Chill Out at The Oasis

The Oasis, (left to right) Jeff Young, Tony Wise, Katy Cole, Blake Williams, Barbara Fox, Don Davis and his dog, Tess

The Oasis, (left to right) Jeff Young, Tony Wise, Katy Cole, Blake Williams, Barbara Fox, Don Davis and his dog, Tess

At noon on Feb.14, 2012, Don Davis and the team behind The Oasis were set to launch a new, independent radio station. After years of waiting to revive smooth jazz on local airwaves—and an ill-timed computer crash that morning that nearly scrubbed the launch—they pushed play on Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” and never looked back.

Five years later, the radio station has cemented its place in the hearts and ears of Albuquerque listeners tuning in to 103.7 at any given time for jazz, Latin guitar and chill music. Shortly before its fifth birthday, the station made Santa Fe’s version, broadcasting at 95.9 FM, distinct. The frequencies share a similar music stream and hosts, but the Santa Fe station transmits specific events to devoted City Different listeners.

“The question was never were we going to make it,” founder and owner Don Davis says. “The question was how are we going to do it.” Continue reading

In Good Company – Shakespeare in Santa Fe

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We mingle in the sunlit classroom like old friends. The choppy static of multiple conversations—spiked with the éclat of festive pockets of laughter—pervades the room. Everyone peels a post-it note from the board with the part they choose to read scribbled on it. Most people clip on plastic tags with their first names announced in bold. The tinny bell rings. Let’s begin!

Every Sunday, more than 30 people show up to read Shakespeare together in Santa Fe. Robin Williams—an expansive, spirited woman with an eye-catching pageboy haircut—has been leading Shakespeare groups since 2002. Right now, Robin is guiding a discussion of Troilus and Cressida—a love tragedy comparable to Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra, except that it’s delivered in the same dark, difficult cadence as gloomy Hamlet, which was written around the same time in roughly 1601. It is a cynical story about the legendary figures Troilus (a symbol of “fidelity”) and Cressida (a stand-in for “unfaithfulness”) enacted against the backdrop of the Trojan War.

In this play, the puffed-up Greek leader Ulysses delivers many airy, abstract speeches, and each one contains a number of intellectual snarls to pick apart. The following excerpt read aloud from Act III is no exception when it comes to Ulysses’ challenging cerebral knots: Continue reading

Muertos y Marigolds in Albuquerque’s South Valley

diadelosmuertos-diannawrightimg_0254Querencia. Rich with cultural and emotional connotations, the word is variously translated in Spanish-English dictionaries as fondness, homing instinct, homeland, haunt, and homesickness. But it means something more than any one English word expresses. Muertos y Marigolds volunteer organizer and altar artist Sofia Martinez describes querencia as a place that makes you who you are. Sofia’s helping me understand the theme of this year’s South Valley Día de los Muertos Celebration and Marigold Parade: “Sheep don’t vote, feed the Chupacabra. Reclamando nuestra querencia!” Reclaiming our querencia.

The celebration of Day of the Dead began in this country back in the ’70s as a reclamation of querencia as cultural heritage in the midst of the Chicano Movement—a 1960s civil rights movement encompassing voting, political and land rights, along with cultural awareness that inspired literary and visual creations. Most Chicanos, Nuevo Mexicanos, and American Latinos at that time had grown up Catholic, observing not Día de los Muertos but All Soul’s Day. According to Regina Marchi, a historian of religion with expertise in ritual studies, the intentional integration of Day of the Dead reflects the efforts of Chicano Movement activists “to reaffirm and celebrate the contributions and achievements of the pre-Columbian civilizations of the Americas.” Continue reading

Meet the Supers

Santa Fe Opera - Supernumeraries

Photo by Gabriella Marks

One might be your neighbor down the street, another the guy beside you in the gym. One could be standing behind you in the grocery checkout line, or be in the car behind you at the stoplight. If you meet them, you notice nothing unusual.

But these seemingly average people have a hidden side: such a burning love for the stage, they can’t wait to be part of an opera. They live for that moment when they’re front and center—or to be more precise, probably upstage and to the right—and filling a part, however small, in the performance. And opera wouldn’t be the same without them.

They’re known by many names, from extra or actor to spear carrier or supernumerary. Call them any of those––just don’t call them late for their cue.

At The Santa Fe Opera, supernumeraries, or supers for short, are ubiquitous extras in virtually all operas.

In the 2011 season, Charles Gounod’s Faust boasted several supers as freak characters in a manic sideshow, as well as a number of voluptuous historical beauties who tempted the hero. Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd in 2008 included acrobats who climbed and hung in the complicated high rigging of the battleship HMS Indomitable. In 2006, a super played the huge, looming executioner in Richard Strauss’s Salome, a silent but deadly onstage presence. In 2005, a child super was the unfortunate, abused apprentice in Britten’s Peter Grimes.

Yet where and how are supernumeraries found? According to the opera’s Director of Artistic Administration Brad Woolbright, the process of finding who the audience sees onstage in any given season or opera actually begins several years prior to the show. “The need is determined years out, in design meetings,” Brad says. “We see a production at least two years in advance in preliminary-model fashion. At the time, we are focused on details like, how many bodies do you need to make this happen, specifically with regard to supers. We try to accommodate directors insofar as possible.” Continue reading

Santa Fe Theater Stage Revival

at , Santa Fe, New Mexico, on 23-May-2016- Photo Lynn Roylance

The theater scene in Santa Fe, historically eclipsed by a focus on visual arts and touring musical acts, is working on a new image. Witness Ironweed Productions, resurrecting itself with new works by local playwrights in Scenes in a Restaurant, coming up at Second Street Brewery this fall, and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible in 2017. The venerable Santa Fe Playhouse is adding newly available plays and musicals like the acclaimed The Last Five Years, its most recent offering. New site theatresantafe.com bills itself as the “first ever single source for event listings and local theatre and production companies,” signaling a forward-looking attitude of cooperation and collaboration within the theater community here.

Two of the newest players—one black-box theater, one theater company—are adding to the scene by bringing don’t-miss productions to town, each in its own way. Continue reading

Hillary Smith On The Street for Summerfest

no-easy-way-coverIt’s summer in Albuquerque—we’re in the thick of it—and it’s hot. We’re looking for cool however and wherever we can get it. Thank goodness, when evening comes, the heat subsides, the cool takes over, and it feels good to be out and on the streets.

As much a part of the season in The Duke City as the heat, is Summerfest. Dating back to the 1980s, the event has become a tradition with a wide variety of free activities, and a big part of the fun is live music performed on the streets. It’s an opportunity to be out, see friends, listen, get in the groove and dance—no matter how hot the weather, it’s a undeniably a cool reason to get outside. I recently caught up with our own “Diva of Albuquerque,” blues singer Hillary Smith, to get a sense of what live performance on the streets is all about—and to learn what makes it so special.

Meeting Hillary, immediately, I‘m aware of her soulfulness and her sense of  joy. She has lived a good slice of life with all that living entails, yet when Hillary laughs, she doesn’t hold anything back; when her face lights up, the world laughs and lights up, too.

A native of Hobbs, Hillary has made Albuquerque her home and has been performing professionally for some 30 years. “Actually, it’s more like 38,” she says. “I started singing professionally when I was in high school. Yeah. Thirty-eight years.” Hillary pauses and then exclaims, “REALLY? Yeah. And I remember a good two years of that!” Hillary’s surprised when I ask her how it feels to be a diva. With a touch of Texas in her accent, she replies, “Oh my goodness. Really? I guess that’s the title you get when you’re the oldest.” And with that great laugh, she adds, “I think everyone’s impressed just that I’m still alive! Anyone who knows me.” Continue reading