Centennial Theatre Foundation

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Organized to develop and fund new plays that focus on the Arizona experience, the Centennial Theatre Foundation’s first event is a staged reading by the cast of the play, The Wallace & Ladmo Show. Find out more about the project with CTF Executive Director Ben Tyler.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of "Arizona Artbeat" shines the Spotlight on the Centennial Theater foundation. The group's mission is to produce plays about the Arizona Experience. Designated an official state Centennial legacy project, Foundation launches Saturday With the staged reading of a Play about the "Wallace and Ladmo show." Here with more is Ben Tyler, long-time Arizona playwright and Executive director of the Centennial theater foundation. Good to see you.

Ben Tyler: Thank you. Well said.

Ted Simons: Well thank you. Let's keep it saying it. What is the centennial theater Foundation?

Ben Tyler: I have been writing plays About Arizona myself for quite a While. It goes back to early '90s with "gut the musical." It's something that's always been my special interest, writing plays about this area. And so when the centennial started rolling around, I Thought I'd really like to see more playwrights do this and More theater companies producing Them. The hit on Arizona has always been everyone is from somewhere Else, right? And there really is no Arizona I'd., identification, someone you think of someone from Chicago or New York, or those Kind of cities and you think, a Particular kind of thing. Well, it's not that way anymore with Arizona. So when we say defining Arizona Through life theater that's what We mean, plays that are not Necessarily historical in Nature, though that's my Particular bent, but plays that Define the people and the Region, and what Arizona is.

Ted Simons: So how often would these plays be presented?

Ben Tyler: That's a great question, Ted. I really don't know. It's rather -- it's a little audacious to call yourself a Foundation when no lady has died and left you a pot of money. It's got to start sometime. I would like to see us at least Do something once a year but we have about a half dozen companies now that are listed with us as participating theater companies. The way it works, just briefly -
Ted Simons: Sure
Ben Tyler: Just in a nutshell - we are soliciting scripts, Arizona themed plays. We develop them through staged readings, taking them around the State, the foundation does this, and at that point once the play has been developed and polished, if one of these participating theater companies wants to produce it, the foundation pays for the production.

Ted Simons: you're basically auditioning these things for the theater Companies.

Ben Tyler: absolutely.

Ted Simons: And they're expressing interest?

Ben Tyler: Yes. We have a few right now. I'm working with Desert Foothills Theater in Carefree, Actors Theater, Phoenix, who Works just down the street at the Herberger. They're coproducing the "Wallace And Ladmo show," and we have Another play, a one-man show About the Senator Barry Goldwater that's going to be Produced by Arizona Jewish Theater company at least as a Staged meeting in November.

Ted Simons: You mentioned the foundation, A very encouraging word on your Part.
Ben Tyler: Yes
Ted Simons: How is this funded and how is that going to affect what gets done?

Ted Simons: you sound like every theater Producer in town. Where's the money coming from, Ben? That's a great question. Our centennial is so Underfunded, Arizona is strapped. I have the greatest fear that our campuses celebration is going to be two bottle rockets and a boom box. So I am approaching the private Sector and saying, this is something that these plays can Be ambassadors for Arizona. We get -- I grew up here, I've Been born and raised here. We get a bad hit from the rest of the country due to people like some of the elected Officials that are still around There, I won't mention their Names, and I think there's so Much to be proud of this state. And that's what I think these Plays can do. So that's why we're going to be calling on the private sector to Step up to the plate and fund some of these things.

Ted Simons: We're looking at some stills here; anyone who was here at the Time remembers that. Will they remember Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater? Escape from Papago Park --

Ben Tyler: God bless you Ted.

Ted Simons: I remember all that stuff! And then you got the "Wallace and Ladmo show," which arguably, Except for -- probably the most Popular?

Ben Tyler: I think so.

Ted Simons: why? Why are you doing this?

Ben Tyler: I worked for the "Wallace and Ladmo show" for just a couple of Years. But guy back further. We're took the staged reading at the very first television Station that was ever built in Arizona and operated, the old KPHO building.

Ted Simons: this is Saturday?

Ben Tyler: correct. October 1st. I was 8 years old in 1965. I got my postcard pulled out of the barrel; my mom drove me down To that TV station. I walk in addition that build can, pre-Ladmo, and I got to pick a toy from the toy cottage. Here I am, 55 years old, and I'm Going back into that same Building, with Wallace and pat And we're going to be doing a Stage reading of the play "Wallace and Ladmo show" for About 100 people, and we're also Doing a pay-per-view of a Webcast for this for the people Who live out of state who grew Up with "Wallace and Ladmo Show." And that is the kind of stuff that really just turns my crank, Ted. I tell you. To think I was 8 years old, and now here I am coming back 47 Years later with this play.

Ted Simons: we've got the website up here now if you're interested in Helping out this effort and Learning more about this Centennial foundation, that's where you go.

Ben Tyler: everybody who shows up got A -- gets a Ladmo bag. They get to watch the play with Wallace and pat and I have a Punch Wallace and pat would autograph their bag on the way Out.

Ted Simons: I bet they would. I bet they would be the last Ones to leave, because they love their fans. Last question. You've written about all this Arizona history, from escaped POWs to a kids show. Do you ever want to write cat on A hot tin cactus or something Like that?
Ted Simons: Is that in your future? Have you found your niche?

Ben Tyler: history has been my bent, but I do have an idea, I have ideas for plays that are fictitious. They're always going to be Arizona themed. Very quickly, my wife and I spent our honey at the San Carlos hotel. I'm looking at this picture of Mae West on the front desk, and the guy says, that's not really Mae West it's a look-alike. Whether they opened the movie here at the Orpheum the studio hired a bunch of look-alikes and had them drive around and wave at people. I thought what a great idea for a farce. Everyone thinks Mae West is in Town, only she's not.

Ted Simons: off and running.

Ben Tyler: yes.

Ted Simons: well, good luck with this. We'll keep an eye on what you're doing and what's getting produced. Good luck with "Wallace and Ladmo show."

Ben Tyler: Thank you so much.

Ted Simons: Tomorrow on "The Journalists' Roundtable," the latest on the ever evolving Russell Pearce recall election. And we'll talk about a plan to change the way Arizona elections are conducted. That's Friday on "the Journalists' Roundtable."

Ted Simons: and that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Ben Tyler:CTF Executive Director;

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