Theatre Sizzles in the Sonoran Desert


I'm an Arizona native - born in a mining town nestled in the high desert hills northeast of Tucson. Though I came of age and went to drama school in Toronto Canada, I returned to Arizona to graduate high school and start out in a college theatre program here and to do some shows in Phoenix and Tucson. I've been away nearly three decades, and now I'm back and - Wow. What a difference thirty years makes.

Where there were a couple of theatres outside the behemoth Arizona Theatre Company, the region's LORT theatre that presented works fresh out of New York (once regional rights became available), and the Gaslight Theatre, a popcorn and beer wacky-entertainment-based stalwart on Tucson's east side. The Invisible Theatre was just getting it's legs under it, producing what were then cutting-edge works such as Athol Fugard's Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act, that featured full nudity and sexual content between a black man and a white woman under South Africa's Apartheid government. Theatre training was nearly non-existent outside of the University of Arizona's lackluster program and the Arizona Theatre Company's Encompass program.

Today, theatre companies in Tucson seem to be as common as wild sage. Our theatres are full of life - thriving, producing, training and churning out entertainment like so many cactus flowers in the spring. Community theatres, theatres that pay stipends, theatres that produce only musicals, theatres that present hard-hitting issue works, comedy playhouses and improv only companies dot the landscape. Training is available from a plethora of sources, including the University, though the newly formed School of Theatre, Film and Television has no graduate program for actors. The region boasts several professional training programs led by theatre professionals who have performed everywhere and on every level from LA's sea of 99-seaters to internet web-series to the big screen to Broadway. Full disclosure - I am artistic director of a disability-friendly company called Universal Access Productions, based downtown.

This is the first of many columns that will examine the state of Tucson's theatre scene and highlight the companies, spaces and talent in the Old Pueblo, our beautiful, complicated, dusty city, famous for its summer monsoons and embarrassing politics.

For a peek at the offerings here, check out the links below.

Meanwhile - go out and see and/or do some great theatre!

Some Tucson Theatre Companies:

Arizona Onstage Productions
Arizona Theatre Company
Beowulf Alley Theatre Company
Borderlands Theatre
Gaslight Theatre
Invisible Theatre
Live Theatre Workshop
Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed
Rogue Theatre
Sacred Chicken Productions
Stories That Soar
Studio Connections
The Comedy Playhouse

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Jeanmarie Simpson Jeanmarie Simpson has performed dozens of roles in regional theatre and stock in the US and Canada and began writing and directing while still in her teens. She is Founding Artistic Director of the Nevada Shakespeare Company, from which she retired in 2008. She wrote and performed 263 times the play "A Single Woman," about the life of first US Congresswoman and lifelong pacifist, Jeannette Rankin. She also starred in the film version that featured Judd Nelson, the voices of Martin Sheen and Patricia Arquette and the music of Joni Mitchell. In 2007, she appeared at the historic Beverly Hills Theatre 40 in the American premiere of the solo tour-de-force "Shakespeare's Will," produced by Leonard Nimoy. In 2009, at Tucson's Rhythm Industry Performance Factory, Simpson opened in the solo performance, "Coming In Hot," in which she played 17 women who served in the US military. Simpson is co-adaptor of "Coming in Hot," which is based on the book, "Powder: writing by women in the ranks from Viet Nam to Iraq." That show toured for 45 performances to high schools, universities and other venues in Arizona, Nevada, California, Washington and Pennsylvania. For several years, Jeanmarie wrote art and theatre reviews and features for She now lives in Tucson Arizona where she studies Film and Television at the University of Arizona. She is artistic director of Universal Access Productions, a film and theatre company based in Tucson.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in TucsonThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz
(Runs 6/15 - 8/10)
Molly Sweeney in TucsonMolly Sweeney
(Runs 7/24 - 8/30)
Ghostblasters in TucsonGhostblasters
(Runs 6/12 - 8/31)
Awake and Sing! in TucsonAwake and Sing!
(Runs 9/11 - 9/28)
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike in TucsonVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
(Runs 9/13 - 10/4)
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in TucsonThe Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
(Runs 9/4 - 10/11)
Wait Until Dark in TucsonWait Until Dark
(Runs 10/18 - 11/8)

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