A new theater company combines the stage with the classroom
By Steven Robert Allen
Who would've thought that our dear little Albuquerque could muster such a sizable explosion of theatrical creativity? The latest addition to our city's growing pantheon of theater organizations is the Mother Road Theatre Company. Consisting of some of the finest veterans of Burque theater, the group's innovative vision sets it apart from the rest of our impressive scene.
Mother Road Artistic Director Julia Thudium—who you might recall from numerous memorable performances at the Cell Theatre—is the chief instigator of the organization. “Every one of the people involved in this made it through childhood because we had theater in our lives,” she says. “As an army brat, that was certainly true of me. I felt like I had a vision that I wanted to make happen, something on a bigger scale than just putting on shows.”
With this in mind, a key component of Mother Road is educational outreach to the community. They've got two basic programs. One, called InRoads, is the adult education wing, which featured Academy Award-winning actor and Santa Fe resident Alan Arkin as its first celebrity teacher. (Arkin also serves on Mother Road's Artistic Advisory Council.) “Basically, we're planning a wide range of workshops and ongoing classes to serve the community,” says Co-Executive Director Tom Schuch. “It'll be for all different skill levels, covering technical aspects of theater, as well as acting workshops, theater appreciation, etc.”
The other program, called Avenues, is the company's youth education wing. Created by Mother Road's Director of Education David Sinkus, Avenues is designed to teach kids literacy through theater games. Its popular pilot program was held at Van Buren Middle School. The group plans to expand it to elementary and high schools throughout the city.
In other ways as well, Mother Road is designed to play a more integral role in the community than your typical theater company. “Developing real regional theater in New Mexico is part of it, too,” says Kristin de la O, the company's other Co-Executive Director. “There's room for more professional theater here. There's just a ton of local talent that's underemployed. Especially with our burgeoning film industry.”
Schuch adds that, in theater as in film, we still have a lot of acting professionals in New Mexico who have to leave the state to make a living. “Ultimately,” he says, “we want theater to start here and end here.”
In addition to these education programs, the group has several ideas for building an audience base to encourage more local support for theater. One of the most interesting is Mother Road's upcoming “prebut” (say pree-byoo), planned for some time in September, where the company will perform scenes from five different plays, then allow audience members to vote on which ones they should perform for their first season, which kicks off this January.
The company is especially excited because it plans to open that season in a beautiful building on south Fourth Street in Barelas that once housed a gas station. The 1,600-square-foot garage will serve as the performance space. Thudium says they're planning to use “sweat equity” to get the place ship-shape and performance-ready by January. Situated across the street from Out ch'Yonda, the new facility will contribute enormously to the continuing revitalization of that historic neighborhood.
For now, though, the company has to focus much of its energies on fundraising. “It's critical that we raise funds to get us on this path,” says de la O. “We're looking for all manner of support to get this thing off the ground, rocking and rolling.”
How can you help? They're glad you asked. Show up this weekend, at the North 4th Arts Center (4904 Fourth Street NW) for a performance of Einstein: A Stage Portrait . Written by Willard Simms and performed by Tom Schuch, the show let's you get up close and personal with your favorite fuzzy-headed genius. Einstein runs Friday, August 10, and Saturday, August 11, at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, August 12. Proceeds benefit the company. The Friday and Sunday shows are $20 general, $15 students/seniors. Admission to Saturday's gala is $50, which includes catered chow, a silent auction, live music and champagne. For details, call 344-4542. For more information on the Mother Road Theatre Company, go to motherroad.org.
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