Be simultaneously charmed, offended, and amazed at Gutenberg! The Musical!

by Gretchen Wirges

Carson Wright as Bud and Tyler Wright as Doug. Photo courtesy of the Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company.

Carson Wright as Bud and Tyler Wright as Doug. Photo courtesy of the Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company.

Weird.
Irreverent.
Meta.
Nerdy.
Genius. 

That would be my laundry list of words to describe Gutenberg! The Musical!, written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, as the debut production for Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company. It’s the perfect show for the person who doesn’t take themselves, or their love of musicals, so seriously that they can’t have fun exploring the tropes and cliches often found in the world of theatre. 

Gutenberg! The Musical! is a musical about making a musical. Writers Bud and Doug (played by Carson Wright and Tyler Wright respectively) perform a whirlwind mock-up of their show about the inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg and the kinda sorta, probably made up, wikipedia-sourced journey of his invention. The show starts with Bud and Doug introducing each other, the musical, and the fact that there are Broadway producers in the audience who hopefully will provide a nod of approval and a contract once they’ve seen the audition. As it progresses, Bud and Doug take on the roles of a variety of characters, delineated by a displayed cache of trucker hats emblazoned with the character’s name (Woman, Beef Fat Trimmer, Daughter, Gutenberg, Monk #2, and more). 

Carson and Tyler portray their characters with a grounded humor reminiscent of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. There is a beloved earnestness and sincerity that permeates their comedic choices, making them believable and yet ridiculous (in all the best ways). This groundedness is what really sells the rest of the often cliched wrongness of the story they’re trying to tell. Carson has a fantastically confident agility about him that allows him to glide effortlessly between characters both in voice and in physicality. Tyler has a pointed seriousness about him that gives him the unique ability to deliver absurdity with beautiful patience, keenness, and impeccable timing.

Given a suggested PG-13 rating; misogyny, antisemitism, and abusive relationships are just some of the interwoven themes of the made-up musical, but because of the grounded portrayal by Carson and Tyler, and the truth of the tropes of which they’re making fun, I found myself laughing out loud again and again. Okay, there may have even been a snort (or two). Reminiscent of shows like Book of Mormon and Avenue Q, the sometimes shock value of what was being said, was absorbed by the sincerity of the actors’ spot-on delivery and the super clever, word-nerd level lyrics.

Carson Wright as Bud and Tyler Wright as Doug. Photo courtesy of the Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company.

Carson Wright as Bud and Tyler Wright as Doug. Photo courtesy of the Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company.

Carson and Tyler, billed as both directors and designers on the show, were able to do what few self-directed casts can achieve. Often it’s difficult to step outside of the creative brain to add a critical eye to the overall performance. But this production doesn’t suffer from that difficulty. The choreography is prudent and funny and a well-oiled machine. The finesse they display in telling both stories (both of the writers and the actual musical) while physically shifting hats, props, and each other, was incredibly deft and polished. All of this was accented and made even more magical by the actors’ incredible singing voices and their equally talented musical accompanist, Khris Dodge.

The show is being performed at Unscrewed Theater, known typically for its improv comedy. The sparse black-box style theater made for a perfect backdrop for the show. Lighting was sometimes lacking, but almost gave the overall intention of the show a bit more integrity as it’s intended to be a grassroots, self-produced show. There were a few times when there were props or choreography that took place on the proscenium or floor of the stage when I couldn’t see what was happening. This was only frustrating because I didn’t want to miss any of the action. 

Go see Gutenberg! The Musical! Laugh at the jokes, sing the songs, and allow Carson, Tyler, and Dodge to simultaneously charm, offend, and amaze you with their utterly brilliant performance. 

Gutenberg! The Musical! plays at Unscrewed Theater, 4500 E. Speedway Blvd., for only one more weekend with remaining shows on Thursday, Aug. 22 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 24 at 2pm, and Sunday, Aug. 25, at 2pm.

Tickets are $25 general admission; $20 military, students, teachers. For details and reservations visit www.sapactucson.org, email boxoffice@sapactucson, or call 520-780-6119.

 

Old and New Favorite Stories This Season at The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre

Editor’s Note: This is the tenth in a series of interviews with creative decision makers and artistic directors at all of Tucson’s theatres as we look forward to the 2019-2020 season.

Building empathy and expanding what tribe means to us, one show at a time, with Bryan Falcón.

by Leigh Moyer

ScoundrelType_529_Black-01.pngWhat makes a Scoundrel & Scamp show? Well, according to Artistic and Co-managing Director Bryan Falcón: “At the heart there’s really the question of does the show have a mixture of heart and mind? Does it have a sense of mystery to it? Is there a little touch of whimsy? And is there duende that’s living underneath the surface?”

For those of you like myself who are unfamiliar with duende, it’s a figure from Latin American fairy tales: a mischievous spirit that lives in the walls of homes. While the term might be new to some of us, those familiar with the shows that The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre produces will recognize it immediately. Not all their shows have spirits, but they do tend to have a personality of their own, an extra life beneath the surface, changing what seemed like a straightforward story into something else.

That  layered depth is alive and well in their first production, The Little Prince. A crashed aviator is confronted by a young prince exploring nearby worlds, and, with the innocence of a child, questions and ridicules the strange habits and priorities of adults. The Scoundrel & Scamp version aims to ask a classic loved by generations some of the same questions. Upsetting expectations, like taking traditional gender expectations and casting roles like the Aviator as a woman, intend to ask the questions of why things have been done one way and not another and, hopefully, answer them skillfully.

Falcón gushed about all the plays this season, about the mystery and joy he hopes each of them bring audiences, but one stands apart from the group: “In Cloud Tectonics there’s a search for who we are. It is a story that is near and dear to me. It’s a beautiful love story set against the backdrop of magical realism. A man living a mundane life, separated from the passions that filled him when he was young. It is his journey to look for the things that made him who he is and doing so through remembering Spanish and remembering the foods of his youth. These are things that speak to me as a Latin artist growing up in the United States.”

He continued, “I think border issues are on my mind a lot these days and the weight of our tendency to ‘other’ people. A lot of othering comes from a struggle to find our own people. We are hungry for an identity, something that we can believe in, that we feel is good and upright. And it’s so important for Tucsonans to be in tune with. How do we go through that process of finding what’s important to us, what gives us passion, what gives us reason to live? Cloud Tectonics is a really good story for our community today.”

Much of what he spoke about wasn’t about the content of the plays, but the issues he hopes they bring to light — namely, the issues of hate, intolerance, and a lack of basic empathy for others — and the conversations he hopes they will spark in audiences. Beyond border issues, the political climate of 2019 is on Falcón’s mind and that concern makes itself known in the productions to which he is drawn. 

“I think that’s interesting, tracking how our society has changed in the course of the last three years. And there’s a lot of argument to say it has changed recently, right? But in other ways, at a basic level, we haven’t changed a lot. It feels like we are inclined as a society to draw boxes around identities and say this is our tribe and we are going to just cheer for our tribe and just tear down the other tribe as much as we possibly can. And I feel that now it’s just as important, if not even more acute, that we set up situations where that conversation can happen across the table in the lobby of a theatre or in a talkback session where you can start to feel, to step into the identities of other people, start to understand what it is that hurts them, what is it that fires them up and makes them passionate. And start to have empathy so we can real conversations instead of pointing fingers at each other and labeling them bad people.”

Empathy is key, not just in this conversation, but in the mission statement of the theatre. Falcón stressed that showing a variety of voices and viewpoints was the foundation of each season. It can be challenging, he admitted, as the history of play-writing does not always lend itself to telling stories outside of a certain sphere. But that is where he and the Scoundrel & Scamp creative team, which includes Elizabeth Falcón and Claire Mannle, come in. He explained that he might find a season he is excited and passionate about, but then realize it all comes from one perspective. And when that happens, he says, “We scrap it and begin again. It takes a lot of time and effort but it is so important to our identity as a theatre company to have that sense of diversity and multiple lenses for those coming to see a play.”

The cast of the 2018-2019 season production of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

The cast of the 2018-2019 season production of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

Falcon seems to see his role as artistic director as a humanistic duty or community obligation. “We’re really in the business of growing empathy for others through addressing concerns of the heart. We want to explore themes of race and tribe and gender and push the boundaries of what all things mean to us. And the theatre is one of the few art forms if not the artform that allows you to step into other people’s skin for a time and in doing so learn empathy. Theatre is a way to change hearts. I borrowed that, that isn’t my quote, but I heard it and it stuck with me.”

Their season contains both plays “for Scoundrels” (usually recommended for those in high school and up) and “for Scamps” (theatre to be enjoyed by audiences of any age), The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre is working to bring theatrical inclusivity to as many people as possible, regardless of age or background. “Part of our mission is to introduce the next generation to theatre,” Falcón explained. “Part of that is by providing theatre that families can come to with some sense of security that is is going to be a good experience for all involved, work that will hook people no matter their age. And there are some things we want to talk about of a darker or more adult nature and that is our season for Scoundrels.”

You can learn more about the whole season below or on their website. Individual tickets are available before the run of each show begins but season tickets are on sale now. This season they are also introducing a new way to consume (and I really think that is the best descriptor) theatre: The Scoundrel Society. As a member, you can watch any show as many times as you like. Entrance to other events like the new Late Night with Scoundrels cabaret and more intimate conversations with creatives and invitations to parties are also promised. Plus, you get a cool mug.

The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre’s 2019 – 2020 Season:

The Little Prince, adapted by Holly Griffith from the novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, directed by Holly Griffith
October 17 – November 3, 2019
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”An aviator crashes his plane into the Sahara desert and encounters a mysterious little prince from a distant planet. The two strangers, each far from home, share adventures and become friends. A new ensemble-based, physical theatre adaptation of the beloved classic story for children and grown ups who can remember that they were children once. 

Cloud Tectonics, by José Rivera, directed by Bryan Rafael Falcón
November 21 – December 8, 2019
“What better way to understand a mystery than to fall in love with it?”
On a rainy night in Los Angeles, a man picks up a pregnant hitchhiker to help her find her way home and time suddenly stops. Realism and magical realism collide in Rivera’s dreamlike world where two souls unexpectedly cross paths.

The Light Princess, book by Lila Rose Kaplan, music by Mike Pettry, directed by Michelle Milne
February 6 – 23, 2020
“A princess needs to find her ground so goodness can prevail, everyone needs something they can call their fairy tale.”
In this musical adapted from George MacDonald’s fairy tale, a king and queen are desperate to have a child. They turn to a witch for a solution, but “there is always a price.” Their daughter is born without gravity and must find it before her 16th birthday or else… Wise men, witches, princes all attempt to come to the rescue. This enchanting musical comedy is a Valentine for the whole family, appropriate for Scoundrels and Scamps alike.

Ada and The Engine, by Lauren Gunderson, directed by Bryan Rafael Falcón
March 26 – April 12, 2020
Ada Byron Lovelace is the woman you didn’t know to thank for our digital age. Although her dear friend Charles Babbage conceived the first “analytical engine” or proto-computer, she wrote and published the first program for it, an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. As she comes of age with a stern mother and in the shadow of a scandalous father, we see her brilliance in conflict with 19th century conventions. Genius knows no gender.

Letter’s End, by Wolfe Bowart
May 15 – 31, 2020
Wolfe Bowart (Cloud Soup, U.S. Premiere) triumphantly returns to the S&S stage with his unique solo physical comedy. On his inspiration for Letter’s End, Bowart says “I’ve always been interested in memory – how at times it tumbles out like Fibber McGee’s closet and other times seems elusive, stuffed away in an old package in the attic. The story begins with a man inhabiting a slightly off-kilter dead letter office, but then becomes something altogether unexpected. Ultimately a wondrous and poignant journey down a most magical memory lane, where mops sneeze and storks swoop in bearing gifts and trees grow out of shoes, Bowart’s performance inspired Canberra critic Wendy Brazil to remark “you will be mesmerized … he will make you laugh, he will make you sigh, and and you will be enchanted by his every move.”

Late Night With Scoundrels

The second Friday of the month at 10:30pm
A Late Night cabaret experience – sixty minutes of the best variety that Tucson has to offer! Explore the many skills and talents the artists of our community possess in this unique experience to 4th Avenue and the Tucson Community. Acting! Song! Dance! Standup! The Physical. The Metaphysical! …and Puppetry! Now something completely different for your Friday night. The first Late Night with Scoundrels will be held on September 13th.

 

Editor’s Note: Leigh Moyer is the resident house manager at The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. While she had no input or involvement in the creative process behind building a season, we feel it is important to disclose any potential biases.

Look Forward to a Season of Wit and Whimsy at Arizona Rose Theatre

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a series of interviews with creative decision makers and artistic directors at all of Tucson’s theatres as we look forward to the 2019-2020 season.

Entertaining the People with Brandon Howell of Arizona Rose Theatre.

by Leigh Moyer

Arizona Rose TheatreGive the people what they want and make art while you do it. This seems to be the approach to Arizona Rose Theatre‘s 2019 – 2020 season, based on my recent conversation with managing director, Brandon Howell.

“We wanted to have a fun season this year. We have a group in the theatre, core performers and production team, work with them first, looking for suggestions. Also asked our audience what they wanted to see. Always take audience suggestions into consideration. We want to provide theatre that our audience wants to see,” Howell explained. “It isn’t quite putting shows into a hat and pulling the season out, but it is more looking at the suggestions and filling the slots.”

Arizona Rose Theatre has been bringing theatre to the people of Tucson for over 30 years. For much of that time, the productions they put on were dictated by in part by not having their own stage and having to adjust based on the stage available to use. Now, with a permanent home in the Tucson Mall, they are able to control the season better. They have also changed their model over the last three decades. In the beginning, they did all original works. Now they produce some originals like Sherlock Holmes and the East Wind and big names like Into The Woods

“No one should miss any of our shows. That has to be my answer,” Howell said when I asked if he had a favorite this season. “We are excited about all of our shows. They all present a challenge. And I enjoy when a show brings a challenge.”

They have given themselves several challenges; big musicals like Into the Woods in a relatively small space, adapting classic murder mysteries into musicals without losing the serious nature of the source material in Sherlock Holmes, and depending on a small cast to carry a lot of show in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged

“I do think there are different elements considered. Female writers were the backbone of the season last year. Women playwrights was the unspoken theme. We often choose female heavy shows, although this year we haven’t really looked at that as much,” Howell said of this season compared to last.

The last of those three has the potential to have an extra layer of complication. At the time of the interview, casting wasn’t completed but Howell and the director were looking to cast the three man show with two men and a woman. I hope they did. I’d love to see, live on stage, that the gender of the actor doesn’t matter, that women can play roles usually filled by men. That said, there is a section that, quite spectacularly in my memory, makes fun of men playing women (and being so out of touch, the female characters are silly and over the top)– I am curious how Arizona Rose gets around that. I think it is possible and, with a history of writing, choosing plays by female playwrights, and frequently having strong women casts, they should have the skills to pull it off.

“[Arizona Rose Theatre] was founded with the mission, basically, of entertaining and introducing audiences to theatre, especially those who haven’t been to the theatre before or often. Every time we have an audience leave having enjoyed what they saw, we’re completing our mission. We want to improve and do it better every year,” Howell said, and added, “I want to reach out to newer audiences and introduce them to theatre. That is the future of theatre.”

A Season of Wit and Whimsy

Arizona Rose Theatre’s 2019 – 2020 Season:

The Musical World of Fairy Tales
August 24 – September 8, 2019
The Arizona Rose Theatre is expanding on a popular show from the last two seasons, the Musical World of Disney. In addition to favorite Disney music, the show will include music from other fairy tale favorites such as Shrek, Wicked, The Wizard of Oz and more… Come and enjoy a show for children of all ages. Watch as each song is brought to life with amazing production values, beautiful singing and fantastic dancing. This show is sure to delight the whole family.

Sherlock Holmes and the East Wind: a new musical
October 12 – 27, 2019
December 23rd, 1915–At the Hotel du Louvre in Paris, guests seek refuge from the war wreaking havoc throughout Europe. Dr. John Watson and his wife are staying there, and plan to meet their nephew, who is on leave from the British army. When a hotel maid is murdered however, they quickly become embroiled in an international conspiracy so complex that only the great Sherlock Holmes could unravel it–if only he were still alive.

Dashing Through the Snow
December 7 – 15, 2019
The play takes place in the Snowflake Inn in Tinsel, Texas where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. It’s four days before Christmas and a parade of eccentric guests arrive at the Snowflake Inn and deck the halls with holiday hilarity. Trina, the harried yet upbeat innkeeper of this B&B, has more than she can handle coping with these nuttier-than-a-fruitcake lodgers. You’ll swear this family-friendly Jones/Hope/Wooten Christmas comedy is more fun than a joyride in a one-horse open sleigh.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)
February 29 – March 15, 2020
All 37 plays in 97 minutes! By three actors! Complete Works is an irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s canon. It is fast paced, witty and physical; it’s full of laughter for Shakespeare lovers and even those few Shakespeare haters or those who “do not understand” Shakespeare will love this show.

Into the Woods
April 18 – May 3, 2020
Into the Woods is a Tony-winning musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, about wishes and what can happen when they come true. Based on fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, it brings together the story of a Baker and his Wife who wish for a child, of Cinderella who wishes to go to the King’s Festival, of Jack who wishes to keep his best friend, of a Witch who wishes to be beautiful again and many more. It all comes together in the woods, where everyone will have to consider if they truly want what they thought they wished for.

Lies and Laughs Abound in Show People

by Betsy Labiner

Show People, by Paul Weitz, is a love letter to theatre. Or possibly hate mail. Live Theatre Workshop’s production dives whole-heartedly into the play’s metatheatrical examination of the performing arts, acting, and the theatre industry. Under Chris Moseley’s direction, Show People adeptly shifts gears between celebratory and elegiac as it delves into the highs and lows of the lives and careers of actors. Plot twists abound. It’s a fun, if occasionally dark, play, and audiences ought to be aware in advance of its self-consciousness and self-referential theatricality. These traits reach a maniacal pitch near the end of the play, so make sure that if you go, you’re willing to be in on the jokes. 

Lesley Abrams as Marnie and Steve McKee as Jerry. Photo by Ryan Fagan, courtesy of Live Theatre Workshop.

Lesley Abrams as Marnie and Steve McKee as Jerry. Photo by Ryan Fagan, courtesy of Live Theatre Workshop.

 

The play is a tight, fast romp – ninety minutes with no intermission – following two late-career actors, Marnie and Jerry, respectively played by Lesley Abrams and Steve McKee, as they meet a young man, Tom, who has hired them to play his parents in order to introduce them to his girlfriend, Natalie. While Marnie and Jerry work self-consciously to inhabit their parental characters and flesh out their roles on the fly, they’re thrown curve after curve by Tom, played by Taylor Rascher, and Natalie, played by Emily Gates. 

All four actors are delightful in their roles: lively, deeply layered, and with excellent chemistry amongst themselves. Abrams was hilarious perfection as Marnie, giving everything from strident cynicism to loving warmth with impeccable comedic timing. I found myself watching her even when other characters were speaking; her physical reactions and facial expressions were a highlight in a uniformly strong cast. As Natalie, Gates provides a more naively optimistic counterpoint, bubbling with undimmed enthusiasm even as Abrams lobs backhanded remarks. McKee skillfully melds Jerry’s self-indulgence with bewilderment and, in a few especially evocative moments, even aching sadness. Rascher shines most in the moments that make the audience uncomfortable, as he – and we – struggle with the lines between reality and fiction. 

Show People delivers a palimpsest of performances. Even as the fictions layer one another, intrusive realities can’t quite be banished. Some lies contain grains of truth, and some acts seem to be entirely too honest. Even the characters themselves can’t quite identify the boundaries of reality as the lines blur between self and character, fiction and fact. In one exchange that exemplifies the play as a whole, someone asks, “What if it’s real?” The response: “It’s not.” “But what if it is?” 

Steve McKee as Jerry, Taylor Rascher as Tom, and Lesley Abrams as Marnie. Photo by Ryan Fagan, courtesy of Live Theatre Workshop.

Steve McKee as Jerry, Taylor Rascher as Tom, and Lesley Abrams as Marnie. Photo by Ryan Fagan, courtesy of Live Theatre Workshop.

The comedic meditation on acting and theatre is layered, calling attention not only to the professional craft, but also the more mundane performances people put on every day, particularly in situations when they want to impress or endear themselves to others. These moments range from painfully relatable awkwardness to laugh-out-loud absurdity. While likely all audiences can relate to some of these elements, such as the act of telling someone you like their baking when you don’t, those whole live and work in the performing arts will find that this play speaks directly to them, for better or worse, from start to finish. The play ruminates on the joy of acting, the drive to perform, the need to be in the spotlight, and, more bleakly, on the harsh reality that chasing that spotlight can be a heartbreaking endeavor. 

Despite the unflinching discussions of poverty and hardship, an idealized vision of the theatre is present as well. The play reiterates that creation and performance are labors of love. “The stage is a place that demands empathy,” the audience is told, and so it does. While the stage demands empathy, the play indicates, it also creates it. Theatre forges bonds between actors, audiences, and all the individuals bringing a work to life. The play points out these multilateral relationships, asking audiences to investigate their own role in show business. 

Show People clearly loves actors and artistic creation, but has no illusions about their world. In one anecdote about playing a horse and doing so topless at the director’s insistence, the audience is briefly confronted with the harsh reality of the exploitation of women in the theatre industry and the power dynamics between directors and aspiring and/or under-employed actors. The story is brief, but searing. It encapsulates both shame and desperation, condemning the situation even as it elicits sympathy and understanding for the individual having made the choice to go ahead in such a role. The anecdote is a minor moment in the play, but it continues to resonate long after. It is a jarring reminder of the coercion that can and does occur. This reminder should not go unheeded – we as participants in and consumers of theatre must demand ethical practices in which all participants are treated with dignity and respect.  

Take on the role of audience member! Show People runs July 25th through August 24th at Live Theatre Workshop (5317 E. Speedway Blvd.). Shows are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 pm, as well as Sunday at 3:00 pm. Tickets may be purchased online at LiveTheatreWorkshop.org or by phone at 520-327-4242.

Tucson Welcomes a New Theatre!

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of interviews with creative decision makers and artistic directors at all of Tucson’s theatres as we look forward to the 2019-2020 season.

Filling a gap in the Tucson theatre community: Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company opens this August!

by Leigh Moyer

SAPAC logo+wordmark

Tucson has theaters that focus on classic works, theaters that focus on contemporary works, theaters that focus on family-friendly, alternative, and new works. And while many of these theaters feature musical theatre productions during their season, Tucson has had few theaters dedicated just to presenting a full season of quality musicals. Until now.

I sat down with the founders of Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company (SAPAC) Kelli Workman, Artistic Director, and Danielle Wright, Production Manager, to talk about musical theatre and starting a new company in Tucson.

“We’re looking to fill the gap between professional and amateur theatre in the community. The long-term goal is to be an equity theatre. We want to give the talent in Tucson the experience of working on high level productions,” said Workman. “We want to add to the effort in bringing quality musical theatre to Tucson. We have a wish list of epic proportions that we want to bring to this community.” 

Each season they plan to bring a classic musical, a contemporary musical, and a concert style musical. Once they are more established, they want to workshop new musicals as well. “We want to do musicals people know but with a fresh concept so that people see something new, see a production in a new way,” explained Wright.

For their inaugural season, SAPAC is bringing stories of origins. [title of show] is about writing a show, the creating – the origin – of a musical. Hot Mikado is an updated adaptation of the piece by the pioneers of musical theatre: Gilbert and Sullivan; it is an opportunity to look at the roots of musical theatre and how artists are fostering growth in the medium. And then, 1776 is about the origins of our country. “For 1776,  we are focusing on nontraditional casting to showcase the breadth and  diversity of experiences in our country,” Wright said. “We’re planning to have a female director to insure a different voice comes through what is usually a very male-centered narrative. ”

Attention to diversity is important to SAPAC. The founding team, Workman, Wright, and Executive Director Dennis Tamblyn, are all white. They are interested in casting against tradition to see more women and people of color on stage and behind the scenes. They are also looking to select shows that show different people and different stories. And, when they work with an older piece, making sure that it meets 2019 expectations. Wright admitted they are still learning how to produce theatre responsibly and justly. “When doing classic musicals there were different social justice standards when they were written. We have to ask ourselves why something is important to the show but also what challenges  need to be considered; what interpretation of the material might encourage a conversation with our audience.”

Each production gives Tucsonans the chance to see and hear the stories of others. “Theatre fosters empathy,” Wright said. “At a Broadway League conference, Lin Manuel Miranda talked about how theater is one of the last things that eliminates the viewer’s power to create their own reality. Audience members with different ideologies all sit in one room and view the same thing. He said, ‘You ask the audience to live outside of themselves. You’re asking the audience to identify with people they might not normally ordinarily identify with.’ Storytelling helps individuals to learn about people who aren’t like them and knowing someone is loving someone.”

“I get really passionate about Broadway shows I love. This season each show is an important part of the season. We not only selected the shows specifically, but the venue that supported the show best,” Workman said. “We are very attached to each show.” From traditional proscenium theater space like that offered by the intimate Cabaret Theater at the Temple of Music and Art to the Demeester Outdoor Performance Center at Reid Park, each show is homed in the best location to help tell the story.

The full season is listed online and below. Tickets are $25.00, with discounts for seniors, students, teachers, and members of the military. Or as a season ticket subscriber see all four shows for the price of three. Tickets can be purchased online, by email at boxoffice@sapactucson.org or by phone at (520) 261-9309.

SAPAC 2019-2020 Season

Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company 2019-2020 Season:

Gutenberg! The Musical! by Anthony King and Scott Brown
August 15 – 25, 2019
Back by popular demand after being nominated for a MAC Award in 2018, this production of the hit two-man musical spoof is a special add-on event to our regular full season of musical productions. Two desperate (and bravely untalented) songwriters perform a backers’ audition for their new musical about Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. With an unending supply of enthusiasm, Bud Davenport and Doug Simon (portrayed by real-life brothers Carson and Tyler Wright) sing all the songs and play all the parts in their hilarious historical epic. Called “A smashing success” by the New York Times, Gutenberg! The Musical! went on to receive Lucille Lortel Award and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations for Outstanding Musical.

[title of show] by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell
September 13 – 22, 2019
Writing a musical is hard! Just ask Jeff and Hunter, two struggling writers, scrambling to write a musical to submit to a theatre festival. With the deadline looming, and with nothing to lose, the pair enlists the help of their friends Susan and Heidi (with Larry on the piano), and decide to try and create something exciting and new. What you get is four friends writing a musical about four friends writing a musical: meta-theatre at its most hilarious! This Tony-nominated musical is sure to leave you laughing!

Hot Mikado, adapted and arranged by David H. Bell and Rob Bowman
January 17 – 26, 2020
This hilarious and ‘HOT’ updating of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic masterpiece weaves a sharp witted, fun-filled tale where – despite life or death stakes – characters still find time to tap their toes and croon their troubles away. Set in a fictionalized Japan, at a time when outlandish laws harshly sentence people for almost any indiscretion, it is the language of jazz, gospel, and the blues that is spoken most fluently. Hot Mikado thrills by combining traditional Japanese storytelling with the big band sights and sounds of popular American song and dance.

1776 by Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards
April 24 – 25, 2020
Long before Hamilton, there was three-time Tony Award-winning 1776 – the original American Revolution Musical! It’s a long, hot summer in Philadelphia, and the Continental Congress is at each other’s throats. The nation is on the brink of revolution – if only our founding fathers can agree to sign the declaration. American history blazes to vivid life in this extraordinary musical, revealing the humor and humanity behind these national icons. With a limited 2-performance run, you won’t want to miss our modern re-shaping (including nontraditional casting) of this hit show!

See Yourself Onstage This Season at Arizona Theatre Company

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series of interviews with creative decision makers and artistic directors at all of Tucson’s theatres as we look forward to the 2019-2020 season.

Arizona Theatre Company welcomes back Sean Daniels, once a season subscriber, now the Artistic Director.

by Leigh Moyer

ATC LogoFor Arizona Theatre Company’s (ATC) new Artistic Director, Sean Daniels, this is a homecoming. His love of theatre began as a child watching a “life changing production of Our Town” at ATC. After talking with Sean over lunch at a local downtown eatery, that seems almost too perfect. Our Town addresses a lot– growing up, learning who you are, and finding community, all things clearly important to Daniels, especially in theatre. 

And that means representing the community on stage.

“I’m interested in what the conversation is with the community. American Mariachi is the best selling play in Arizona Theatre Company’s history. And so you have to ask what is that about? Was it just the timing? Was it what the play is about? Or is it that a community is finally seeing themselves on stage where they hadn’t before. I’m more interested in what are the next set of plays that help to unlock those questions,” Daniels said, referencing the 2018-2019 season production of American Mariachi. “It is so powerful to see your story on stage. Clearly it resonated with this community. So how to figure that piece of the puzzle out, for me, that is my job. Invite them in, perhaps in an easy way, in Lowell, with the company I was with before ATC, that was putting on a production by a playwright from the greater community, but then working to do other things the community might be interested in. But you have to genuinely reflect them on stage. You can’t just say, ‘Now here’s a ticket coupon and come see a show where no one looks like you.’”

The 2018-2019 season production of American Mariachi. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of Arizona Theatre Company.

The 2018-2019 season production of American Mariachi. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of Arizona Theatre Company.

This season Daniels and his predecessor David Ivers selected six shows that reflect the local community and the issues the greater American culture is facing. And they aren’t pulling any punches. This season addresses gender and racial discrimination, challenges stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, asks us to look at white privilege, and then there are the Nazis. “We have an opportunity to have six curated evenings with people. What’s the conversation that we want to have with them over time?”

While a lot of the content ATC is bringing to the stage this year covers big, heavy topics, topics that are all too familiar in 2019, these are plays that tell stories about people and what it means to live during challenging times. There may be heartbreak and struggle, but there is joy and laughter. It is important to tell stories like this not because we need the lesson, although maybe we do, but because we need to see that things get better and we keep living.

“And,” Daniels added, referencing one of the shows he selected for this season, Women in Jeopardy!, “Looking at the season, I realized we didn’t have the show that you just scream in laughter from beginning to end. And that has a value in a season. You don’t want six of those. But there is nothing wrong with being entertained by theatre.”

Daniels will be considering diversity and representation in the casting process too, You have to think about your own biases that you bring. Could anyone play this role? Do I want the best actor? Do I believe that white actors are the only actors who can play all types of roles and actors of color are the only ones that can play those types of roles? Then find the best actors to pull it off. If you start with that you don’t end up with all white casts.”

Having a season that ranges from “Master Harold”…And The Boys, a show that looks at privilege in apartheid South Africa to The Legend of Georgia McBride, a musical about a drag queen, to classics like Cabaret, this season has a lot to offer. 

“That’s the point of being a season subscriber. You get to watch shows you wouldn’t have picked. In an era of Netflix and Amazon the algorithm has you figured out. It knows that based on your buying pattern, you would like this media, this item. And you’re always like, ‘You don’t know me!’ But then you look and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I probably would like this…’ There is nothing wrong with that, but the thing I hear from subscribers is they come to shows they wouldn’t have otherwise watched and ended up liking it. If you pick only what you know, you are only going to get that.”

There is more to diverse theatre than breaking free of an algorithm. “Sometimes I chose something thing because it allows a group of people who don’t look like you to finally see themselves on stage and be invited in. As an audience member maybe this play isn’t your favorite but that’s okay because you believe in this theatre and you want it to be around in 40 years and introducing a new audience to the theatre is important.” And for someone who, some years ago, realized theatre was his dream at an ATC production, fostering the continued success of the theatre and encouraging new audiences to check out the theatre is a key driver. 

But if you can’t catch the whole season? Daniels recommends that you don’t miss the first two shows: The Royale and Silent Sky. The first tells the story of the first time black and white boxers were allowed to box against each other during Jim Crow. The second looks at women in science, following the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a brilliant astronomer who made most of her discoveries (including where we are in the universe) without access to telescopes because of gender discrimination. It would be naive to say things haven’t improved in the hundred plus years since either event, but it would also be naive to say these problems have disappeared.

But it isn’t just that these are societal problems we have to face together that make Daniels recommend them but because the playwrights, Marco Ramirez and Lauren Gunderson, respectively, are interested in working here, in joining the community and learning from the Arizona audiences who will be experiencing their work. That is something special.

As a closing thought, Daniels reiterated, “I just think it is a real goal of ours to try to be more locally based. I am really focused on how this community owns us.”

Arizona Theatre Company’s 2019-2020 Season:

ATC 19/20 Season

The Royale by Macro Ramirez, directed by Michael John Garcés
9/07/19 – 9/28/19
A power-packed boxing drama. Winner of two Obie Awards, an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Drama Desk Award, and multiple other awards and sold out houses in London, New York and LA. The Royale is not your usual sports play. First of all, it is not really about life in the ring. Second, not a single punch will be thrown, at least not with fists. The play is a deeply theatrical and emotionally moving piece about the life of the outsider in American culture. Set in 1910, deep in the midst of Jim Crow, it explores one man’s struggle while reflecting a much broader one. It is also a play about a brother and his sister – his sister, who as he climbs for glory and respect, remains his greatest adversary and strongest motivation.

Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, directed by Casey Stangl
10/22/19 – 11/09/19
A celebration of discovery, originality, and curiosity. For the last three seasons, playwright Lauren Gunderson has proudly sat on the list of most produced playwrights in the country. Arizona Theatre Company proudly brings this brilliant and prolific author’s work to the professional stage in Arizona for the first time. Based on the true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, astonishing discoveries await as she maps distant stars in galaxies beyond our own. But this brilliant, headstrong pioneer must struggle for recognition in the man’s world of turn-of-the-century astronomy. During this time of immense scientific discoveries, women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. Like the recent film Hidden Figures, Silent Sky shines a bright light on women whose achievements have been too long overlooked by the telescope of history. In this exquisite blend of science, history, family ties, and fragile love, a passionate young woman must map her own passage through a society determined to keep a woman in her place.

Cabaret, based on the book by Joe Masteroff, Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, directored by Sara Bruner
11/30/19 – 12/29/19
Wilkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome! Cliff Bradshaw, an American author working on a novel in Berlin, encounters Sally Bowles, a talented cabaret performer, at the seedy Kit Kat Klub where she sings. When she is fired by the club’s owner, also her jealous boyfriend, she moves in with Cliff and the two fall in love. As the Nazis begin taking control of the German government, the atmosphere of the Kit Kat Klub and the lives of Cliff and Sally begin to change dramatically. For all the exuberant song and dance, the most powerful aspect of Cabaret remains the political wallop that it delivers. The horror gains momentum around them, as too many characters stay locked in denial or self interest. At its core, Cabaret is a devastating critique of apathy, and a clever and terrifying look at totalitarianism. Cabaret’s powerful story remains remarkably timely nearly 80 years after Isherwood’s original stories were published, which is why the piece continues to resonate with audiences more than 50 years after it debuted.

“Master Harold”…And The Boys by Athol Fugard, directed by Kent Gash
1/18/20 – 2/08/20
A semi-autobiographical masterwork. Of all Athol Fugard’s plays, none is more personal or shatteringly honest than “Master Harold”…And The Boys; because it relates a boyhood incident which involved himself and which haunted him for years until he tried to atone by writing this play. It may take place in South Africa during the early years of apartheid, but its depiction of the ways in which people are capable of hurting even those they love transcends the political landscape of bigotry and oppression that inspired it. The play recounts the long, rainy afternoon that Hally (“Master Harold”) spends with Sam and Willie, two middle-aged African servants of his parents’ household who have cared for seventeen-year-old Hally his whole life. This particular afternoon turns into a profound and life-changing experience for all involved. A stunning masterpiece, one of the most powerful coming-of-age plays ever written, and still timely, still compelling, still profoundly moving.

The Legend of Georgia McBride by Mathew Lopez, directed by Meredith McDonough
3/07/20 – 3/28/20
A big-hearted, FIERCE, music-filled comedy. A theatrical cornucopia of camp, country music, drag, domestic dilemmas, and larger-than-life divas awaits you! Casey is an Elvis impersonator with everything going for him, including a flashy sequin jumpsuit. But just like that he loses his gig, rent is overdue, and his wife announces a baby on the way. So when Elvis leaves the building and a drag show moves in, “The King” transforms into an all-out queen with the help of some new friends who become the second family Casey never saw coming. With snappy zingers and dance-worthy numbers, this wildly entertaining story will challenge your assumptions with extraordinary humor and depth. A valentine to the drag queens who helped mentor the playwright through his own coming out as gay while growing up in Florida, ATC is thrilled to bring you this light and fizzy comedy that’s as sweet as it is hilarious.

Women in Jeopardy! by Wendy MacLeod, directed by Sean Daniels
4/18/20 – 5/09/20
A riotous comedy! Screw the mid-life crisis; let’s solve some crimes! Middle-aged mom Liz has a new man. And let’s face it… he’s just plain creepy. When a mysterious disappearance sets the community on edge, Liz’s best friends leap to the rescue as the zany caper flings them from the ‘burbs’ to the wilds of Utah; because there’s no danger great enough to stop women from solving crimes if they want to! A riotous comedy about trading in wine glasses for spy glasses when the mid-life crisis just isn’t your speed.

Up Close with Maryann Green: Acting, Teaching, and Making Art on the Fringes

Maryann Greeninterviewed by Gabriella De Brequet

When did you start working in theatre and what compelled you to the art form? 

I’ve been doing theater since I was 10. I started acting “professionally” in community theatre in San Francisco in the mid-90s, and continued acting on and off since then. I worked for IATSE in college, and I’ve been directing pretty consistently since I got my masters’ degree 12 years ago, and have been a producer of alternative theater for the last 3 years. 

When I started acting as a kid, it was the sense of community I felt that kept me coming back. I was never a star, but I didn’t care. My older brothers were really into sports and the theatre kids were my team. As I got more into the experience of creating, performing, and later producing, theatre I realized that you can extrapolate that sense of community beyond your cast and crew – you’re really creating that feeling between performers and audience, and among the audience themselves, through this shared creative, thoughtful, emotional experience. Which is why I love what I do with Fringe and Live Theatre Workshop’s Etcetera program so much. I create a space where the connections can happen. 

How has teaching informed the work you do outside of the classroom? 

I love being able to share my professional experience with my students, both as an actor, and director. I love that I can tell them about how adults are keeping theatre in their lives, even if they didn’t study theatre in college, or if they have a “day job” that has little to do with the arts. But it’s also about how my experience outside the classroom informs my teaching. I apply what I learn from every show to how I teach and direct students. But there is the occasional moment, when I’m directing, when I’ll really get back to basics with the actors- what’s your objective, what are the intentions in this scene? And sometimes I’ll even do exercises with my actors that I would do in the classroom. 

What theatre trends have you noticed your students gravitate to and are they different from the trends you gravitate to?

What I love about my students is that by the time they get to my advanced class, they’re really willing to take creative risks. They’re willing to go on the journey with me and they’re as concerned, if not more so, with what they get out of the experience of creating theatre than pleasing an audience of their peers. They’re willing to challenge their peers’ (and friends’ and family’s) notion of what theatre can be. So we can do a totally avant guard piece, and Hamlet, and a modern dry sarcastic comedy all in one school year and they’re all in. 

Because of that we’ve kind of been able to push the envelope of what high school theatre can do. We were the first high school in Arizona to do The Laramie Project back in 2006, and Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses in 2016. 

What would you like to see more of in the Tucson theatre community? 

I’d love to see more community in our community theatre. I feel like each company operates in this little bubble that competes for audience as well as actors. I know that’s changing a little bit, and I can’t wait to see where it goes… Multiple theatres holding combined season auditions? Why not! Sharing your season early to avoid overlap? Yes please! Discounts for “industry” folks? Heck yeah! 

Do you have any upcoming projects that you want our readers to know about?

Tucson Fringe is hosting a brand new event this weekend called B/lending Forms, where we paired artists of different media (poetry, sculpture, stand up, spoken word, dance,mural, etc) and supported them through the creation of a new piece that combines their talents. That’s at Steinfeld Warehouse on Saturday July 20th. And of course applications are open for the 2020 Fringe Festival until Aug 31st at midnight. (info on both events at tucsonfringe.org

And LTW’s Etcetera Series submissions close on August 1st. 

 

The spotlight series is an on-going series where we spotlight local female and non-binary artists in the Tucson Community.