A wise man once said that the definition of a moment is that which cannot be held in the palm of your hand.
For us Duke City Reppers, 2014 was bursting with moments that encouraged, lifted, and energized us toward another year serving the great community of Albuquerque. And while these moments are not physically tangible, we are gleefully compelled to articulate our discoveries and journeys throughout the year.
As a company, here were some highlights:
Winning “Best Theatre” in the City by Albuquerque the Magazine for the 4th year in a row!
Making public appearances for our productions, including hauntings for The Drowning Girls,
…and Christmas caroling for All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth (pictured here at the Nob Hill Twinkle Light Parade and Holiday Rail Yards Market).
Teaching documentary filmmaking to 8th graders in Roswell, New Mexico!
But there’s so much more that each of us want to say, so without further ado, here’s a collection of some of our favorite moments from 2014 as actors and company members of Duke City Repertory Theatre!
Resident Acting Company Member, Director of Development
DCRT is like a family, but without all the drama (see what I did there?)
I started working with the company in January of 2014 for the winter classic production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That first time, walking into the rehearsal hall (a very non-theatre conference room in the Albuquerque Uptown Hotel) was exciting and terrifying. I’d only met these people briefly during a 10 minute audition the previous August. They seemed nice enough, but you never know how things are going to fit together when you get into the thick of it. This was also to be my introduction to a man named John Hardy—a director so revered by the company that they were willing to work around his schedule—which meant we would rehearse the play in January, go dark for February, and open in March (very unusual, to say the least).
What I learned that first rehearsal was that this company worked completely differently than any other I had encountered. They had all the typical marks of a theatre company: they were funny, outgoing, had inside jokes, and millions of stories to tell, but there was something distinctly different about their demeanor… a presence, an energy of professionalism and artistic integrity that was palpable from the moment they started talking about the art. And it was invigorating!
There was no “easing in” to the rehearsal process that night; from the very beginning we were going to explore the depths of the play, and (as I learned that first night) we were never, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, to “arrive at the way of doing” or performing the play. EVER. NEVER EVER EVER.
“What does that even mean?” I wondered to myself, feeling excited and simultaneously out of my depth.
I quickly came to understand why John Hardy. “Hardy”–as he’s lovingly called by the ranks of DCRT–wasn’t just a director. His goal wasn’t to stage a play, creating pretty little pictures with actors placed logically around the stage to illustrate his idea of the story. No way. Not him.
Hardy was going to be our leader in the discovery of the world of the play. And I’m not just talking about the setting or the time period or the manner in which to move or speak. No, it was so much more. It was never about putting on a type of character or a feeling for a moment. It was the opposite of that. We were discovering possibilities in every iota of every aspect, from the electricity in the air we breathed to the way sound traveled through space to the dire importance of each tiny moment, and all of this experienced only from the internal life of the character. No actors allowed on stage.
To be honest, those weeks of rehearsal and production were agonizing. Intellectually I grasped what was being asked of me, but how to do it eluded me. Just how in the world was I supposed to “allow the character to deal with the circumstances,” “take out all the time,” and not allow myself to “show the audience anything.” If you boil it down, my task was to stop acting, to release the need to control the outcome and instead live in the moment, driven solely by character thought and feeling.
“Well, I guess I’ll just throw out everything I’ve ever done or learned and start from scratch!” I exclaimed in a moment of inner turmoil. And that was exactly what needed to happen.
Commiserating with my fellow actors, I learned that everyone in the company struggles with that same task during every rehearsal and each performance: to discard any idea of how it’s “supposed” to happen or feel or look or sound and discover it all over again in the moment every time.
At first it felt like drowning, but Hardy was there to lead and encourage us.
His resolve was unflinching, requiring the absolute best from each of us, and though the bar for achievement was set to an impossible height, we reached for it… and that’s when the magic happened. I realized that, in reality, there was never an exact height of success to be reached. That the goal should always be just out of grasp, because the constant endeavor to go further with the work, to never “arrive at a way of doing,” is what creates the most transformative art. That epiphany has been the most freeing and inspiring discovery of my life…
And that’s the presence, the energy that I felt radiating from the company during the first rehearsal. Every artist in residence is driven to discover their art anew every time they attempt it, and to support their fellow artists in the process. DCRT doesn’t aspire to perform plays. DCRT has resolved to tirelessly endeavor to create a level of art that exceeds even their own ideas of what is possible, and I am incredibly humbled to be a part of that journey.
I feel I can safely speak for all of us when I say that DCRT’s production of A Midsummer Nights Dream directed by Dr. John Hardy was a learning experience that changed all of us for the rest of our lives. We had a couple “first’s” for DCRT with this play as well. It was our first time working with the amazing Josh Heard, who is now a company member, and our first time touring to different locations which required a very different set than the one at The Cell.
Here were a couple of things that I discovered along the way. From an acting stand point, comedy is difficult. Specifically, sparking an honest full-bodied laugh from an audience. Thankfully, Shakespeare has written clues in his poetry that guide the actor to the character’s ambition rather than focusing on “bits” or “tricks” to try and make an audience laugh. We discovered, with the help of our director, if we committed to the textual clues provided and honestly believed the circumstances our characters find themselves in, there are some really hilarious moments in the play! The director also stressed how important timing is to comedy. All of us began to think about timing and cleanliness of moments in a new way.
The set for this play, designed by Charles Murdock Lucas, was an incredible challenge because we had never done anything like it before. It consisted of several ladders, sliding doors, and 95% of it was painted “impressionistically”–and none of it would have happened without all of us. Putting this production together (i.e. the set, costumes, props, and lights) is proof that theatre at it’s best is a collaborative art form. Without the help and ideas of everyone involved, it would have never looked as beautiful as audiences experienced it.
Resident Lighting Designer
2014 brought a lot of opportunity for me to play with color and angles. As a lighting designer, starting 2014 with A Midsummer Night’s Dream definitely set the tone for the rest of the year for me. Midsummer was a show in which the set allowed for the light to tell a lot of the story, and in which the fanciful is in full swing, so nothing had to be absolutely realistic, and that opened the door for a lot more creativity. Being in a forest and fairyland, Midsummer involved a lot of greens, blues and shadowy angles.
The angles carried over into These Shining Lives and this time helped delineate the different spaces that needed to be isolated. The use of silver in the set inspired the use of lavenders and icy blues. The panels on the set presented a unique challenge in terms of lighting. The lights behind them had to be arranged, cut, rewired, attached and then programmed to give the greatest effect (the achievement of the final progression was absolutely the most enjoyable part of those panels.)
The themes of color and angle continued into The Drowning Girls with many shades of blue and some very dramatic accent colors. The suspense, movement, and music all lent themselves to some very fun choices in terms of lighting, and director John Hardy was very open to any idea I felt like running with (even if he didn’t think it was going to work. It totally did.) The use of water and metal in this set also added a new aspect for creativity, which was the reflection of, literally, all the surfaces on stage.
The last show of 2014, All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, was a very playful show in all aspects, lighting included. The colors in the set were a great selection of blues, greens and purples, so I chose colors to accent those seen on the stage. The extravaganza light curtain was one more opportunity of learning and achievement (really, when I figured out how to make them flash like an OPEN sign was a moment of glorious triumph.)
2014 was definitely a fun year in terms of lighting and simply being a member of such an amazing company.
Katie Becker Colón
Resident Acting Company Member, Director of Education
Prior to our work with DCRT, several of us in the Resident Acting Company toured theatre around the country, taking shows to schools and communities with limited access to professional theatre. There is obviously a need for this in New Mexico and last year, we took our first step toward serving more of our community with our inaugural tour. We toured Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it was a success on multiple fronts. Audiences loved it. We created the infrastructure to build a larger tour year after year. And I think we collectively discovered that touring is a great challenge for us – figuring out how to navigate a new physical space every day requires a lot of individual and group brainstorming – and incredibly rewarding.
I think the highlight was performing for the adults with special needs at VSA North 4th Art Center. It felt like we were channeling an original performance at The Globe Theatre – the audience freely answered rhetorical questions, laughed, gasped, warned us of oncoming danger. The joy of that audience was contagious and we were all (performers and audience alike) beaming afterward.
Our first small leap into Education was a summer camp developed for the children of a local country club. Every morning, the kids play sports. In the afternoon, they did cultural activities – field trips to museums, art projects, and theatre classes with us. For eight weeks, we spent two afternoons with them per week and worked on Acting and Improv skills. Our Education programming is built around the philosophy of Life Skills through Stage Skills. As a company, we want to give students the incredible tools and skills that we have learned through the art and craft of theatre – skills that transcend rehearsal and performance.
There were only a handful of kids that we saw all eight weeks – most of them ducked in and out for family vacations and other summer camps. In the consistent kids, we saw transformations, big and small. A 4 year old with underdeveloped language skills used to learn his words and play well with others. An 11 year old who was easily pegged “the weird girl” found more confidence in her ideas and we gave her lots of positive affirmation for her smart, creative impulses. A shy 8 year old blossomed into one of the best improv actors in the group.
Although our time at the Club was brief, we honed our teaching and classroom management skills and received a big, flashing neon sign – YES, KEEP DOING THIS.
THESE SHINING LIVES
Our performance of These Shining Lives at The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History was one of this year’s highlights for me. We toured the set into the museum and performed directly in front of the exhibits. To get to the stage, we entered from the exhibits. Emerging from the dark, hearing the click of our heels echo through the museum, and stepping into the light on stage – it felt like we were materializing the ghosts from the dark corners of the museum into bright life. We were honoring the lives of the brave men and women in that tragic story. It was a theatre magic that I had never seen or felt before.
THE DROWNING GIRLS
As a company, we’ve talked a lot this year about the power of a resident acting company. Like a band that plays together for years and grows their body of work, we learn and grow as an ensemble and we’ve started to build a foundation of consistently strong and exciting work. I felt this most potently during Drowning Girls. There was an intimacy about The Drowning Girls that was possible because Amelia, Lauren, and I have been working together for years. Together, we investigated our bodies, our relationships, our identity as women, our culture, our assumptions – all while telling this horrific story, wearing white underwear, and dousing one another in water. It was physically uncomfortable, emotionally challenging, and I am a richer artist and human because of it.
Resident Acting Company Member, Artistic Director
I am the Artistic Director of the best theatre company in the world. (I am aware of the extreme biased nature of that statement but I beg you, dear reader, to allow me to wax sentimental for a moment. It is the end of another year, after all.)
As I was saying, I am the Artistic Director of the best theatre company in the world. I have the unbelievable fortune to spend my days with people who want to make the world a better place and who believe that theatre has the power to transform and inspire way beyond the confines of a single performance. These people, these stupidly amazing artists of DCRT, want to endow humanity with more beauty, more truth, more bravery. There isn’t one of them who isn’t trying to be better today than they were yesterday. I am humbled every day by their presence in my life.
Whenever I get in a room with these people I can’t help but think that awesome things are possible, that we can make the world a better place. It is my opinion that we attack every single thing we do at DCRT with that intensity and that our audiences can feel that same intensity deep in their bones. But for the purpose of this blog post, I am going to “unpack” the experience of doing These Shining Lives with this incredible group of people who make up my artistic home.
These Shining Lives has been on my mind quite a bit in the last few days, not only because of a nudge from Lauren Myers, who handles our blog and occasionally asks me to write about stuff, but also because the very last Radium Girl, Mae Keane, passed away in 2014 and NPR re-released an article about her life. Since then, I have been bombarded with messages, emails, Facebook posts and texts about it. I am stunned by the number of people who shared this article with me, who saw that Mae Keane had worked in a watch factory in the 1920s painting numbers on glow-in-the-dark watches with a radium compound, and who thought of These Shining Lives and our cast of Radium Girls: Me, Katie Becker Colón, Wendy Scott, and Evening Star Barron.
It was as if these people had to let us know that the last one of the Radium Girls, the last of the shining women, had finally found her place in the sky amongst the stars and the minutes and miracles. I love so much that so many people sent me that NPR article. I love that myself and the three incredible women I shared the stage with are inextricably linked to the Radium Girls. I love that I will never pass by another glow-in-the-dark watch and not wonder about the girl who made it. I love that for the rest of my life, I will almost immediately burst into tears when I hear Philip Glass’ “In the Upper Room – Dance II”. And while I think it’s understandable that I would feel these things as I lived intimately in Catherine Donohue’s world, I am overcome that our production would inspire similar loyalty to these characters and their story in our audiences.
And I say that because I was not only sent a link to the article but also thoughts and reflections on specific moments of the play that are still resonating with patrons—memories from a show that closed over half a year ago. People experienced something in the watching of These Shining Lives just as we, the actors and crew, did in the doing of it and I am grateful to have been a part of something that had such a profound effect on audiences.
That effect, that kind of response, can be the catalyst for change. I have been talking to many of the DCRT company members about how what we do has the power to change the world. It may not be in huge, quantifiable ways but we have the power to inspire a small group of people, who in turn may go out and inspire another small group of people and so on and so forth. It’s a ripple, a gentle but persistent presence of beauty and truth and bravery.
2014 has been quite a year. I am grateful to the audiences that we served this year, the audiences that laughed and cried and grew with us. 2015 will shoot right out of the gates with our production of Animal Farm and I think the entire company is chomping at the bit (sorry, sorry, couldn’t be helped!) to get our hands on this story.
I can’t wait to hear what you all think!
Frank Taylor Green
Resident Acting Company Member
As a company, we embrace failure because it is an incredible and very necessary component of success. Allow me to elaborate.
My most memorable roles have been Mr. Manningham (Gaslight), Francis Flute (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and Mr. Reed (These Shining Lives).
Playing these three roles and being a Black man brought its own set of challenges, but I’ll focus on Mr. Reed in These Shining Lives.
This role was difficult. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the show wasn’t set in a fictionalized world but one in which these events actually occurred that made it difficult for me.
I am a Black man and therefore my character is a Black man. And while there were extraordinary cases of Black men and women exceeding the boundaries of a system designed to keep them subjugated, it was still 1930. I found myself obsessed with researching Black life in 1930s Chicago in an attempt to understand the character of Mr. Reed. What I discovered later, looking back on the process, was that during this research I was looking for reasons to allow myself to make easier choices for the character. These choices were made under the banner of “well this is how Blacks were treated in America during this period,” “we weren’t allowed to do this or that,” and “Bigger Thomas!”
I thought these banners would bring some comfort in the choices I made and allow for discovery in those choices, but ultimately I found that they far too often allowed me to come in and judge the character’s choices.
I do not necessarily see this process from These Shining Lives a “bad” one, but rather an experiment that brought about lots of personal discovery.
Resident Acting Company Member, Director of Media & Marketing
Every time I stand back and evaluate my time with DCRT, I find myself saying the same things: “Man, did I learn a lot.”
“Well THAT was certainly challenging.”
“Who knew I could do that?!”
And herein lies the beautiful nature of our company—there is always room for growth, and once you’ve accepted this, there will always BE growth. Seek, and ye shall find, they say. Well, I sought out some challenges, explored new depths of my abilities as an actor and company member, and of course ran into some speed bumps and a couple of mountains along the way. But looking back at 2014, I see a glorious journey in motion, and it makes me that much more excited for what the future holds.
As the Director of Media and Marketing, I realize that this position includes task and roles that I never pictured myself doing 7 years ago. As an actor who dabbles (just kidding—leaps) into film here and there, I suppose it made sense when Amelia asked me to take on the position. If I act in film, I can create and share film…Right?
It’s been invigorating and empowering to tackle the media criteria. For my job, I get to produce at least four short films (aka trailers) a year, so how awesome is that!? And suddenly I’m learning how to direct, how to location scout/tech scout/prop scout, organize everyone and every thing, and think creatively about PR photos and trailers. I’m learning how to communicate this creative energy with my team—which is usually one other person—the incredible and furiously awesome Rick Galli.
Yup, I hear you applauding. His work is stellar, and it makes us look great. I’m continuously honored to work with him and see what crazy and fantastic idea he’ll come up with next.
And so speaking of trailers, while it was a tough decision, this was definitely my favorite trailer from 2014 (I think every member of DCRT will fully admit that watching this one makes us all tear up a bit):
And when I say this job is empowering, I mean it. Suddenly, I’m making more videos for the company beyond trailers, so I’m learning how to shoot on my phone or borrow a camera, how to light actors in different environments, how to edit film and build in music and sound, how to photoshop, and so much more!
One of the most challenging parts of my job this year has been marketing. To be perfectly honest, I always thought that word carried a bit of dirt underneath its sheen. When I think of marketing and advertising, I picture men and women smoking cigarettes around a big corporate conference table yelling out ways to take advantage of the American consumer and then going out for cocktails afterwards (um…sometimes my imagination gets the best of me).
Of course, that is not what my job is. In fact, I’m just NOW starting to truly understand the role and importance of marketing, how to speak to others about how much I love this company and why we are crucial to the community, and how DCRT’s drive to seek out challenges has plunged me further into a job that I now love and also carries infinite possibilities. Seek, and ye shall find.
Oh, and yes—along with this crazy year of media and marketing, I also continued my growth as an actor by working on two very wild, VERY different plays, both directed by the incredible John Hardy. The Drowning Girls, in particular, was one of the most absurd shows I’ve ever done. It’s me, two other ladies, a wedding gown, and lots and lots of water. And yet, because of the inherent beauty of DCRT and our mission, it was one of the most lovely experiences I’ve ever had on stage. I’ve never felt more present, more urgent, more needed in a production than this one, and a lot of it had to do with Amelia and Katie. I’ve worked with those two actors numerous times at this point, and spent countless hours working on all aspects of the theatre with them. But the three of us dove into that rehearsal process with no idea how that show would look, and it only encouraged us and drove me to work as hard and as smartly as the other two. I am in awe of their work, was humbled to be able to create this living, breathing (and in this case, very wet) thing called a “play,” and to know that, due to the nature of the production and the nature of water, every single night would be different. A nest of trust had been built between the three of us, so every single night we could all count on each other.
I’m pretty sure this is exactly what “Repertory” means.
Resident Stage Manager
A View from the Booth: A Stage Manager’s year in review.
This has been one of the shortest years in my professional history! From touring with two shows, to pulling out a Show-Stopper for the holiday show, this has been a stellar year!
The first show we took on this year was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We had the privilege to take this show into schools and community centers to help bring theatre to those who may not be able to see it on their own. As a Stage Manager, this was my first touring experience and I learned a lot. From contacting the venues (advancing the show) to seeing what unpredictable things the audiences would say and ask at the talk-back, this show was a real growing process for me.
We then tackled These Shining Lives. This was an intense show that took diligence in the rehearsal process to bring forth the best depiction of these women’s lives as we could. We also toured this show to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. This was an experience I will never forget. These women’s lives were so entwined with the radium, and a deeper level was added when we performed this piece in the lobby of the museum that had a picture of the period table on its floor.
For The Drowning Girls I had asked for a show with more technical elements—Boy, did I get my wish. The addition of live water on stage is something not a lot of professionals can say they have worked on. I spent every night after the show literally siphoning water from the tubs and off the platform. I learned so much about water-sealing a stage for this show, and just how to work with an element that was completely unpredictable.
A Show-Stopper to end the year, All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, was the way to leave the audiences wanting more. This show was shorter than others, but no less action-packed. In this 45 minute sprint I really learned what it means to “let the show run.” Once we started the Extravaganza sequence, I would start the lights and sound and let them run until the show was over. This is a hard task for the person who meticulously calculates and executes when every light and sound sequence happen. Here, it was one long cue. This made me exercise my faith in myself. I knew when the cues happened—I just had to trust that I did it right!
I am so very excited to start another year with some of the best artists I could have run across. DCRT is fully committed to you as the audience. I can’t wait to continue to add my talents to that extraordinary legacy.
So what do audiences have to look forward to in 2015?
-Animal Farm on TOUR! Coming soon to your local school, organization, and the KiMo Theatre this February!
-Our phenomenal education program teaching Life Skills Through Stage Skills–stay tuned for more information!
-The first half of our 6th season!
-And, of course, so much more!
In the meantime, have a wonderful, prosperous, and joyful 2015! We look forward to continue serving you!