This past January, the Arizona Commission on the Arts invested $119,000 in 16 arts-focused ventures at regional fast-pitch events held in four Arizona cities. This month we’re checking in with some of those ventures to see how they’re progressing.

So far we’ve caught up with Gretchen Baer’s Paint Your Town!, ProMusica Arizona’s Unpredictable Adventures of Henry Hicklebee, the Building careACTOR program, a partnership between Tucson’s Arts Express and Arizona Schools for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB), and The Bridge Initiative: Women in Arizona Theatre. Today, we have an update on Teatro Bravo’s Carpa Plays

Teatro Bravo was  founded in 2000 with the mission “to produce quality Latino-themed plays in English and Spanish.” In their Arizona Art Tank application Teatro Bravo proposed a venture with a more narrowly focused version of that mission: to bring theatre to the Latino families in the surrounding areas of Phoenix who may not otherwise be able to experience theatre in its conventional form.

carpeThe Carpa Plays will be a series of devised theatrical performances created by local Latino and non-­‐Latino artists telling stories  of the Latino experience happening in and out of AZ. The Mexican tent shows of the 1930’s, classic American Vaudeville and “actos”–the flatbed truck theatre shows presented by Teatro Campesino in the 1960’s–will inspire these plays.

Three months after being awarded $8,000 at the western regional Arizona Art Tank event in Peoria, Teatro Bravo’s Artistic Director, Ricky Araiza, reported on the progress of the venture, the Art Tank experience and the doors it has opened for his company.

What was the experience of preparing and delivering your pitch for Arizona Art Tank like for your team?

We wanted to accomplish something that would cater to an all-ages audience. Now, not something that is targeted towards children that are accompanied by adults, but a true display of theatre for all ages. We felt that the only true way to approach an audience and a judging panel is just to be completely honest about what we wanted to accomplish and why it was the most important thing that our community needed–in this case, Latino work and representation on stage, especially here in the Southwest.

Beyond the grant, what has your organization taken away from the experience of preparing for and pitching at Arizona Art Tank?

The biggest thing we learned was the importance of knowing exactly what we want in a project. Once we figure that out, everything else seems to fall into place. We also realized that members of our community believe in our ideas and they are rooting for us, which is a great feeling.

Any other unexpected benefits from participating in Arizona Art Tank?

Because of Art Tank, we gained the interest of Theatre Works. They have invited us to perform on their main stage this summer, which is a great opportunity to reach west valley families.

carpa1How would you characterize your progress so far?

We currently have an ensemble that meets every week to flesh out characters and create the script. We have been able to hire a popular local street artist to design and create our backdrop for the show and we are currently locking down designs for the overall visual aesthetic of the show. We’ve recently had a promo photo shoot and will be releasing those images soon. We still have a long road ahead but we have a strong ensemble that‘s diverse and anxious to create work.

What’s next?

Well, it is our focus to finish The Carpa Plays and create partnerships with organizations all over the valley to continue to bring the show we create to as many audiences as possible. We are currently getting audience feedback about future seasons and we are focusing on restructuring Teatro Bravo internally.

The Art Tank Grant has given Teatro Bravo the opportunity to think about what it is we want to offer our audiences and how we want to approach theatre both artistically and financially.