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

Live at the Lensic!

OriginalCons_2_PhotoCourtesyPalaceofGovernors OriginalCons_1_PhotoCourtesyPalaceofGovernors If a building could show the impact it has on its community, the 200 block of Santa Fe’s West San Francisco Street would be a blaze of glory, thanks to The Lensic Performing Arts Center. Sited at No. 211 since 1930, the Lensic has been a local magnet for eight decades—first as a movie house with an attached office block, and then as a location for occasional live presentations, as well as cinema.

But since April 2001, the facility has been downtown’s lauded arts center, regularly presenting and producing events of local, national and international importance. They run the style and type gamut from orchestral performances and community meetings to lectures, from conference and nonprofit events to special celebrations.

But the 821-seat Lensic’s state-of-the-art technical prowess, impressive proscenium stage and welcoming public spaces are just the visible part of a mammoth organizational iceberg devoted to the community. The obvious shining top is supported by an immense understructure of people, planning, outreach and equipment. The result is something much more than its physical plant, dedicated to sustaining its many community partners, as well as itself.

In fact, the Lensic’s reach into Santa Fe and environs goes both wide and deep. Among its outreach programs are yearly, for-credit technical theater internships and scholarships. Then there is the PASS program, which brings some 15,000 Santa Fe Public School students to the theater yearly for underwritten, free performances.

In addition, the theater offers community sponsorships that help underwrite local nonprofit organizations’ events; provides rent subsidy for every group using the theater by at least 50 percent; and administers the community box office, Tickets Santa Fe, used by virtually every local performing and presenting group. The result is an organization sustained not just by its own efforts, but by the many diverse groups that utilize it. Continue reading

Desert Dwellers

 

sym15-87Out beyond the borders of town, by the light of the full moon, there is a dance floor unlike any other—defined not by architecture but by topography and the volume of the sound, and both performers and attendees—DJs and dancers—complete a transformation musical cycle, energizing each other from sunset to dawn.

This is the setting where the Desert Dwellers, Amani Friend and Treavor Moontribe, first met. The specific desert for this event in 1998 was the Mojave Desert, but these events were, and continue to be happening, at deserts across the Southwest and beyond. This convergent event happened to be an anniversary event for the legendary full-moon gatherings in the 1990s known as Moontribe.

Amani, originally from Santa Fe, had been heavily involved in organizing outdoor electronic music gatherings in the deserts of New Mexico, working with a Santa Fe-based collective called the Cosmic Kidz. Amani and Treavor found common ground in their shared desert landscapes, and began producing music together under the name Amani vs. Teapot, a name alluding to their passion for combining ethnic styles of music within electronic “progressive-tek-house” tracks.

In 2001, Treavor and Amani began to transition their sound. Under the name Desert Dwellers, they eased the uptempo vibe of their psychedelic tribal dance style to produce a collection of eight tribal ethnic downtempo tracks that they gave away as gifts at Burning Man.

This music hit a nerve that resonated deeply with their audience and has amplified outward ever since. Over a decade later, what began as a “side project” to their main collaboration, a gifting gesture in Black Rock City (home of the annual Burning Man festival, held on the dry lake bed of the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada), has taken Desert Dwellers around the globe.

In 2012 alone, they played at a festival in Australia for the solar eclipse, followed by a winter solstice performance in front of the great pyramids of Egypt for a festival called The Great Convergence in 2012. Epic gatherings like these are held annually around the world with names like Symbiosis, Beloved, SONiC BOOM, Enchanted Forest, BOOM in Portugal, Rainbow Serpent and Earth Frequency in Australia, and in the US, Burning Man.   Continue reading

Max Hatt and Edda Glass

EDDAnMAX_160114_00-13While listening to Max Hatt and Edda Glass at El Mesón in Santa Fe on a recent evening, I realized, from the very first note, that I’ve never heard a more beautiful pairing of voice and guitar. They were performing as Rio, one of their iterations, which focuses on bossa nova and jazz. Edda’s voice floats in the air, beckons and plays hide and seek with the listener; it sweeps from a beguiling whisper to a deep place of power and restraint. Max’s fret work is the perfect accompaniment. He coaxes the notes from the strings; he moves in a slow dance, crouching and turning; by his gesture, he entreats us to listen. He is transported into a musical world and brings us along. I close my eyes and what I see is smoky, vivid and rich. The music is beautifully crafted, seasoned, as only time—in this case, over a decade of performing together—can accomplish. Rio however, as beautiful a mix as it is, only touches the surface of what this duo has to offer.

Their musical worlds came together in Montana. “Helena,” says Edda. “The part with trees.”

“And people,” adds Max. At the time, Max had a jazz trio and Edda had a voice. Singing “was almost like a hobby for me for most of those years,” says Edda. But, “I knew all these bossa nova songs so I started sitting in and doing these songs, and they pretty soon became a bossa nova quartet instead of a jazz trio. That’s the story of Rio, and we did that in Montana for 10 years or so.”

Edda continues, “We were doing all this jazz and bossa nova, very exotic stuff—in Montana.” She laughs. “It’s very cold and very rural, so it’s an insulative (sic) experience to do that kind of thing. But at the same time, it’s a very beautiful place and very inspiring. ”

Then about two years ago they moved to Santa Fe, “mainly,” says Edda, “because we realized we could actually make a living as musicians in a place like Santa Fe as opposed to Montana where it’s pretty difficult.” When first living in Santa Fe, relative to Helena, it felt like the big metropolis. But now it feels just right. After touring this past fall, says Edda, “we came back to Santa Fe (and) it really felt like home to me. Coming back it felt really good.” Continue reading

Performance Santa Fe: The Audience Takes a Bow

Savion-Glover_Credit_Lois-GreenfieldEven the cover of this season’s Performance Santa Fe (PSF) program is immediately arresting. Tap dancing genius Savion Glover, dreads streaming behind him, is poised on the tip of one wingtip shoe like a toe dancer, as if about to take flight. And he’s just one of a major lineup of performers—some of the biggest talents in their fields—in PSF’s upcoming 2015-16 season. The story of how we in Santa Fe came to be so lucky as to have access to such extraordinary artists, year after year, reveals depths of appreciation about us as an audience of seekers.

The genesis for all this goes back to 1937, during those tumultuous times just before the breakout of World War II. Roosevelt had just been reelected to a second term and you could say that, beyond the daily papers and weekly newsreels, radio was the closest thing our country had to social media for up-to-the-minute news. As events were heating up rapidly on either side of both oceans, families gathered around the radio to get the latest reports of this and other current events—Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance midflight as she attempted to circle the globe; Look magazine’s splashy debut; San Francisco’s unveiling of its spectacular Golden Gate Bridge.

Here in Santa Fe, people were certainly following these events, too, but there was also a lot of local buzz about major breakthroughs on the art scene. From Spanish painter Picasso’s just-finished anti-war mural, “Guernica,” and author John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” to the concert broadcast live nationwide from the Hollywood Bowl memorializing George Gershwin, the arts dug deeper into what the headlines just skimmed, and Santa Feans responded. Continue reading