There is something pulsing through our thin mountain air. Something electric and exciting and I’m not describing the lightning-filled monsoon season. Instead, I am talking about the growing and energetic theatre and performance scene that is currently emanating from all over Santa Fe, from the foothills to the airport. I’ve been given the deceptively simple task of writing an overview of the theatre scene in Santa Fe. At first, I thought, “no problem, there are only a few major companies,” but I gravely underestimated the depth and breadth of Santa Fe’s expanding theatrical offerings.
More than ever, audience members can choose from multiple performances on any given weekend and even with the sad shuttering of SFUAD, there are still more theatrical options than ever and this will undoubtedly grow even more with the forthcoming opening of the Institute of American Indian Arts’ new Performing Arts and Fitness Center. Theatre in Santa Fe has always had trouble holding its own against the well-established visual arts and music scenes and the Santa Fe Opera. But if there is one thing most theatre producers in Santa Fe agree on, it is that the scene is expanding and that maybe, just maybe, theatre is finally catching up with visual arts and music as something that the city different is known for.
In order to give a sense of what is currently going on in the Santa Fe theatre community, I reached out to several local artistic directors so see what they think of the current state of theatre in Santa Fe and what their individual theaters are up to. There are over fifteen companies who regularly produce work in Santa Fe, but I will only be covering eight. This is not to suggest that the work of other Santa Fe theatre groups is not worthy of coverage, and one should definitely take the time to check out the interesting and unique work they are producing.
Some of the companies I did not have a chance to include are: Jewel Box Cabaret, Oasis Theatre Company, DNA Works, Meow Wolf, and Theatre Grottesco. I also did not include purely dance related companies, such as the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, or the Opera. This list also does not encompass all the incredible touring productions, workshops, and conferences that come through Santa Fe on a regular basis, such as the AHA Progressive Arts Festival, which took place in mid-September, performance programs such as Acting OUT: A Symposium on Indigenous Performance Art (2015) and the Decolonial Gestures symposium (2017), and groups such as Guillermo Gómez-Peña and La Pocha Nostra, now regular visitors to the SFe performance landscape.
Without further ado, what follows is a profile of eight of Santa Fe’s most active theatrical companies, with information about the kind of work they produce and an overview of what they have coming up.
The Santa Fe Playhouse
142 East DeVargas Street | santafeplayhouse.org
This is the venerable grande dame of Santa Fe theatre. I start with the playhouse because it is usually the first taste of theatre that people get here in Santa Fe and it is certainly the oldest theater building. The Playhouse has been producing plays since 1919 and is the “oldest continuously running theatre west of the Mississippi,” according to Vaughn Irving, who has served as Artistic Director of the Santa Fe Playhouse for the past two years. He had nothing but good things to say about the Santa Fe theatre scene and sees this as a fortuitous moment. Like many others, Irving feels theatre is taking off: “It seems to me that we are in the midst of a theatre renaissance here in Santa Fe. Every season there is more and more being produced and the quality seems to just get better and better.” As a community theatre that produces their own shows and hosts semi-professional and professional companies, the playhouse is one of the most widely variable and active performance venues in town. “The Santa Fe Playhouse has a deliberately eclectic season. We produce eight shows a year and we try to give our audience base a wide variety of material. We produce one musical, a classic, and a new play festival every season. The unifying factor for the shows that we produce is that I want them all to challenge and inspire our audiences. I love theatre that can start a conversation.”
What’s next at the Playhouse:
The Different Festival, now in its sixteenth year, will run for the month of October. This festival of new plays written by local playwrights features evenings of short, ten-minute, one-act plays called Benchwarmers for which the only set is a lone park bench. Also included in the festival are four staged readings of brand new plays by playwrights working locally and nationally.
3205 Calle Marie | teatroparaguas.org
Argos MacCallum, the president of Teatro Paraguas, also sees the growth in Santa Fe’s theatrical offerings. “The Santa Fe performance scene is definitely on the upswing at the moment, and very fine theatre can be seen all over town. Having worked in theatre here since 1970, I can say the scene swings up and down all the time in terms of number of working companies, number of productions, and level of quality. Theatre has always taken a back seat to music and fine art in Santa Fe in terms of fiscal support and patronage. There is a lot of energy at the moment to try to change that equation.” Teatro Paraguas has a long history as Santa Fe’s bilingual theatre company with a focus on contemporary Latinx plays, such as the 2012 Pulitzer Prize–winning Water By The Spoonful by Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Welcome to Arroyo’s by Kristoffer Diaz. They specialize in producing work by local New Mexico playwrights, such as Revolución by Alix Hudson, and We Are Hispanic-American Women…OK? by Patricia Crespin. They also produce their original ¡Poesía Viva! series, which presents the poetry of world-renowned Hispanic/Latinx poets in Spanish.
What’s next at Teatro Paraguas:
Teatro Paraguas will present Sotto Voce, the latest play by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Nilo Cruz, which premiered in 2014 at the Theater for the New City in New York. Sotto Voce is a lyrical, dreamlike play about an 80-year-old female German writer and a much younger Jewish-Cuban student and their transcendent relationship based on their connections with the Jewish refugees aboard the SS St. Louis, which was refused permission to dock in Havana and Miami and sent back to Nazi Germany. The play will be performed in English September 29-October 15, 2017. Teatro Paraguas will also host its fourth El Día de los Muertos community celebration October 27-29, 2017, as well as poetry readings and guest productions throughout the fall.
1131 Siler Road, Suite B | wisefoolnewmexico.org
Amy Christian, the Artistic Director of Wise Fool New Mexico, admits that she doesn’t know a lot about traditional theatre goings-on in Santa Fe. Instead, she focuses on “physical theater and performance outside the walls of theaters—performances that speak directly to social issues, performance that crosses genres and is interactive, events like the AHA festival, Pocha Nostra’s workshop culmination at SFAI, there have been some great performance experiences at CCA [Center for Contemporary Arts] in the lower gallery.” Wise Fool has been bringing physical, political, and street performance to the Santa Fe area since 1997. “Wise Fool was born out of social justice street theatre and keeps its roots dug into that medium with events such as IGNITE!, where folks can come learn and create art for the streets and then perform in public spaces as a means of raising voices about current issues.”
What’s next at Wise Fool:
In November, the company will perform an all new production of its annual Circus Luminous extravaganza at the Lensic Performing Arts Center over Thanksgiving weekend, November 24-26, 2017. This professional contemporary circus features awe-inspiring performances set to live original music.
Adobe Rose Theatre
1213B Parkway Drive | adoberosetheatre.org
Maureen Joyce McKenna, the founder and Managing Director of Adobe Rose Theater, describes it as both a performance company in its own right and also a space for rent for homeless production companies in town. The company brings eclectic professional theatre to Santa Fe’s offerings. “Our in-house shows run the gamut from classics to new plays,” says McKenna. They opened their third season in September with its first annual New Play Festival titled “The Morning After,” which presented a series of plays centered on the morning after any type of election, showcasing local directors and contemporary playwrights from Santa Fe and across the country.
What’s next at Adobe Rose:
Written by local playwright Annie Lux, The Portable Dorothy Parker will be performed at the Rose October 5-15, 2017. The play was a “Pick Of The Fringe” at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland this summer. Later this year, the theater will perform a “holiday romp,” The Ultimate Christmas Show!, November 24-December 17, 2017.
Santa Fe Shakespeare Society
Santa Fe Shakespeare Society just completed their seventh season with a summer production of Much Ado About Nothing. The company has been performing open-air Shakespeare productions every summer, and occasionally at other times of the year, without admission and based on donations.
Jerry Ferraccio describes the work of the Shakespeare Society, saying that they “specialize in training people to perform exciting, energetic, involving, and intelligent Shakespeare. We don’t fall for the ‘Shakespeare is pompous and pretentious’ malarkey. If someone does not have the training, we provide it. If someone is trained, we help them to become better. Shakespeare is for everyone!”
What’s next at Santa Fe Shakespeare Society:
This fall the organization will be providing actors and supplies for the Santa Fe Playhouse’s Halloween co-production of Santa Fe Dead, an interactive theatrical experience, and they have already begun work on their eighth annual summer Shakespeare production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, scheduled for July and August of 2018.
Ironweed has brought classic and contemporary American realist productions to the Santa Fe area since its founding in 2004, with a focus on producing one fully-staged show per year. Artistic Director Scott Harrison outlines their mission “to produce stories rooted in the American experience.” The group likes to only stage one play a year because, according to Harrison, “We… like to have the opportunity to work on a play over a long period of time, similar to the way Theater Grottesco works.” Sam Shepard, whose recent loss has deeply affected the theatre community, is a mainstay of the company. They have staged three of Shepard’s plays, Fool for Love, True West, and Buried Child, as well as Rabbit Hole and Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire.
What’s next at Ironweed Productions:
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible will open Halloween weekend, October 26, and runs through November 12, 2017 at El Museo Cultural.
Santa Fe Performing Arts
1050 Old Pecos Trail | sfperformingarts.org
Santa Fe Performing Arts is another venerable local theatre company that has been producing work for all ages over the past three decades. Their work particularly focuses on youth theatre, with several children and young adults shows every season. They also hold adult acting workshops and, according to Megan Maher, SFPA’s Executive Artistic Director, Santa Fe Performing Arts “produces one new, original, and socially relevant production per year through our ‘Play It Forward’ project. In 2015, SFPA’s ‘Play it Forward’ project produced Foster after spending over a year in conversation with young people who had gone through the foster care system in NM.” And just this year, SFPA produced 12 Switches in collaboration with the New Mexico History Museum and Northern New Mexico College students, inspired by the museum’s exhibition Lowriders, Hoppers and Hot Rods.
What’s next at Santa Fe Performing Arts:
SFPA is currently in the developmental stages of creating an adult company called “The Working Company,” which will strive to create new, original works for more site-specific and pop-up style theatrical experiences throughout Santa Fe.
The Shakespeare Guild
Although the Shakespeare Guild has done most of their productions in Washington, D.C., New York, and London, they have recently moved their headquarters to Santa Fe. According to the Guild’s president John F. Andrews, “We’re best known internationally for the Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts, which was established in 1994.” Since then, the guild has presented the award to the likes of F. Murray Abraham, Dame Eileen Atkins, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Zoe Caldwell, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Derek Jacobi, Michael Kahn, Sir Ian McKellen, Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave, Sir Donald Sinden, and Sir Patrick Stewart. In 2011, the Shakespeare Guild performed The Tempest in collaboration with the Lensic Performing Arts Center, and in 2013 they performed All For Your Delight at St. John’s College. This past summer, the Guild performed The Tempest at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden as the inaugural edition of Shakespeare in the Garden.
What’s next at The Shakespeare Guild:
There is nothing on the docket as of now, but we hope the group will perform Shakespeare again next summer at the Botanical Garden if not sooner.
Theatre Santa Fe
Lastly, Theatre Santa Fe is a great recent addition to the Santa Fe theatre landscape, with a website that regularly posts local theatre happenings, from performances to auditions.