Western Pinal County’s largest theater company was born 12 years ago from Carrie Vargas’ “show must go on” ethos.
An arts-focused academy she had been teaching folded just before its first production, The Importance of Being Earnest, was scheduled to debut. “In like two days’ time, I partnered up with the City and it went from being this School for the Arts show that it was going to be, and that’s when I founded Maricopa Community Theatre and we had our first show,” she says.
The all-volunteer nonprofit has staged numerous musicals and plays, from The Music Man to Sweeney Todd, supported by ticket sales, sponsorships and a few donors.
Current and former Maricopa residents, performers from the Phoenix and Casa Grande theater scenes, Central Arizona College students and others bring their talents to the stage. Vargas and three more members of the board of directors trade off directorial duties with a handful of others in the community.
The season typically consists of two musicals, one play, one kid-oriented show under the Maricopa Community Youth Theatre banner and one spun out of its summer youth camp program done in partnership with the City of Maricopa.
The next show will be Aladdin Jr., featuring the summer program’s students, July 14 to July 17 at the Maricopa Community Center.
Vargas says smaller productions are now staged in the recently opened community center, housed in the City’s former library, and larger musicals are hosted by Leading Edge Academy’s auditorium.
Maricopa Community Center shows eventually will move to the current police station between City Hall and the new library, which is scheduled to be converted into a theater and art gallery after a new police headquarters is built.
Shows on deck for the upcoming season include Seussical in the fall, Shakespeare’s Henry V for the winter, Never Eat a Talking Lobster by the Maricopa Community Youth Theatre for spring and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights in the summer.
Henry V has been reimagined by one of the company’s directors, Christopher Goodrum, who took on Vargas’ challenge to set the 16th century battlefield drama in the modern day and make the cast predominantly female, addressing a pitfall Vargas says she frequently encounters — “Gentlemen are hard to come by in theater, sometimes.”
“He’s set it to this whole idea of a large-city mayoral race,” she says. “The gist, the vibe, the essence of what that story is trying to convey is still there in the script.”
She says a few Maricopa Community Theatre performers have pursued bigger careers, but the theater’s main goal is to make live performance accessible and affordable to locals — ticket prices are generally around $10 to $15.
“We want them to enjoy live theater, it’s so different from any other art form in that you really get to assume and feel what people are feeling,” Vargas says. “With movies, you feel, on the TV screen, you feel, but it’s deeper and more magical when you’re in the theater and surrounded by collectively feeling all of that together.
“Having an opportunity to provide that to Maricopa and Pinal County, that’s very humbling to be able to do that.”
Learn more: www.maricopacommunitytheatre.org
Photos Courtesy of Maricopa Community Theater