The Rogue visit

Sunrise in Saguaro National Park

Sunrise in Saguaro National Park

I returned February 4 from a very full ten days in Tucson, Arizona, as a guest of The Rogue Theatre.

Beyond the opportunity to shirk snow-shoveling duties (I departed from Logan Airport in blizzard conditions that delivered over 50 inches of snowfall during a well-timed absence), my time in Tucson offered a chance to deepen a relationship with The Rogue’s artistic team that stretches back to 1986, when Cindy Meier, now The Rogue’s Managing and Associate Artistic Director, invited Figures of Speech to perform our signature piece, Anerca, at the Tucson Arts Festival.

In the intervening years, Cindy sagely married Mainer Tom Wentzel, which opened the door to annual meetings here in Freeport that sustained our friendship. She also teamed up with actor/director Joe McGrath to found The Rogue Theatre, and together they set out to stage innovative productions of classic works of literature. Now in its tenth season, The Rogue is an artistic standout in Tucson’s theater scene, a robust ensemble-based company with a “seize-the-day” approach to creation.

It was my pleasure to participate as an audience member in The Rogue’s sly and compelling production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, a piece I had never seen performed before. I joined the cast, crew and board of directors for a spectacular post-strike buffet dinner on the stage, and then sat in the next day on the monthly board meeting. Within 48 hours of my arrival in Tucson, I was ready to enlist! Not only have Joe and Cindy assembled a fantastic ensemble of actors and an excellent production staff, they have woven the community into the theater’s life, and created a culture of kindness, generosity, integrity and warmth that bowled me over.

That experience of The Rogue’s culture carried over into the workshop in puppetry I conducted with members of the ensemble, and into the rehearsals I observed for their upcoming production––Cindy’s adaptation of seven Virginia Woolf short stories.

The Rogue Theatre ensemble members exploring FST puppets.

The Rogue Theatre ensemble members exploring FST puppets.

One collective goal for my visit in Tucson had been to explore ways in which The Rogue and Figures of Speech could learn from each other, and to get to know each other’s aesthetic well enough to know if sometime in the future collaboration on a piece might be in the cards. The wheels are turning….

We also scheduled a performance of Four Quartets for The Rogue audience, and I performed the poems to a sold-out house. Cindy later wrote, “It’s a rare experience to sit in a full theatre and hear absolute silence. When John performed T.S. Eliot’s great poems at The Rogue, there were many moments of this rapt silence. It was as if the audience was holding its breath, clinging to each word.”

We look forward to Cindy and Tom’s next visit to Maine, and hope it will coincide with our workshop staging of the little match girl passion at Bates College on June 20.

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