Summertime Theater Dreams
By Leigh Hile
If you were ever a theater kid in Albuquerque, chances are you know something about Theatre-In-The-Making. Since its founding by Paul Ford in 1989, the organization has made a reputation for itself as a leader in theater education in the city. Hundreds of kids have fallen in love with the stage in its youth programs. This summer, Theatre-In-The-Making is teaming up for the second year in a row with Will Power at the Vortex to bring a youth program to Albuquerque's celebrated Shakespeare festival.
Now in its fourth summer, this year’s Will Power will present As You Like It, Measure for Measure and Macbeth on the Vortex's main stage. The festival will also feature Theatre-In-The-Making's youth performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the result of a six-week intensive Shakespeare workshop for kids aged 10-17 to be taught by Brian Haney.
The Youth Summer Shakespeare Intensive injects new life into an old staple for Theatre-In-The-Making. TiTM has many theater education programs, but Haney, TiTM's Creative Director since 2006, says working with youth and Shakespeare was "the bedrock of the program" for many years. When Albuquerque’s economy worsened, however, parents became less and less able to commit to the almost six-month, tuition-based program.
Recalling the difficult decision to put producing full-length plays on hold, Haney says, “One of the things that was important to preserve about the program was the depth of the work we were doing." So, although TiTM continued to offer shorter programs that explored Shakespeare's works, the opportunity to workshop a full play languished.
Enter the Vortex and the Will Power Festival. With the festival's support, TiTM once again had the time and the means to dive into the entirety of one of Shakespeare's plays; in return, the festival, having long been Albuquerque's go-to event for Shakespearean edification, could now engage with an even younger group of theater lovers. Last year, after a 6-year hiatus, the program returned to its full glory with a production of As You Like It.
"We are so, so, thrilled to be partnering with the Vortex," says Haney.
“Even though it is a youth production, it’s being presented as another play in this festival, and I think that is the proper place for it,” notes the director. “I want audiences to come and see this show and think of it as a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream first, and a work by teen artists second.” This kind respect for the young performers, and by extension, for their audience, is one of the hallmarks of the TiTM program: they are actors first and youth almost incidentally. "I always have a problem talking about it in terms of children’s theater," says Haney carefully. "That does seem a pejorative."
Taking their cues from Haney, the performers consider the material with the same respect. “They took the honor of being able to inhabit these characters very seriously,” says Haney proudly of last year’s ensemble.
As Haney points out, “A lot of people are really blown away by the idea that a 10-year-old can take all this crazy language and spout it like it’s coming straight from their imagination.” But this is exactly what the program accomplishes. Haney says that watching the young actors find their way into the language and make it their own is one of the biggest rewards of working with young people. “A play ... is a living, breathing, vital thing,” he says, describing the thrilling moment when a student finds that life within the text for him or herself. “It's really just a beautiful, remarkable thing to be able to witness.”
For Haney, the real heart of the work is about learning to come together as an ensemble. “The thing that I was most proud of,” he says of last year’s group, “was the way in which [the cast] really drew together, really supported each other, were willing to take chances.
“I got involved with Theatre-In-The-Making oh-so-many years ago because I was looking for a place that I fit,” recalls Haney. "They weren't looking for a Brian," he jokes, "but I showed up.” And when he did, he was welcomed. More than anything else, Haney tries to pass on that sense of unconditional acceptance to his kids.
“Learning to trust each other, learning to drop our guard, learning to be silly, learning to enjoy each other ... that’s what we’re doing. Making sure that everybody has a place here.”
You can catch a A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Vortex (2004-1/2 Central SE) on July 21 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. Other showings will be at the East Mountain Library (1 Old Tijeras Rd., Tijeras) on Saturday, July 20, at 11 a.m. and at the Special Collections Library (423 Central NE) on Saturday, July 27, at 10:30 a.m. Will Power 4: The Vortex Summer Shakespeare Festival takes place June 6 through August 4.
Will Power 4: The Vortex Summer Shakespeare Festival
Runs June 6 through Aug. 4
Thursdays through Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.
Sundays, 2 p.m.
Youth Summer Shakespeare Intensive presents
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Sunday, July 21 and Sunday, July 28 at 7:30 p.m.
The Vortex Theatre
2004-1/2 Central SE
Tickets: $18 (students $12)
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