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To Maureen Joyce McKenna “theater matters.”
Ben Kendall


Adobe Rose’s first show does some heavy social-issue lifting

January 13, 2016, 12:00 am

If you find yourself standing in the 1200 block of Parkway Drive and take a look around, you’ll see the kinds of nondescript businesses that tend to reside in an industrial area: hardware, surveying, technology consulting, car repair and theater. Wait, what? Theater?

Yes. That’s right. It’s the latest arts venture to spring up in the neighborhood along the Siler Road metamorphosing before our eyes.

The Adobe Rose Theater is slowly powering-up for its inaugural show, Luna Gale, by Rebecca Gilman, hitting the stage next Wednesday, Jan. 21.

“I really love socially relevant theater. [Gilman] really attacks social issues. You will see everybody in the play is imperfect and doing their best,” says Maureen Joyce McKenna, founder of the Adobe Rose. “Theater at its best is a visceral experience. It’s not two-dimensional like television. It’s an intimate space, and the audience becomes a character in the play.”

The gist of Luna Gale is: Meth heads have baby, baby is given to social services, social services temporarily places baby with mother of meth head, meth heads hate the religious bent of said mother, social worker caught in the middle, drama ensues. It’s a story arc that would be well suited to a Law and Order episode or a neo-noir film. Taking aim at child protective services and the religious right at the same time, it’s a heavy subject for a new theater right out of the gate.

“Gilman wanted people to look at the system, and to see how hard everybody is trying to make it work, but without funding, and without backing, and there’s always strings attached,” says Sabina Dunn, who plays the beleaguered social worker, Caroline. “And with the Christian thing, which is often the only kind of support poorer people have, without access to expensive mental health care, that there are strings attached to that too. People have very little [in the way of] resources to turn to.”

“Good theater teaches empathy. You get to understand somebody that you might not like; gives you the chance to walk in somebody else’s shoes,” says McKenna.

The evangelical Christian church features prominently in the production. Adam Harvey plays a minister with good yet skewed intentions toward the child.

“The issue, of course, that we’re dealing with now is that there’s a massive mistrust of any government agency in general. It’s pretty clear that these faith-based organizations are emboldened and empowered to take control. They have a lot more resources at their fingertips,” says Harvey.

The design of the theater itself is compelling. Intended as a “green” theater, the waste it would otherwise generate by set production is reduced via reusable and reconfigurable props and digitally projected mise-en-scène. This allows for a shift of perspective without the necessity for constructing separate scenery flats.

“It’s an incredibly wasteful process. A show runs for five or six weeks, unless you’re Phantom of the Opera and then you run for years, and then everything is just trashed. There’s got to be a better way,” says veteran theater designer Geoff Webb, who created the sets. The solution was to use small digital projectors to cast still images against two screens suspended from the ceiling. “There’s no painting involved; the screens can be used show after show.”

For the initial show, all wardrobe and set furniture (aside from a clever table that has been custom-made for Transformer-like mutability) either belongs to the cast or is bought from Goodwill, with plans to re-donate them after the show runs its course.

Adobe Rose also plans to offer classes in acting, directing, theater tech and other aspects of stage production starting in February, a plan that McKenna says allows for an organic growth of talent coming from inside its own walls. That, combined with a proposal to pay actors an Equity-level salary and offer more union opportunities, is part of how she aims to take Santa Fe theater to a whole new level.

“As an actor, I know how important it is to pay your actors. I would like it to be possible to put a life together here. So far, that’s not possible. Everybody has at least one job, rehearsals can only happen at night,” McKenna says. “Community theater is great, but that’s not what we’re doing here.”

McKenna takes no salary in an effort to keep administrative costs low. For her, the stage is a labor of love.

“The capital investment here is my own. My husband [Adobe Rose president and screenwriter Bruce McKenna] and I made this ourselves as a gift to our community.”

Luna Gale
7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, Jan. 21-Feb. 6
3 pm Sundays, Jan. 24 and 31
Adobe Rose Theater
1213 Parkway Drive, Ste. B


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