The curtain rises on several innovative endeavors at Desert Ensemble Theatre (DET), which has nurtured the growth of creative artists and expanded the art of theatre locally for more than 10 years now.

For starters, DET Board President Shawn Abramowitz is jazzed about emerging through the pandemic era with newfound vigor and creativity. “Our organization was founded on doing new and original works that engage audiences and provoke thought,” he says. “We want to continue offering plays that really speak to our community, and especially works that are timely, because that’s what artists do.”

Although there’s a bevy of initiatives to be excited about, Abramowitz points out the work the organization does with high school student interns who receive on-the-job training in technical theater—from design and lighting design to installing lights and running light boards, to note a few things. “There aren’t many organizations that do that out here,” he says. “We bring that something extra from a small professional theatre company standpoint.”

Additionally, DET’s upcoming season looks promising, featuring an innovative gala as its season opener Oct. 7 at Palm Springs Cultural Center, and a lineup of compelling works. There’s the world premiere of Jerome Elliott Moskowitz’s “Do Not Remove Label” in December, followed by “Kill the Editor” by Aren Haun and “Kafka’s Joke” by Rich Rubin. “Future Thinking” by Eliza Clark rounds out the season.

“The funding we receive makes a huge difference,” Abramowitz shares. “All of it matters. It goes towards programming, which ultimately affects our community by providing live arts, but also by preparing our student interns for the real world.”

Recently Desert Ensemble Theatre received a grant from Inland Empire Community Foundation through the Sheffer/Scheffler Donor Advised Fund. The funds will assist DET with its numerous programs, but ideally, for its upcoming summer reading series, which runs Aug. 19 and 26, and Sept. 2 and 9, at Palm Springs Cultural Center.

We’ll be taking new scripts that have never been produced before and providing a free ticket for folks to come, listen, and provide feedback,” Abramowitz says. “The grant also allows our student interns or potential student interns—and people who haven’t yet joined our program—to see what we’re all about, as well as participate in theater. We love providing this service for the community.”

Beyond the reading series, Abramowitz is eager to spread the word about DET’s gala on Oct. 7. There’s an inventive twist this year—the celebration is dubbed “Singing with the Desert Stars” and leans into a competition-like experience with a talented posse. At its core, however, the gala intends to highlight DET’s programs and place the spotlight on the upcoming season.

“The pandemic really shuttered a lot of venues,” Abramowitz stresses. “Prices for rent for equipment or just normal goods, like lumber, have skyrocketed. Because of that, our operating budget has increased. What we used to be able to do for several thousand dollars, has tripled. So, the gala is huge for us because it helps fund our program and allows us to keep growing.”

Interesting to note is that the organization has given out more than $21,000 in scholarships. Abramowitz hopes to continue on that front, too, and increase the services it currently offers to many Valley schools, beyond Rancho Mirage High School, Cathedral City High School, and Palm Desert High School.

“As we continue to grow, our goal is to provide additional services for kids who want to learn about technical theater,” he says. “Whether they go into the field of technical theater or not, we’re going to offer them these opportunities to learn a craft and the discipline they will need when they go out into the real world.”

This article originally appeared in the Desert Sun, July 2022.

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