The Season of Reemergence cover of The Dramatist includes an illustration of a chrysalis hanging from a budding branch and emerging monarch butterfly
Southwest: Transition and Transformation
How to Make an American Son by christopher oscar peña at Arizona Theatre Company
How to Make an American Son by christopher oscar peña at Arizona Theatre Company. Photo by Tim Fuller.

We aren’t living in a post-pandemic world, but this season saw the frost of COVID-19 thawing throughout theatre scenes in the Southwest. Theatres are transitioning away from online offerings, moving toward fully in-person shows, and are currently revealing season announcements for next year. We are moving in a hopeful direction and there is a strong semblance of normalcy, though the threats of COVID-19 are present. Like so many arts communities throughout our nation, we are in transition.

In Arizona, our largest companies returned to full, live performances. Arizona Theatre Company (ATC), with stages in Tucson and Phoenix, brought a full slate of engaging works, including the world premiere musical Justice (book by Lauren Gunderson, music by Bree Lowdermilk, lyrics by Kait Kerrigan). The musical focuses on Ruth Bader Ginsburg joining the Supreme Court in 1993 and being welcomed by the first and only other female Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. To close out the season, ATC premiered How to Make an American Son, a new play by christopher oscar peña. The play explored privilege, citizenship, sexual identity, and family.

The Phoenix Theatre Company also returned with a season of live performances, including the annual favorite, Festival of New American Theatre. In its 24th year, the festival featured workshops of new plays and musicals. This year’s offerings included A Beautiful Place (book by Linda DeArmond Grady and Michael Grady, music by Craig Bohmler, lyrics by Steven Mark Kohn), The Belle of Tombstone (book by Sheilah Rae and Thomas Edward West, music by Michele Brourman, lyrics by Sheilah Rae), and Hollywood Nurses by Peter Michael Marino and Sheila Head. This year also featured a first: a Choreography Lab inspired by a similar offering at New York Theatre Barn. This lab explored how movement and dance helps elevate and expand storytelling in new musical development.

Although large companies have bounced back to full operations, some of the Southwest’s smaller theatre scenes have seen closures and transitions. Tucson’s Something Something Theatre closed, which produced new works by female playwrights and utilized non-traditional casting. In Phoenix, Space 55 and Laughing Pig Theatre are in search of new spaces. B3 Theater, Inc. transitioned their online season into a live one as a nomadic company, securing different spaces as they continued to produce bold, brazen, and brilliant theatre. Overall, Arizona’s smaller companies that supported local writers have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. The community is hopeful that these local favorites will return to take lead in producing new and alternative works.

In Santa Fe, The Oasis Theatre Company closed due to COVID-19 soon after moving into a new space and launching their season. Theatre Santa Fe, an umbrella organization of 26 member companies, has been going strong. They celebrated their first Theatre Walk in three years at the end of the season, which featured performances by nineteen member companies, including new work by Guild members. One of Santa Fe’s newest companies, The Exodus Ensemble, sprang out of the pandemic. A troupe of eleven members, they create their own theatrical experiences based in classic works.

The Southwest, like so much of our nation, is in a state of rebuilding and transformation. We are all hopeful that the future is bright, but we know that we have work to do.  

World Premieres: Arizona, Utah,  Colorado

The Scholarship by LADY GODIVA and Brunt Poetry. Facebook Live, Theater29 Denver + Bucharest Inside the Beltway, Denver, CO

Fourteen by AMY P. CRIDER. Larimer Campus Performing Arts Studio, Front Range Community College, Fort Collins, CO

Rattlesnake Kate book by KAREN HARTMAN, music and lyrics by NEYLA PEKAREK. Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver, CO

Gold Mountain by JASON MA. Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, UT

Fourteen Funerals by ERIC PFEFFINGER. Dairy Arts Center, Butterfly Effect Theatre of Colorado, Boulder, CO

Jeannette Rankin Returns and Pineapple and Other Options by JEANMARIE SIMPSON. Arizona Theatre Matters, AZ

The Colony by GINA STEVENSEN. 2021 New Works Initiative Selection, Good Luck Macbeth, Reno, NV

John Perovich
John Perovich

is a playwright, dramaturg, theatremaker, and educator in Phoenix, AZ. He is the founding Artistic Director of Now & Then Creative Company and served as the Director of New Work Development at Brelby Theatre Company in Glendale, AZ.