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Low Profile, High Impact AZ Arts Group Celebrates

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March 24, 2010

PHOENIX - Many Arizonans may never have heard of Actors Theatre – and yet, the professional company begins its 25th season this fall at Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

Matthew Wiener, the company's producing artistic director, says Actors Theatre strives to do thought-provoking plays that deal with contemporary social issues and ideas. Recent productions have examined such "what-if" topics as a cure for cancer, and the end of the world.

"We're not necessarily suggesting that we know how to change the world, but I think we are suggesting that there are important ideas in the world that are worthy of our examination and discussion."

Weiner compares Actors Theatre to an independent film producer, emphasizing artistic quality over mass audience appeal. The biggest challenge right now for the company is surviving the bad economy, which has cut into ticket sales. He says the organization has taken a number of steps in hopes of riding out the recession.

"Our strongest supporters have stepped forward and helped us. We've cut our budget almost half a million dollars over the past 24 months. We've reduced staff; we've put people on hiatus. We've cut costs everywhere."

Actors Theatre has one show left in the current season, called "No Child." Wiener describes it as a one-woman production that deals with contemporary education issues.

"It is a play that is very much about the power of education to influence young people - that if more is expected of them, they can produce and learn. It's a very moving, very powerful piece of theater."

"No Child" opens April 23. The group's Web site is www.actorstheatrephx.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ