Live performance returns as Phoenix Theatre Company builds outdoor venue
COVID-19 has impacted nearly all industries, and the Valley’s arts community is among the hardest hit. Faced with the question—’to perform or to not perform?’, The Phoenix Theatre Company answers the unprecedented situation with a new vision of live theatre. Shows are set to premiere on an outdoor stage in November.
The new outdoor venue is under construction at the Central United Methodist Church, located at 1875 N. Central Ave., in Phoenix. Just one block north of the theatre’s three-stage complex, the customized stage will provide an outdoor venue with plenty of room for patrons to enjoy the live performance experience safely socially distanced.
“With the outdoor theatre, every aspect of the patron experience had to be reconsidered and redesigned,” said Karla Frederick, director of production. “It started as a dream and now I’m happy to say it’s really happening.”
The new performance space will accommodate approximately 250 attendees, seated in pairs and distanced six-feet in all directions. The 32-foot by 24-foot stage has been custom designed and engineered by outdoor event specialists to allow production teams to recreate high-production values without sacrificing safety. A wall of screens will be installed at the back of the stage to increase flexibility of the space.
Along with the logistical challenges of constructing an outdoor stage, all the work had to comply with local, state and national health mandates. The Phoenix Theatre Company obtained approval from the state and the city to hold outdoor gatherings and continues to work with the city to meet permitting standards.
“This work is six months in the making,” said Vincent VanVleet, managing director, “we had to make absolutely sure that we could present outdoor shows without increasing the risk to public health. It was a tricky needle to thread, but I couldn’t be prouder of all we’ve accomplished. Best of all, we’ll be helping put some of the country’s finest arts professionals back to work.”
In March, The Phoenix Theatre Company voluntarily suspended performances to help arrest the spread of COVID-19. This break in programming is the first time in its 100-year history.
“More than ever, we need a reason for hope and a path forward,” said Michael Barnard, producing artistic director. “It is our greatest wish to gather and share the experience of live theatre – whatever that looks like. We take our responsibility of keeping our patrons and artists safe seriously. This new outdoor venue will allow us to do just that. We are so grateful that our guests continue to stick with us—they truly lift us up.”
Performances at the outdoor venue are slated to begin Tuesday, Nov. 10, with Happy Birthday Dionne, a tribute to Dionne Warwick featuring the celebrated local trio We3. Outdoor programming will run through May 2021. The theatre is tentatively scheduling the return of live shows for June 2021 and will start with The Rocky Horror Show and Something Rotten!.
The Phoenix Theatre Company will announce its full lineup of outdoor and virtual programming in early October. Season ticket holders and donors will be notified via email about ticket options. Tickets will be available to the general public starting Oct. 19, 2020. To learn more about upcoming programming and health and safety guidelines visit www.phoenixtheatre.com/alerts.