With an eight-year economic impact of more than $850 million in the Valley of the Sun, the Broadway Across America series at ASU Gammage has been a great success.
It’s no accident that the productions have connected with Arizona audiences. Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for Gammage, plays an instrumental part in guiding this great success. When deciding which plays to bring to Gammage, she considers their appeal to audiences, which directly dictates their economic success.
At the April Professional Women’s Alliance luncheon, Jennings-Roggensack described her process of bringing theater to Gammage audiences and why supporting the arts is vital to a strong community.
“My role and responsibility, as much as I love so much work, is to really make sure the art form stays alive,” Jennings-Roggensack said. “You can’t do that if you tick everyone off and you haven’t been focusing or conscious enough and done your homework.”
Considering a community’s unique landscape is a big part of picking plays to stage at Gammage. If a show doesn’t do well with the Valley audience, then there’s lower attendance, reducing its economic impact. Self-sufficiency is crucial for Gammage, since it doesn’t receive funding from Arizona State University.
As one of only 700 Tony Awards voters and the only one in Arizona, Jennings-Roggensack watches dozens of plays each year, as Tony voters are encouraged to see every nominated production. This process enables her to scope out shows to potentially bring to Arizona.
“I really see a play the first time for my heart and my gut,” Jennings-Roggensack said. “Then I have to think about my community. I love all the work, but I do believe that you have to prepare a community for work that might not be for everyone.”
The upcoming Broadway series at Gammage includes the shows Cabaret, Finding Neverland, An American in Paris and several others, but plays aren’t the only way to partake in the arts.
“There are some amazing artists working in our community. Support them,” Jennings-Roggensack said. “You don’t have to go to New York. You will find your light of culture in the city that you live in; in the community that you live in.”
Jennings-Roggensack is also the associate vice president of cultural affairs for the university and has an incredibly impressive and diversified resume which includes positions at Dartmouth College, Colorado State University, serving on the National Council on the Arts and advising international councils.
She’s dedicated much of her time to supporting the arts, having testified before Congress on behalf of public funding for the arts. She meets regularly with Arizona politicians, including Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema and Senator John McCain. She encouraged audience members to determine their elected officials’ stance on the arts.
“Find out if your legislators believe that the arts are an important part of your life,” Jennings-Roggensack advised. “Our own Barry Goldwater doubled that budget for the arts. Both sides of the aisle recognize the arts are exceedingly important”
-Written by Carolina Lopez, digital marketing administrator, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. This article is part of the Chamber’s Business Wise newsletter. To learn more about the Professional Women’s Alliance, click here.