Why theater?

We’ve asked that question all season and the answers are as diverse as the people who respond. Everyone has a different reason, but the underlying theme is the same: because theater matters. On many levels.

Consider this: After seeing Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “Next to Normal,” a musical about bipolar disorder, we received letters from several patrons who were deeply moved. The show made it easier for some of them to talk about their own experiences with the disorder.

That’s “Why theater.”

Jesse Rubin, a junior at Sahuaro High School said, “Theater gives me the confidence to express my creativity.”

Lauren Leader, a Summer on Stage alum, answered the question: “Asking ‘Why theater?’ is sort of like asking ‘Why life?’ ”

That’s “Why theater.”

At a recent Economic Development Forum, when university presidents were asked about the impact of the arts in a city like Tucson, the immediate response was that the most significant global cities are, without exception, known for their rich artistic and cultural offerings. Is it just a coincidence that these cities are so vibrant economically?

That’s “Why theater.”

Now, Why Arizona Theatre Company?

  • For the past 47 years, ATC has been producing critically acclaimed and nationally recognized plays in Tucson and Phoenix
  • The quality of ATC productions helps attract businesses and employees to Tucson, and the shows contribute to the generation of jobs
  • Every year, ATC provides extensive education and community engagement programs to more than 15,000 Arizona youth. For many, these are their first experiences with theatre and the arts. ATC also works closely with Arizona’s universities to provide college students with professional theatre experience.

It’s no secret that ATC went through a difficult period last summer and that financial challenges continue. With direction from our committed Board of Trustees, we have taken significant steps to address, correct and manage the situation. We have:

  • Reorganized company management.
  • Drastically cut the operating budget for this fiscal year without impacting the high quality of our productions.
  • Designed an aggressive fundraising campaign to offset the deficit and create a solid financial foundation.

In the last three months, we have raised $700,000 in contributions and pledges. A number of community leaders have contributed significant funds to help sustain the theatre including Tucson business leader Jim Click, who has generously offered a $100,000 challenge grant to match contributions dollar-for-dollar.

While we are deeply grateful for the community support, we also know that we must stay vigilant in our efforts and our outreach.

We still need your help.

When I was asked to come out of retirement last summer and return to Arizona Theatre Company as managing director, a position I loved for nearly 16 years, I knew I couldn’t sit on the sidelines.

As the only child of two performing artists, the theatre was where I found my “family.” The collaborative process gave me a sense of self worth at the young age of 14. Many members of my theatre “family,” especially ATC, have been part of my life for more than 45 years.

For me, that’s “Why theater.”

Perhaps you’ll see one of ATC’s shows at the Temple of Music and Art and find out why theater means so much to so many.

Thank you for supporting Arizona Theatre Company at this crucial time.

Jessica L. Andrews is managing director of Arizona Theatre Company. For information, call 884-8210 or visit www.arizonatheatre.org