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Can Sedona's Performing Arts avoid homelessness?

by Rod Abbott

Kenneth Haigh in Theatre Arts in 1958 wrote "You need three things in the theatre — the play, the actors, and the audience, and each must give something." Haigh did not mention that one also needs a theatre.

The fine theatre performing arts groups in Sedona soon will find themselves without a local venue and thus Sedonans who want theatre will travel to Phoenix, Prescott, and Flagstaff for their theatre fix. Howard Taubman in the New York Times, August 4, 1964 poignantly penned "it is the destiny of the theatre nearly everywhere and in every period to struggle even when it is flourishing."

The Red Rock Review’s publisher, Robert Scot, a true lover of theatre himself, has been directing Sedona’s attention to the state of affairs of the performing arts locally for some time through several stimulating articles appearing in this magazine over the past several months.

Just what is the state of affairs in regard to the performing arts in Sedona?

There are a number of fine groups, Oak Creek Theatre Company, Grannies on the Rocks, The Community Theatre, Actors Repertory Theatre of Sedona, Children’s Classic Caravan, Omni Dance, Chamber Music Sedona, Sedona Theatre Guild, and Shakespeare Sedona. All of these could benefit from a state of the art theatre complex in Sedona.

Of course, this does not even consider the audience who also would be benefactors from such a venue. Thornton Wilder in an interview, Writers at Work: First Series, 1958 said "We live in what is, but we find a thousand ways not to face it. Great theatre strengthens our faculty to face it."

The problem facing theatre in the city is really two fold.

The first is that the Sedona Arts Center is faced with closing its theatre at the end of June this year. The theatre needs $40,000 for a new sprinkler system to bring it up to code. Since the Center will be moving in the next two-to-three years, and is facing an urgent need for added classroom space for the Nassan Gobran School of the Arts (along with the fact that it cannot continue to support financially continued losses in the theatre - or in other projects for that matter), the Board of Directors has in the past few months voted not to construct a theatre at a new site.

The board did not say that it resigned from supporting theatre, and will continue to give classes in the many aspects of performing arts. Thus the first problem is the immediate (within five months) loss of home for the theatre groups.

The second problem facing performing arts is the lack of an ideal state-of-the-art complex for Sedona and its performing arts groups. Awareness of both these problems has been provoked by the vigilant Red Rock Review and by the theatre groups themselves, in particular the Oak Creek Theatre Company and The Sedona Theatre Guild.

Behind the scenes, Chairperson Paul Chevalier and his commission, the Arts and Culture Commission, have been aware of the problem, and have been active in interviewing these groups and in planning for a study that has the potential for support and help from the City Council. Chevalier has appointed a committee to address the performing arts needs and to study the issues that may make a feasibility study possible.

In the meantime, creative Mary Guaraldi, OCTC’s founder and leader, has presented the Board of Directors of the Arts Center a temporary solution for the homeless groups during the interim in which the Center remains at its present location. The president of the Arts Center has formed a task force to study the proposal and to carefully review the impact it might have on a recent, generous, much-needed grant (for refurbishing the theatre for needed temporary classroom space, among other things). It will not be an easy decision for the task-force of the Board and President Dennis Ott.

The two issues facing the Performing Arts groups in Sedona are: 1) Homelessness after June 2001 (EXCEPT for Chamber Music Sedona), and 2) A long term solution for a state of the art theatre complex for a permanent home for the performing arts groups, which would include all of them.

Should problem 1 go without resolution, there may not be the fire and zeal in the groups to make solving problem 2 necessary. At best, the state of affairs is complex but worth the effort of those trying to solve the puzzle.

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