Spring Arts 2021: The Show Must Go On So Local Theater Troupes Get Creative

On March 13 last year, Arizona Theatre Company debuted The Legend of Georgia McBride at the Temple of Music and Art. Right after that opening night performance, the play closed down. The company has mounted no more in-person plays in Tucson or in Phoenix ever since. 

Like so many other arts groups, ATC was stopped in its tracks by COVID. But only temporarily. After a failed effort to open up in January 2021, a month when the virus surged, the company is now feeling confident that it can stage a full season starting in September.  

“We will be back!” artistic director Sean Daniels exclaims. He believes theatre fans will come roaring back once the country gets safer. “Patrons are stir-crazy. And Tucson is so supportive.”

In the meantime, Daniels and colleagues have been busy. 

“We’ve been doing digital from the beginning,” he says, creating all kinds of activities. Paid actors have been recruited to do play readings from home, just for example, and Daniels hosts a weekly podcast.    

And when March rolls around in a few weeks, ATC will launch a month’s-long virtual celebration of Tucson playwright Elaine Romero. A prolific writer whose works have been performed internationally, Romero is also a theatre professor at the UA and, for some 20 years, the playwright in residence at ATC. Her online event has been dubbed RomeroFest.

“We hope to shine a light on a great playwright,” Daniels says.

Among with panels and other sessions, ATC will stage virtual readings of two of her plays, read by respected actors from their homes nationwide. Halsted, a new autobiographical play, examines the aftereffects of a stroke that Romero’s husband suffered. 

“It’s about love and partnering,” Daniels says. “It’s the best thing she’s written.” 

The second play, Ponzi, is a comedy of manners. 

Twelve other companies around the country are also taking part in RomeroFest, staging a range of her plays. Local fans can watch all of the proceedings right here at home under various platforms. See arizonatheatre.org. for dates and instructions or call 622-2823. 

Romero will also be lauded at The Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre, a company that has spent the last year creatively performing radio plays, online streamed plays and in-person plays staged outdoors. Romero’s Title 1X, a play from her border trilogy, will stream online from March 20 to April 11.

Right now, through Feb. 27, a reading of Fly Jamerson’s Frozen Fluid is available via streaming online or in-person with social distancing. In the spring, the kids’ play From the Fishball will be streamed April 1-8. 738 N. Fifth Ave. at the Historic Y. 448-3300; scoundrelandscamp.org

Gloria Steinem, the great feminist activist and journalist, is celebrated at Invisible Theatre in Gloria: A Life. The play, featuring Cynthia Jeffery as Steinem, debuted in 2018, but playwright Emily Mann has retooled it to incorporate the election of Kamala Harris as the first female Vice President. The ensemble of six Tucson women actors, including To-Ree-Nee Wolf and Alida Holguín Gunn, enact the real-life activists who strove to make life better for women. Feb. 17-28. 

Invisible Theatre has followed all pandemic protocols, including drastically limited numbers of seats and some of the performances are already sold out. 1400 N. First Ave. at Drachman Street; 882-9721;

invisibletheatre.com  

The Rogue Theatre has tried hard to outfox the pandemic this season. To keep the infectious COVID droplets at bay, Cynthia Meier and Joseph McGrath have their actors record their lines and then perform masked, moving like dancers to the sounds of their own recorded voices. And they hired a filmmaker to videotape every show, for people who preferred to watch at home—and for every ticket holder to watch if a surging in coronavirus shut the theatre down. 

When COVID blew back in this winter, the in-person performance of The Oresteia was canceled and the audience watched the film from home. 

The Weir, a spooky Irish play by Conor McPherson, is coming right up Feb. 25 to March 14, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Meier and McGrath will be checking the COVID numbers to determine whether the show can unroll on stage, or only on video. Either way, the play, enhanced by Irish music, is a seasonal treat set in a rural Irish pub on a dark night, where a visitor from Dublin upends the locals’ stories of ghosts and fairies. 

The final play of the season is William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, a comedy featuring one of the Bard’s best characters, the marvelously clever Rosalind, who dresses as a man who pretends to be a woman. April 22 to May 9. 

A video-only Playreading Series presents Pretty Fire by Charlayne Woodward, a three-generation tale of a Black family, is available one day only on March 21. Everybody by Brenden Jacobs-Jenkins, a “riff on the ancient morality play Everyman,” is available only on May 23. 300 E University Blvd #150; theroguetheatre.org

Winding Road Theatre Ensemble moved all shows onto their YouTube channel this season. In sync with the pandemic, the next play, The Time Is Out of Joint: A Shakespeare Project, is “inspired by the Bard’s plays written during the plague times.” The piece was designed and adapted for the company by director Molly Lyons. The actors  explore the similarities between the old-time plagues and the contemporary ravages of COVID-19. On YouTube from February 26 to March 14. 402-3626; windingroadtheatre.org. 

Live Theatre Workshop moved pre-pandemic to a midtown space with a big parking lot—just in the nick of time. The company has as outdoor stage and drive-in shows for the whole family. Next up is Waiting for Doggo, about two cats who are not pleased that a dog will soon join the family, March 12 to 28. A funny musical version of The Tortoise and the Hare runs May 7 to 23. LTW hopes to return to its indoor mainstage for adults in the summer, beginning with A Life in the Theatre by the acclaimed David Mamet, June 10 to July 10. 3322 E. Fort Lowell Road. 327-4242; livetheatreworkshop.org

Broadway in Tucson has had a rough year, scheduling and rescheduling the traveling Broadway musicals they bring to the UA’s Centennial Hall each season. Local musical lovers have been worried about the fate of the mega-hit Hamilton, which was to have come to Tucson last fall. Fear not, fans. On the latest schedule, Hamilton is set for mid-November-early December 2021, exactly one year later than originally planned.

The currently planned season begins this May with Tootsie. We all know by now that schedules can change so keep an eye on broadwayintucson.com

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