Three new resident companies join Herberger Theater Center

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More than 800 productions will be hosted at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix next year, thanks to the organization’s decision to add three new resident companies to theater.

Arizona Opera, Childsplay, and Arizona Broadway Theatre will add 300 productions to Herberger Theater Center’s schedule, a move that President Mark Mettes says is part of a new chapter of bringing these artforms to the public.

Ted Simons: The Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix is adding three new resident companies with the goal of increasing the diversity of the Center's performances. Here to explain is Herberger Theater Center President and CEO, Mark Mettes. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." Good to have you here.

Mark Mettes: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Three new resident companies. What is a resident company?

Mark Mettes: A resident company is a company that spends most of its time -- or most of our time, I should say, performing at the theater. We have six resident companies now. By virtue of being a resident company, they have early access to date selection and preferred rates, and I think part of our -- who we are, is wrapped up in who they are because the theater by itself is just a place, an empty place without the art. By having these amazing and diverse companies there, it helps to add a lot to the whole environment.

Ted Simons: Let’s go through these one by one. Arizona Opera is one of three. Why the addition?

Mark Mettes: They were looking for changing and adapting their programming into a new chapter, if you will, in how they are bringing that art form to the public. We are looking for more resident companies, more performances going on. It worked out very well, and we are very excited they can bring the new chapter to us.

Ted Simons: I imagine it means they can expand offerings and do different kinds of things, these sorts of things?

Mark Mettes: They are going to do that, yes. More gutsy is the word they are using, pieces that bring, hopefully attract different audiences as well.

Ted Simons: Is that because they are different sized theaters, is it because there is more of an opportunity? Why can they expand now as opposed to last week?

Mark Mettes: I think the last few years they have been taking a hard look at who they are and how they can best connect with the public, with their patrons. This is what they decided would be the best way to continue to attract more and more patrons.

Ted Simons: The second of the three is Child’s Play Theater. We talked about Child's Play on this here show. How does this change what Child’s Play does?

Mark Mettes: It doesn't necessarily change what they do but it changes where they do it. They’re going to be bringing all of that programming to us. They were one of our original resident companies. When Tempe center opened, they moved their programming over there. At that time we just had two or three of their productions every year. Now all of them will be at Herberger. For us, it's 25 to 27 weeks of programming and bringing all of the families and all those schoolchildren to the theater, which is very exciting for us.

Ted Simons: And stability for them, I imagine.

Mark Mettes: The ability to grow and continue grow their art form. And, I think, grow how they bring that to the public.

Ted Simons: The third of the three is Arizona Broadway Theater, what is the Arizona Broadway Theater?

Mark Mettes: Arizona Broadway Theater, they are known as the Dinner Theater, out in Peoria. They have been out there, this is their 14th season, and they do eight Broadway style performances every year. For the last year, we have been bringing some of those shows shows to the Herberger. Last year we did Christmas Carol, in the summer, Beauty and the Beast. Audiences have responded very well to that. We were looking for a way to do more of that. Being a resident company, they will have three productions at the Herberger.

Ted Simons: So it sounds like there is a lot of branding going on here. These folks are allowed to brand themselves with the Herberger. Herberger is allowed to say, look at what we got.

Mark Mettes: We are proud they call us their Phoenix home. Yes, there is some of that. We try not to take credit for what they are doing because they are the artists. We try to make sure that we contribute in a positive way to the patron experience and to their experience as they bring in their shows.

Ted Simons: And continues your mission, where audience meets art. That's a pretty good one.

Mark Mettes: We think so. We are playing a more active role in the last couple of years bringing the audience and art together. This is bringing more audience and more art together, and we believe that’s just going to bring more and more and more activity to Downtown Phoenix, which is continuing to grow.

Ted Simons: Three new resident companies there for the Herberger Center, Mark Mettes, good to have you. Congratulations for the six in total, right?

Mark Mettes: Six in total. We are going to be at 800 performances a year.

Mark Mettes: President, Herberger Theater Center

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