New Chapters for 2018

Arizona Theatre Company and Phoenix Chorale set the wheels of change in motion ahead of the new year

By Seth Reines, January 2018 Issue.

ATC embarks on next half century with new directors

Billy Russo (left) and David Ivers. Photo courtesy of

Last season Arizona Theatre Company (ATC) celebrated its first half century as The State Theatre of Arizona, committed to “inspiring, engaging, and entertaining – one moment, one production, and one audience at a time.”

Founded in Tucson in 1967 as the Arizona Civic Theatre, ATC achieved professional status in 1972, hiring Actors’ Equity performers under a modified League of Resident Theaters (LORT) contract. The Arizona Civic Theatre began presenting part of its season in Phoenix in 1978 and, a year later, became Arizona Theatre Company, performing full seasons in both Phoenix and Tucson since 1983.

ATC now boasts Arizona’s largest seasonal performing arts subscriber base and is the only resident theatre company in the U.S. fully based in two cities. More than 130,000 people attend ATC performances annually at the Temple of Music and Art in Tucson and the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

Each season, ATC presents a wide range of productions – from classics and contemporary plays to musicals and new works – plus community outreach and educational programming and new works initiatives. The theatre recently closed its provocative “Fairy Tale for Adults,” The River Bride, 2013 winner of ATC’s National Latino Playwriting Award.

To lead ATC into its second half century, the Board of Trustees recently cast a dynamic new artistic/management team: artistic director David Ivers and managing director Billy Russo.

Ivers served as artistic director of the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival for seven years, acting in or directing more than 55 productions with that company throughout 20 seasons. During his tenure, the theatre boasted a $40 million facilities expansion that included two new theatres and a significant rebranding of the organization.

“I am happy and inspired to carry the torch with the hope the next 50 years will bring us together surrounded by stories that help contextualize our world even as they entertain and inspire,” said Ivers about his excitement about his new role.

Russo, who resides in Tucson with his husband, Richard Giuliani (a graphic designer with no relation to the mayor!), previously served as managing director of Harvard’s American Repertory Theatre. During Russo’s residence, the company generated a 50 per cent increase in contributed income. At New York Theatre Workshop, Russo retired a $1.3 million deficit, enabling the company to produce the world premieres of Tony Award-winning Once and Peter and the Starcatcher.

In the program for ATC’s 2017 season opener, Chapter Two, directed by Marsha Mason, Russo asserted, “We are thrilled to be embarking on this next chapter together from a position of strength and growth.”

(Editor’s Note: ATC almost shuttered for financial reasons in 2016. However, last season’s subscription sales increased 16 percent, single ticket sales 45 percent and annual contributed income 25 percent above the past ten-year average.)

ATC’s 2018 season continues with the “Impossible Dream” musical Man of La Mancha (Jan. 5-28), Tony-nominated romantic comedy Outside Mullingar (Feb. 15-March 4), musical revue Low Down Dirty Blues (April 4-22) and historical drama The Diary of Anne Frank (May 17-June 3).

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After 18 years, Phoenix Chorale’s maestro begins new chapter

Charles Bruffy. Courtesy photo.

After 18 artistically successful years, Grammy-winning conductor Charles Bruffy recently stepped down from his Phoenix podium.

Bruffy joined the Phoenix Bach Choir in 1999, transforming it into a world-class classical vocal ensemble now known as the Phoenix Chorale.

“I originally agreed to be in Phoenix for one season, but then one day I turned around and my first season had turned into 18 years,” Bruffy said. “From where we started to where we are now, it’s been quite a journey and I am so proud of what we have accomplished together.”

One of America’s most admired choral conductors, Bruffy began his career as a tenor soloist with the Robert Shaw Festival Singers. Shaw encouraged his development as a conductor, and in 1996, he was invited by American Public Media’s Performance Today to help celebrate Shaw’s 80th birthday with an on-air tribute. In 1999, The New York Times dubbed him “the late, great conductor’s potential heir.”

Renowned for his passionate interpretations of choral standards, Bruffy has commissioned and premiered choral pieces for concerts around the world. Recording with both Nimbus and Chandos Records, he has been recognized with 12 Grammy nominations and five wins, including “Best Choral Performance” in 2016 for Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil with the combined voices of the Phoenix and Kansas City Chorales.

Last Fall, The Phoenix Chorale celebrated its association with Bruffy with a series of concerts titled Bruffy’s Best.

Bruffy’s husband of many years, Don Loncasty, serves as the executive director of the Kansas City Chorale. Bruffy will continue as artistic director of that organization and the director of the Kansas City Symphony Chorus.

In his spare time, Bruffy will pursue his other passion: raising and breeding Arabian and Saddlebred horses on their ranch south of Kansas City.

“He has given so much to the Chorale – years of dedication to our singers, patrons, and our Phoenix community,” said Jen Rogers, Phoenix Chorale president and CEO. “Over the years, he has built such a solid foundation, a choir with an impeccable reputation for creating musical art of the highest caliber. He’s confident we are ready for the next chapter.”

For Phoenix Chorale, the show(s) will go on in 2018, including Nordic Songs (March 2-4) and Sing of Spring (April 27-29).

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