CASA GRANDE — A BlackBox Foundation teen theater show, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” has been nominated for four of the ariZoni Theatre Awards for Excellence.

“The ariZoni is the Arizona version of the Tony,” said Jennifer Elliott, a spokeswoman for BlackBox. “To be nominated for one is awesome. But to be nominated for four is amazing.”

The play has been nominated in the Best Overall Production, Youth Play category. Individual nominations include:

  • Best Director in a Youth Play, Noelle Wells
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role-Youth Play, Alexander McQueen
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role-Youth Play, Marcos Espinoza, Jr.

“We are very proud and excited,” Elliott said. “It feels good for the theater to be recognized for its work, especially since we have been unable to work for a while. Everyone is very eager to back on stage.”

BlackBox Foundation’s Teen Theater presented “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” in October. The show, which is set in 1888 Victorian London, is written by Noah Smith and is adapted from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The ariZoni Theatre Awards is a nonprofit organization that recognizes excellence in theater shows statewide. Before nomination an ariZoni, a member of the awards committee must see the show. Judges watch about 120 shows a year, rating each one on a scale of 1 to 10, with a ranking of 5 being average, according to the ariZoni website.

Award winners will be announced in October.

The BlackBox Foundation-Central Arizona College show “Picnic,” which was scheduled for April, was also set to be rated by ariZoni judges, but the play was canceled due to COVID-19, Elliott said.

“It was disappointing to not be able to go forward with ‘Picnic,’” Elliott said.

The BlackBox Foundation is a volunteer-run nonprofit theater arts organization with programming for children, teens and adults. The organization is normally busy in the summer months with programming for children and teens.

“When the coronavirus shutdown started in March, we had to cancel our joint production of ‘Picnic’ with Central Arizona College. Then we had to postpone our children’s production of ‘Jungle Book,’ and cancel our teen and kids summer camps,” Elliott said. “Our last show was ‘Dirty Deeds at the Depot,’ which was in February.”

With no summer shows, Elliott said she worried that the community would “forget we’re here.”

“We have had some good donations, but fundraising has been a challenge with COVID,” she said. “But we had to shut down for the summer for safety reasons and we’re still trying to figure out what going forward looks like. We talk every day about how we can safely reopen.”

Rehearsals and performing would be difficult with facial coverings and social distancing.

“Our theater is small. We only have 78 seats, so social distancing is difficult,” she said.

The theater is looking for creative, out-of-the-box ways to keep local actors busy while entertaining the community.

BlackBox recently started a new virtual talk show, “In the Box” hosted by Sean Crisden and Phil Rakoci, who both serve on the BlackBox Foundation Board of Directors. Rakoci, also known as Wildman Phil, has also been hosting his own virtual wildlife show.

The theater group is hoping for more donations and has launched a fundraising campaign on its Facebook page.

“We are asking for a little bit of extra help from our community to help us keep our doors open,” Elliott said. “No donation is too small, and any donations go straight to BlackBox so that we will be able to return to offering quality theater to our community.”

For more information about donating to the organization, visit the page on Facebook, found under BlackBox Foundation.


Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at