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’.

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

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

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

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.”


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.

Hone Skills From Home: Choral and Instrumental Classes Offered

ProMusica Arizona is offering weekly classes on choral singing techniques beginning Monday, Sept. 7, 7–9pm, and instrumental playing techniques beginning Tuesday, Sept. 8, from 7–9pm. Participants will receive professional instruction from Patti Graetz, artistic director/principal conductor, and Meghan Ruel, concertmaster.

Both the choral and instrumental classes will be offered online via private Facebook groups, and the sessions will be recorded so participants can go back to review them later. The choral class will also be open to in-person participation for a limited number of singers. State-mandated social distancing and other COVID-related precautions will be followed.

In-person classes will be held at Crosswinds Presbyterian Church in North Phoenix. The $45 registration fee covers all class sessions online or in-person.

Online content is new to ProMusica Arizona and other arts organizations this year as they respond to research indicating peoples’ desire to stay connected to arts and culture during the pandemic.

According to Graetz, “With restrictions on gathering for rehearsals and concerts, our members were telling us that they were missing the opportunity to sing and play their instruments. So, in order to take advantage of this unique time in our lives, we decided to offer practical classes on Monday and Tuesday evenings. By offering classes online, we are able to open them up to anyone interested in participating. In fact, we have musicians as far away as Australia who want to join in.”

The six-week choral class will feature instruction on vocal technique focusing on the actual mechanics of breath, body and voice; choral technique for singing pure vowels, matching vowels of other singers, intonation, diction and blend; music note reading and rhythm; and sight-singing and aural skills.

The four-week instrumental class will focus on strings, but the principal techniques will also apply to woodwind instruments. Instruction will begin with a session on scale technique followed by the second session on phrasing, dynamics and vibrato. The third session will teach participants how to prepare orchestra excerpts focusing on rhythm, intonation and articulation in preparation for a masterclass in the final session, which will feature performances and discussion of excerpts.

To register for the choral and instrumental techniques classes, go to pmaz.org or call 623.326.5172. Limited in-person registrations for the choral class will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Online participation will require a Facebook profile. Questions can be directed to Graetz at pgraetz@pmaz.org for the choral class and Ruel at meghan.ruel@gmail.com for the instrumental class.

Doing Business in Our CST Community: ProMusica Arizona

ProMusica Arizona’s executive director, Yvonne Dolby, shared a bit about the organization and what makes it unique in our community.  — Kathryn M. Miller, editor-in-chief

Mission Statement: ProMusica Arizona enriches lives in the Greater Phoenix area, with focus on the North Valley, through innovative, joint performances of its multigenerational Chorale and Orchestra.

How long have you been in business? Since 2003

Describe your business. What makes it unique? The 2019–20 season marked ProMusica Arizona’s 17th performance year. The Chorale and Orchestra perform a wide variety of repertoire from classical to popular, including major works and concert versions of musicals. Performances often include visual elements, soloists and actors to enhance the concert experience. The multigenerational Chorale and Orchestra consists of volunteer community members, supplemented with professional performers, as needed. Community musicians perform alongside professionals in concerts throughout the season.
ProMusica Arizona’s commitment to participatory community music is built on an inclusive policy of attracting musicians in every age group and providing a challenging but supportive environment to develop talent. Participation offers members an opportunity to practice with others, perform before a live audience, and receive mentoring and instruction from experienced singers and instrumentalists.
Since its founding in 2003, ProMusica Arizona has become a leader in bringing live music to audiences in the Phoenix area. With almost 100 singers and instrumentalists ranging in age from mid-teens to early-80s, the group has performed over 250 times for more than 125,000 people in venues across the Valley.

Innovation and variety characterize the group’s history. Some highlights include:

  • Concert versions of Sweeney Todd, South Pacific, Pirates of Penzance, and Trial by Jury.
  • In 2013, ProMusica Arizona performers were joined on stage by Elizabeth Pitcairn and her famous instrument, the 1720 Stradivarius Violin which served as inspiration for the Academy Award-winning movie, The Red Violin.
  • In 2015, ProMusica Arizona won a prestigious Art Tank Award from the Arizona Commission on the Arts for its innovative concert, The Unpredictable Adventures of Henry Hicklebee. Combining music and technology, the production engaged audiences through cell phone texting to determine the course of the show.
  • In 2014 and 2018, ProMusica Arizona musicians performed the internationally renowned Video Games Live™ for Phoenix audiences. The immersive concert experience was produced and hosted by game-industry star Tommy Tallarico. It featured music from popular video games, synchronized video footage, lighting displays, electronic percussion and on-stage audience interactive segments. The three performances introduced thousands of children and adult video game fans to orchestral music.
  • In a 2016 tribute to Broadway musicals and jazz, the ProMusica Arizona Chorale and Orchestra performed with Dennis Rowland, jazz vocalist and voice of the Count Basie Orchestra for many years.
  • ProMusica Arizona musicians have proudly provided music to honor veterans on special occasions at the Anthem Veterans Memorial including a performance in 2016 for the Memorial’s fifth anniversary attended by 6,200 people.
  • In 2017, ProMusica Arizona commissioned and presented the world premiere of Dr. Timothy Powell’s composition, A World Without Boundaries as part of the concert, Discover: The Spirit of American Explorers, a tribute to American explorers.
  • ProMusica Arizona singers concluded the 2016–17 and 2017–18 seasons with a full house at Carnegie Hall in New York City along with other exclusive invitees from around the country.
  • Led by ProMusica Arizona’s artistic director/principal conductor, Patti Graetz, ProMusica Arizona singers traveled to Ireland to tour and sing in cathedrals throughout the country in June of 2019.

ProMusica Arizona’s vocal ensemble, Women in Song, has been in growing demand over the past few seasons. The group consists of singers who are members of the ProMusica Arizona Chorale. This talented ensemble includes an accompanist and 16 singers, many with music degrees and professional singing experience. Members of the ensemble are chosen through an audition process and are directed by Graetz. Women in Song share the joy of music through numerous performances and outreach events at senior living facilities, community and special events, private events, and other occasions. With support from a City of Glendale arts grant, the group proudly brought free performances to Glendale senior living communities, the Glendale Library, and the Glendale Adult Center during the 2017–18 season. The City of Peoria awarded Women in Song a grant for the 2019–20 season to entertain at senior living communities and public libraries.
In addition to providing a performance home for local talent, ProMusica Arizona brings live music at affordable ticket prices to audiences of all ages. Children 15 and under are given free tickets to concerts when accompanied by an adult, and students 16–22 years old are offered free rush tickets 15 minutes prior to performances based on seating availability. Seniors 65 years and older, active and retired military servicemen and women, and groups of 10 or more are given discounted tickets.
ProMusica Arizona Chorale & Orchestra is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and has achieved resounding success due to the dedication of its members, outstanding volunteers and superb community support. ProMusica Arizona is a proud member of Chorus America, League of American Orchestras, Anthem Area Chamber of Commerce, and West Valley Arts Council.

The impact of COVID-19: ProMusica Arizona canceled the April concert, “Latin Spice,” and the May concert, “Baroque to Bluegrass.” The cancellations have resulted in lost ticket revenue as well as expenses incurred that cannot be recouped. In addition, the contract musicians have been impacted by loss of income. Both professional and volunteer singers and instrumentalists are missing opportunities to practice together and perform for our appreciative audiences.
Donations can be made through the ProMusica Arizona website at pmaz.org (click on the “Support” tab). Community members can sign up for email blasts through the website to enjoy music performances by ProMusica Arizona members and stay informed of upcoming events once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. ProMusica Arizona also posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with updates and musical performances:

For additional information: Call 623.326.5172 or visit www.pmaz.org.

[Editor’s note: “Baroque to Bluegrass” has been reschedule for Saturday, Oct. 24, 7pm, at Cross of Christ Church in Anthem, and Sunday, Oct. 25, 3:30pm, at American Lutheran Church in Sun City.]

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Explore the Centrality of Water in Our Lives with Black Canyon Heritage Park

Black Canyon Heritage Park (BCHP) is hosting its final two “Water, Black Canyon City & Me” events in October and November.

The “Water, Black Canyon City & Me” programs lead up to the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street traveling “Water/Ways” exhibition coming to Cañon School (34630 South School Loop Road, Black Canyon City) Dec. 14 to Jan. 26.  Working with their regional sponsors and partners, BCHP is supplementing the national “Water/Ways” exhibit with a local exhibit that focuses on the Agua Fria watershed that extends from the Prescott Valley area through Black Canyon City and Lake Pleasant and ending as the Agua Fria river merges into the Salt River.

These events are free and family friendly:

  • Sunday, Oct. 20; 1:30–3pm: Art Exhibit & Afternoon Concert by ProMusica Arizona at Black Canyon Community Health Center, 19251 Oasis Drive, Black Canyon City
  • Saturday, Nov. 16; 3–4:30pm: Celebrating History of Water — Marshall Shore, Arizona’s Hip Historian at Pioneer Masonic Lodge #82, 19055 East K-Mine Road, Black Canyon City

Black Canyon Heritage Park has additional activities to compliment the Smithsonian’s “Water/Ways” exhibit, including the WinterFest/BookFest exhibits Jan. 26.

Visit Black Canyon Heritage Park Monday through Friday, 9am–4pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 9am–2pm —  walk the mini-trail and view native plants, birds and butterflies in the riparian preserve. For additional information, call 623.374.5282 or visit www.bcheritagepark.org or www.facebook.com/blackcanyonheritagepark.

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