As the golden hour descends upon the idyllic fields of Albuquerque's North Valley, strings of lights blink on to a small stage and audiences cozy into their hay bale seats for another year of Theatre on the Farm. This project—a collaborative live theater experience courtesy of Farm & Table, Duke City Repertory Theatre and Tricklock Company—is a “uniquely Albuquerque experience,” as Duke City Rep artistic director and actress in this year's production, Amelia Ampuero put it. The fourth go-round for the venture will see a production of an original piece by local Aaron Hendren titled Freak Show Baby. While it may be more lighthearted than past Theatre on the Farm fare, the piece is uniquely suited to its setting, where guinea hens run the grounds and voices from the restaurant drift on the midsummer breeze.
“There is something about the stage—just these spare wooden floors, the string of bare bulb lights, and as the night gets darker and the lights come on,” Ampuero described, “there is this magical boardwalk feel to the place.” Set at a Coney Island sideshow in the early 1900s, Freak Show Baby is based on the true story of the development of incubators for premature babies. Originally jilted by the medical profession, the creator took his invention elsewhere. “Nestled in among the Wolf Boy and the Bearded Lady and those things,” Ampuero said, “was this exhibit of premature babies in their incubators. People would pay a nickel and go see them. Thousands of premature babies were saved doing this.”
Directed by Drew Morrison, the piece dives into the wacky story of those “freaks” who, along with the babies, carve out their existence in this rich and fantastical setting. “It's a little weird in all the best possible ways, there is a sort of vaudeville feel to it,” Ampuero said. “I think it's going to be a nice change of pace.” For her part, in the all-women cast of five, Ampuero takes on multiple roles—as does the whole cast. She is both Dr. Jones, the creator of the incubator and Olivia the Octopus Woman, for example.
Beyond just offering a unique night of theater, Theatre on the Farm also explicates the power of collaboration—
Most people have dinner at Farm & Table beforehand and then see the show—a piece of original, devised theater—making for a memorable night out. “I want people to know that there is cool stuff like this to do in Albuquerque. I think having things like this for the citizens and patrons of Albuquerque is important,” Ampuero said of her hopes for the Theater on the Farm run. She continued: “As far as the actual show goes, I think there are so many takeaways. … One being that we are all freaks. We are just a bunch of weirdos trying to figure our lives out.”
This year, Theatre on the Farm's short run is rounded out with performances at Farm & Table (8917 Fourth Street NW) on Thursday, June 21 and Thursday, June 28 both at 8pm (doors, so to speak, open at 7:30pm). Tickets for the event are $25 and are purchased at the door. Those interested in having dinner before the production will receive a small discount on their purchases at Farm & Table. If you can't make it to the farm, you can catch Freak Show Baby in a traditional setting at Tricklock Performance Laboratory (110 Gold Ave. SW) on Friday, June 22 and Saturday, June 23 for two pay-what-you-wish performances.