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Theater opens second year with a classic

SANTA FE, N.M. — After offering a slate of relatively new, contemporary plays during its first year, Adobe Rose Theatre is starting its second year with a classic.

“Bus Stop” by William Inge was first produced on Broadway in 1955, focusing on the interactions of characters stuck at a roadside diner in a small Kansas town while a snowstorm rages outside.

The Adobe Rose stage will echo Fifties diner style, while its characters flirt and sidestep, and show what can happen when a disparate group of people are stuck with each other for several hours. Romance and comedy are in store as a Montana cowboy is determined to make a nightclub singer his wife, a retired college professor flirts with a teenage waitress and the skeptical diner owner develops a friendship with the bus driver.

Early ticket sales are going well, said founder and artistic director Maureen McKenna, who is experimenting with a different mix in this year’s plays. This classic will be followed by a popular comedy, “Moonlight and Magnolias,” about the writing of “Gone With the Wind,” from March 16 to April 2.

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“We’ve not done a comedy,” she said. “It’s slapstick and fun, fun, fun.”

That will be followed with a contemporary offering, Donald Margulies’ “Time Stands Still,” that focuses on foreign correspondents in a war setting. Referring to the number of journalists who get killed doing their jobs in a war zone, McKenna said she felt it was important to honor and point out their contributions. “We’ve been at war a long time,” she added.

With Margulies’ gift for language, the dialogue is sharp and smart, she said.

This summer at the Adobe Rose will see The Oasis Theatre Company from New York performing three one-act plays in July by masters such as Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov and Molière. “It seems like the perfect thing for July,” McKenna said, noting how many people come to town to hear classical music in the Chamber Music Festival and presentations at the Santa Fe Opera.

Late June will see a new festival of short plays, called “The Morning After,” all of which may be set around something simple, like a kitchen table – something that doesn’t require major scene changes. McKenna said she had the inspiration for the theme on the day after the presidential election, when her daughter awoke with a new purpose in life, declaring that she would pursue degrees in law and divinity, and work to defend the civil rights of women and Muslims.

Overall, McKenna said, that morning “I felt the world had shifted.”

Valuable space

A year after creating a new theater in Santa Fe, McKenna said she has learned a lot. And one of the things she learned, she said, is the dire need for theater space in this town. “I couldn’t accommodate everyone,” she said of people who requested the space to put on a production.

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As it is, she already has booked Theaterwork and Theater Grottesco for performances this year. And stressing the community aspects of her theater, she noted that, less than a week after the last performance of “Bus Stop,” St. Michael’s High School will be opening its presentation of the Broadway version of “Aida.”

She also has made the space available for events such as community discussion of the Arts + Creativity Center and other projects associated with Creative Santa Fe.

Noting that she’ll have an after-school program for high-risk third- to fifth-graders, McKenna said she also wants to expand educational opportunities. Saturday mornings see an improv class at the theater.

“I’m looking at educational programs that will be focused on going back to the basics – script analysis, things that enhance an actor’s education … . I want to increase the size and level of skill in the talent pool,” she said, adding that she aims for affordable prices for the classes.

One of the things that surprised her the most, she added, was how much she enjoyed making the stage available to talented youths and young adults who are creative, but need a place to hone and present their craft to an audience.

Hearing of young actors in Las Cruces who were presenting a production, “Bomb-itty of Errors,” in warehouses and front porches, she invited them to put on a show last year at the Adobe Rose. “They’d not been in a theater” with their show, she said. When she subtracted some technical costs and then divided the house receipts among them, she added, “They cried.”

“It was very rewarding to me,” McKenna continued, “to see how their show grew over that weekend.”

The Up & Down Theatre Company presented its review, “Winning the Future,” of original songs and skits of political satire to filled seats last fall, and McKenna said she wants to see them come back.

“It’s fantastic to see young, talented people have an opportunity to come into a beautiful, well-equipped space and create something,” she said. “It’s very rewarding – and that’s something I didn’t expect.”

But look for that to help form the future of this year-old theater, which will run its own productions in a season running September through June. “We’ll announce that soon,” McKenna added.

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