So here we are, plopped into another year. Resolutions might have been made, only to be now stretched thin, lingering only as ghosts of their former selves. Oh well.
There are some among us that have made resolutions and will keep them come hell or high water. Who you ask?
Tucson theaters, that’s who. And they have dangled the prospects of some quick-witted, thoughtful, intriguing, probing or purely comic action to fan the flames of fandom.
Several theaters have already begun fulfilling their promises. Winding Road Theater Company is starting their year off with Stupid F#!* Bird!, Aaron Posner’s contemporary take on Chekhov’s classic The Sea Gull. It runs through Feb. 17. And this sounds intriguing. Later in the spring, April 24 through May 5, they are bringing us an unusual event they call 8 Tens in Tucson. Modeled after the 8 Tens @ 8 Festival in Santa Cruz, CA, eight ten-minute scripts from playwrights across the country will be pulled together and presented in a single evening. WRTE says they will include a script from an Arizona playwright and an under-18 writer as well. Sounds like a recipe for a tasty, juicy and delightfully messy evening of theater. You go guys!
The Invisible Theatre is presenting Dancing Lessons through Feb. 17, and it’s billed as a “romantic comedy filled with heart and humanity.” Next up is maybe not so much a play as an experience. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit will be performed only four times, Feb. 21 through Feb. 23. There is a different actor every evening, and that actor has not seen the script. Wait - what? Yep, that’s what they say. Sounds like a potential “Wow!” event. IT’s final show of the season is Susan Miller’s 20th Century Blues, about women, aging and friendship.
The Rogue Theatre has already completed the run of a pretty durn delightful Much Ado About Nothing, and next up is The Secret is in the Wings, by Mary Zimmerman. It’s subtitled “A Fairy Tale Show,” and it sounds like a really fascinating play, although hard to describe. It challenges the idea that “character”- the “seamless link of incident and inner life,” as one reviewer described it - is a modern, Western idea, and there are other options for creating good theater. Cynthia Meier directs, so we can feel sure that she will help illuminate the piece for us. Rogue’s season closes with Arthur Miller’s powerful The Crucible. It was Miller’s response to McCathy era paranoia explored in a re-telling of the Salem witch trials. It runs April 5 - May 12.
It’s hard to beat Live Theatre Workshop’s ticket prices for often excellent shows. Through Feb. 16 is the talented Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss, followed by Pulitzer Prize-winning Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still. After that, April 4 - May 11, comes musical entertainment sure to appeal to a host of folks. That would be Always . . .Patsy Cline. We can look forward to being wowed by Amanda Gremel in the title role. We don’t get to see her enough on LTW’s main stage.
Scoundrel and Scamp continues to establish itself as a worthy new presence on the theater scene, and has already brought us two shows in the new year. Next up is Every Brilliant Thing. If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because, due to one of those quirky scheduling things, Live Theatre Workshop produced a version last fall. This is a completely different rendering, and with a twist. Although the show was conceived as the story of a boy with a very depressed and suicidal mother, S&S is showing us the story through the eyes of a girl. It runs through Feb. 24. Then comes a rare chance to witness Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding March 28 - April 14, followed by Quietly, by Owen McCafferty, May 16 -June 2.
Arizona Theatre Company has two shows remaining in their season, and both sound powerful, but in different ways. March 3 - 30 brings us American Mariachi, about girls who dared to think they might be good at this kind of music. Set in the ’70’s, which wasn’t friendly to such aspirations, their break with tradition and the music they play transforms their family. The final play of the season, Things I Know to Be True, is a joint venture with Milwaukee Rep. It’s billed as a “gripping new play...both profoundly moving and brutally frank.” And ATC is sneaking in a weekend run of With Love, Marilyn, a one-woman show with Erin Sullivan as the legendary Marilyn Monroe. Broadway World says that “Sullivan bubbles and sparkles like vintage champagne.” It’s only this weekend, February 14 -17.
The gang over at Arizona Repertory Theatre at the UofA usually churns out some really good shows. Top Girls, by Caryl Churchill runs through Feb. 24, and Shakespeare’s bloody Richard III runs March 11 - 21. Perhaps the most exciting show will be their last of the season, Spring Awakening, April 7 - 28. It’s based on Frank Wedekind’s German play first produced in 1906, a show that produced quite a stir. It’s subtitle, “A Children’s Tragedy,” gives us a clue why. The play blasted the sexually repressed attitudes of 19th century Germany, and dramatized erotic fantasies. With music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater, the rock musical version opened on Broadway in late 2006. The show won eight Tony Awards, including best musical, and four Drama Desk Awards. This is a must-see.
Broadway in Tucson has two shows left in their series of touring musicals. Fiddler on the Roof runs April 9-14. Then—hold on—here comes that ever popular Andrew Lloyd Webber world-wide super-mega hit, Cats. Theater snobs can make fun of it all you want, but Webber hit a sweet spot with this one. Based on T. S. Eliots’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (Possum was Eliot’s nickname) published in 1939, Cats, the musical, was born in 1981 and has been running somewhere in the world ever since. In 2014, with a bit of tweaking, it re-opened in London.
(Challenge for Cats fans: Q. Name one of those tweaks. A. The original London production’s version of “Mungojerrie” and “Rumpleteazer” is slower (in 12/8 time) and has a more jazzy sound, while the more common, newer version is faster and more upbeat (4/4 time, with the middle verse in 7/8 time). Ha! And you thought you knew everything about the world’s favorite musical!)
Something Something Theatre was founded in 2015. Part of their mission is to provide a stage for women playwrights, who are under-represented in most theaters. The Hall of Final Ruin runs Feb. 22-March 10. It’s a world premiere about a woman in 19th century Santa Fe who “wants to orchestrate a good death for herself.” Then from April 25 - May 12 is Switzerland, about author and recluse Patricia Highsmith, who’s being pressured by her publisher to write another sequel to The Talented Mr. Ripley. One reviewer noted that Phyllis Logan, the actress who played Highsmith in a production in Bath, England, “transforms herself into a bilious solitary who finds ease only in writing and who instinctively identifies with killers.” Whoa! All-righty, then.
Borderlands Theater is undergoing some serious evolution, and associate artistic director and playwright Milta Ortiz reports she’s just finished a play focusing on the stories of girls in the Arizona foster care system. Production dates have not been set.
There are a couple of community theaters that offer theater-goers opportunities to see popular plays. Through Feb. 24th, the Community Players are presenting Church Basement Ladies. Roadrunner Theatre on Tanque Verde has just closed a successful production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and has five plays on their menu into August, the next being the thriller Sleuth, which opens Feb.15 and runs through March 10. Oh, and St. Francis in the Foothills Theatre brings us the slightly risqué comedy Calendar Girls, March 8 - 24.
We can’t overlook the Gaslight Theatre, whose year-round musical antics and corny jokes always bring out the laughs and groans in adoring audiences. And don’t forget the new Gaslight Music Hall in Oro Valley. Their offerings are quite a bit different than the original entity, but they are presenting Menopause: The Musical March19 - April 4.
All of these theaters have websites that can give you more info about themselves and their shows. And you can even buy tickets right there online. Now, shoo, folks. Plan your visits and get out there!