Mesa Encore Theatre (known in earlier days as Mesa Little Theatre and Mesa Community Theatre) presented its 77th season in 2013-2014, making it the Valley’s second oldest theatrical company after Phoenix Theatre.
It stands as an example of what community theater can be – and should be. It has produced more than 200 plays and musicals, consistently providing the East Valley with quality entertainment.
The city of Mesa has always taken pride in the company, something that other Valley community groups couldn’t always claim. Perhaps that it because Mesa Encore Theatre owes its existence to its city.
In 1937, Joseph S. Jarvis was appointed head of Mesa’s parks and recreation department. In newspaper articles of the day, he repeatedly said he wanted to make his city “a beautiful place to live.”
In his book, that meant having an active theater company. Helped by Jarvis and the city, Mesa Encore Theatre started small, performing at a local school and then at various locations throughout the city.
Today, it is one of the companies housed at Mesa’s beautiful Performing Arts Center, a state-of-the-art facility that includes three theaters of varying size.
It was built to celebrate the city’s love and appreciation of the fine arts. That Mesa Encore Theatre is there is only apt. –Kyle Lawson
BOARD OF DIRECTORS 2013-2014
President: Becky Martinez
Artistic Director/First Vice President: Debra Jo Davey
Second Vice President: Cindy Kustwan
Treasurer: Marilu Vince
Recording Secretary: Pam Pershing
Corresponding Secretary: Joy Bingham Strimple
Webmaster: Jeffrey J. Davey
Members at Large: Patricia Prosek, Jason K. Walz, Chris Peterson.
Read more about Mesa Encore Theatre HERE
PHOTOGRAPHS, REVIEWS & THE KITCHEN SINK
SEPTEMBER 2015. THE WIZ.
The enthusiastic crowd response this opening weekend to Mesa Encore Theatre’s 2015-16 season launch seemed to boil down to a simple equation: Lion + choreography + killer solos = Wiz Wow. That eavesdropping perspective at the Mesa Arts Center last night was pretty accurate about this production of “The Wiz,” a show whose history includes both the 1975 Best Musical Tony and a slated December 2015 airing on NBC Live with big name pop stars announced just this week.
Based on the story by L. Frank Baum that’s woven into our country’s fabric, the musical is a re-telling of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” in the context of African-American culture. The success stories within that story last night were all about a fabulous Lion played by Nathanial Tenenbaum, Lynzee Foreman’s creative, character-specific dance moves and some individual powerhouse voices.
The Lion story represented all the best in this production. From the second Tenenbaum roared onto stage, he had the crowd eating from his pscho-analyzed paws. That is, Tenenbaum owned the troubled, vamping cat’s sad tale and whole-heartedly invited the other characters into it. Ironically, that took a lot of courage. As ridiculous as his owl therapist, the frosted tips of his mane, or his lascivious poppy cravings might have been, everyone in the house identified with his honest struggle and cheered both his triumphs and the vocal sweet spots on which he routinely pounced.
The dance stories told within this particular Oz story were fluid, thoughtful and engaging from beginning to end. The twister scene was comprised of a corps of stormy dancers clad in long, windswept black strips of cloth, accompanied by African-beating bongos and wordless vocals to mesmerizing effect. Scarecrow’s (Shawn Wong) crows danced and bobbed their heads like the real deal, verifying his sorry cornfield existence.
Then Matravius Avent, a gifted tap dancer whose mellow song grew ever-sweeter, resurrected from rust his Tin Man character. The choreography made it seem that pure personality was lubricating his stiffened joints one by one. Certainly, the Emerald City bound foursome was never more emotionally unified than when they all ‘Eased on Down the Road’ in Foreman’s synchronized, rhythmic steps.
As for vocals, what a team of cameo soloists Musical Director Debra Jo Davey has assembled… from an opening with Aunt Em’s (Felicia Penza) “The Feeling We Once Had” to a Glinda’s (Anne-Lise Koyabi) closing “Believe In Yourself.” In between, with a pining voice as big as Kansas, Dorothy (Jacqueline Monet) began her other-world journey, and the audience knew a few notes into “Soon as I Get Home” that they were in for an evening of soulful listening. Act II opened with an unbelievable injection of needed vitality when Savannah Alfred as Wicked Witch Evillene threatened “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News!”
SEPTEMBER 2014 GODSPELL Director: Brian Foley. Music Director: Debra Jo Davey. Cast: Rudy Ramirez. Kyle Bennett, Vinny Chavez, Marjani Hing-Glover, Abigail Marshall, Ben Massouras,
Rachel Stilchen, Destiny Walsh, Jessica Webb.
JUNE 2014 THE FULL MONTY
Playwright: Terrence McNally. Music: David Yazbek. Director: Chris Hamby. Music Director: Debra Jo Davey. Cast: Julian Peña, Michael Leeth, Damon J. Bolling, Barbara Walker McBain, Andrew Lipman, Jonathon Holdsworth, Chad Campbell, Lizz Reeves Fidler, Heather Fallon, Jesse Ochoa, Brenda Jean Foley, Charles Blessing, Rebecca Weinstein, Star Parra, Katy Callie, Barkley Romero, Joe Navan, Peyton Gerry and Aaron Zweiback. Choreographer: Paul Pedersen. Technical Director, Scenic Design, Sound Design: Chris Peterson. Lighting Design: Bret G. Reese. Costume Design: Joe Navan and Pam Pershing. Props Design: Tammy Gilbert. Stage Manager: Paris D. Rhoad.
ARIZONA REPUBLIC, SEPT. 28, 1969: BINA BREITNER REPORTS ON THE STATE OF VALLEY THEATER
JANUARY 1941 Mesa Little Theatre, “Nick of the Woods or Telie the Renegade’s Daughter. ” Director: Toory Lofgreen. Cast: Eugene Gladden, Nona Millett, Bill Doughty, Keith Bird, Ruby Hamilton, John Donaldson, Jim Guthrie, Perle White, Lloyd Ebert, Lola Mae Dixon, Louise Gladden, Jean Francis Clary.
Casting Notice as it appeared in the Arizona Republic on Dec. 14, 1940
Arizona Republic, Jan. 15, 1940
NOVEMBER 1938 Mesa Little Theatre, “Flight Over Taos,” play by Maxwell Anderson. Director: Harvey L. Taylor. Cast: Nadine LeSeur (reportedly a relative of film star Joan Crawford), Rulon Shepherd, Gladys Hayes.