Joan O'Dwyer
If you haven't noticed, there is a lot going on at 135 E. Congress St; that's the home of Joan O'Dwyer's Wilde Playhouse. Just shy of her 60th birthday, O'Dwyer created Wilde, which celebrated its first play in May 2002. That was before she bought the space on Congress and turned Wilde into a for-profit business featuring regular plays, a restaurant, an open-mic night and countless other events (although Wilde still has a nonprofit arm, with a mission to bring theater to kids). O'Dwyer, a Pittsburgh native, has lived in Tucson for almost a decade, and is a former bookkeeper and newspaper person who has also worked with farmworkers and homeless women. She earned a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the UA in 1999, and got her master's in Ireland in 2001. Oh, and one more thing: Despite O'Dwyer's gargantuan efforts, Wilde is struggling. GO SUPPORT IT!

You're celebrating a lot of milestones right now. How do you feel?

I am happy to be alive. Tucson is awesome. I lived in California for almost 25 years, and it was so icky there. It's overpriced (and) smoggy; there are too many people and too much crime; you never see the sun. I am very happy here. I live over by Catalina Highway and Tanque Verde (Road), and there are coyotes and rabbits in my front yard. I love it.

Why did you decide to start a playhouse?

I really love plays. I was going three times a week--(to) some (plays) over and over again. For some reason, I really like actors; I don't know why. I just love the whole process. I watch the play in rehearsal, and (during) the play's five-week run, I am at each and every performance. I just love it. Each play (performance) is different; it's not like a movie. If I saw a movie 15 or 16 times, I'd go mad. It's just so lovely! Every six weeks, we get a new play.

It's no secret that Wilde has been struggling, like with the restaurant closing down for a while. What are you doing to overcome the struggles?

We just applied to the Star; they have a section called "businesses in trouble," or something like that. ... They'd hook us up with a professional business consultant, and see what's going wrong. Our accountant and I came up with a business plan; I don't know why we're losing so much. She just had to quit. ... I can understand. I've been thinking about it myself.

Really? There's a chance Wilde might not be here much longer?

Yeah, there is. I am not made of money; it can't go on and on. I've already dipped into my IRA. I'll probably have to take some more out pretty soon. I've put $1 million into this already. I wanted it to be first-class, top-notch. ...

That's sad.

The other thing is ... I tried to get help when we were still a nonprofit from Rio Nuevo. From what I understand, (Rio Nuevo is) getting $500,000 each month for 10 years or so; they should be putting some of that into businesses already around. I went down there, and they said, "We don't need a theater on Congress Street. We have the Loft and the Rialto." They didn't even realize we're a different kind of theater. The mayor's never been here. None of the City Council people have. I've sent invitations and free tickets; they've never come in. They don't care.

Well, if you had a chance to tell the politicians and other Tucsonans anything you wanted, what would you say?

I would say: Just come here. It's really cool, even if (you just come) one time. We do lots of free things. There's Irish night, open-mic night, the Odyssey Storytelling series, the Theatre Lunchbox (featuring short plays during lunch). Just go to the Web site (www.wildeplayhouse.com) and see that we have lots of cool things. ... On Saturdays, like Live Theatre Workshop, we're going to start plays for children, and we're going to have classes for children.

Tell me about the Irish aspect of the theater.

There are at least 18 Celtic organizations here. Tucson was founded by an Irishman, Hugo O'Connor. We'd like to strike up a thing with our sister city ... Roscommon County, Ireland. We got in touch with them, and we were going to exchange plays. ... But they didn't have enough money last year, and we don't this year. In Ireland, people really appreciate plays and poetry. It's a common thing over there. They say, "Did you see the latest play?" I wanted to generate that kind of interest in plays. That's why I put the stage in the middle, here; it's more intimate. People can sit around and be really close to the actors.

You clearly enjoy this so much.

I just love being here. I spent a lot of my time down here. If we had to close ... I would just miss it so much.