Tucson Stages 

From women in combat to an Irish pub, Tucson’s theater scene starts bright new year

New Year. New theater.

New play. Sounds about right for the Tucson theater scene.

A plethora of productions will be "curtains up" in the next couple of weeks after the traditional holiday lull. Coming up this weekend is a production of the winner of the Tucson Alliance of Dramatic Artists' annual playwriting contest. In addition, a brand new theater is making its debut.

Sheldon Metz, the founder and artistic director of TADA, says that the play, "Women and Guns," was one of 306 entries from a number of countries in the most recent contest, and it was decided to be the one most worthy of being given a full production. Not only will New Jersey playwright Steve Gold's play be given a production--a much coveted boon for playwrights striving to be heard--but Gold will be awarded a $500 prize.

Gold's play involves the psychological effects of women serving in combat in Iraq, the first time women have been regularly involved in combat roles. Metz says, "It's a small play with a huge impact."

Metz says it is a rather daunting task to put together a team of Tucson theater folks to read all the submissions, and they are instructed to look for certain things. "It must be a full-length play and it must be socially relevant." In August, the four best were given public staged readings and the audience members were given a questionnaire to help determine the winning play. There are also "talk-backs," discussions between the actors and audience members, in which critical feedback can be considered.

This year's venture found unexpected underwriting by someone who saw the group's first production last year, Emmett—Down in My Heart by Clare Coss, and thought the group deserved some support. Metz called her "a snow-bird from Connecticut" who has power executing a family trust. "We are most grateful to the William C. and Rosella E. Bauly Donor-advised Fund for receiving their support."

In another new venture, a group comprised mostly of women have determined that Tucson is ripe for yet another theater group, so they have formed one and given it a rather unusual moniker: The Something Something Theatre.

"We didn't want to take ourselves so seriously," says Joan O'Dwyer, one of the founders. She and her daughter, Whitney Morton Woodcock and longtime Tucson theater practitioner Esther Almazon have put their heads together to establish the organization. O'Dwyer was the proprietor of the Wilde Playhouse, on Congress Street downtown, in 2003 to 2005. It was more a cabaret-type theater that served food and drinks and was just too costly to maintain, says O'Dwyer.

Their first production is Conor McPherson's "The Weir," which was first produced in 1997 and has been widely produced since then. It won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play of 1997–98, and McPherson won the Critics' Circle Award as the most promising playwright in 1998 as a result of the success of "The Weir."

According to Woodcock, the play is set in an Irish pub in which the regulars reveal stories, but with a supernatural twist. "It's about missed opportunities,' says O'Dwyer, who directs, "and lost loves and deep-rooted suspicion and fears." Adds Woodcock, "It is dark and suspenseful, but ultimately it's about making connections."

O'Dwyer says the group intends to produce two more plays this year. Woodcock thinks that since the demise of Beowulf Alley Theatre last year there is a place for the kind of theater that Something Something intends to provide. "We want to produce plays that are rarely seen here and that utilize really good actors you don't commonly see on other Tucson stages."

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