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'Tigers Be Still' kicks off Arizona Repertory Theatre's new season

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Ed Flores/Arizona Repertory Theatre

Sherry (Kelly Hajek), right, tries to get Joseph (Alec Coles), left, to say what he sees in the ink blot in Arizona Repertory Theatre’s comedy production of "Tigers Be Still."

The Arizona Repertory Theatre will have its first showing of the fall semester Sunday, Sept. 17 when students of the theatre perform “Tigers Be Still.”

The play, written in 2010 by Kim Rosenstock, is being directed by Brent Gibbs, a professor in the School of Theatre, Film and Television. While the fall semester may only be four weeks in, preparation for “Tigers Be Still” began months in advance.

“We auditioned for this show at the end of last semester,” Gibbs said.

As a result, the actors and actresses had the summer to mentally prepare themselves before they began rehearsals for the play the week before school started.

“We do what we call equity days, which are eight hours of rehearsals each day,” Gibbs said. “We had a whole week of eight-hour-a-day rehearsals for a week before they even came back to school.”

Gibbs said this schedule is taxing for the actors, likening the routine to an endurance sport.

“It’s an incredibly demanding profession and field of study to go into,” he said.

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The actors’ schedule doesn’t end there, as their rehearsals are complicated with actors taking classes, too.

“They can have classes as early as 8 in the morning, and they can go to rehearsals until as late as 11 at night,” Gibbs said.

Between classes, the student actors have an hour break and an hour for dinner before they go into rehearsals for the evening.

“We actually follow the Professional Actor’s Union model in terms of the breaks that we give them throughout the day,” he said.

Gibbs also sees many of the actors performing in “Tigers Be Still” throughout the day with his work as a professor.

In the classroom, the actors learn concepts and techniques that will help them in their careers. The performances serve as a practical opportunity for the students to sharpen and hone the skills they learn in the classroom.

“We view the productions that we mount as extensions of those classrooms,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs’ task as director is not only to bring the best out of his young actors, but also to help instill the lessons the actors learn in the classroom. While the actors may be young in their career, Gibbs said their acting skills are at a high level.

“I’m blessed in that I get to work with students, many of whom are going to go on to have very successful acting careers,” he said. “So it’s both a pleasure and a privilege.”

One of the actors is Kelly Hajek, a junior in the BFA acting program at the School of Theatre, Film and Television, who will be playing the show’s lead, Sherry Wickman.

“She has a good sensibility; she’s an incredibly hard worker; she’s a talented actress,” Gibbs said. “She’s very successful in the role.”

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Gibbs described the writer of “Tigers Be Still” as inventive.

“Kim Rosenstock’s voice is very unique,” he said. “She has a lovely ear for dialogue. She has a sharp sense of humor; it’s oftentimes oblique.”

While the play is a comedy about two sisters, there are some heartbreaking moments.

“It’s kind of a comedy about depression,” said Lisa Pierce, director of marketing and development at the Arizona Repertory Theatre.

The play is set in a more modern period. Pierce said this will make the play more relatable to audiences.

“It’s about two families who find out that happiness is not as elusive as it seems,” she said.

Relatability and accessibility are at the center of what Pierce is trying to achieve. To help accomplish this goal, the Arizona Repertory Theatre will maintain the $15 price point for single tickets to help attract more students.

“We really wanna make theatre accessible as much as possible,” she said.

“Tigers Be Still” will show from Sept. 17 through Oct. 8.

“It’s this lovely piece that is heartbreaking and hilarious all at the same moment,” Gibbs said.


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