“There’s not a big theater scene in Flagstaff,” said Taylor Moschetti of Laughing Pig Theatre, a 3-year-old playhouse working out of Mesa Arts Center. “So, making a living in theater wasn’t an option there. We came here in 2015 and fell in love with being here.”
Taylor was seated on the patio of a midtown coffee house with her husband, Tony. It was Saturday morning, and a pigeon kept landing on a table behind them, poking about for breadcrumbs. The couple didn’t notice. They were talking about why they launched an avant-garde theater company in the conservative east Valley.
“We kept meeting people in Mesa who wanted to do a certain kind of theater, but they didn’t see it being done there," Taylor said. “So, they would either go audition in downtown Phoenix, or they’d do nothing at all.”
Tony didn’t want to denigrate any other theater company’s work. “But there’s not a lot of variety in east Valley theater. If you wanted to see something unusual, you had to go to central Phoenix.”
So, they launched Laughing Pig. Their last show was Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All Night Diner, a gay romantic comedy about time-travel and the end of the world. Next, they’re doing Mark Ravenhill’s Shopping and Fucking, a satire of, among other things, online hookups. Last season, they did something called The Abortion Road Trip.
Both are theater teachers at local charter schools. “We have day jobs, so we went into this knowing theater wouldn’t be the thing that would support us,” Tony explained. “If we wanted that, we would have created a model that was more like Hale Center Theatre that does more traditional pieces.”
“Family-friendly stuff,” Taylor clarified.
“Instead, someone will bring us a script like The Abortion Road Trip, and we’re like, ‘Okay, are we ready to lose some money on this?’” Tony laughed. “Because we know people want to see different stuff, and we want to produce it.”
The couple have a deal with Mesa Arts Center, where Laughing Pig is a resident company. They teach acting and theater classes there in return for a certain number of rehearsal hours per week and a performance space to produce their plays.
“We have a reading series and a monologue cafe series,” Taylor said. “We teach a lot of home-schooled kids who don’t have a school theater program, and people who tried theater in high school and remember liking it. We get some retirees, too, which is awesome.”
Both Moschettis found theater early. “I was kind of extra as a child,” Taylor said. “I was always performing, and everyone told me I’d be a performer. I started doing community theater in high school, and I thought, 'Wait, maybe I really like this.'”
“I played football when I was a kid,” Tony remembered. “And my parents noticed that I cried whenever my team lost. So, they pulled me out of football and put me in theater instead.”
The name of their theater, they said, was inspired by their dogs. “We were brainstorming what to call ourselves,” Tony said. “We were writing down all these very deep and interesting names of who we could be, things with ‘creative’ and ‘instinctive’ in the title, that type of thing.”
“The whole time we’re doing this, our dogs are chewing on this pig toy that makes farting noises,” Taylor interrupted. “We were laughing, and we realized we weren’t all these pretentious aspirations we had for ourselves. We’re the stupid rubber pig that makes funny noises.”
Before Shopping and Fucking, Laughing Pig will present a 24-Hour Theater Project.
“It’s a thing,” Taylor said. “The night before, we meet with writers, and we give them until six o’clock the next morning to write a 10-minute script. The next day, the directors show up, choose the scripts they want to do, and then the actors show up at 8 a.m., and everyone starts working. At 7:30 p.m., they’re onstage performing.”
“These aren’t plays that will change the world,” Tony said, glancing out into the street. “But it’s pretty amazing to see them come together like that.”
Taylor said Laughing Pig wants to promote social justice.
“Every piece we do is — what’s the word I want?” she asked Tony.
“Evocative,” he told her.
“Yes, evocative. We’re still so new, and we’re trying to figure out how to get the word out that we’re doing evocative theater.”
The pigeon stared at the back of Taylor’s head. “We’d like to sell out every show right now and play to full houses,” she said. “But I get it. It’s going to take some time to let people know we’re here.”