arts less than a year ago, has announced her resignation.

According to a news release, she is returning to the West Side to join her husband, who has taken a new job.

Luke Baumgarten, a co-founder of the fall arts show Terrain and a former staff member at The Inlander, has been tapped as interim co-executive director, with Halberstadt, beginning Sept. 1.

“Spokane Arts is catalyzing the rebirth of creative vitality in Spokane right now, and Shannon’s leadership has been instrumental to this transformation,” said Brooke Kiener, Spokane Arts Fund board chairwoman. “She will be dearly missed, but we are thrilled with the new leadership that is already emerging with Luke’s interim appointment. We have absolutely no doubt that this transition will be smooth and that we’ll continue to build on a strong foundation.”

Among the successes Spokane Arts points to since Halberstadt’s arrival are the creation of the Downtown Murals Project, a monthly series of arts events called Cultivate Spokane Salon Series, and Create Spokane, a monthlong arts celebration set for October.

Spokane Arts was born in 2013, and is a partnership between the Spokane Arts Commission, and the Spokane Arts Fund, created after Mayor David Condon eliminated the city’s art department in 2012. Halberstadt replaced Karen Mobley, who ran the city department for 15 years and guided the new nonprofit through the initial stages of its transition.

The agency plans a national search for a new director; applications will be accepted through Oct. 13. A position description is posted at