VJ Liberatori has been at the helm of Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill as its Producing Artistic Director since 2011. During that time, she has led the theater into some of the riskiest and most rewarding productions in town. The Aux Dog is in the midst of its sixth-annual solo-performer festival, QSolo. It is a rare thing to produce a series of solo performers and always a gamble for a theater. Though, in talking with Liberatori, it is clear that she wouldn’t have it any other way. Weekly Alibi sat down with Liberatori to talk about risk, fighting boredom and the shows of the QSolo Festival. The following is an edited version of that conversation.
Weekly Alibi: Tell me about the QSolo 2020 Festival.
VJ Liberatori: This is the sixth annual QSolo 2020 Festival. Some people who have attended in past years might remember one of the big favorites which was The Other Mozart, which was about Mozart's sister and had an incredible costume which drew a lot of audiences. A lot of these solo shows need some sort of hook to attract audiences, especially if the playwrights are not known, the solo performer is not well known, or they're not from the particular community where the solo show was going to be performed and you can't bring in your friends. It's a very challenging audience building exercise with solo shows, but we kind of started doing this before the whole storytelling wave happened here in Albuquerque.
The most recent storytelling wave?
Yes. Now there's a tremendous amount of competition from every angle you can think of, from breweries to art galleries to restaurants. Everybody seems to be really going in the direction of bringing in some sort of entertainment. So, all the legit theaters are faced with a lot of competition. Every year when I have to program this festival, I have to take into account a lot of aspects. For instance, the show that we're doing right now, Bad Dates, it's a comedy. Zoë is a very experienced comedic actress and the challenge really is that you only have one weekend. Most shows going into the smaller theaters, even in the bigger theaters like Popejoy, you usually have the first weekend or two to build word of mouth and then the show starts paying some kind of return on investment.
That's a challenge for many theaters. With this festival, what have you done to mitigate that?
We have been really online promoting this for two and a half months.
There are an awful lot of theaters for such a small town. Do you think that's because there's a lot of talent here or do you think that there are just a lot of people here that like to open theaters?
I'm not from Albuquerque, so I don't really have the answer to that. I know that a lot of these smaller theaters are started by young people who have graduated from UNM, but I don't know what the UNM program is like. I don't know if they're encouraged to go out there and create their own work and create their own theaters. But you're right, there seems to be another theater popping up every other week. I think it's become much harder for all of the theaters here, the smaller theaters here, I mean. We're right in the heart of the university district, which means many nights we see people trudging off to Popejoy for ticket prices that are five or 10 times what we charge here. That's another challenge. The ticket prices in Albuquerque are absolutely too low, across the board in the small theaters.
Tell me about the next shows in the QSolo Festival.
Tulis McCall [in All in the Timing: Advice from a Woman Who Knows Better] is after Zoë [Yeomen] in Bad Dates. Let me just say something about Bad Dates. It's written by Theresa Rebeck, who is a fantastic, outstanding American playwright who really hasn't gotten her due. She has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, but she hasn't won one. This is really funny and beautifully structured. Zoë is doing something like 24 characters in this thing. Then it's followed by Tulis McCall's one-woman show which was directed by Austin Pendleton. It's basically about her experience, and she takes it obviously from a humorous point of view, on aging. Then the final one will be Elizabeth I: In Her Own Words. It’s more of a historical piece. We tried to do a whole scope of one-person shows, going from T-shots through Elizabeth I.
When it comes to putting on this type of work, is the risk worth it?
That's a good question. Why do I do it? Because I get bored otherwise. I don't want to put anybody else's programming down, but I just can't do another version of The Odd Couple. It doesn't interest me. We have really done some fabulous stuff like Mr. Burns [the play Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play] which is risky, but it stretches everybody involved in that project artistically. You enter into the rehearsal period of something like Mr. Burns and you learn so much on the way that you're a better artist when you're done with the production.