3 Questions

3 Questions

with Santa Fe Playhouse Artistic Director & Head of Production Anna M. Hogan

(Katie Rhoden)

Earlier this year, the Santa Fe Playhouse announced it had adopted a three-person model for its artistic director position with theater professionals David Stallings, Antonio Miniño and Anna M. Hogan assuming the new roles. And while Stallings and Miniño have certainly become familiar to local theater regulars, Hogan is a relative newcomer to Santa Fe. Rest easy, though, Santa Fe, as Hogan’s background includes a musical theater degree from West Texas A&M University; extensive experience in nearly every facet of the New York City theater scene; and an artistic director position with the Wallace Theater in Levelland, Texas. Now in Santa Fe full-time, Hogan will this June direct a production of Lapine and Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George about the painter Georges Seurat and one of his descendents facing similar personal and artistic challenges a century apart. We wanted to get to know Hogan a little better before then. This interview has been edited for clarity and concision. (Alex De Vore)

Given that the Santa Fe Playhouse is one of the oldest theaters in the country, do you have any thoughts about trying to foster new energy while holding on to its ethos and values?

I think when we’re in a historic space, we have a responsibility to uphold the significance of that space to the community. The theater serves many functions but, first and foremost, it’s about serving the community directly with our work. Yes, we can reduce theater to programming, but it’s more than that. We offer education, development and outreach opportunities, and we seek to engage with our patrons one-on-one outside the parameters of the rehearsal room and the auditorium. I think the theater is richer for where it’s been, even if that’s a complicated thing. It’s totally possible to take an intentional look at where the needs of the community may be without dismissing or discrediting where it’s been. I think the intention is always to ensure we’re producing new narratives and experiences with the intention of doing good. It’s not necessarily a huge swerve. It’s a progression.

The Playhouse doesn’t often produce non-children’s musicals. What can you tell us about your take on Sunday in the Park with George?

Obviously children’s theater is super important and an essential gateway, but a ton of people just enjoy the escapism of musicals. With Sunday in the Park, it’s a bit of a different story. I’ll start by saying…I’m drawn to more existential pieces dealing with identity and human struggle in a more adult way, after coming-of-age, because a lot of that time period can be unromanticized. One of the first things [Playhouse staff] spoke about was that this production was not about the pursuit of the quote-unquote everyman or every-person; it’s the pursuit of an artist, which seems to resonate with the Santa Fe community. There are a lot of artists here who know what it’s like to pursue a craft for decades—what comes with that? What are our actual priorities, and what do we sacrifice in pursuit of expression? We’ve all had to make choices, either for the good of ourselves or the people around us. This musical presents us with the struggle of that in a bittersweet way, and I’m excited to bring this type of material because I think audiences deserve the opportunity to engage with topics that resonate within them as opposed to just escaping them.

Is the triumvirate leadership model common in the theater field, and do you see any particular strengths or drawbacks in that setup?

This model is something that’s absolutely popping up in regional spaces. I really do think that as we are stepping in as leaders, all three of us are approaching it with an eye toward serving a bigger mission as opposed to serving ‘artistic genius,’ if that makes sense. There were a lot of talks in the interview process and a lot of transparency about what my specific position needed, which was production management—which is in my wheelhouse. And there’s a lot of definition within our roles; we cover different facets; we come together in a really holistic way to talk about big picture ideas. In a big way, it’s exactly the type of model a community needs: collaboration and letting other people lead the way if it’s more in their purview. It’s a healthy way to process plans and problems. There’s not a lot of ego at play, and I think that’s so healthy for an arts and culture space, or any leadership space. As artists, it’s nice to be able to turn to each other and say, ‘I’ve thought this through, here’s my plan, what do you think?’ Plus, we get a more diverse product and a more diverse conversation about anything we’re doing. I wouldn’t even say the process slows down progress, because in so many ways it helps us move forward with confidence.

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