By Jennifer Marshall
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” said William Shakespeare.
Community theater is one of the best venues for testing, challenging and growing your thespian skills. That’s why we’re so blessed to have the acclaimed Desert Foothills Theater right here in our own backyard. Located in North Scottsdale, the playhouse sets on North 60th Street, south of East Carefree Highway.
“The theater falls under the umbrella of the Foothills Community Foundation,” said Managing Director Tia Wooley.
A nonprofit entity, Desert Foothills Theater houses its offices in the Holland Community Center, which shares a campus with the Desert Foothills YMCA and Paradise Valley Community College at Black Mountain.
While actors and actresses audition and practice at Holland, they perform their plays and musicals at Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center. A component of the Cave Creek Unified School District, Cactus Shadows contains two theaters: The Main Stage Theater and The Black Box Theater. While The Main Stage Theater is home to many of Desert Foothill’s performances, The Black Box Theater is also regularly utilized.
From novices to seasoned thespians—everyone is welcome and encouraged to audition for any role that piques their interest. However, no one is guaranteed any specific part as all roles are based solely on the director’s vision for the character.
So, what happens if you don’t get THE role? Aspiring thespians—never give up on your theatrical dreams, and don’t let not getting THE role seize control of your confidence and mark the end of your theater endeavors.
Desert Foothills is a nurturing and educating community theater that’s always in need of enthusiastic volunteers. Jump in and lend a hand backstage. While there, you’ll reap invaluable knowledge and experience to help enable you to land that next coveted starring role. Or, maybe you’ll discover your theater-loving-heart is really into the artistry of costume making rather than starring center stage.
“We’re a great training ground for individuals to gain experience,” said Wooley. “Some people think they want to be actors, but instead, they learn they want to design sets or style hair and makeup.”
Many helping hands are needed to bring a play or musical to life on stage, and as Constantin Stanislavski said: “Remember: there are no small parts, only small actors.”
Several productions are just for kids and teens, meaning the cast is exclusively comprised of youth actors and actresses. These youth productions, such as the upcoming “Seussical, Jr.,” which will run from May 10-19, 2019, are considered a class and part of Desert Foothill’s educational program.
A couple of times a year, the theater hosts a tea for children in conjunction with the current running youth production. Adding another dimension of fun to this event, the production’s young actors and actresses give a little performance typically in the form of a song and story reading. These young thespians also play waitstaff for the day as they serve their guests tea, finger sandwiches and dessert, which are all furnished by the English Rose Tea Room in Carefree.
Other plays and musicals are geared solely towards the adult crowd 19 and older like “Leading Ladies” debuting February 8, 2019 and running until February 16, 2019.
And if you’re looking for an inventive family activity, check out their family-style productions, which cast youth and adults together.
Education represents a significant percentage of Desert Foothills’ theatrical programs and helps to maintain their close ties with the community. According to Wooley, in addition to the classes they teach at the theater, they also enjoy a partnership with the local public and private schools. The body of coursework that’s taught encompasses students in kindergarten all the way through high school.
“One of our instructors is at the Foothills Academy,” said Wooley, “and teaches part of their theater and music curriculum, which are classes the kids take for their schooling.”
Through the Education & Community Services Program at Cave Creek Unified School District, they conduct workshops like “Imagination Nation,” which covers the basics of acting. The art of clowning is another unique theatrical class offered. The various courses included in this program are held in the afternoon at different elementary schools throughout the community.
For true newbies to the world of theater, Desert Foothills offers what they call “no cut classes,” which means that everyone who comes out to audition for a part receives one. These series of courses meet every Saturday for four hours, and after six weeks of study and practice, they do a performance.
This program is centered around students learning how to take direction and how to move on stage. They also become proficient in studying their character in order to transform it into a physical being. And since theater is a team effort, they quickly understand how to work successfully with their fellow cast members.
For those individuals with special needs, they haven’t been forgotten. The joy and satisfaction of expressing yourself through the theatrical arts is a pleasure that needs to be available to everyone. To accomplish this mission, Desert Foothills offers two sets of full spectrum classes for these special thespians. One workshop focuses on youth to age 16, while the other one is tailored to those aged 16 to 25.
Comprising the remainder of their educational offerings, camps are held in July and usually last one to two weeks. Camp days are divided in half. The morning session focuses on working in a theater and on a production, while learning how to act through comprehending the scope of your character. In the afternoon, instructors delve into the many aspects that allow a production to come alive including set, costume and hair and makeup design. Camp culminates with a production dressed out with sets and costumes.
So, what does this community theater have in store for the new year?
“Space is tight,” said Wooley, “so we’re looking into building our own facility where everything would be organized and efficient all under one roof, which would give us a lot more availability to expand our programming.”
In addition to auditioning, practicing and performing in two separate spaces, they have the other components of their business based at multiple separate locations. For example, they rent an outdoor garage area where they build their sets, and then they have a shed near a local school where they house many of their building supplies.
With the goal of expanding the program by adding more variety, Wooley will be hosting a Playwright Festival next season, and Andrea Markowitz, Ph.D., a local playwright, will be the playwright-in-residence. The following play categories are open to submissions and will be performed (details to follow on their website):
• 1 Minute Play
• 10 Minute Play
• A Play in a Day
• Kids’ Corner
The coming year will also see a continuation of their popular Cabaret Shows and Desert Foothills Theater Presents Tribute Bands. To learn about all the upcoming exciting shows, classes and camps, visit their website at www.dftheater.org.