Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Wearing the now well-known army green T-shirts favored by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, actors from the New Mexico Actors Lab raised $5,000 on Sunday for refugee relief with a performance of Ukrainian prose and poetry.
It was a whirlwind effort pulled together in a week after the Lab’s artistic director and performer Nicholas Ballas had a brainstorm.
“I was in that funk about two weeks ago watching all the images coming out of Eastern Europe and wondering what can I do?” Ballas said.
Admittedly, not any kind of expert on Ukrainian prose or poetry, Ballas relied on his English degree and art school training to rapidly research and curate works of contemporary Ukrainian poets and writers.
“I know how to go through things … and cull out what would work dramatically,” Ballas said.
Ninety-one attendees paid $50 each for the performance, and the $5,000 raised exceeded the original $4,000 goal, said Actors Lab Managing Director Robert Benedetti. The funds will be divided equally between the International Rescue Committee and Doctors Without Borders.
While the preparation was intense it was rewarding for all involved. “It was an adventure, it was like cramming for a final,” said Ballas.
Consistent themes in contemporary Ukrainian poetry that Ballas recognized included “love of country, of nature and the land itself, as well as a healthy dose of black humor,” he said. “I attribute the latter to living in the shadow of a neighbor like Russia.”
The Lab Theater only holds 85 people but extra chairs were brought in.
“It was a wonderful event, the house was packed,” Benedetti said. “We had as many people as we could hold, the response from the community was terrific. We got a lot of donations over and above the $50 ticket price.”
The actors are more than willing to put on Sunday’s performance again, said Ballas, and the scripts and green T-shirts have been saved.
“I would love to do it again if I think there is an audience that can support it and we can raise more money. I don’t think this war is going to go away in the next week or two,” he said.
He believes the war has galvanized the world and has reinforced the notion of a global community that has pulled together during the largest refugee exodus since World War II.
“I think it’s just an example of how we really do live in a global community in this information age,” Ballas said. “We hear about stuff that’s going on the other side of the world and how it impacts us and if there are ways that individuals can make a difference from afar, then hallelujah. It’s just a wonderful way for the world to be working right now.”
More information on the company’s 2022 season and orders for season tickets are at its website, www.nmactorslab.com.