By M.V. Moorhead
“You know how they say Arizona’s a dry heat?” asks Ralph Remington. “Well, Minnesota is a ‘dry cold.’ It isn’t like in New York and Philly, where it blows in, and it’s rainy and it goes to your bones.”
I’m prepared to take Remington’s word for the relative tolerability of the winters in Minnesota, the region he thinks of as home, compared to the winters in the northeast.
But it must be admitted, at least, that the new Artistic Director of Tempe Center for the Arts speaks from experience:
He’s lived and worked in all of those places and more, and he brings his impressive resume to his new position.
Or, rather, to his new positions: Remington is also Deputy Director of Arts and Culture for the city of Tempe. Thus his duties will also include overseeing the Tempe History Museum and the Edna Vihel Center for the Arts, as well as the town’s public art projects.
“I’m grounded in theatre and political activism,” says the Philadelphia native and Howard University graduate, having had a long career as an actor, director, playwright and theatre administrator.
But his experience has also prepared him for the broad scope of his responsibilities in Tempe, whether aesthetic, civic or political: “I was a city councilman in Minneapolis, and was involved in some public art projects there.”
Remington was also the founder of the Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis, at which, he notes, “We had visual arts programs, painting and pottery, and a dance program as well.” He has served as an Assistant Executive Director of Actors’ Equity Association, a director of outreach programs for the prestigious Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and the Director of Theatre and Musical Theatre for the National Endowment for the Arts.
So, what does Remington plan to do with this track record in service of the Tempe Center for the Arts?
“What we need to do is build out the theatre program,” he says. “So far the TCA has largely been a rental space. It’s been going really well; we turn people away because the space is in such demand.”
Remington, however, wants to give Tempe her own arts scene. He looks forward to involving TCA in “new play development, by the newest, brightest playwrights in America, and choreographers, and musical groups. You want to have [these productions] overlap, so that it’s not just one after the other, but the dance companies get exposed to the plays.”
In support of this, says Remington, “I want to organize a crack team of corporate fundraisers to go out and get sponsorships. And I want to hire a new managing director, like a GM, but also a facilities director. I’ll focus on the whole, but I’d like to be more on the artistic side.”
So when will we in the public begin to see these changes?
“It’ll start effecting the schedule in, probably, January to March of 2017,” estimates Remington. “I’ll also direct a show that will be a TCA show, but it’ll be site-specfic.”
“It’ll probably be in a school; something about violence in schools. I want to do shows in schools, under bridges, in people’s living rooms. So it won’t be ‘the theatre is the mountain, and you come to the mountain.’ The mountain will come to the community.”
Go to tempe.gov for more information on Tempe Center for the Arts.