The Best of Community Theater — Zoni Style!

Hey gang, did you catch the 27th Annual AriZoni Awards? Or as we AZ dwellers affectionately call them, “the Zoni’s”.

(Really, if your state name lends itself to such a great rip-off on the Tony’s, how do you not use it?)

The Zoni’s recognize excellence in community theater in our Valley, and this year we went to the ceremony because… (drum roll, please)… Son was nominated! For Best Original Music Composition for a Play.

Also, both offspring were involved in a production of Avenue Q, nominated for Best Overall Production of a Musical. Their ensemble performed a musical number for the ceremony. (*proud mama moment*)

Neither Son nor the production won, but it was a thrill to hear his name read among the other nominees. And perhaps I’m rationalizing a little, but beings how it was his first time writing a composition, maybe it was best he didn’t win.

Might set the bar a little high for the next time, don’t you think?

Or as Husband said (with more enthusiasm than I thought necessary), “I bet this will be the first of many losses for him!”

Such a proud father.

Anyway, as to the ceremony itself, here a few observations I made:

Phoenicians Clean Up Good

This city isn’t known for its fashion sense, but when the event calls for it, we don’t disappoint. There were some incredible dresses that night, several of them red carpet worthy.

I was sooo relieved I thought to do an image search on the Zonis before I got dressed. (This is something introverts can relate to: I’m okay going to big event, as long as I know ahead of time what to expect.)

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Dressing up in Phoenix usually means a nice pair of jeans with no holes, a button down shirt, and your best pair of sneakers (cowboy boots if you got ‘em). After viewing the images, I pulled out my black dress and heels. Good thing. I was just fancy enough to blend in, without drawing any attention to myself. (Whew!)

That’s not to say everyone got the memo. As we were making our way through the parking lot toward the theater, we walked past a family disembarking from their red Ford F-150. All of them dressed very casually. The woman was wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a t-shirt advertising Bud Light. As we passed, I recognized the look that passed over her face. It was that moment of realization when it hits you, “Oh! Should we have dressed up?”

Dear Lady, we’ve all been there.

Google image search. It’s a thing.

Presenters Got it Good

Yes, it’s nice to be a nominee and hear your name called, but honestly, if I got to choose my place for the evening? I’d be one of the people standing toward the back of the stage holding the award. The ones whose only job is to hand the awards to the winners. They don’t talk, they don’t perform, they don’t do a thing but walk on stage and stand there.


Don’t believe me? Consider this gal:


She looked to be in her late teens or early 20s. She was wearing a red mermaid dress, smiled the entire time she was onstage, and I don’t think she exhaled once.

I grew to love her.

It looked like she was having the time of her life, and why wouldn’t she? There’s no stress over winning or losing, she got a chance to shine a little on stage, and she got to hand people their award and make them very happy indeed. One woman hugged her. 

You rock, Mermaid Gal!

The Little Theater That Could

There were 26 awards given over the course of the evening and a number of them went to a community theater in the little town of Queen Creek. (By little town, we’re talking a population a little over 30,000, immediately adjacent to a large urban area. So, relatively little.)

This was the first year their theater participated in the Zoni’s and they made an impressive showing, winning several major awards. Including Best Overall Production of a Musical, beating out the production my kids were in. But after hearing their director’s acceptance speech, I forgave them.

“Everyone in Queen Creek thanks you!!” she told us. “Seriously, most of them are here! We brought a bus!”

She went on to say the town of Queen Creek provides some of their funding.

Isn’t that something? How many towns do you know of set aside part of their budget to support the arts? I think that’s darn swell of them. And no doubt a big reason why they were able to put on several award-winning productions.

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Phoenix is the Next New York!

Okay, this one might be a bit of a stretch. It was said by the dude who won Best Actor in a Play, so maybe he was a bit delirious at the time.

But one thing he said – and there was no reason for him to lie, so we should probably believe him – was that he moved to Phoenix five years ago and as of this year, he’s now able to support himself full-time as an actor. In Phoenix!

Granted, we’ve no idea what he means by “support himself.” Is he on his own? Does he have an apartment to himself. Does he have five roommates?

Maybe he lives in a cardboard box behind the theater! We don’t know!

All kidding aside, I was surprised to hear there were any full-time actors in Phoenix. Clearly, there’s more to our community theater scene than I realized, and I’m determined to see more of it next year.

And so should you! In your own community, I mean.

Wherever you live, there’s probably a little theater somewhere just aching for more people in their audience. The tickets are never too much, usually in the $20 to $40 dollar range – sometimes less and sometimes for free! (Be sure to check out your Community Colleges — that’s where we saw Avenue Q!)

And who knows? You might be surprised what talent is lurking in your community. You might find out you’re living in the next New York! 😉


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22 thoughts on “The Best of Community Theater — Zoni Style!

  1. Sounds like a splendid evening, with all the excitement and pride. Community Theater is the best when it comes to discovering amazingly talented people doing wonderful things on a tiny budget. And then most of them go back to their “real job” the next morning and slog it through the day until they can run free once again. Kudos for the PSA at the end, as many folks are unaware of glowing gems in their own backyard…

    1. Very true! Phoenix is big enough that we get a lot of touring productions, but I’m sure most people have no idea what talent is lurking in the little theater they pass on their way to work.
      We saw a production of Sunday in the Park with George last year that was in the tiniest theater you could imagine. The set, obviously, suffered a little in translation. But my God, the voices! There was true talent on the stage approximately three feet ahead of me. I was starstruck! 😍

  2. Queen Creek! OMG! I had friends in Queen Creek and we used to shoot rattlesnakes from their front porch. I guess time, tide and Community Theatre wait for no man. Congrats to the kids. God, do I feel old.

      1. I don’t remember actually ever hitting one, although my buddy did have a set of rattles so I think we must have. Personally, I don’t like snake it tastes too much like chicken.

  3. Sometimes when you’re an actor you think only your own friends see your plays, so I’m glad you appreciate community theater. That’s where I got my start and no matter what I do with this acting bug I’ve got, I’ll be grateful for my time in community theater.

    1. My son loves it, especially the work he’s done here. What I love is how no one seems to take themselves too seriously. I mean, when I watch the Oscars or Tony’s, sometimes my eyes are sooo tired, what with all the eye rolls. 😉

  4. I am convinced that community theater is at the very heart of that community project we usually refer to as “raising our kids.” Our community theater (Brazosport Center Stages) has helped us bring up generations of highly literate kids who know how to work as a team toward a common goal. And they have learned how difficult and rewarding it is to put a show together. They learn how to empathize and they even have a chance to act out, wear makeup, and sass their “parents”. Having the chance to have a peer relationship with adults builds their confidence. Community theater is a gift in so many ways — to the community, to the kids, the audiences, the parents. Congratulations on your successful program in Phoenix

    1. I have to agree with you on all points. My kids getting involved in theater in high school was one of the best things that ever happened to them, I’m certain, and I’m so glad they stuck with it. Besides which, it’s terribly entertaining to watch them on stage.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Sounds like you have a winning program of your own!

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