Death Of Fathers

An Interview With Paul Ford

Abi Blueher
3 min read
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These days, Paul Ford can be seen teaching at UNM, directing Shakespeare to middle and high schoolers, in the Vortex's new production of Hamlet, or escaping to the mountains with his camera.

What was before Albuquerque?

I was born in California, my father was a minister so I moved from small town to small town in northern California, dreadful little small towns. I went to school at UC Davis in Sacramento where I eventually taught, acted and directed.

What brought you to New Mexico?

In 1985, I had a break so I took off in my old hippie bus and traveled out here. I had the weirdest sensation driving into this county that I was coming home, and I had never seen any of it before. I ended up running into New Mexico Repertory Theatre, now defunct, and auditioned for it. They said nice audition but what we really need is an education program. I said no and went back to Sacramento. Then on impulse I threw everything into my bus—all of my friends were disappearing up their noses with cocaine. I felt uncomfortable there and hopped in my bus and came out here.

What happened to the education program you were offered?

Theatre-in-the-Making was the name for the education program for New Mexico Repertory when I started it with them. At the end of 1989 some articles came out in the newspaper saying New Mexico Repertory was neither repertory nor good theater, and that it was being outshone by its education program. I was fired the next day. This was three days before Christmas. Some associated with the program got together and said, “Eh, don't worry about this,” and they all pitched in money to keep the education program going. The Repertory ended up giving me all the equipment. We proceeded from that point, and it has been one of the best things that ever happened to me.

What keeps you doing Theatre-in-the-Making?

I guess it's the raw possibility of the power of the word and the power of the experience. It's such a profound encounter that I watch people have in which they grow suddenly when they don't even know that they are doing it.

Hamlet, what is it to you?

I am doing a very small role. My participation is to be more of an observer, I've been writing a lot about it. Hamlet has been a part of my life for a long time. I was playing Laertes in a production of Hamlet in 1981, when my father died. It's a play about death of fathers, and death. It was such a theatrically monolific moment in my life; trying to absorb my father's death and in some odd way working it out onstage with the death of a theatrical father. It also made me very aware that I never wanted to play Polonius, and become my dead father.

Outside of theater, what is there?

I like to get out of my head by climbing into my camera. I spend a lot of time on my knees in trash dumps taking pictures of 70-year-old pieces of trash and hoping that nobody sees me.

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