2020–21 Performing Arts Season Preview

This season will be one like no other for Valley performing arts organizations. As seasons ended abruptly across the state this spring, companies had to quickly adapt. Theaters were shuttered, employees were furloughed. Many fall seasons were reinvented while others were postponed and some, sadly, canceled entirely. Over the summer, theaters developed alternative programming — something that will continue to carry them to spring of 2021 when, hopefully, live and in-person theater can continue on a broad scale.

In the meantime, arts organizations are looking to Valley residents to help them weather the storm by subscribing to upcoming seasons, making donations if able and engaging with them on social media as they keep the ghost light burning until patrons can return. | CST


ABT’s production of Chicago

Arizona Broadway Theatre
www.azbroadway.org; 623.776.8400

“Everything is ready. The set is still there, the costumes are hanging on the racks and the talent is standing by…we can’t wait to breathe life back into this long awaited show.”

Cassandra Klaphake, artistic producer

Chicago, which closed early in March,will be the first full production to return to the ABT stage — set for January 2021. Outdoor performances and other additional interim programming are in development for the fall.

Arizona Musicfest
www.azmusicfest.org; 480.422.8449

Although its plans for a special celebratory season of performances had to be altered, Arizona Musicfest is undaunted and will kick off its 30th anniversary season in 2021 with Ray on My Mind, Jan. 12.

“Musicfest looks forward to safely reuniting our community as we celebrate our resilience and strengthen our resolve to bring the joy of music to all. Something which we believe is now more vital than ever before.”

Allan Naplan, executive and producing director

Arizona Opera
www.azopera.org; 602.266.7464

Arizona Opera is replacing its planned in-theater productions for the 2020–21 season with alternative programs that can be more safely enjoyed by a larger audience. The reimagined season will offer live, outdoor, socially distanced performances, combined with a collection of digital offerings. Programming kicks off Oct. 2 with its Studio Spotlight Series. On the horizon, the film adaptation of The Copper Queen, set in 1910 Bisbee, this is Arizona Opera’s second world premiere commission and its first foray into sharing the art form more broadly through a streamed, motion picture format.

Arizona Theatre Company
www.arizonatheatre.org; 602.256.6995

ATC has designed a diverse, multi-layered approach to the season, with imaginative ways to stay connected with and entertain audiences, leading to a safe return to Mainstage productions in January 2021. ATC kicks off the first half of its season with digital programming beginning in September with Slow Food, Somewhere Over The Border, Covenant, The Realness and more. The six show mainstage productions will run through November 2021: My 80 Year Old Boyfriend; Pru Payne; Nina Simone: Four Women; Women in Jeopardy!; how to make an American Son; and The Legend of Georgia McBride.

Company, The Band’s Visit North American Tour. Photo: Matthew Murphy

ASU Gammage
www.asugammage.com; 480.965.3434

ASU Gammage will present digital performance programming in September and October in preparation for a return to live, in-person theater in 2021.

Feb. 9–14: My Fair Lady
March 16–21: Tootsie
April 8–25: Disney’s Frozen
May 21–23: Jersey Boys
June 8–13: To Kill a Mockingbird
July 20–25: The Band’s Visit
Aug. 31 – Sept. 5: Mean Girls

Ballet Arizona
www.balletaz.org; 602.381.1096

“We are counting on our return to Desert Botanical Garden in May 2021 to present the much-anticipated world premiere of The Four Seasons.”

Samantha Turner, executive director

The company announced a departure from its previously planned 35th anniversary fall season of main-stage performances. A more digitally focused season is planned, including Inspire, a mixed-rep production scheduled for late October, and Nutcracker Suite, a re-imagined virtual version of the holiday classic set to air in mid-December.

Black Nativity 2019; Photo: Laura Durant

Black Theatre Troupe
www.blacktheatretroupe.org; 602.258.8129

“In 1970 the Black Theatre Troupe was born as a result of the same energy that is sweeping across the nation today. We have always been here to give voice to the Black experience. And we will continue to do so.”

David Hemphill, executive director

The Black Theatre Troupe’s 2020–21 season, Telling Our Stories, will mark the 50th year the company has celebrated and illuminated the Black experience. The season will include Sistas: The Musical, Sunset Baby, Black Nativity, A Soldier’s Play and Ain’t Misbehavin’.

Childsplay
www.childsplayaz.org; 480.921.5700

Childsplay is currently offering classes for ages 4–15 with professional theater artists crafting engaging, participatory and dynamic online drama instruction. The organization also creates fun family activities and creative projects to try online every week. También en español.

Desert Foothills Theater
www.dftheater.org; 480.488.1981

DFT will kick off the season at the Holland Community Center with its production of Disney’s The Lion King, Jr., Sept. 18–27. Keep an eye on the website for exciting fall season announcements.

Don Bluth Front Row Theater
www.donbluthfrontrowtheatre.com; 480.314.0841

Jan. 14 – Feb. 27: Drinking Habits
March 11 – April 24: Sleuth
May 13 – June 26: The Curious Savage
Sept./Oct.: Camelot
Nov./Dec.: It’s A Wonderful Life

Herberger Theater Center
www.herbergertheater.org
602.252.8497

Herberger Theater Center is home to six resident companies — Arizona Broadway Theatre, Arizona Opera, Arizona Theatre Company, Center Dance Ensemble, Childsplay Theatre and iTheatre Collaborative — and hosts other local and touring companies, arts education and outreach programs and its Art Gallery. Herberger plans to once again celebrate the arts in the community at its Festival of the Arts, Nov. 7. This year, a hybrid festival, re-imagined with live performances on an outdoor stage, virtual performances, artist demonstrations and vendor market.

Musical Instrument Museum
www.mim.org; 480.478.6000

Dustbowl Revival; Photo: Shervin Lainez

The MIM reopened to the public in August with new safety precautions in place. While live concerts have not yet resumed, look for acts such as Dustbowl Revival when the concert hall reopens.

In addition, September is Educator Appreciation Month at MIM. Prekindergarten through 12th-grade educators, school and district administrators, principals, registered student teachers and homeschool educators will receive free general museum admission.

Junie B. Jones; Photo: Michele Celentano

Musical Theatre of Anthem
www.musicaltheatreofanthem.org; 623.336.6001

Sept. 17–20: Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, Jr.
Nov. 12–15: Junie B. Jones, Jr.
Dec. 3–6: Our Town
March 25–28: Disney’s Aladdin Kids
April 8–18: Godspell
April 29 – May 8: 13
June 17–19: School House Rock Live, Jr.

North Valley Symphony Orchestra
www.northvalleysymphony.org; 623.980.4628

NVSO is considering a variety of creative options for the fall season. The organization says it looks forward to sharing that information soon, but, in the meantime, hopes to engage with audiences through its social media platforms.

Phoenix Chorale
www.phoenixchorale.org; 602.253.2224

The Chorale’s April 2020 concert, Birth & Rebirth, was postponed March 18. Now, the concert is expected to open the 2020–21 season, Oct. 16–18. Keep an eye on the website for additional season announcements.

Phoenix Symphony
www.phoenixsymphony.org; 602.495.1999

“As stewards of this historic and beloved institution, our mission and responsibility centers on preserving our future and reuniting in Symphony Hall to celebrate our 75th Anniversary in the fall of 2021.”

Suzanne Wilson, president and CEO

In mid-August, the Symphony announced the cancellation of its 2020–21 season.

ProMusica Arizona Chorale and Orchestra
www.pmaz.org; 623.326.5172

Enjoy a livestreamed and in-person concert, “A Musical Kaleidoscope,” featuring musical talent in small ensembles and solo performances, Nov. 8. Also, kicking off in September, weekly online choral and instrumental instruction will be available.

Rising Youth Theatre
www.risingyouththeatre.org

The theater assures audiences that “Creativity is not canceled!” Visit their website to check out the “virtual learning space” for K–12 learners. Click “Resources.”

Kalli Sparish & Haydehn Tuipulotu in the 2019 production of A Vampire Tale; Photo: Angel Castro

Scorpius Dance Theatre
www.scorpiusdance.com; 602.254.2151

Celebrating 20 years in the Valley, Scorpius Dance Theatre combines the motifs of humor, drama and both organic and technical movement to form a very distinct brand of dance theater and aerial arts.

Artist Seth Rudetsky in Times Square

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org; 480.499.8587

“All we have to offer this season will help you reconnect to your life and your community.”

Abbey Messmer, programming director

The Center has curated an exciting 2020–21 season — it will be a season of reconnecting, of meeting friends for a performance and connecting to celebrated artists, local creatives, fan favorites and new discoveries. Noteworthy performances are Marc Cohn, Broadway stars in The Seth Rudetsky Concert Series, Mavis Staples, Gil Shaham, KODO, René Marie Quintet and Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, to name a few

Southwest Shakespeare Company 
www.swshakespeare.org; 480.435.6868

Southwest Shakespeare Company’s 27th season kickoff dates have not been announced yet, but the company has an excellent line-up of both contemporary and timeless classics coming to audiences soon.

Becoming Othello: A Black Girls Journey
Mabel Madness
All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain
Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
An Iliad
The Tempest
Manahatta

The Phoenix Theatre Company
www.phoenixtheatre.com; 602.254.2151

“To deliver you the best season we can, we are actively preparing for a combination of outdoor live shows and original streaming content featuring local artists. We anticipate announcing shows in October. At that time you would be able to choose your package and select your seats. Once we can be assured of the safety of our audiences, artists, and staff we will be ready to resume indoor programming on our stages —currently scheduled for Summer 2021.”

—phoenixtheatre.com

Theatre Artists Studio
www.thestudiophx.org; 602.765.0120

Current offerings include “EarPlays,” re-imagined vintage radio productions in a variety of genres recorded on stage at Theatre Artists Studio and featuring its artistic members. Coming soon: original “radio plays” from the Studio playwrights, presented via podcast.

Valley Youth Theatre
www.vyt.com; 602.253.8188

Dec. 4–23: A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail
Feb. 5–21: Sleeping Beauty
April 2–18: Junie B. Jones — The Musical
June 11–27: Peter Pan


To further support the arts in Arizona, and the spaces in which they take place, learn about the National Independent Venue Association’s efforts to #SAVEOURSTAGES at saveourstages.com.

NOTE: All performance dates included in the September 2020 print issue were current at publication time. Information has been updated here, but dates/shows are subject to change. For updated information on shows and ticketing, visit the organization’s website.

Hear more from Arizona Theatre Company and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts in our September North Valley cover story; and from Desert Foothills Theater in our September Carefree/Cave Creek cover story.

Desert Foothills Theater Roars Back to the Stage

By Kathryn M. Miller

Actors see the world in a different way. That is according to Terry Temple, managing director of Desert Foothills Theater (DFT) since December 2019.

The heart of the theater, actors “march to the beat of a different drummer and they have a particular need, I have found, for like-minded people to be able to be expressive and creative, bounce things off of, and be accepted,” he said.

As he and his team were gearing up for DFT’s upcoming season, Temple shared his thoughts on what theater means to actors, to him personally and to a community in general — and what it means to be without it.

Like other Arizona performing arts organizations, DFT had to cut its 2019–20 season short. They closed in February, during production of Honk, Jr., “And we were in full production for two subsequent shows,” shared Temple. “We had to shut down very close to opening of Steel Magnolias and just after we had started rehearsals for Godspell.”

With theaters closed, the DFT team sat down to map out their next move. The upcoming season had to be reimagined. And what about all of those young actors who were now home from school, too?

“Theater is a place where kids get to learn interdependence, learn responsibility, learn public speaking, confidence in front of others,” Temple shared. “The reason I found theater was because it just allowed me to get comfortable being in front of people and being myself and discovering myself. It is just an essential…”

Beyond what theater does for the actors, though, is the connection that is made with the audience Temple said.

“They desire that momentary escape, and a good story, something that they can invest [in] and relate to.”

He added that the community plays an integral role in the health of local theater and expressed that DFT’s community has been fantastically supportive over the years.

“Communities need theater and theaters need communities. We do as much for the community as the community does for us.”

What DFT did for the community over the summer months was to provide a creative outlet for area children. A number of parents contacted the theater looking for ways to keep their children engaged.

“We heard that term several times, ‘Our kids are sliding back,’ that they’re missing their friends, that they are spending way too much time in front of the screens when they’re not in school, in front of the screen,” Temple related. “They are doing their social activities in front of a screen even, talking to friends or online gaming. And they just said, ‘It’s time.’”

So, DFT created smaller, more safely manageable summer camp programs for children. They “dipped their toes in” and it was a huge success.

“And that’s kind of what propelled us to start looking at our new season and say it’s time to come out of the cave, as it were, and just look at how we can do traditional shows but under the umbrella of the COVID restrictions.”

DFT will kick off its fall season at the Holland Community Center with The Lion King, Jr., Sept. 18–27.

“The shows that we are going to be producing this year are going to be high quality,” Temple said. “We are not dropping the quality of the shows, COVID is not going to affect us at all that way. The only thing it is going to do is affect our audience size.”

Expressing his hope for the community to be a part of that audience, he concluded, “We are going to keep them safe and keep them distanced. But we hope that they will take a little bit of a chance and come out and see live theater again.” |CST

Learn more: 480.488.1981; dftheater.org

The Performing Arts vs. The Pandemic: A Story in Three Acts

By Kathryn M. Miller

Act 1: The Villain Enters

In March, Valley theaters were in peak performance mode. Venues were full and residents were enjoying the remarkable variety of live entertainment that the Greater Phoenix area has to offer. And then, like an off-cue villain in a play, a pandemic made an untimely appearance on stage, stealing the spotlight and wreaking havoc on the scenery.

Theaters were shuttered, as were local music venues — live, in-person performance came to a standstill.

For Arizona Theatre Company (ATC), the last in-person performance was The Legend of Georgia McBride, “We opened and closed on March 13,” recalled Sean Daniels, artistic director at ATC.

ATC’s The Legend of Georgia McBride will close its 2020-21 season.

Arizona hunkered down and waited…and wondered. Would these beloved institutions be able to weather the storm?

Act 2: A Gauntlet is Thrown

“I think like everybody, this has been a challenging moment,” Daniels said. “The thing that we are hearing nationwide is that 40 percent of our not-for-profits are not going to survive this moment. So, that’s the bad news.”

Like other arts organizations, ATC had to get creative over the summer months and find ways to not only create art that will keep audiences engaged, but to keep the company viable. A safe return, especially for those whose livelihoods depend on the theater, was continually in the back of Daniels’ mind.

“I always want those people to know that we are doing everything that we can to make sure that the organization goes forward and that it is still here when they come back. The worst thing in all of this would be, it’s over in six to seven months and everybody returns, and the cultural landscape is gone.”

Daniels’ concerns are shared. According to an August Brookings report, the creative economy is one of the sectors most at risk from the COVID-19 crisis. Arts, culture and creativity are one of three key sectors that drive regional economies, and “Any lasting damage to the creative sector will drastically undercut our culture, well-being, and quality of life.”

In fact, Arizona’s arts and culture industries contribute $9.3 billion to the state’s economy, employing 91,878 Arizonans who earn a combined total of $4.9 billion annually.

So, as September rolls in, where do arts organizations stand?

Act 3: Undaunted, A Season Awaits

“The good news is that we have really used this moment to try to pivot to digital and to really try to refortify a healthy organization,” Daniels shared.

Abbey Messmer, programming director at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts feels the same, “We are really grateful as an organization to be intact after five months of completely shutting down our venue, but behind the scenes we’ve all been really active. We’ve managed to adapt in a lot of ways…and certainly that means staying connected.”

Now, six months after they were closed, theaters will crack the doors open ever so slightly. While most will wait until 2021 to resume in-person performances, some venues and organizations have created ways and spaces for people to gather in a safer manner. Others are creating digital programming that will allow them to continue to engage and connect with even broader audiences until they can once again throw the doors wide open.

The Center will kick off its season of live, in-person performances Sept. 26 with Jazz con Alma, part of its Jazz Lounge series.

“We are starting off with local, and I think it is important to activate our community who has been out of work,” added Messmer. “We’re kind of easing back into the season.”

ATC will begin its season with a full line-up of digital programming and, coming full circle, it will close its 2020–21 season with The Legend of Georgia McBride.

Like so many arts organizations, Daniels feels that ATC will come out of 2020 stronger for having faced the challenges presented, but they won’t be able to do it alone.

“We are going to make it through this, but we need the support of the community to be able to do it.” |CST

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