Writer Joseph J. Airdo

Opening Photo by Alex Avalos on Unsplash

All Other Photos Courtesy of Ginny Temple

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]erry Temple believes that the most transformative forces within a community are the arts.

“A director makes theater happen from the management side but the talent side, the building side and the support side all belong to the community,” Temple explains. “It is ultimately their responsibility. And that brings a sense of belonging to a community.”

Late last year, Temple assumed the role of managing director of Desert Foothills Theater, which has been providing performance opportunities to aspiring actors and attendance opportunities to audiences in the North Valley since 1975. Its performance venues include Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center and Foothills Community Foundation’s Holland Center — both in Scottsdale.

In addition to inviting participation through open auditions for all adult and youth shows, the award-winning theater features a variety of educational classes, camps, post-performance talkbacks and pre-performance meetups. It also provides volunteer opportunities in all areas and aspects of theater production, which includes training and support for those interested in learning more about backstage work.

Now, Temple has joined the theater, armed with his extensive backgrounds in business and art to create vibrant opportunities for artists of all ages and enrich the community with robust storytelling and theater performances.

Connecting with People

“In my family, you had to be good at athletics and cars but I thought I was good at the arts,” says Temple, who grew up in Mesa. “Fortunately, I had parents who supported me. I started off playing different instruments and singing in choirs. Then, in high school, I was cast in my first show and I fell in love with [theater].”

While studying music at Arizona State University, Temple became a touring member of American large-ensemble folk music group The New Christy Minstrels. It was during this time that Temple learned that the most important part of the arts is connecting with people. He credits one of the group’s music directors, Sid Garris, with that key nugget of knowledge.

“He was this interesting curmudgeon of a man who wore a monocle,” Temple says. “He taught me that if you do not have people who are willing to lay down their money to come and see you for an hour and a half, then you do not have anything at all. And he had a great way of telling you if you did not have anything. He would go from this crazy, unhinged man to this profound, Yoda-esque character all in the same sentence.”

Temple also learned a lot about music’s influence from Garris, who insisted that the world needs more of the beauty that only the arts can create.

With The New Christy Minstrels based in Los Angeles, Temple eventually found himself auditioning for roles in TV shows and bit parts in movies. His on-screen credits include NBC’s crime drama “Sonny Spoon,” which starred Mario van Peebles, and the 1988 made-for-TV movie “Perfect People,” starring Lauren Hutton and Perry King.

However, Temple did not like being so far away from his home and his family so he returned to Arizona around the same time that his grandmother had fallen ill.

“My mom had asked me if I could be around for a while so I took a temporary job with a church in Mesa,” Temple says. “Some of my earliest memories were singing in the choir. I have always been drawn to the church and I still am.”

That temporary position propelled Temple into a 25-year career as a liturgical musician for parishes in the Diocese of Phoenix.

To New Adventures

In 2009, Temple opened the doors to Temple Music and Performing Arts — a Scottsdale studio that teaches voice, piano, guitar, drums, acting and audition preparation. His wife Ginny manages operations behind the scenes while the couple’s daughter Emily, who graduated last May with an acting degree from Azusa Pacific University in California, serves as one of the studio’s instructors.

An important part of Temple Music and Performing Arts is its Theater-in-a-Box program — which fills a necessary role in the arts curriculum of schools that do not have their own theater programs. The studio’s choreographers work closely with a school’s staff and parent volunteers to train and rehearse students and produce a show that often serves as a fundraiser.

Over the past 10 years, Temple has directed more than 40 shows through the program.

This past fall, Desert Foothills Theater asked Temple to direct its production of “Pirates of Penzance Jr.” Temple was already familiar with the theater as his daughter had appeared in its production of “Hairspray” about five years earlier.

As fate would have it, Desert Foothills Theater’s previous managing director resigned shortly thereafter. After attending a fundraiser for the organization, Temple decided to throw his hat in the ring for the newly vacated managing director position and three weeks later he had the job.

“It has been an adventure,” Temple says. “We have literally had five shows opening and closing within a two-month period — something that I would not have scheduled if I had any control over it. But I had to make it happen because they were already in place. It has been a load of work, but I am really enjoying it.”

Opportunities for Growth

Desert Foothills Theater’s current season continues March 27–April 5 with “Steel Magnolias” and April 17–19 with “Fair Game” — an original musical, written by Andrea Markowitz, in which  the lies ripped from actual headlines that smeared the reputation of a reclusive heiress come back to haunt five people who wrote them. The season will culminate May 8–17 with the theater’s production of “Godspell.”

Temple has already started meeting with key members of the community as well as a variety of different organizations to get the word out about Desert Foothills Theater and to gain a foothold of its role within the area.

Once the current season winds down, Temple will further explore opportunities for growth — including spreading shows out a bit more, developing a summer program and collaborating with Paradise Valley Community College on a potential internship program that will provide the theater with technical support.

“There is a real love of theater and the arts in this area and I want to build upon that,” he says.

Desert Foothills Theater volunteer Liana Doe has enjoyed seeing what Temple has done for the performing arts organization thus far and is looking forward to watching it continue to grow under his leadership.

“The sky is the limit,” Doe says. “My daughter Sophia had the opportunity to be a part of ‘Pirates of Penzance Jr.’ under his direction. He was amazing working with a large cast of kids and gave them a priceless experience to grow personally and as young actors.”

It is that priceless experience to grow personally and as young actors that fuels Temple’s passion for theater.

“If you look around, you see artists’ work everywhere you go in this world,” he says. “But, for some reason, it is sometimes hard for kids to know how they fit in. There are kids who do not fit into a lot of the social groups that are out there. They see the world and interpret things differently.”

Temple adds that he has seen countless examples of young performers find their niche — and themselves — through theater.

“Sometimes, it is only through theater that these kids are allowed to be accepted, to be creative and to be involved with other like-minded kids who also see the world and interpret things differently,” he explains. “I love watching artists — especially young artists — be affirmed that they are not crazy, that they are not weird and that they are necessary in this world.”

Desert Foothills Theater

34250 N. 60th St., Scottsdale