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‘Goldwater: Mr. Conservative’ fundraiser for library/archive March 22

Actor Randy Messersmith playing Barry Goldwater in the upcoming production of "Goldwater: Mr. Conservative." (Photo courtesy of the Centennial Theatre Foundation)

The stirring words of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater will come alive on March 22 in a one-man presentation of “Goldwater: Mr. Conservative.”

Goldwater, a five-term U.S. senator from Arizona, was the Republican presidential nominee in 1964 who lost to President Lyndon Johnson. The iconic Arizonan will be portrayed by Randy Messersmith, drama chair at Scottsdale Community College.

Centennial Theatre Foundation is presenting the play at the Mesa Arts Center as a benefit performance to fund the Barry and Peggy Goldwater Library and Archive. Admission is $102 per person, and all proceeds from ticket sales will go to the library. The Mesa Arts Center is a short walk from the library site at First Avenue and Macdonald in Mesa. Refreshments will be served at 6 p.m., and the performance begins at 7 p.m.

Judy Eisenhower, who was Goldwater’s longtime chief of staff, said the Goldwater facility is scheduled to open in 2016. Its first phase will be three stories high, and will include various displays and exhibits, a café, gift shop, lecture hall and meeting rooms.

The play, written by local playwright Ben Tyler, provides a glimpse of the life of a true renaissance man. “Merchant, aviator, photographer, politician and founder of the modern conservative movement in this country, Barry Goldwater lived a life that still resonates today — though some would argue his ideas are no longer quintessentially conservative,” said Tyler, executive director of the Centennial Theatre Foundation.

Goldwater’s objections to the controversial “don’t ask don’t tell” military policy inspired Tyler to write the play.

“I was reading an op/ed piece in The Arizona Republic that was criticizing the don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” Tyler said. “It questioned why sexual preference should have any bearing on the right to fight and die for your country. When I got to the end of the article I was floored to see that the author was Barry Goldwater.”

The play examines Goldwater’s life in its entirety. “If you follow political ideology from both the right and left to their extremes, there is a place where they meet up and find a common ground, and that is something we desperately need these days,” Tyler said.

Goldwater died in his Paradise Valley home in 1998 at the age of 89.

Peggy Goldwater, his wife of 51 years, died in 1985.


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