Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

Old Pueblo Playwrights - Interview with John Vornholt

On this week’s show, we’re going to speak with John Vornholt. He’s a best selling author, actor, playwright, director, screenwriter, journalist. He’s a co founder of Active Imagination Theater. And we’re going to learn about an upcoming Old Pueblo Playwrights event at the Temple of Music and Art. We’re also going to learn about his work in helping children embrace improv.

Today is March 19th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app. Reach us by email [email protected] — interact with us on Facebook at LifeAlongTheStreetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from YOT Club, “Dog Song.”

Transcript (Unedited)

Good morning. It’s a beautiful sunny in the old pueblo. And you’re listening to KT DT, Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your Downtown Tucson community sponsored or rock and roll radio station.

On this week’s show, we’re going to speak with John Vornholt. He’s a best selling author, actor, playwright, director, screenwriter, journalist. He’s a co founder of Active Imagination Theater. And we’re going to learn about an upcoming Old Pueblo Playwrights event at the Temple of Music and Art. We’re also going to learn about his work in helping children embrace improv.

Today is March 19, 2023. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to life along the streetcar. Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core. We shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to the University of Arizona, and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on

Also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown radio app. If you want to interact with us, you can do so on Facebook and Instagram. And if you’d like more information about our show, our book, or any of our past episodes, or maybe just to contact us, you can head over to Of course, you can listen to our podcast on lots of platforms like Spotify, itunes, or simply asking your smart speaker to play Life Along the Streetcar podcast. Well, you may have noticed my voice is not very strong today, so we’re going to do less talking. In more of the interview we have with John Vornholt. Up until today, we’ve been focusing on women in the month of March, women who have made Tucson great, and we’re going to get back to that next week. But we have an upcoming event happening at the Temple of Music and Art that was unique when I heard about it. It’s twelve plays from local playwrights, all to be done within a five day period. So I had a phone call with

John Vornholt to get more about these details and was very impressed with his pedigree as well. He’s an actor, playwright, director. He’s been a journalist. He’s been with The Hollywood Reporter and the Tucson Weekly. So he’s seen them all. But this is my interview by a phone with John Vornhold about an upcoming event with the Old Pueblo playwrights.

We are joined today by an actual celebrity. This is John Vornalt, an author, a screenwriter, a journalist, probably the only person that I’ve ever known that has worked both for the Tucson Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter. So we’re pretty blessed to have you on the show here today, John. Welcome.

Well, thanks. Thank you, Tom. It’s good to be here.

So I was looking through in preparation kind of your resume and you have written, I think the official term is a ton of books yeah, it’s been.

Quite a few books. I basically was a full time novelist for 25 years and writing kids books and adult books and science fiction books and 30 some Star Trek novels and comic books and all that kind of.

Stuff, like the Star Trek novels and things of that nature. Some of those ended up on the best sellers list. So these aren’t just sort of hobby things. You really oh, no, they were popular.

Yeah. I used to say it was semi famous. Well, I’m still semi famous, but a minor celebrity. Yeah, that was really fun. I did that for quite a long time, and then I was originally working in theater in Los Angeles when I started writing books, and then that took up my life for, like, I say, 25 years. And since about 2006, 2007, I’ve gotten back into theater and stuff like that here in Tucson. We moved here in 1992, my family and I.

All right, and you’ve got some cool projects coming up, which I want to talk about, but I’m interested in this transition 25 years ago. I don’t want to spend too much time on it. But you were in the theater. Were you doing screenwriting at that time, or what was kind of your well.

When I was in Hollywood, I was basically writing everything, doing screenwriting. As I say, I got a little annoyed with Hollywood, the way they kind of treated writers. And fortunately, about that time, I started selling books, and I started off writing nonfiction, you may have known kids books. Nonfiction. Nonfiction kids books. And also, like, Break a Leg, and I wrote a book about mummies and stuff like that. Once I got into writing books, I kind of did that full time and enabled my family and I to get out of Hollywood and moved to Tucson. I was ready for a break. After 17 years in Hollywood, I can.

Imagine what was the draw to Tucson from Hollywood.

It’s funny, I knew one person here, a fellow writer named Tappin King. He and his wife had moved here from New York, and he said, you got to move to Tucson. It’s really nice here. And he says, it’s not a big city, it’s a little city.

My wife is from Southern California. She’s from Downey, and she didn’t want to be too far from her parents and her mom, and so we figured, well, two sounds like 500 miles from La. And so we just kind of jumped in the car and moved here sight unseen.

Oh, my gosh. And apparently it’s worked out because you’ve been here for, what, 30 years now?

30 years now.

Wow. You say moved here in 92?


Okay. I moved here in 93.

There you go.

Yeah, I heard there are all these famous authors moving to Tucson, so I thought I should get in on that.

Well, it’s a little cheaper living here than La. Or New York, so still I can imagine.

Do you remember your very first book? What that was?

My very first book was a computer book called Computers to Go, and it was written in the early 80s. It was about the very first I won’t call them laptop computers the very first portable computers, like the Radio Shack little Rs. Well, I mean, you had a little screen about as big as half a deck of cards. You could show, like, 20 characters at a time, that kind of thing. And so the very first and Texas Instruments had one, and the very first portable computers. That book was about, of course, in the early days of computer stuff in the early 80s. As soon as a book came out, it was out of date. So that was kind of the bad side of it. But it was great fun to have lots of computers to play with and stuff like that. So I was very interested in computers from the very early going, and when they first sort of became available to.

Regular people, well, then, I guess were you always interested in science fiction and things of that nature? How did you get involved with Star Trek?

Yeah, always been interested in science fiction. Well, that first book was with Simon Schuster. So even though, as they say, that book was kind of out of the date, by the time it was released, I was an approved author. In other words, they bought a book from me, and I delivered a book on time. So my agent at the time says, you know, there’s this new Star Trek show on called Star Trek The Next Generation, and he says few of my science fiction writers he didn’t really consider I was a nonfiction writer to him, but he said, Some of my science fiction writers are submitting novel ideas to it. Do you want to? And I said, Star Trek? Sure. I grew up watching Star Trek. I didn’t know The Next Generation very well, but I started watching it, and I got the gist of it, really? Overnight. I put together a six page outline for my first novel, Masks, and my first Star Trek The Next Generation book. And out of about ten or so he sent to Pocketbooks, that was the only one they bought.

Oh, wow.

And I had three months to write the book. I, since then, have written 80,000 word books in a month. I’ve written them quicker than that, but three months at a time was kind of that was a short deadline, but I did it. And with three months later, it was on number seven on the best selling list, new York Times best selling list. So I went from not writing books at all to six months later being on The New York Times best selling list, which is almost an instant book. Yeah, if you know how slow books are.

Yeah, that’s sort of the proverbial overnight success, almost. That’s tremendous yeah.

So that worked out very well. And I wrote my own books. I wrote the fabulous. I wrote several kids book series, the Troll King series. And as I say, once I got into Star Trek, I did Star Trek comic books. I did Star Trek, Young Adult Books. I did virtually every flavor of Star Trek. I wrote novels for.

That is John Vornholt. He is Tucsonin, talking about some of his past work, and we’re going to get into some upcoming things that he’s working on. But first of all, in my very strained voice, I want to remind you that you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar, downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on

Greetings and salutations, downtown radio listeners. Paleo Dave, your unfrozen caveman DJ, here to spread the good word about the Scrambled Sunrise Rock Mix, happening every weekday morning from seven to 09:00 A.m. Right here on Downtown radio from the earliest days of Psych punk and new Wave to 80s college rock, 90s alternative, and the ongoing wave of 21st century indie rock. It’s all right here on the Scrambled Sunrise. So tune in via 99.1 FM if you’re in the greater downtown area or streaming worldwide via

And we are back with our interview with John Vornholt. He’s done quite a bit in the literary world and was telling us about some of those achievements, including many Star Trek novels that were on the bestseller list. But our focus of the conversation today was about his role as a playwright in an upcoming event at the Temple of Music and Art based on plays from several Old Pueblo playwrights.

And then you said in about 2006 that you then shifted back to your roots in the theater, and that was why you were here in Tucson.

Yeah, that was about when the publishing business started to get in trouble, as most of the print publishing businesses did, it started to shrink a little bit, and people started when I first got into it, it was kind of you were looked down upon if you self published a book. But now that’s really the only way to go. It’s a very common practice now. Big authors self publish books. So what can you do? The publishers themselves weren’t doing a whole lot, and I said, you know, I’m going to go back we’re in Tucson. I’m going to go back to the theater and get involved. And I got involved in the Bay Wolf Alley theater. I got involved in Old Pueblo playwrights, where I’m president now.

So the Bay Wolf Alley Theater, let’s kind of put that in context. That’s a downtown. That now is the Johnny Gibson’s market.

In fact, I was the guy who handed the keys over to Steve Gibson when we left the theater. I said, here’s, Steve. Here’s the keys. And now I walk in there and I say, I used to park my car here where the Deli is. But they never very impressed there.

So then when the theater closed and you said you joined a group was called Old Pueblo Playwrights.

Well, yeah, I actually was in Old Pueblo Playwrights before I got involved with Bayou Valley. But since then I’ve been involved in several theaters, and I had my own theater for a while on the East Side. It was originally called APCOT alliance Performance center of Tucson. And then it became the roadrunner theater. And it’s gone, unfortunately. I worked at Community Playhouse. I worked at Comedy Playhouse. A lot of these small theaters that were not downtown, but downtown adjacent, they’re gone now. They didn’t survive. COVID understood.

Yeah. I mean, it was tough for anybody, but to be on those small margins, I can only imagine. Old Pueblo Playwrights, is it what it sounds like, a group of playwrights?

Yes, actually, it’s been around for 35 years.


It’s been around for a long time. And we’re 501 c three. As I say, I got involved, like, 1617 years ago, and yeah, it’s great. I’ve always been a big fan of writers groups. I was in them when I was mainly a prose writer, and I’ve always thought they’re very helpful for writers. Writing is kind of a lonely profession. You’re kind of stuck up in the attic there, and you don’t see too many other people. So it’s great to get out and get some feedback from other people besides just editors and agents who are looking out for their own interests. So I think it’s a great program where we meet every Monday night. We have met every Monday night, like I say, for 30 some years. And one of our big deals is we have a new Play Festival. Plays all have to be read two or three times at least in a regular meeting. In our meetings, we always have play readings and table readings, and we bring in actors. And then for the new Play Festival, they’re produced plays in that they have sets, and we have sound effects

and lighting and stuff like that. But it’s book in hand, meaning the actors are carrying a script with them so they don’t have to memorize lines. Okay, so we have, like, nine, I think, ten plays coming up for the end of this month. We have a bunch of plays coming up, and we’re going to be at the Cabaret Theater of the Arizona Theater Company that’s the last few days of March slopping into April the first and 2. April that weekend.


That’s what I was looking up. So it’s at the Temple of Music and Art upstairs at the Cabaret Theater. And what I saw online is it starts March 29 and then goes through April 2.

That’s exactly right, yes.

And it looked like not just looking at the scope of this thing, it’s a great opportunity for playwrights, but also you’ve got actors, local talent, local directors, all these people then that have an opportunity to display their talents here in Tucson. I didn’t realize our community was that large.

Oh, yeah. No, it is. I mean, there are a lot of actors here. Not very many of them are making a living at it, but they’re acting as much as they can. And it’s really great to involve the community. We try to involve everybody. And lately for the Play Festival, we only do every I say the plays have to get voted in and then we only do each play once. But it’s really nice for the playwright because they get a chance to see their play, as we say, on its feet a little bit with people acting. And you learn troubles. You learn things that you wouldn’t have learned when you were just sitting down writing. It like, well, this guy can’t rush off stage left in one costume and enter 5 seconds later stage right in another different outfit. I mean, you learn practical things that you’ve written into your play that you may have to change just to make it more practical. And it’s great to see actors and people walking around and blocking and stuff like that. So it’s really helpful for the playwrights.

And we’ll link to that from our web page as well, but you get more information. Old Pueblo playwrights. You can Google that.



Facebook. Our Facebook page is kept up a little bit better than our web page. Okay. But yeah, look us up there. And as I say, we’re this year and well, we actually had another new Play festival in the fall. We had one in November. So we started experimenting with pay what you will. So that’s kind of nice.

That was my next question. Are there tickets or how do you get into this?

You just show up. But I would show up early because the cabaret doesn’t seat that many people. And it’s pretty popular show, especially since we’re not really charging people. They pay what they feel like paying.

Okay, well, we’ll link to all of the events there. It’s described as a five day weekend. What I saw is there’s twelve different.

Yeah, twelve different plays. Mine is on Saturday night, April 1.

That’s the president’s. Women.

The President’s women.


Which my synopsis is it’s three love smitten women and a host of unsavory men following newly elected Warren G. Harding to the White House.

That’s exactly right. I grew up in Marion, Ohio. Okay. Which is the home of Warren G. Harding and the home of the Harding Memorial. And he was a very I mean, we all think of Warren G. Harding. If you think about him at all, you think about him as being one of the worst presidents. We say he’s at the bottom. And it’s very funny because he was really a very popular president. One of the most popular. When he died in 1923. He was elected in 1920. The first election women could vote in the United states. And so he was elected then and only lived for three more years. But there were a lot of scandals that came out after he died in San Francisco. Okay. He wanted to be the first President of the United States to visit Alaska, and he made it. But he was a very sick man. And the President’s women allude to the fact that, really, of all the philanthropy presidents we’ve had, warren G. Harding was probably the most philanthropy. He was really a ladies man. He couldn’t keep his hands off anything in

a skirt. I mean, he’s very infamous for this. And there were three women in his life who were in his life for a long period of time. His wife, Florence, who was, of course, and really, this play is Harding. It’s about Harding, but warren G. Harding. But his wife. That was the period where women couldn’t aspire too much in the way of politics or anything. They had to work through their husband. In other words, if they wanted to get anywhere, they had to find a guy and prod him and push him. And that was kind of the deal with Florence Harding and Warren G. Harding. Warren was very happy just being a newspaper man in Marion, Ohio, and running the Marion Star. But his wife had bigger plans. She pushed him along. And then he had a longtime lover named Carrie Phillips. And then he was infamous for having knocked up a girl half his age, actually 30 years younger than him, NAN Britton, while he was President. And there were a lot of really interesting characters in his orbit because, as I say,

he brought all his cronies from Ohio with him. And they were an unsavory lot, let’s put it that way.

Well, that’s going to be Saturday, April 1, at 07:00 p.m.. That’s going to be at the Cabaret Theater, Temple of Music and Art. And this is part of the festival. So there’s going to be eleven other plays yes. That you’ll want to check out. And I understand questions and answers, all kinds of feedback at the end. So very interactive. And then I also wanted to talk to you because I was really fascinated about a project that you co founded as well, the Active Imagination Theater. We’ve only got a couple of minutes, but can you tell us briefly what that is?

Well, Active Imagination Theater, we’ve been doing that since 15 years. We started Baywolf Valley, where now we were just at the Tucson Festival Books, doing our show, Potimonium, about a dog park. And we normally do our shows at the holidays at Unscrewed Theater on Speedway, which is a place that does improv. But our kids shows are participatory and very improvisational. We bring the kids up on stage with us, and we have them take part in the show, like when we just did Podemonium. All the kids from the audience, some 30 of them, were dogs in a dog park, learning tricks, rolling over, playing dead speak. And then we had a contest and all this kind of stuff. I was the villain. I was the what was I? Bounty, the dog hunter. There was one dog Astray, who was doing all the tricks. That was the one dog who was played by an adult. Everybody else was played by kids.

So you get them engaged, we get.

Them up on stage. We do Elves Gone Bad at Christmas time. All the kids are elves or reindeers or we incorporate them into the play and have a lot of running around and a lot of fun.

Wow. Well, John, I appreciate your time. We’re talking with john Vornald is an author, a screenwriter. He’s been a journalist and really elevating the level of culture here in Tucson.

Thank you.

Thanks for all you’re doing.

Yeah, we’ll be at Unscrew Theater on April 1 and 8th doing our Easter show, rabbit Hood.

Okay. April 1 and 8th at Unscrewed Theater. And then march 29 through april 2, temple of music and art at the cabaret theater, which is upstairs. And special attention to April 1, the president’s women.

Thank you.

All right, John. Thank you. You have a fantastic day and I appreciate your time.

You’re welcome.

Once again, that’s John Vornhol, Tucson with really wide background in the fields of screenwriting journalism. He’s authored several books and now is part of a group here in Tucson called The Old Pueblo. Playwrights. Looking forward to that event coming up here at the Temple of Music and Art. Well, my name is Tom Heath, and you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar on downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on

You’re listening to Ktdt, Tucson, Arizona, 99.1 FM, downtown radio. I’m brother mock host of a show called Radio Club Crawl that airs every Tuesday at 03:00 P.m.. We try to focus on most of the bands that are coming through Tucson, and we give you a tasty taste of their music. You want to check out what’s happening around Tucson? Check out Radio Club. Crawl, Tuesdays, 03:00 P.m. Right here on Ktdt, Tucson, Arizona, 99.1 FM, downtown radio.

Thank you very much.

Enjoy your evening.

Bye bye. Well, I’ve enjoyed my time today. Even though it’s been a little straining on my voice, I appreciate you putting up with me. That’s the month of March, and we’ve been celebrating women who’ve made Tucson famous. We started off with a two part series on Seal Peterson and got to know, at least for me, a lot of facts and interesting stories that I was not fully aware of outside of her general reputation. And then last week, we had an interview with Jessica Gonzalez, wonderful Tucson artist that’s putting her vision and beauty into the Tucson environment. Doing so just all over the place, just very prolific. Took a break today from that because we have this upcoming event at the Temple of Music and Art that we wanted you to be aware of. But we’ll jump back into that theme next week as we’re going to interview Ray Flores. We talked to him back in 2021 as they were opening up their new restaurant concept called The Monica. And Ray Flores you may know this his family and his business,

flores Concepts, as the foundation behind El Charo Cafe. The Charles Steak. Charles del Rey servesas Charo Vita. And now the Monica. And his platform, his entire business platform has been run behind two very strong women in our community. It started back all the way in the 1920s with Monica Flynn and it’s carried forward 50 years, 50 over 50 years now by his mother, Carloto Flores. So we talked with Ray and we’ll get a little insight into that history and how all of that came to be. Of course, if you ever want to talk to us or have us cover a show, you should reach us on Instagram and Facebook is probably the best way you can interact with there, interact with us and like and tag us and things. You can also head over to our website, There’s a contact button there as well as our past episodes and more information about the show. And of course, you can always do that old fashioned thing is email [email protected] Well, as my voice is waning here,

we’re going to leave you with a little bit of music as we talked about in the show here with Mr. Vornholt. One of the things they like to do is bring the children up into their improv stage and sometimes those kids are part of the dogs at the dog park. So we’re leaving with a little music today kind of tying into that theme. It’s from yacht club. Y-O-T club from 2019. Album called Bipolar. Here’s the song, dog song. Hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.