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) Bishop has been a BWW contributor in Tucson, Reno/Sacramento and Toronto, before landing in Phoenix. She is Founding Artistic Director of the Universal (read more...)

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