Down at the Ranch
by Elizabeth Warren
may have been won, but in the Actors Repertory Theatre of Sedona's
latest production, it ain't nothing but fun.
Playing through July
29 at El Rojo Grande Ranch, Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., A.R.T.S. is producing
How the West Was Fun!, an hilarious "Homage on the Range" by Michael
The show has its roots
in the old Sedona Mellerdrammer Festival, an annual tradition
uptown merchants used to enjoy. The informal evenings would feature
steak dinners and amateur skits, accompanied by relentless, good-natured
hazing and lots of laughs.
When Michael Peach
arrived in Sedona in the mid-80s to start a theatre company with
a partner, the Mellerdrammer Festival was in full swing. The uptown
merchants invited his group, Coyote Magic Theatre, to perform
at one of their gatherings. Around the same time, Black Bart's
Restaurant in Flagstaff was hosting a contest to seek original
scripts about the singing bandit for their staff to perform, and
How the West Was Fun! was born.
From day one, the
show has had a pretty interesting history.
The original production
at the Mellerdrammer Festival went so well, it was invited back
for a second year. Around the same time, it won the Black Bart's
contest, only to be shelved when the restaurant owners decided
that it wasn't quite politically correct enough.
After a disastrous
performance in Williams (complete with drunken bikers staggering
around the performance space), How the West Was Fun! retired to
Peach's desk until 1993, when the Stage II Theatre of Waukeegan
requested to perform the show in their season. The show was a
huge hit for Stage II, and continues on the upswing with the current
A.R.T.S. producing artistic director Mark Raddatz and marketing
director Kay Raddatz suggested to Peach that the show be a part
of their sixth season. Knowing that the location of most A.R.T.S.
Tlaquepaque Arts and
Crafts Village, would not be quite appropriate for the raucous
western comedy, Peach hesitated. But when the decision was made
to host the production at El Rojo Grande, things began to fall
"In an odd, quirky
way, it belongs here," says Peach. Staged in a work barn on the
ranch's stunning grounds, How the West Was Fun! provides a unique
theatre experience. When the sun sets and the red rocks fade out
of view, the show and the laughter begin.
Featuring an old codger
of a narrator, a mustachioed villain, the first stand-up comedian
in the west and a pair of gals after a good man or two, the production
takes audiences on a whirlwind tour of a western town and the
unexpected acts of God that steer its wacky residents.
Throw in a stogy graduate
student, a much-aligned stuffed duck and some funny takes on some
familiar songs, and you've got How the West Was Fun! in a nutshell.
Complete with audience members booing and hissing at the villain,
the production is a fun, family-friendly option for visitors and
in town theatre-goers alike. It even keeps the past alive with
a nod to the first production at the Mellerdrammer Festival: the
saloon sign used in that first production (which has been buried
in Peach's shed for years) has resurfaced just for the occasion.
How the West Was Fun!
is directed by Tobias Hardy, whose credits include work with Banff
Shakespeare Festival, Chicago's Chimera Players and the Acting
Group of Diaspora, Ohio. The production features actors Jason
Gerace, Kathleen O'Neill, Bill Frank, Roberta Lairson, Ron Richie
and Brad Luky.
director Raddatz notes that A.R.T.S. is dedicated to featuring
Sedona performers in all of their shows, and strives to use the
local talent in ways that work well.
"Is culture something that we bribe to visit, or do we want it
to live among us?" he says. Raddatz, who has worked with the professional
theatre company since 1998, is a strong supporter of Sedona-area
artists and performers, and recollects with regret the days when
it was affordable for actors to live in town. Even so, A.R.T.S.
has uncovered some impressive northern Arizona talent, Peach among
is terribly difficult work," says Raddatz. The last A.R.T.S. production,
The Amorous Flea, was beset with problems revolving around actors,
most notably Raddatz himself, who was struck down with medical
problems a mere week before the show was scheduled to open.
"Dropping out of Flea at the last minute was heartbreaking,"
he says. "More so than I realized at the time. But people came
out of the woodwork to make it happen."
Actor and director Noel Schwartz stepped into Raddatz's role
at the last second, and The Amorous Flea enjoyed a successful
run at Tlaquepaque.
Don't miss How the West Was Fun!, or the upcoming A.R.T.S. production
of Sandra Deer's Sailing to Byzantium, an Arizona premiere and
the story of a fictional meeting between William Butler Yeats
and Ezra Pound.
Tickets for How the West Was Fun! are available by calling A.R.T.S.
at 204 2064, or by stopping by one of their outlets: the Tlaquepaque
Information Booth, Sedona Books and Music or the Sedona-Oak Creek
Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center. Prices are $15 general admission
and $12 for members.