David Ivers means what he said.
The Arizona Theatre Company’s 2018-19 season — the first selected by Ivers — is what he promised when he joined the company as artistic director: A diverse offering that reflects the community and the world we live in.
“The notion of community, the notion of inclusivity, will always have a presence in the seasons I select,” he said in a July interview shortly after he started his new job.
“How do we serve the community, how is the community involved in the stories we tell on stage, and how will we look toward inclusivity in terms of parity, diversity, and toward voices we may not have heard from?”
Those are questions artistic directors often ponder, but rarely follow through on. Over the last eight years, for instance, less than 10 percent of ATC’s plays have been by women. Works by playwrights of color have not fared much better. Those statistics echo what has happened in theaters around the country.
Ivers wants to change that here: Two of the six plays in the 2018-19 season are by women, three by playwrights of color.
“It’s a kaleidoscope of our community,” Ivers says about the upcoming season.
“These are the things I said were important to me and to my vision for the theater.”
The season opens with Karen Zacarías’ comedy “Native Gardens,” a 2016 play about two neighbors with a property dispute. It takes place in an upscale Washington, D.C., neighborhood.
One family is Latino, the other Anglo. “It’s an unpoliticized wall play,” says Ivers, referring to the border wall that has been such a hot issue. While the laughs are plenty, Zacarías does not shy away from addressing stereotypes, immigration and the environment, a Minneapolis Star Tribune review said.
The season also includes “American Mariachi” by José Cruz González, currently in its world premiere at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
It takes place in the 1970s, when mariachi musicians were rarely female. A group of girls decides to change that, and in the process discovers the power of the music for a woman who has Alzheimer’s. The play excavates “layers of feeling on the themes of love, memory and trust,” the Denver Post said, calling it a “big-hearted musical play.”
Also slated for the season:
- “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End,” a 2015 play by Margaret Engel and Allison Engel — Bombeck, who made her home in Phoenix, wrote about negotiating family life in her syndicated humor columns and best-selling books.
- August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running,” the seventh in the playwright’s Pittsburgh Cycle, which detailed African-American life in each decade of the 20th century. “Two Trains,” which premiered on Broadway in 1992, takes place during the tumultuous 1960s. “It’s an essential play about right now,” says Ivers.
- “The Music Man,” the giddy 1957 musical about a con man in the early 1900s who goes from town to town selling band instruments and uniforms with the promise of a boys’ band parents can be proud of.
- “Things I Know to be True,” by Andrew Bovell, a family drama that had its world premiere in Australia in 2016. London’s The Telegraph called it a “poetic and deeply poignant play.”
“The construction is incredibly innovative,” says Ivers. “And it’s an essential story that has to be heard.”
“Here’s what they all share,” says Ivers about the season. “They are all well-made plays, and they represent who we are. I won’t back down from that while adding entertainment.”