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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 15, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 16
Tempe/Phoenix is a theatre arts center
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Tempe/Phoenix is a theatre arts center

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

The metropolitan area of Tempe/Phoenix celebrates performance art. There are a plethora of theaters to choose from ranging from fringe to independent to Broadway type caliber of performances. The Nearly Naked Theatre is self-explanatory, while the Stray Cat Theatre presents mainstream contemporary and independent types of plays. Arizona also has one voter for the Tony Awards, the coveted award for theatre excellence.

While exploring the many and various theatre options in the Tempe/Phoenix area, the Seattle Gay News interviewed two very different theatre arts representatives: Ron May, founder and artistic director for The Stray Cat Theatre, and Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Executive Director for Arizona State University's Gammage Theater, ASU's Associate Vice President of Cultural Affairs, and a Tony Awards voter on the Tony Awards Committee. The Stray Cat Theatre:
An interview with Artistic Director/Founder, Ron May




Eric Andrews-Katz: What provoked the founding of Stray Cat Theatre in 2001?

May: I moved to Arizona from Chicago to attend the Arizona State University. My plan was I was going to attend and study, then go back to Chicago. That was 20 years ago next year. I think a lot of friends and I were sitting around and looking at the theatrical menus and realized there were a lot of mixed seasons. If you put the seasons up side-by-side, you wouldn't be able to tell them apart; there were a lot of repetition with the same shows. We thought we'd do contemporary shows, at least within the last five years. People from Chicago, New York or Seattle are used to having diverse culture menus for theatre. We knew the audience was here, so we tried to do something different, and knock-on-wood, it's worked!

Andrews-Katz: What makes the Stray Cat Theatre stand out from other theater companies in the area?

May: We do contemporary material and no classics. We've never done a classic theatrical piece. Part of our mission is to do more contemporary material, nothing more than two or three years old. Most of the theatres now are more big blockbuster shows, and we like ourselves focusing on more independent works. Our stuff is more R rated, not so such much in nudity but in language and situational content. We like to focus on younger casts and shows, more Off-Broadway or Off-Off Broadway types.

Andrews-Katz: What was the first production of Stray Cat Theater?

May: The very first show was called 'Stupid Kids' and it was a modern take on Rebel Without a Cause. The protagonist was gay, not straight. We do a lot of coming-of-age plays and do one every year. We did the first show all on our credit cards, and the press was very kind to us. There was an audience out there for it. We wanted to not do shows focusing on high school or college age, not 'puberty plays,' but that struggle people have in their late teens and early twenties.

Andrews-Katz: Do you prefer being on stage or behind the scenes?

May: I actually started out as an actor. I went to school to be an actor. I really prefer being a director now. I'll do a show, maybe two a year, but I like the director spot. I like being invisible during a show. I enjoy watching a group of artists coming together to make something. It's fun to be a part of it, but really fun watching audiences taking a part in it.

Andrews-Katz: Is there a particular playwright you prefer to exhibit on stage?

May: We are certainly more conscious of trying to get playwrights of color, or more female writers so that there will be a better representation of diverse works. Old white men write 90% of plays, or the majority of them are, at least the shows that are touring the country. Out here in Arizona it gets even whiter. We made a ton of progress but we have a long way to go. I'm a huge fan of Melissa Gibson's work, or Laura Eason (Sex with Strangers).

Andrews-Katz: What does the season hold for Stray Cat Theater?

May: We are rehearsing Stupid Fucking Bird, and then we'll have one more show to end the season. After that we are moving to a new space, to Tempe Center for the Arts. We usually do four shows a year. This year, we've done: Heathers, the musical, Sex With Strangers, Stupid Fucking Bird, and we are ending with the Green Day musical, American Idiot.

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