When I began my phone conversation with Bryan Falcón, artistic director of a new theater soon to open here, I was very direct.
"So, why the hell do you think we need another theater company in Tucson?"
He laughed. (Good sign. Didn't offend him too much. At least he didn't hang up. He could probably hear a bit of jest in my voice. Heaven knows what he was thinking.)
"Oh, we asked ourselves that a lot as we were looking at pursuing this venture."
(OK, I think. Glad to hear it's not totally a Mickey and Judy "let's-put-on-a-show" kind of idea.)
As we continued our conversation, it was clear this was most assuredly not a Mickey and Judy thing.
Now, how I came to be speaking to Falcón in the first place was because I noticed in actor/director/writer Christopher Johnson's bio in the program for A House of Pomegranates, Rogue's recent summer hit, there was mentioned that his new adaptation of The Yellow Wallpaper would see a full production this fall at Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre. Well, there's no Scoundrel and Scamp in Tucson, I thought. I'm pretty sure about that, since I am paid so handsomely (a-hem) to keep my finger on the pulse of theater in our fair city. Maybe he had entered his show it in a contest and won a full production somewhere outside Tucson.
Yet, "scoundrel" and "scamp" sounded a bit, well, Rogue-ish, to me.
I tracked down Johnson, whose work I have watched and appreciated over the years. He's a Rogue company member and is currently its general manager.
"Good catch," he said when I inquired about his bio info and told him the theater's name sounded Rogue-ish.
He confirmed that there was indeed a Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre on the Tucson horizon. Well, it already existed, paperwork-wise, anyway. Productions would begin this fall, he said. He said there was a website already on line. So, there I went.
I found a handsomely laid out display of upcoming plays and schedules and photos of artists—the whole enchilada. This theater was making a grand entrance in the manner of Athena springing fully grown from Zeus' head.
From there I was lead to Bryan Falcón.
The "venture" Falcón referred to in our conversation noted above would indeed be the Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre, which will open this October with plans to present three different series of shows as well as a rather extensive schedule of theater classes.
Knowing how a ready-to-go theater space is quite limited in Tucson, I wondered, where?
In a newly totally renovated space at the Historic Y that has housed ZUZI! Dance company for years.
Right next door to the Rogue.
Hmm. I can feel your wheels turning. Mine sure were.
According to Falcón, Scoundrel and Scamp is its own entity, although he says they and the Rogue are sister theaters and do hope to share some resources, like box office duties. Falcón, who has an MFA in directing, has directed several plays for Rogue. Rogue company members Holly Griffith and Johnson are listed as artistic associates at Scoundrel and Scamp. And he pointed out that the two theaters are "similar in their approach to theater, finding exciting ideas, theater with a strong focus on language . . . how stories can happen and what purpose should theater serve to an audience."
And Tucson needed another theater like the Rogue? asked still skeptical me. Falcón told me a bit more of the story.
Falcón and his wife, Elizabeth, who will serve as managing director of the company, first visited Tucson about eight years ago when she was considering pursuing an MFA in poetry at the UofA. "We hiked and went to plays, fell in love [with Tucson] and bought a house."
He was the co-founder and CEO of Haiku Learning, "a K12 Learning Platform for school and districts looking to extend their classroom onto the web."
Interesting. Go on.
"Over 10 years our team built our platform into an award-winning learning platform used by over 5 million users world-wide.
Impressive. More please.
"Last year we sold the company to one of our partners, PowerSchool, who at 100 Million users, is the largest user community in K-12 education technology."
He said that that he and his wife were "deeply shaken" by political events of the last year. "People didn't know how to talk with each other about our differences." They feel that the arts are a way to help facilitate that.
No argument from me. He said he and his wife wanted to invest in the community.
"Initially we saw an opportunity when ZUZI! said they were not really interested in running or taking care of the space anymore. After looking at the space, we thought, 'There's a lot of possibility here.'"
But the building needed a lot of work. The Falcón's had found a big way to invest in the community.
Essentially, the space is being totally renovated. Demolition began in July and, when finished, it will feature a totally re-imagined main theater that will seat 150 (in real seats, not church pews); a black box type space that will seat 25-30; re-designed lobby and ticketing area and completely new restrooms.
Wow. And the space will be available for rental to other performing groups. ZUZI! will be a sub-tenant, but will no longer manage the space.
Now, I know for sure that Tucson needs a good, small theater facility. Perhaps we might accommodate another theater, space-wise, anyway.
Of course, Scoundrel and Scamp is more than just a renovated theater. Falcón is optimistic that their location and programming are key to what they can bring to the table. They especially will focus on building a new generation of theater goers.
Lord knows, that is sorely needed.
When we ended our phone conversation, generally encouraged by what this new theater seems to be all about, I just couldn't let it be. Falcón had said something about the theater having a "dark aesthetic," which sounded like theater buzz kill to me. So, I continued to pester him, this time by email, particularly to address this "dark aesthetic" thing. He answered this way:
"We do not shy away from beautiful and challenging material, both in tone and idea. We acknowledge that the world we live in can be grim, but as artists we work to capture the beauty in every story, no matter the content. This season features Victorian horror, mystical Appalachian spirits, Salome dancing for the head of John the Baptist and survivors of an apocalyptic event finding solace in the lost tales of the Simpsons. Dark and beautiful fare, all."
There you have it. They almost—almost—have me convinced. Bring it on. I'll be there, and I for-real wish them well.
The group is poised to begin a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the renovation and support for their work. Info can be found on their website: www.scoundrelandscamp.org.