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Herberger Theater Center Adds Three New Resident Companies

Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.
Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.
Lynn Trimble
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Arizona Broadway Theatre, Arizona Opera, and Childsplay will join the resident artist roster at Herberger Theater Center at the start of the 2018-19 season.

It's all part of the center's overall vision, says Mark Mettes, president and CEO for Herberger Theater Center.

"The arts should be a vibrant year-round attraction in downtown Phoenix," Mettes says. The change will mean a 35 percent increase in the number of performances that happen at the Herberger, he says. "We'll have more of everything, including performances, audiences, and activity."

Herberger Theater Center opened in 1989. Today, it's a hub of the downtown arts district — with three performance spaces, an art gallery, and a lounge.

Currently, Herberger Theater Center has three resident companies — Arizona Theatre Company, Center Dance Ensemble, and iTheatre Collaborative.

Being a resident artist has some distinct advantages, including reduced rates for using venue facilities and first pick of dates on the venue's season calendar, Mettes says.

But it also presents new creative opportunities, according to Joseph Specter, the president and general director for Arizona Opera.

Beginning with the 2018-19 season, Arizona Opera will present a main stage season at Symphony Hall and a performance series called Arizona Opera Red at Herberger Theater Center. The organization also puts on performances in Tucson, where they'll follow a similar model at two Tucson venues.

Arizona Opera's main stage series will comprise two traditional operas and one modern masterwork. The Red series will include less conventional opera works, including a chamber opera called Charlie Parker's Yardbird, about the renowned 20th-century jazz composer and sax player. The other, María de Buenos Aires, is a tango operetta that explores a woman's world before and after her death.

"It's hard to imagine a more diverse season," Specter says of their 2018-19 lineup. "We're going to take some artistic risks."

Arizona Broadway Theatre has already started performing at Herberger Theater Company. Last year, the troupe performed A Christmas Carol at the Herberger. During the summer, they opened Beauty and the Beast with a run at their Peoria venue, then brought the show to downtown Phoenix for another run.

They'll continue to present productions in Peoria after the 2018-19 season opens, but perform at the Herberger Theater Center as well, says Kiel Klaphake. He's the executive producer for Arizona Broadway Theatre, which has been around for 13 years.

"We're excited about reaching new audiences," Klaphake says of doing more performances downtown. He's also keen on sharing a performance space with other creatives. "It's a very collaborative environment," he says of Herberger Theater Center. 

Childsplay, a Tempe-based company founded in 1977 to provide theater for young audiences, will continue to perform at Tempe Center for the Arts through the end of the 2017-18 season, says artistic director Dwayne Hartford.

But all Childsplay performances will move to Herberger Theater Center, where they'll perform primarily in the Stage West theater, starting with the 2018-19 season. They'll announce the 2018-19 shows in spring 2018, Hartford says.

Childsplay will continue to call its Campus of Imagination and Wonder in Tempe home. That's where the company has offices, classrooms, and spaces for creating sets and costumes.

Just changing up the performance space is an exciting prospect, Hartford says. "We're looking forward to a new adventure."

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to include the correct spelling for Kiel Klaphake's first name.

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