Arizona ArtBeat: Arizona Theatre Company

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ATC Artistic Director David Ira Goldstein discusses the Company’s original play, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club, that makes its Phoenix premiere this week.

Ted Simons: On tonight's edition of "Arizona Artbeat," "Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club." It's an original play commissioned by the Arizona Theater and runs until the end of the month at the Herberger Theatre in Phoenix. Here to tell us what goes into staging an original play is David Ira Goldstein, he's the Arizona fee they're -- Theater Company's artistic director. Thanks for joining us.

David Ira Goldstein: Great to be here.

Ted Simons: What are -- a world premier. This is from bottom up.

David Ira Goldstein: From bottom up, about a year and a half ago Jeffrey Hatcher and I attend add different Sherlock Holmes plays in a different city, and at intermission we were saying, we could do a better one than this. So I said, prove it. And we commissioned him to write this play. He's a playwright we've worked with quite a bit. He's a nationally known playwright, so he wrote the play and we have gone through many drafts and here it is.

Ted Simons: Talk about the stressful nature of the rewrites and the getting the -- you're the artistic director; it's basically your baby in many respects.

David Ira Goldstein: You've got to be on the fly. I mean we've already had seven weeks of rehearsal and performances in Tucson. Now here we are in Phoenix and even today I'm putting in probably 20 pages of rewrites. So you have to have the right kind of artist whose are will to deal with that, especially actors that can deal with that on the fly.

Ted Simons: And working with designers, working with the actors, working with the whole nine yards.

David Ira Goldstein: Yeah. It's great fun. It's actually what we in the theater enjoy doing the most. When you have the playwright in the room, you really are close to the center of what theater is, which are plays, and words, and literature, and to get close to that and be in on the new play is always the most exciting.

Ted Simons: And if it's a hit, if it succeeds and other theater companies say I'm interested, I want to play too, your job, what happens next?

David Ira Goldstein: Sometimes the plays are very successful. We did a Sherlock Holmes play in 2004 by Steven Deets, it's now had over a thousand productions around the world. Jeffrey's "Jekyl and Hyde" was done in Czechoslovakia. It's great to put something into the world and we get a little money back, so that's -- as a nonprofit that's also a great way to earn a little extra money to do work here in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Logistically, you must be a busy man.

David Ira Goldstein: Well, I spend a lot of time on I-10, let's put it that way.

Ted Simons: Phoenix and -- is ATC the only theater company?

David Ira Goldstein: We're the only legion of regional theaters, the 86 major that terse around the country. We're in that group. We're the only one that is statewide and performs in two cities. We actually have subscribers from every county in Arizona. We do education programs in every county in Arizona. So it's a lot of time on the road, but we love it. At least it's a beautiful state with straight roads.

Ted Simons: And you obviously like -- you've been here -- this is your 20th anniversary?

David Ira Goldstein: 20 seasons.

Ted Simons: Did you think -- 20 years ago did you see yourself doing this in 20 years?

David Ira Goldstein: No, but I fell in love with the valley, I fell in love with Arizona theater company, and our audiences, and we have of course anybody who's been to the will Herberger knows it's a top-notch, beautiful facility.

Ted Simons: Talk about the as theater company's status. When people think of thee they're do they think of Arizona?

David Ira Goldstein: We hope so. We've been getting a growing amount of national stress. There was a full-page story in the "New York Times" a few weeks ago about upcoming productions of a play called "red" and they featured our production. We have a play that's opening on Broadway next week that we did work on here; a play by Elaine may call Georgia's dad, which is opening on brad way next week at the brooks Atkinson Theater. We like to think that we bring honor to the state and our work does get out there, but by getting our name out there, what's important is then the really best theater artists in the country know about it. And they come here to work. So it's got a real advantage to us.

Ted Simons: And another advantage I would think, especially in tough economic times, it sounds like you're doing welcome paired to other groups.

David Ira Goldstein: It's a challenge this economy for every nonprofit, raising money is tough in these days. But we're holding in there. We still have about 15,000 subscribers and we have many, many generous donors. But certainly we are fighting to get through this recession like every other nonprofit.

Ted Simons: And in the nonprofit world, earned income is big.

David Ira Goldstein: About 73, 74% last year. That's really healthy. And we've always been very fortunate. Having two cities has really helped us economically. Because you only have to produce the play once, you only have to rehearse it and build those costumes and sets once, but you can sell it in two cities. So we have an advantage I think that a lot of other groups that are just in Phoenix or just in Tucson don't have.

Ted Simons: Generally speaking, can theater survive, iPads, big-screen TVs, cell phones, iPhones, and androids?

David Ira Goldstein: It's scary, but it seems to be that it's actually the opposite. That theater around the country, internationally, people are craving more of that real life true experience of being in the room with the performers. And that kind of immediate storytelling. It's really, you look at Broadway grosses are at record levels. People are paying over 400 a ticket to see the book of Mormon on Broadway. So I think theater going to do quite well. And I think what we have in our favor. They're always our news stories to tell and new people that want to tell their story.

Ted Simons: Before we let you go, I'm curious as to when people knew they were go to do what think wound up doing. When did you know that theater was either in your blood or was going to be your future?

David Ira Goldstein: I think I sort of knew in high school and junior high school. I tried to kid myself and study journalism for a while and studied Russian for a while, and studied psychology, but I always find myself performing in the plays and realized that's where my heart was, where my passion lay. I'm so glad. It's been a wonderful life, and it's just allowed me to learn about so many exciting things.

Ted Simons: And for the next 20 years at Arizona Theater Company, what do you want to see? What needs to be improved, what challenges are still out there?

David Ira Goldstein: We want to be able to do an increasing variety of work, increasingly diverse work for an increasingly divorce state. And I think hopefully as go forward that's what will happen.

Ted Simons: That's a balancing act. People want to hare the war horses, not necessarily the modern experimental stuff.

David Ira Goldstein: That's where the theater has an advantage over symphony or opera. And I love both of them. I directed for Arizona opera last year. But people want -- they won't want to hear the same Stover they heard last night. In the theater they want to hear a new story. Even if it's not a world premier, everybody play on our season is a play that hasn't been done in Arizona. So I think in the theater, in the spoken language arts people want to see a new story.

Ted Simons: Good luck with Sherlock Holmes, and congratulations on 20 years and many more at ATC.

David Ira Goldstein:ATC Artistic Director;

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