Last night the spanking new A/C Theatre Company (A/CTC) in downtown Phoenix closed out a three weekend run of their stunning debut musical, “Murder Ballad,” a rock opera that played in an Off-Broadway Manhattan bar as its original 2013 venue. As sales yesterday for the last performances inched closer to selling out, Examiner asked Artistic Director Kim Richard about the niche A/CTC is filling and how this initial venture bodes for their future.
“We want to bring in shows the Valley hasn’t seen before,” Richard began. “The type our audience doesn’t typically get to see here.”
The A/C part? “Accessibly Cool… Alternative Commercial….,” say the founders, and then they chuckle when they add, “Air-Conditioned.” Richard touted ‘Murder Ballad’s’ female lyricist and composer [Jordan and Nash] and its edgy story line as elements that vary from the standard musical fare to which Phoenix crowds are often exposed.
“We all love the big, glitzy shows that everybody knows,” assured Richard, who has a strong background in non-profit organizational work, “but Phoenix is a relatively young city comparatively, with lots of room to encourage new art and new audiences.”
Take this steamy, tight-knit, ensemble-of-four, inaugural show that A/CTC housed in Hardes Theatre on the Phoenix Theatre campus, for example. Featuring a sticky love triangle, the performance intensity needed a chill breeze every few minutes to keep the house from sparking spontaneous flames. The live, on-stage rock band was smoking, too. The material was immersive and palpable, caught the audience up in the dangerous kind of octave leaps love can evoke. Active Combustibility.
With deft direction from founding board member and Production Director at A/CTC Tim Shawver, the kind where every blocked movement around the creatively leveled and lean set created a striking visual tableau, the quartet of actors were consummately believable and fearless. “Murder Ballad” further featured a type of crisp, sparse, perfectly synchronous choreography. The movement relayed exactly each character’s urgent desperation. They were the kind of steps where less is more. And man, did those four have pipes. The harmony blends nailed musical messages on our hearts with piercing precision. This was theatre-lovers, risk-taking, trust-building, kind of theatre. Absolute Courage.
“We have had a ton support from the theatre community; the outpouring has been so encouraging,” Richard said about signs for the company’s future health. She qualified that along with that support and their strong ticket sales, A/CTC would need to continue to “think outside the box” for funding sources because the group wants to focus on quality and balanced budgets as it moves toward the ideal of an eventual four show season. Abundant Collaboration.
Richard suggested A/CTC would be announcing a Spring 2016 show soon after “Murder Ballad’s” final performance. She noted the company also intends to produce an annual summer show in this August slot, the season many Phoenix entertainment venues take as a break time to rest and re-group for an upcoming season. When pressed, she offered Jonathan Larson’s [composer of “RENT”] “Tick Tick BOOM” as a teasing example of what sorts of future shows might be under consideration. Almost Coy.
“We have a long, running list,” said Richard, playing it close to the vest. “We like the idea of smaller Indie shows or of stripping down, making more contemporary, some bigger shows.”
Further defining the brand of theatre that A/CTC is honing, Richard noted, “We aren’t doing things in a traditional fashion. We will adapt our board’s roles and job descriptions along the way, delegate duties that fit our individual strengths. We all offer a lot of crossover into the different silos we’re developing.” Anti-Conventional.
Such a welcome, fresh approach. With a bright desert future, A/C Theatre Company is taking us one step closer to a complete package for cutting-edge, well-rounded arts in our state. A full, Arizona Complement.