Guests can be “in the room where it happens” as the long-awaited ASU Gammage 2021-2022 Broadway Series kicks off with “Hamilton” running from Wednesday, September 8, to Sunday, October 10.
The season was delayed for 18 months, and one of the hardest tasks for ASU Gammage Executive Director Colleen Jennings-Roggensack was deciding what show would start the series.
“That childhood game of hopscotch comes into mind,” Jennings-Roggensack says.
“We’ve been playing a year-and-a-half game of hopscotch, only instead of on the sidewalk I was playing it with Broadway shows.”
“Come from Away” was supposed to open the series in 2020 but will now show June 14 to June 19, 2022.
“The hardest part (about coming back from a hiatus) is that theaters are living, breathing amazing things and they need people in them to survive and to thrive,” Jennings-Roggensack says. “Not having people in this space, the theater was lonely. We were lonely, and the theater was lonely.”
The Angelica “Hamilton” Company arrived in mid-August for rehearsals. Among the company is Mesa native Connor Wince, who is a “swing,” or a performer responsible for covering ensemble tracks. Wince says it was “pretty surreal” and “really wonderful” to start the tour in his home state.
“I guess maybe like midsummer when my company had a big Zoom call and they told us that we would be going back to work in Arizona I immediately pulled out my phone and texted my mom,” Wince says. “I think most of all it’s really a big change, too, to be home for the last year and a half, and now to leave again feels pretty jarring.
“But getting to come home to Arizona has been a really lovely way to kind of transition into going back to work and have a nice place to stay while I’m here and some of all those comforts that come with being around family.”
Wince resides with his fiancé in New York, where he auditioned for a role in “Hamilton” a year and a half ago. After his first theater production at age 12, Wince quickly caught the acting bug and knew that this was the career path for him.
Wince — who performed in the 2019 ASU Gammage production of “Hello Dolly!” — says the “Hamilton” audition was arduous.
“I would say the most strenuous part of it is that so many of the ensemble people in ‘Hamilton’ have featured parts,” he says. “In my audition, I had to do every single featured part that was in the show to make sure that I could do all of them.”
It was worth it when Wince was hired.
“My fiancé and I had just gone to the gym to work out, and I got a call from my agent,” Wince says. “I just stopped and waited for a quick second, and he told me the good news. I was just crying in the lobby of the gym, but then as soon as I was done with that conversation I turned to my fiancé and said, ‘Well, we’re definitely not working out anymore. Let’s go do something and celebrate.’”
They celebrated by grabbing an early morning coffee and walking by the “Hamilton” theater in New York City. Wince had not seen the show until the first day of rehearsal.
“I probably should have gotten to see it before, but the first day that I showed up to work I got to sit and watch the show,” says Wince, who enjoys singing “The Room Where It Happened,” “Yorktown” and “Wait for It.”
New Gammage protocols
With COVID-19 still prevalent, ASU Gammage has enforced a slew of protocols to keep theater attendees safe while enjoying the show.
Masks will be required except when eating and drinking. New air filters were installed at the beginning of the pandemic to help regulate the air, and additional filtration units are in place within smaller confined areas such as dressing rooms and the orchestra pit.
“We will have our handwashing protocols,” Jennings-Roggensack says.
In the security lines, women and men should bring clutches, “not these big fit-for-a-war bag,” she says with a laugh while pointing to her oversized bag. A small clutch purse (maximum 4 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches) or larger clear bags (maximum 6 inches by 12 inches) are permitted so it is easier for security.
Curtain call announcements have added a “Mask up, forks up” message. New signage about COVID-19 protocols is visible throughout the facility. “Playbill” is available through a QR code.
“We will also have signs saying, ‘Welcome to Gammage: Everyone is welcome to Gammage,’” Jennings-Roggensack says.
“Traditionally (patrons) could go to stage door and get an autograph. We won’t be doing any of those. We won’t be doing talkbacks. We won’t be doing our cast parties. Anything where there is an overabundance of people in the vicinity we are not doing.”
ASU Gammage will continue to update its COVID-19 protocols as new information and regulations arise. At this time, vaccinations are not required for attendance. Go to asugammage.com to keep up to date.
Return to stage
As the new 2021-2022 Broadway Series begins, Jennings-Roggensack reflects on “second responders”—Gammage production employees.
“We’ve had our first responders, and we thank them and we thank our medical and our police,” Jennings-Roggensack says. “But as second responders, we are responsible for the spiritual and cultural life of our community and our country and globally.
“We are not saying COVID is just going to go away. We’re learning how to live with COVID, and I think it is going to be a really wonderful, wonderful, wonderful time. I’m going to cry.”
WHEN: Wednesday, September 8, to Sunday, October 10
Where: ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Avenue, Tempe
Cost: $59 to $349