In the Spotlight: UA announces return to live theatre for upcoming season

Students from the university of Arizona's School of Theatre, Film & Television are finally returning to the stage for in-person performances this October.

The School of Theatre, Film & Television recently announced its 2021 & 2022 season, which will comprise four shows produced by the Arizona Repertory Theatre and two productions by the student-devised Next Performance Collective, including a brand new festival.

"Top of mind was coming back and providing performance and production opportunities for our acting & musical theatre students, our theatre students, and our design and tech productions students in an ethical and robust way," said Hank Stratton, UA assistant professor and artistic director of the Arizona Repertory Theatre. "So much has happened in the last 18 months. There's been a constellation of crises and moments that need to be answered. In the interest of equity for the entire school, I wanted to make sure there were more theatre students that were given access to main stage experiences. Giving them visibility is really important, and it's important to honor theatre-making on every level."

The season will open with two Arizona Repertory Theatre shows: "Into the Woods" by Stephen Sondheim, running from Oct. 10 to Oct. 24, and a new version of Chekhov's "Three Sisters," running from Nov. 7 to Nov. 21.

"The first show we're doing is 'Into the Woods,' which is not necessarily a new opportunity, but it seemed like a fantastical and lyrical way to invite the patrons, audience and campus back to the theatre. I feel the mix of whimsy and menace that it holds matches the moment we're in," Stratton said. "I also wanted to represent female artists in a more honest way, and Sarah Ruhl has a gorgeous adaptation of Anton Chekov's 'Three Sisters' that I had been dying to produce, and this seems like the perfect time. We have a lot of strong women right now, and I wanted to represent them."

The Next Performance Collective, a UA initiative for works by emerging playwrights, will then take the stage with "Everybody" running from Dec. 3 through Dec. 5. This show by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins examines "the meaning of life and the mystery of death" with a lottery twist.

Arizona Repertory Theatre will return with "Living Dead in Denmark," by Qui Nguyen running from Feb. 27 to March 20, 2022. This sequel to Shakespeare's "Hamlet" is part adventure, part horror set five years after the original, when the undead rise from the grave, and resurrects many of Shakespeare's great female characters.

This is followed by an Arizona Repertory Theatre performance of the rock-and-roll musical "High Fidelity" from April 10 to April 24. Based on the book by David Lindsay-Abaire, with music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Amanda Green, the show centers around a record store owner whose life takes a musical turn when he's unexpectedly dumped.

Finally, the season will conclude with the New Directions Festival from April 29 to May 1, which features a variety of original plays from UA students.

"The New Directions Festival is sort of an amalgamation of a one-act festival we did a couple of years ago," Stratton said. "It was a huge success and a gain for our students. The New Directions Festival in the spring will be curated pieces and original one-acts that are all student-generated. They will be receiving production support from our design and tech division, but the actual content is original and directed by students. We are really proud we have representative voices. It was top of mind when we were choosing our programming."

All shows will take place at the Tornabene Theatre because the UA's Marroney Theatre is undergoing renovation. The New Directions Festival will take place at the Harold Dixon Directing Studio in the Drama Building on Olive Road.

Due to the relatively unpredictable nature of COVID, safety precautions are still in the works for the upcoming season, but Stratton says they will likely align with broader University recommendations.

"With this season we look forward to amplifying under-represented voices, and to providing students across the School with an opportunity to work on a broad range of classical, contemporary and self-devised work," says TFTV director Andy Belser.

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