Tucson has a new theatre company! The Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company (SAPAC) was founded by Dennis Tamblyn and Danielle Wright, along with founding Artistic Advisor Kelli Workman. I interviewed Tamblyn for the Sun News Tucson.
“When we were building the seasons we decided to have themed content to connect all the shows. For the first one we chose an Origins theme. Our first productions, [title of show] is actually about the origins of a show.” Just to avoid confusion, I have not forgotten to place the show’s title in the square brackets: that is the show’s title!
In the show the budding producers envision what it would be like to stage it on Broadway using only 4 chairs and a piano. That in fact is how [title of show] is being staged by SAPAC. This self-referential approach, what the kids call “meta”, makes the play aware of itself in a curiously engaging way.
“The dialog features real people having real conversations, the sort of conversations I have had with my friends,” said Tamblyn. “It flows naturally. The fun-ness of the play comes from the real-ness of their situation. It’s silly but real.”
The chairs themselves have a story. “In the Wikipedia entry for the show, it states chairs made of diamonds descend from the stage at its conclusion. While this crazy idea is mooted in the play, sparkly chairs ending the play is not in the script!”
Following the Origins theme, SAPAC will next produce Hot Mikado (in April 2020). “Its roots are from the original Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan, which was the precursor to musical theatre.” The final production (in May 2020) will be the Tony-award winning musical, 1776.
SAPAC was founded to fill a need here in Tucson, as the only theatre company “that does consistent musical theatre in town. By filling this need were were able to get a non-profit status.”
Tamblyn said “it’s taken two years to get to this point. It fulfills the hope of many musical performers in Tucson who shared their vision of doing musicals featuring only local talent. There is so much talent here! A lot of our performers have come from a professional background. We are the only all professional musical theater company in Tucson at the moment. This means we are paying all of our actors and artistic team including directors, musicians, stage managers, lighting designers, costume designers, etc. ”
The long-term plan for SAPAC is to add a fourth show annually that will showcase new musical works. That is envisioned for the third year. After that the organisation sees performers here attaining their union status, and eventually after a decade their own performing arts space.
“The coolest thing,” enthused Tamblyn,” would be a play workshopped here in Tucson going on to Broadway, or at least a professionally touring production.”
The opening play, like many plays I have seen, is too long for its own good. Even some plays by Shakespeare benefit from judicious cutting. This does not detract from the quality of the performance of the four actors: Andrew Miller, Tyler Wright, Mara Katrina Capati and Robin Bousel. They are supported by pianist Brice Kimble.
While the avante-garde nature of the play may not appeal to everyone, its core values of striving to realise the impossible dream of not only creating a play but envisioning it being on Broadway speaks to an ethos that is the basis of all great endeavours, such as the Apollo moon landing 50 years ago. One line in the plays says “a tiny asteroid is a little meteor.” This play started as a little meteor and grew into an asteroid that travelled all the way to Broadway. This is a great chance for audiences in Tucson to see it.
[title of show] was first performed in September 2004 , and made its Broadway debut in 2008. Words and lyrics by Jeff Bowen; Book by Hunter Bell.
Visit their website for tickets: www.sapactucson.org
Photo credit: Molly Condit
Location: The Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music and Art at 330 S Scott Street.