on stage

ZACH Theatre's dreams are realized with fall season and opening of Topfer Theatre

ZACH Theatre's dreams are realized with fall season and opening of Topfer Theatre

As the ZACH Theatre website puts it, this will be the moment when dreams are realized.

This fall will bring not only the 2012-13 season for ZACH, but also the much-anticipated opening of its new Topfer Theatre. This once-in-a-lifetime first season will include a world premiere, an American musical with a full orchestra for the first time at ZACH, a beloved classic made new, an international concert guest star and the biggest, snowiest holiday favorite of all time, every production taking full advantage of the technological capabilities of the extraordinary new theatre.

"The opening of the Topfer Theatre has been my dream for 20 years at ZACH, and to see it come to fruition is so inspiring and joyous and motivational," says Dave Steakley, producing artistic director. "The theatre is a symbol of our community’s investment in ZACH’s mission. It says that the conversation that ZACH initiates in our city and the significant art that is being created here are meaningful to our citizens. It also says we value Austin artists who create unique work that inspires us and we want to keep them gainfully employed in our city."

ZACH's 2012-13 Mainstage Season will feature performances of Ragtime, White Christmas, 33 Variations, Harvey and the world premiere of Mad Beat Hip & Gone

He adds a note of gratitude to the citizens of Austin, for entrusting ZACH with the $10 million in bond funds that allowed them to create such an excellent regional theatre. 

"For 20 years ZACH staff members past and present have worked on making this theatre a reality. It’s completion represents the attainment of a long-held dream to create the place where our city gathers for a collective imaginative journey."

The Topfer Theatre will not only more than double ZACH's current capacity, but will also greatly expand its capabilities, including the ability to have an orchestra and to attract renowned talent to the Austin theatre scene. Steakley says this will enable ZACH to present offerings by some of Broadway's biggest stars — and to act as a launching pad for Broadway-bound musicals and plays from Austin, as ZACH did recently with Anna Deavere Smith’s Let Me Down Easy.

ZACH's 2012-13 Mainstage Season will feature performances of Ragtime, White Christmas, 33 Variations, Harvey and the world premiere of Mad Beat Hip & Gone — created specifically for ZACH's first season in the Topfer by Steven Dietz, the most-produced playwright in America who also calls Austin home.

 "The theatre is a symbol of our community’s investment in ZACH’s mission. It says that the conversation that ZACH initiates in our city and the significant art that is being created here are meaningful to our citizens."

Dietz says that writing and directing Mad Beat Hip & Gone for ZACH is a great honor as well as a challenge. "People are (rightly) expecting great things from this first season and I hope to deliver on those expectations.  My history with ZACH has taught me that they are fully focused on realizing the dreams of the creative artists involved; so I'm planning to lean on my collaborators in a major way to make a work that I hope will be worthy of this fantastic new Topfer theater."

The play is a valentine to American wanderlust, chronicling the rich and elusive dreams of the Beat generation. Dietz says he has long been fascinated with Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and the phenomenon of On the Road.

"But rather than write about those 'Beats' directly, I became interested in two (imagined) young men who might have been in the car right behind them. What happens when you uproot your life and go on that great quest into the wild American night? What is the difference between what you're searching for, and what you find?"

Dietz appreciates the willingness of ZACH Theatre to engage and employ artists from many other Austin theatre groups, including the Rude Mechs, Austin Shakes, Hyde Park Theatre and UT. He has watched Steakley reach out to many of these constituencies and welcome them into the ZACH community. "A theatre grows by feedings its roots and the roots of any theatre are the artists who are willing to engage each other in the process of making theatre. This — along with the tremendous new theatre going up on South Lamar — gives me true hope for the future."

From Steakley's perspective, he is focused on plays and musicals that involve dreams of some kind, from chasing the American dream to literal dreams while sleeping, and places where dreams are realized. He says that he selected Ragtime to inaugurate the Topfer for a variety of reasons:

  • It is of an epic scale befitting our grand opening
  • It allows us to use all the new technology we have invested in
  • It will involve large segments of our community with a cast of 40 Austin actors
  • It has never been produced locally
  • It was written by a native Texan Terrence McNally
  • It creates the opportunity to have a full orchestra for the first time in our new orchestra pit
  • It has roles for youth to perform
  • It has a multi-racial cast
  • Thematically, it has much to say about this time in ZACH’s life and in our lives as Americans, as some characters welcome and embrace change, while others struggle with it.

Mad Beat Hip & Gone will open on Apr. 3, 2013; but before then you can catch Ragtime opening in the Topfer on Oct. 17. Click here for a full list of the 2012-13 season.

The Topfer Theatre will open with a two-day celebration featuring a black tie gala entitled “Once Upon A Dream,” chaired by Bobbi Topfer, Kelly Topfer, and Wendy Topfer on Thursday, Sep. 27, 2012. This will be followed by an evening of entertainment throughout ZACH’s three-theatre campus on Saturday, Sep. 29, 2012 chaired by Christine Messina, Deanna Serra, and Bobbi Topfer.

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For season subscription information call ZACH Theatre’s box office at (512) 476-0541 or go to www.zachtheatre.org.

Austin Photo Set: News_shelley_zach theater_may 2012_entrance
Topfer Plaza entrance Courtesy of ZACH Theatre
Austin Photo Set: News_shelley_zach theater_may 2012_donor lounge
Donor Lounge Courtesy of ZACH Theatre
Austin Photo Set: News_shelley_zach theater_may 2012_auditorium
Armstrong Auditorium Courtesy of ZACH Theatre
Austin Photo Set: News_shelley_zach theater_may 2012_dave steakley
Dave Steakley, ZACH Theatre Producing Artistic Director Courtesy of ZACH Theatre
Austin Photo Set: News_shelley_zach theater_may 2012_steven dietz
Courtesy of University of Texas