The Valley theater scene helped to fuel my own daughter’s love of theater — both performing on stage and experiencing the work of others as an audience member. So Arizona’s theater companies have always felt like members of the family. I feel about them much like I feel about my own children. Each is special. Each is different. Each is good. And I couldn’t bear life without them.
So I was genuinely saddened Friday morning to receive a press release from Actors Theatre in Phoenix noting the very serious financial shortfalls that could threaten their very existence. Especially during a time when another Valley theater company’s building and hiring suggest they’re thriving like never before.
You know, if you have children, that far different fates often befall them — sometimes of their own doing, but often through no fault of their own. As much as it delights to watch one child soar, it hurts to watch another stumble. And when one family member suffers, every family member feels the pain.
It feels easier somehow to help struggling family members when we know they’re also helping themselves. And Actors Theatre of Phoenix has undertaken several steps to resolve their fiscal crisis — exploring new and modified programming, considering merger options, deferring salaries for leading artistic and management staff.
Actors Theatre of Phoenix reports that funding for the company, which has decreased for several years as the overall economy has faultered, took a steep decline this year. We’ve seen similar fates in the world of print journalism, and it isn’t pretty. Folks who support local theater need to step up, or Arizona’s theater community will be far poorer for it.
The company’s production of Geoffrey Nauffts’ “Next Fall” opens tonight at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix. Show materials use the tagline “Love is a leap of faith” to describe the work — which offers a “witty and provocative look at faith, commitment and unconditional love.” I’ve long planned to be there for opening night, but now the experience will take on new meaning.
Ticket sales alone won’t prevent Actors Theatre of Phoenix from closing its doors, but every show of support — big or small — makes a difference. Matthew Wiener, producing artistic director for Actors Theatre of Phoenix, says they’ll need to raise $70,000 just to complete the run of “Next Fall” and begin their next production, titled “Hunter Gatherers.” Larger leaps will be needed to move the company forward for the long term.
Folks who feel themselves in any way a part of the Arizona theater community — or the larger arts community that drives so much of our economic growth and youth development — should remember now, and always, that we’re all family.
My daughter Lizabeth, who has long enjoyed the diversity of Arizona’s theater scene, now studies acting in New York City. She’ll be be sad to learn that a sibling of sorts here in the Valley is experiencing such a tough time. I think she’d remind us all, were she here, of one of her favorite quotes from the movie “Lilo & Stitch.” Ohana means family. Family means no one is left behind – or forgotten.
Note: To learn more about Actors Theatre of Phoenix, visit them online at atphx.org. Please note that the play “Next Fall” features mature themes.
Coming up: A leaf of faith?
Photo: John Groseclose