Herberger Theater Offers Lunch And A Show

February 28, 2014

(Photo by Annika Cline-KJZZ)
A lunchtime production at the Herberger.

It's lunch time in downtown Phoenix, and there are a lot of places to choose from. But, only one offers lunch and a show.

"Welcome to Harlem, NY. Smack dab in the middle of 1928."

The Kax Stage in the Herberger Theater Center has about 100 seats that fill up quickly, just before noon.

"It’s a day out and fun. We get a free lunch. It’s wonderful," said June Keegan.

Keegan guesses she has been coming to Lunch Time Theater shows for five or six years. The senior center where she lives in Paradise Valley offers lunch and a bus ride to the theater, but the show is open to anyone with 45 minutes to spare Tuesdays through Thursdays. And it is all run by this woman.

“Hi everyone! Hi! Very good," said Judy Rollings, director of art education and outreach at the Herberger.

Besides pumping up the crowd before each show, Rollings has run the lunchtime program since it started 13 seasons ago. When Rollings started the theater was filled with performance companies, and she noticed something.

"There was no more room, we had so many resident companies at that point that there was no way to include any new talent," said Rollings.

So, the Kax Stage was created. It is an intimate venue where performers act on the floor, five feet away from the front row and where small theater companies have a half hour in the spotlight.

"And with a ticket price of $6, we do not make a profit. We probably break even given the fact that we have some wonderful donations," Rollings explained.

Donations help pay for props, costumes and other costs. And this is important, Rollings said, because what often keeps a small theater company from the main stage is how expensive it is, even just to rent the space.

But the concept was not just for the performance companies. Rollings said originally she wanted to find a way to bring a cultural event to workers downtown. And now, she said, many retired people come because they prefer the time and cheaper price compared to evening performances.

The performers and playwrights work hard to put on the half-hour shows, some humorous, some thought-provoking, and Rollings said some have gone from the Kax Stage to bigger venues.

Next week they are taking a different approach with an abridged dance performance as a preview for their new show called “Secrets." You can bring a lunch like the Paradise Valley seniors or even pre-order one through the theater.

A calendar of shows is available on the Herberger Theater website.