Vicky Boone: Frontera Spirit

By Cantara, Jamie Smith | American Theatre, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Vicky Boone: Frontera Spirit


Cantara, Jamie Smith, American Theatre


From Boston to Austin, an artistic director only wants to do the impossible

Southern." "Small town." "Kind of a libertarian." "A bit of a spy."

That's how Vicky Boone, artistic director of Austin's Frontera @ Hyde Park Theater, describes herself. They are revealing but surprising words. After all, Boone - who exudes a rural calmness and politeness - has a Boston University MFA and lived in Minneapolis and Seattle. And for all her Texan gentility, Boone spends a good deal of her time blatantly defying artistic rules, and unearthing cultural lies.

"I grew up in a small town outside of Houston, and there was a huge contradiction between the history I was taught in school and the actual experience of my life," Boone explains. "There was a lack of tolerance, a narrowness, undercurrents of racism and homophobia. I left Texas in my twenties and went off to find a better place to live. After several years, I realized that I really love this place, but my relationship to it is complicated. Eventually, I decided to come back here and create a home where the things I was interested in could flourish."

That home is Frontera. "We selected the name for its many meanings - the idea of borders and definitions - of crossing and opening borders." Boone and her husband, Neal Jodeit, took a "test drive" through Texas in 1987 and produced Jeffrey Jones's Seventy Scenes of Halloween in Austin. "We wanted to produce good writers, and what we discovered was that this was a community hungry for that." In 1991 they moved. Boone, Annie Suite and Jason Phelps officially formed Frontera, producing Life in Wartime by Keith Reddin the following year.

Good timing. Austin was on the verge of recovering from the '80s real-estate bust as silicon wafers sprang up like hill-country bluebonnets. Today, it is a city where granola meets high-tech meets college intelligentsia meets cowboy-stock meets Hispanic meets black meets straight meets gay meets East and West Coast transplants.

Frontera thrives on this mix. Since its founding, the company's budget has jumped from nil to $275,000, and it has mounted such adventurous plays as Phyllis Nagy's Weldon Rising, Wendy MacLeod's The House of Yes, Shay Youngblood's Talking Bones and Alonzo D. …

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