Second Act

Theater in the desert embraces new leadership, new vision

Arizona Theatre Company’s 52nd season marks an exciting change of direction for the state’s pre-eminent professional theater. Under the leadership of newly appointed Artistic Director David Ivers, the company’s rich tapestry of world drama will expand to include productions reflecting Arizona’s diverse and inclusive culture.

In the 2018/2019 season, Ivers looks forward to bringing audiences his first full season lineup, marking the start of a new half century of theatrical excellence.

“The most immediate goals are to help stabilize the financial picture for the theater, to have vision and virtuosity drive our goals in terms of the product onstage, and to find ways to really engage with the communities we serve so that they see themselves reflected in the work that we do on our stages and in our communications,” says Ivers.

Since its inception in Tucson in 1967, ATC has produced more than 200 plays on its stages, from the classical offerings of Shakespeare, Shaw, and Moliere to the works of contemporary playwrights such as Shepard, Stoppard, and Fugard. Dubbed Arizona Civic Theatre by founder Sandy Rosenthal, the playhouse launched its first productions in Phoenix in 1978, making it the only resident company in the United States that is fully based in two cities.

Now, more than 130,000 people attend ATC productions each year at the Temple of Music and Art in Tucson and at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.

In keeping with ATC’s mission to discover and foster new voices, Ivers is committed to producing plays and musicals that highlight Arizona’s rich cultural heritage and cultures from around the world. Having served as artistic director at the Utah Shakespeare Festival for seven years—and having acted in and directed more than 50 productions with the company for 20 years—Ivers is thrilled to bring his artistic talents and vision to ATC.

“I’m excited to be living here and I’m really excited about the organization’s potential,” he says. “It feels to me like we’re getting a lot of support. The word is starting to get out about the new vision and I am very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

ATC’s 2018/2019 season’s overarching theme, “Scene in America,” reflects Ivers’ vision for a theater experience that raises the curtain on diversity, embracing titles by Latino, African-American and women playwrights.

“We have representation from everything that makes us uniquely and wonderfully American. And that’s sort of the theme that ended up emerging, the kaleidoscope of the American experience, what we actually look like as a community and as a nation,” says Ivers.

Highlights of the upcoming season include Karen Zacarias’ new comedy, “Native Gardens,” offering a fresh, comedic approach to what it means to pursue the American Dream. “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” will bring audiences a celebration of a pioneering woman. She was a longtime Arizona resident known for her cutting-edge humor and ability to reveal the truth about life as a woman in America. And Ivers will lend his directing talents to “The Music Man,” a beloved classic that will feature nationally-known artists.

ATC’s upcoming season also will include exciting new programs to engage audiences across Arizona, putting the community center stage.

“We’ve got to be deeply connected to how we serve the community and we have a whole bunch of initiatives we’re about to roll out that will do that,” says Ivers. “I’m committed to community engagement as one of the leaders of the organization, so it has to permeate through everything we do.”

Currently, the theater has a committee dedicated to community outreach and plans are underway to hire a full-time director of community engagement. Highlights of this year’s program include Summer on Stage for Arizona high school students, as well as the new Arizona Artist Initiative featuring pop-up collaborations with local institutions. Members of the community will have more opportunities than ever to engage with the theater through talkbacks, look-behind-the-scenes programs and conversations with Ivers.


Story: Leigh Farr

Photo: Mark Lipczynski

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