Magazine article American Theatre

Sink or Swim: Theaters in New Mexico, Illinois and California Hit Rough Water

Magazine article American Theatre

Sink or Swim: Theaters in New Mexico, Illinois and California Hit Rough Water

Article excerpt

New Mexico Repertory Theatre, the state's only Equity theatre, closed in mid-January, following a closed-door meeting of the theatre's board. The board cited a lack of funds and slow ticket sales as the reasons for the closing. Founded in 1983, the theatre operated both in celebrity-laden Santa Fe and, to a lesser extent, the larger city of Albuquerque. New Mexico Rep productions usually began in Santa Fe's 350-seat theatre, then moved South to Albuquerque's 750-seat house for one- or two-week runs.

The Rep's troubles have been evident during the tenures of several artistic directors, including Martin L. Platt, who helmed the company from 1992 until he was let go by the theatre board last August. Platt, founder of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, inherited a theatre with compound budgeting problems: less than half the budget was supplied by ticket sales, and an anonymous donor (who for the first several years of the theatre's existence served as the its only financial benefactor) had pulled his or her largess. "There had never been a fund-raising board for the theatre," Platt said in a phone interview, "and the board that was in place wasn't moving to bring in the fund-raising dollars that the theatre needed."

Chain reaction after

a closing

The theatre's financial woes have been exacerbated by an unusually high rate of staff turnover. During Platt's 13-month tenure alone, four development directors and three marketing directors were employed.

The impact of New Mexico Rep's closing has extended beyond the borders of the state to El Teatro Campesino, the California-based Latino theatre company founded by writer-director Luis Valdez in 1965. A scheduled fall run of Valdez's comedy I Don't Have to Show You No Stinking Badges at New Mexico Rep become a casualty of the theatre's closing, and Teatro Campesino, which is weathering its own financial difficulties, was subsequently forced to cancel a 12-week tour of the show. …

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