On April 28, I joined a few hundred people in stroll from the Phoenix Theatre to the Phoenix Theatre.
That is, after some ceremony and stories, I left the old Phoenix Theatre on Park Ave. and arrived at the new Phoenix Theatre on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.
I’ve seen in the neighborhood of 112 plays at the old Phoenix since I arrived in Indy in 1995. That may sound like a fair number, but in looking over the list, I’m kicking myself for what I missed while simultaneously celebrating what I’ve seen.
The theatrical transition, of course, comes complete with specific memories. Here are nine of my favorites from more than 20 years of Phoenix-going. Why not ten? Well, because everybody does top 10 lists.
“Three Viewings.” Three actors (Su Ours, Chuck Goad and Gaye Steigerwald) plus three monologues equals my first concrete proof that Indianapolis had some damn fine acting talent.
“Whoop-Dee-Doo!” The gloriously giddy celebration of camp and costumes provided a wonderful balance to some of the Phoenix’s more intense work. It was also one of my only chances to experience the late Michael Klass on stage. A major loss.
“Proof.” Further evidence that the Phoenix could deliver, without compromise, the hottest plays from around the country. The heartbreaking intelligence of Alissa Stamatis in the lead was given ample support by Kelli Walker and Rich Komenich.
“Urinetown.” Straight-faced wackiness accompanied by strong voices and the perfectly cast Phebe Taylor.
“A Very Phoenix Xmas.” Indulge me on this one: It’s the only time my work has been performed by the Phoenix. Proud to have had my short, “The First Christmas…After Gravity Got All Screwed Up,” as a small part of the legacy. And sorry (not sorry) to the actors who had to crawl on their backs around the stage because of the gravitational problem.
“Pure Prine.” This Phoenix original took the already wonderful music of John Prine and packaged it with just enough plot thread to make it a wholly satisfying theatrical evening. My only regret is that rights complications kept it from having the afterlife it deserved.
“Stuff Happens.” Concerning the fragile alliances and egos that led to the Iraq war, David Hare’s docu-play is tough one to pull off but the Phoenix delivered it with precision, humor, and the requisite chills.
“4000 Miles.” Like “Proof,” Amy Herzog’s play that has been staged all around the country. But I’d hold the Phoenix version—with Martha Jacobs, Andrew Martin, and the on-fire force-of-nature Arianne Villareal—up against anyone’s.
“Acid Dolphin Experiment.” As trippy as you’d expect and want it to be while also surprisingly coherent and thoughtful, Tom Horan’s world premiere play delivered pleasurable surprise after pleasurable surprise.
Thanks to the Phoenix for these and many more. And here’s to continued exploration, excitement, and risk-taking in the new space.
Feel free to add your favorites below.