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.

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.