In New Mexico I became involved in theatre for the first time since performing in Genova about 10 years before. In New York I’d seen a lot of theatre, but Albuquerque was different. There were three roles during my eight years there. Two were at The Adobe Theater in Corrales and The Vortex, companies/venues which are still flourishing as I write this in 2017. Plus one at the Santa Fe Actors Company.
KHFM’s Roxanne Allen and her husband Kip were appearing in Ernest Thompson’s well-known On Golden Pond at the Adobe, a small space at that time within San Ysidro Church in a rather rural area. They suggested I audition and that got me the role of Charlie Martin, a family friend of elderly Norman Thayer Jr., the aging man whose memory is fading, the central focus of the story. Roxanne had the role of Norman’s daughter Chelsea, engaged to Billy Ray, played by Kip. On stage they didn’t seem to have much chemistry, as if strangers rather than a married couple.
Through Barrett Price, a friend of theirs, I learned about a play reading group run by Jim (“Grubb”) Graebner. Barrett, officially known as V.B. Price (Vincent Barrett), had a performing background in his family. His father was movie star Vincent Price. I got to know Barrett slightly and had the impression that using the initials of his name was so as to be accepted for himself. Of course, I can’t help wondering if he might have been embarrassed; some of us think that his overly elegant dad was not that much of an actor, an almost arch caricature on screen. I never talked to Barrett about that, of course.
Re: Grubb, our group met irregularly and did not perform. We just read among ourselves for our own enjoyment. But Grubb was a playwright and decided to produce his own play Night of the Bull Moose Connection in 1985 at the Vortex Theater. Like the Adobe, it was a venue, not a performing group.
As for my Santa Fe performance, I did not appear in person in a production of Terence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in The Clair De Lune, although I was in the cast. I’d been asked to be the Voice of the Radio Announcer to which F & J listen during the play. It didn’t require me, of course, to be on stage or backstage, just to tape-record the voice.
The biggest draw in town was Albuquerque Little Theatre Company, which produced local performances with occasional guest stars, such as Sandy Dennis in Agnes of God in the ’86-87 season. They offered fairly standard repertory, such as The Hasty Heart and Wait Until Dark in that season. I don’t remember attending often.
Another significant venue was The Wool Warehouse, now a National Historic Landmark. Starting in 1929, it had been sheep rancher Frank Bond’s storage area. In 1984 Betty and George Luce bought it and made the second floor a theater restaurant. Very classy. Another venue at the time was the Barn Dinner Theatre in Cedar Crest. Very rustic.
There really wasn’t a lot happening in local theatre then. So, in 1984, when New York theatre director Andrew Shea announced that he was forming New Mexico Repertory Theatre, this sounded like something significant. It established offices in downtown’s relatively recently restored KiMo Theater, a wonderful Pueblo Deco building from 1927 (see above “Jazzy Times”). Bill Weinrod and other locally influential makers and shakers had been doing all they could to make downtown a more viable destination for residents and visitors alike and started a drive to get public funding and support. Naturally they enlisted me to do what I could to give them on-air press coverage at KHFM. I interviewed Andrew and made sure that, whenever possible during my morning show, I’d mention what the group was doing. Later I did as much as I could on KKOB.
The first production was Athol Fugard’s Master Harold and the Boys that Andrew directed. It was exceptional. And was also surprising, given its need for two black actors, and we had so few black people in the city then.
The Rep mostly cast actors from the state, primarily from Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Kip among them. New Mexico Rep debuted Mark Medoff’s Children of a Lesser God, originally developed from workshops and showcased at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where Medoff was on the faculty. It also presented Sam Shepard’s 1983 play Fool for Love while he was living in Santa Fe and an imaginative production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in which Macbeth was costumed to look like Fidel Castro and the rest of the cast equally resembled Cubans from the same time and place.
The Rep tended toward more cutting edge and new scripts than anyone else in town such as Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine, Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, and David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.