Stray Cat Theatre, a Tempe-based indie theater company that presents classic and contemporary works with a smart and edgy vibe, will move to Tempe Center for the Arts in June of 2016, artistic director Ron May says. Stray Cat's final production at its current venue, Tempe Performing Arts Center (TPAC) located in the Mill Avenue District, will be the musical Heathers, performed December 4 through 20.
Stray Cat's first performance at Tempe Center for the Arts will be the Green Day musical American Idiot, presented in the Tempe Town lake-adjacent complex's 200-seat Studio next June. In the meantime, Stray Cat Theatre will perform the play Stupid Fucking Bird at the Black Theatre Troupe's Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center. They've been nomads this season in terms of performing venues, after opening their season with an Arizona Theatre Company collaboration for Sex With Strangers at Herberger Theater Center.
"We've sort of known this was coming for some time," May says. The TPAC building has been sold, he says, and the new owners may be doing some construction. "I'm pretty sure it's ASU." New Times contacted ASU for details on the matter, but officials hadn't responded to requests for comment as of this writing. In any event, it's necessitated the move — which May considers a good thing. "We're excited about moving over to TCA," he says.
It's not the first move for Stray Cat Theatre, which May founded in 2001 in a warehouse on First Avenue in Phoenix. For a few seasons starting in 2002, the company performed in the old PlayWright's Theatre on First Street. Then they moved to the Metropolitan Arts Institute in about 2008, May recalls, where they performed for three seasons. It's now home to Scorpius Dance Theatre, which has two choreographers working on Stray Cat Theatre musicals during the 2015-16 season.
Moving from Metro Arts to TPAC was a matter of luck, May says. Tempe-based Childsplay, a theater company founded in 1977 by ASU alumnus David Saar, had moved out of TPAC — and the City of Tempe was looking for new programming for the space. May made the ask, and the city was game. "It was good timing," he says.
May notes that Stray Cat Theatre already rents storage space from Childsplay, so not having a home base between their runs for Heathers and American Idiot won't be a problem.
Once they make the move to Tempe Center for the Arts, they'll be performing in the venue's 200-seat Studio. The size of that stage is very similar to what they have now at TPAC, but it can be configured in several different ways. Another plus is the prevalence of free parking at Tempe Center for the Arts.
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Although May says it's "a lot more expensive to be there," he doesn't expect the move to necessitate a significant increase in ticket prices. "We've already raised them a little because we're doing musicals," he says, adding that the royalties theater companies have to pay for musicals are typically much greater than those they pay for the right to perform plays.
Stray Cat Theatre is working now on lining up its 2016-17 season, which May expects will include another joint production with Arizona Theatre Company. He's planning to announce the new season in April of 2016.
Tickets are already on sale for their first performance at Tempe Center for the Arts — Green Day's American Idiot being performed from June 24 to July 16, 2016. Their last show at TPAC, Heathers: The Musical, opens on December 4, 2015.
May says he's glad they settled on a new home in Tempe. "Tempe has always been good to us."