If all Albuquerque’s a stage, and all Burqueños merely players, then the folks behind Duke City Repertory Theatre are those talented understudies waiting giddily in the wings for their big shot at the spotlight.
DCRT is the brainchild of New Mexico native Amelia Ampuero and Texas transplant Kristi Wiley. The pair met in a B.F.A. program at Texas State University and later enlisted Frank Green (with whom Ampuero had worked at Virginia’s Barter Theatre) in their quixotic three-year quest to create a premier professional company.
Now, at long last, DCRT will make its official debut at The Filling Station with a two-week run of Steven Dietz’ rock ’n’ roll dramatic comedy Trust, kicked off by a gala opening-night celebration on Thursday, Aug. 19.
“It’s all still humble beginnings right now, but the goal is to provide a place where theater artists can actually make their living doing the work they love,” says Ampuero, who acts as DCRT’s artistic director. “Not that community theater isn’t wonderful and doesn’t serve its purpose, but we want to allow the people we work with and hire to have the opportunity to be professionals.”
And that, according to managing director Wiley, means a self-sustaining wage for all cast and crew, as well as transportation, meals and housing for out-of-state hires.
It’s taken extensive bureaucratic legwork to become incorporated, draw up budgets, arrange travel schedules, establish the payroll and adhere to the strict protocols of the Actors’ Equity Association labor union. Not to mention those key ongoing priorities of fundraising (to make the whole venture a reality) and networking (to form strong local bonds and avoid the “carpetbagger” label).
“We have received so much help and support,” says Wiley. “The other theaters—especially Tricklock, Mother Road and Orpheum—have been blessings in letting us beg, borrow and steal. That’s what so great about the community here. Everyone really does want everyone to succeed.”
Courtney Bell, who runs the Orpheum Arts Space, attests to Albuquerque’s collegial, rather than competitive, atmosphere. “I think that people mostly welcome more theater companies, especially professional ones,” she says. “And Duke City Rep seems really solid to me. I think they’ll be around for a while. I really expect great things from them.”
Hugh Witemeyer, secretary of the Albuquerque Theatre Guild, a member-supported umbrella organization, credits DCRT for quickly establishing deep roots. “They’ve cultivated a strong base of support—financial as well as moral and theatrical—for their work thus far without having yet actually done any shows,” Witemeyer says. “That tells me that they have a very good sense of the business side of running a theater.”
Duke City Rep is ambitiously slated for five shows in its inaugural 2010-2011 season. The first, Trust, directed by Vancouver-based Guy Fauchon, follows the fraught relationships of six characters in the lead-up to a rock star’s wedding. (New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley dubbed it “ ‘Melrose Place’ with a thesaurus and a reflective streak of self-
The remaining schedule from October through April features Oleanna (David Mamet), Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol (Tom Mula), The Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare) and The Last Five Years (Jason Robert Brown).
“It is stressful and so much work and we’re all putting in 12-, 15-, 16-hour days right now,” Ampuero says. “But I would rather be struggling through this and tearing my hair out over mass mailings and show copyrights than doing anything else. So it’s completely and utterly a labor of love.”
Work will give way to pure entertainment for Thursday night’s festivities, when local guitarist Chris Kill (whose original songs appear in this staging of Trust) performs a live set at 7:30 p.m., prior to the curtain going up. Los Lunas microbrewery Tractor Brewing Company and South Valley vineyard Tierra Encantada will provide beer and wine throughout the night.
“It’s a celebration,” Wiley says. “Even if you can’t come to the show, get here at about 9:30 and we’ll party.”