ATC’s 2023/24 Season Announcement and Changes

Theater Commentary – March 22, 2023


Arizona Theatre Company,
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Arizona Theatre Company’s 2023/24 season announcement is full of positive changes.  To find out about the differences coming at the official State theater and to get an update on ATC’s future in the Valley of the Sun, I talked to Kaiser Family Artistic Director Matt August and Geri Wright, Executive Director.

After 32 years at the 700-seat Center Stage in downtown Phoenix’s Herberger Theater Center, future ATC shows will be presented at the Tempe Center for the Arts’ 600-seat Theater.

The five-show 23/24 season includes Neil Simon’s 1963 newlywed “rom-com” “Barefoot in the Park” (October 20-November 5), a revised version of Leslie Bricusse’s 1992 tuner based on Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” “Scrooge: The Musical” (December 8-30), Lynn Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel” (February 16-March 3) about a resourceful Black seamstress’ creations, “Master Class” (March 29-April 14) by Terrence McNally that reveals opera diva Maria Callas conducting a class for young singers, and “True West” (May 24-June 9) Sam Shepard’s exploration of two brothers who reconnect after a dispute. Many of the plays are prize-winners or have been nominated for major theater awards.

Wright said “The last three years have been strenuous coming out of Covid so the Board and staff felt that ATC should rebrand itself. The Tempe Center is newer with those beautiful views. Patrons will have free parking in the adjacent garage meaning our theatergoers won’t have to fight with all the downtown Phoenix issues.  Our patrons have been pointing out many of the Herberger’s deficiencies and we are responding to those concerns. This was a difficult decision to reboot that the Board discussed for some time,” Wright said.

“We lost patrons during the Covid shutdown so we need to rebuild our audiences.  With the smaller capacity at the Tempe Center, we will be better able to have capacity crowds without empty seats plus two-thirds of our audience live in the East Valley.”

August added that the “Tempe Center is a wonderful facility that gives us the opportunity for continued growth.  It also provides some things we don’t have at the Herberger like a banquet hall, conference room, and rehearsal facilities.”

Wright explained ”ATC will be a ‘home company’ at the Tempe Center and we will have a more prominent presence with signage that is not possible at the Herberger. We can better identify ATC in Tempe.  There is a multi-year agreement in negotiation that will include other positive things that can’t yet be discussed,” she added.

Going from a six-show season to a five-show season implies ATC may be struggling but Wright quickly pointed out the company is on a sound financial basis.  “The five-show 2023/24 season will actually cost more than the current six-show season to produce,” she said.

August discussed the 2023/24 play selections and where the company is moving artistically. “In addition to the regular season, there will be a renewed effort on our New Works Festival which focuses on Hispanic playwrights.  The festival has always been in Tucson but productions may move to Tempe.  We plan a two-week workshop production for a new musical we are developing in Tucson and that show may come to Tempe,” he stated.

August responded to a concern that there are no new works in the coming season.  “’Scrooge’ will be completely revised.  The author was working on the revision when he passed away and we are working with his estate on the changes.”  August hopes “Scrooge” will become a holiday perennial because “it will be a community tradition and it will help us stabilize the annual budget.  ‘Scrooge’ will bring us a new family audience,” he opined.

Won’t season subscribers tire of seeing the same show every holiday season?  August said that “’Scrooge’ will become an option after next season” much like ASU Gammage is doing with the returns of “Hamilton” and “Les Miserables” which can be excluded from season subscriptions.  “If our patrons don’t want to see ‘Scrooge’ every year, we understand,” August wisely concluded.

Arizona Theatre Company may be making many changes in the upcoming season, but they will help the company’s productions and its patrons.  It makes perfect sense for the official State theater to combine new and standard practices during its 56th season.  It will be fascinating to see how the changes work.  ATC 2023/24 season tickets may be purchased by calling the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 833-ATC-SEAT.