Culture-packed Hour at VSA
By Stephanie Hainsfurther
While Assistant Director Margaret Govoni checks costumes, props and starting positions, Director Mark Hisler of VSA at N4th Theater gives encouragement to each actor before a recent technical run-through of “Our City,” an Equilibrium Theater Company production. His actors have laser focus and betray very few stage jitters. Very Special Actors? No. Just local actors doing their jobs while giving it their all.
For VSA’s troupe, the process is old as time: actors must tryout for their parts and keep them with hard work and long hours. There is the memorizing of lines, being able to take direction, speaking on cue.
“It’s very similar in the sense that anyone is welcome to audition from the community and anyone from our student community can audition,” Hisler said. “In the case of this show, I assigned them pieces. A lot of the monologues I gave to the students were from ‘Our Town.’ I’m a big [Thornton] Wilder fan and a fan of his cosmic point of view. So I thought, why don’t we do a show and call it ‘Our City’?”
Albuquerque stars as the play’s central subject, with the actors commenting on her charms and foibles. Laughter, plot lines and humorous conflict keep the action light and fun.
“What’s a little bit different is—in the past, the [theater] pieces were strictly developed by the teachers and students in the classroom. But I thought these folks needed a more solid gymnasium to play on, so I wrote it down,” said the director.
Collaboration is the key to learning and dedication.
“Once they started working with my scenes, they would start improvising. One student sent me an email, ‘Maybe my character would say this,’ and it was a great idea. I was writing at home on the weekends and evenings but I was always taking that work in progress to the students, so they had input throughout.”
Actors rehearse on Thursdays, all day, for an Equilibrium production. All week long, Hisler teaches Dialects and Impersonations class, Beatles Appreciation, and Improvisation. Students perform for family, friends and the community in a showcase at the end of each trimester.
Joining Equilibrium is VSA’s 20-member dance company Buen Viaje (Good Journey) in “More Than,” an original work choreographed by Artistic Director Whitney Jones. The work explores how we label others with language and how these labels limit our mutual interactions.
Both company’s productions add up to a solid hour of unique performance art.
—Stephanie Hainsfurther publishes Elbow Room magazine.
An Albuquerque Adaptation of the Thornton Wilder Classic
by Equilibrium Theater Company
A Dance for Undoing the Language of Labels
by Buen Viaje Dance Company
Friday April 28 & Saturday April 29, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $10 suggested donation
N4th Theater, 4904 4th St. NW, (505) 345.2872, vsartsnm.org
Photo Credit: Russell Maynor
Founded in 1974 by Jean Kennedy Smith, VSA provides arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities of all ages. VSA is an energetic national and international network of cultural and educational organizations developing socially sustainable programs that serve individuals – youth and adults – with disabilities and the communities in which they reside. Participants in the dynamic VSA network host and participate in professional conferences; develop and share resources; provide technical assistance; collaborate on programming, as well as share best practices and strategies for success.