With a list of theatrical credits that includes various acting, directing and producing duties in New York City, Ireland, Italy and now Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Playhouse’s Antonio Miniño is precisely the type of professional you want presiding over productions in your town. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Miniño came to the states some 17 years ago to study theater in NYC, where they worked for some years. Their sojourn to Santa Fe, however, seems to be sticking, as Miniño’s role at the Playhouse has only grown since they arrived last fall with longtime partner David Stallings (himself a playwright and the Playhouse’s general manager). Miniño is the director behind the theater’s current production of playwright Steven Dietz’s On Clover Road (7:30 pm Thursday, Nov. 9 and Friday, Nov. 10; 2 pm and 7:30 pm Saturday, Nov. 11. $15-$75. Santa Fe Playhouse, 142 E De Vargas St., (505) 988-4262), a dark psychological piece about a mother desperately trying to deprogram her daughter after she joins a cult. With just two more weekends of performances left, now seemed a great time to get to know Miniño better. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. (Alex De Vore)
Your resume is wild, with credits on- and off-Broadway and internationally. What made you want to come live and work in Santa Fe?
My spouse, David Stallings...went to the College of Santa Fe, and when [COVID-19] hit, we were both furloughed from our theater jobs in New York, as were a lot of people. But we were thinking of relocating anyway, and David was always talking about how much he loved Santa Fe and his experiences here. His best friend still lived here, and her parents lived here and were very gracious to let us stay in their casita. The rest is history.
I love Santa Fe, and I also love the Santa Fe audience. It’s great how much they love challenging work, which is really exciting and something we took into consideration when we were planning this season. You can tell the love and need for live performance here, and it has been so great to see after COVID how much of a theater town Santa Fe is becoming—I see different theaters having shows at the same time, which is not the case in a lot of places, not counting big cities, but it’s fantastic to have theatrical options from different companies. Finding the Playhouse family was kismet.
Let’s talk On Clover Road. Was this something you’d wanted to do and was it hard to get dark?
It’s actually a play that [former Playhouse Artistic Director] Robyn Rikoon scheduled, and it kind of was an interesting challenge. It is very dark and very much the opposite of who I am or how people perceive me. I think what Steven Dietz was going for was to create a film thriller on a stage, so the structure is very cinematic and you have a lot of horror archetypes within the play. My interest was, ‘how do I embrace the cinematic aspect of the play while bringing a theatricality to it?’ That’s the starting point. Then it’s finding that core heroine, who is very flawed—Kate, the mom in the play; focusing on her journey; then seeing how we could guide it and guide the audience to follow what she’s going through, which is trying to get her teenage daughter back. She’s trying to get a second chance with her daughter who ran away and joined a cult…it all takes place in a motel that’s close enough to the cult that a deprogrammer can bring her daughter in.
It wasn’t hard to get into the darkness. I’m a big horror flick fan, a big thriller fan, and in my experience, most people who try to find joy as much as possible in their daily lives love those genres. It’s not a Kumbaya script, so priority one was to create a brave space for the actors to go really far with the material.
Following Rikoon’s departure, the Santa Fe Playhouse is phasing to a trio of artistic directors. Can you speak to why that is and what you think it will mean to the future of the place?
We’re changing the model to a trio so each artistic director has a focus [on their own department]. When it comes to the curatorial decisions, though, we’re all coming together to do that. It’s less one person has the say—which a lot of theater companies regionally are kind of moving toward that. I was part of a collective in New York where [the artistic director job] spread among different people, and I have to say it was pretty effective. It made things feel more holistic and effective. Everyone felt more passionate about putting up shows. I would love us to continue this trajectory in which we are presenting work that sparks connections beyond the time you’re inside the theater and to spark conversations you wouldn’t have on your own if it wasn’t inciting what you’re seeing on stage.