A Dramatist’s Guide to Santa Fe
Photo: La Citta Vita
Photo: La Citta Vita

The city of Santa Fe has given itself the moniker “The City Different.” While I’ve never thought that phase rolled easily off the tongue, it is a rather apt description of this place I call home. 

Considering that the population is only 80,000 people, there is a lot going on. Aside from world class opera, huge Indigenous, Spanish, and folk-art markets, and more art galleries and museums than most cities twenty times its size, it is home to more artists and writers than one can imagine. People move here for the landscape, endless skies, and the arts. As for the live theatre scene in Santa Fe—again, it punches above its weight.

While there has always been high quality live theatre in Santa Fe, up until about eight years ago, it was very difficult to find. The formation of Theatre Santa Fe changed all that. It’s a non-profit umbrella organization that has united all the theatre producers in town, as well as the high school and college drama programs. Over twenty companies post their shows on an online calendar and are included in weekly email newsletters and print and radio ad campaigns. TSF also organizes two large events a year: a Children’s Theatre Festival and one-day Theatre Walk. This is a chance for companies to find new audiences, as hundreds of residents and tourists attend and see up to a dozen short plays by various local theatres.

Some companies look for new works for the festivals, but more importantly, Theatre Santa Fe encourages individuals to start their own companies. DG member playwrights have created their own companies and belong to Theatre Santa Fe, taking advantage of the promotional opportunities they offer in order to successfully market their own work. Aaron Leventman runs Almost Adult Productions, I am the artistic director of Blue Raven Theatre, Dale Dunn produces under Just Say It Theater, and Rosemary Zibart created Z Productions. There are also several other non-DG playwrights with their own companies. This is one aspect of writing for theatre in Santa Fe that fosters community and makes self-production vastly more feasible.

Another aspect of community building is the DG’s fabulous idea of adding regional Ambassadors several years ago. This has been huge in respect to bringing together members and offering them support in their writing journeys. There is now a monthly meet-up of New Mexico’s DG members in Santa Fe. It used to be a writing workshop, but lately, regular attendees have preferred to make it simply a chance to get caught up with each other’s careers and share opportunities. Aaron Leventman adds, “The advice I would give to local playwrights is to join or create a community/group of likeminded writers that you can share your work and resources with as a way to support each other and to create your own opportunities.” Our monthly meetups do just that. There is nothing like community.

Another opportunity offered to local members is to bring their new work to a monthly reading at a Seniors Residence. Several playwrights gather and take on the roles in each other’s work for the enjoyment of the residents. Not only is this spreading joy to the local community, but it is also a chance to try out new work for an appreciative audience.

This does not, however, take the place of professional productions, as recent Santa Fe transplant but long-time DG member Bill Triplett has noted: “In Santa Fe, the challenges all seem to revolve around the lack of much opportunities to get local theatres to produce your plays. That’s not to say it can’t or doesn’t happen; it just doesn’t happen as easily or readily as one would like.”

Like most small companies throughout the country, money is tight, and taking a chance on a new play is risky. However, when it does happen, it is more likely to be the new work of a local playwright. Teatro Paraguas produced DG member Vicki Meagher’s Cat’s Pajamas this fall, and The Santa Fe Playhouse will produce Leonard Madrid’s Cebollas this season. The Playhouse has been producing plays since 1922. It’s the longest running, continually producing theatre west of the Mississippi. They have produced a local playwright in almost every season and have also hosted many new short works festivals.

Blue Raven Theatre hosts an annual festival of new works, called Fearless Female Voices. It tends to skew local, as the playwright is required to be in attendance at the festival—its purpose being to introduce playwrights to their audiences and foster community among the playwrights.

Many local playwrights have had success in small festivals throughout the country, as well as the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival and various National and International Conferences. Some, like Mark Dunn, have had considerable success in self-licensing plays appropriate for the amateur theatre market throughout the U.S. and Canada, seeing many of those plays subsequently published and berthed in the Concord/Samuel French catalog.

New opportunities are often shared between members in this supportive community. It isn’t easy finding fully staged production opportunities anywhere in the country, and, as Bill Triplett says, “In light of what’s happening to theatre in America, life for new plays has got to start somewhere, and it’s got to be from the ground up. I see the ground in Santa Fe—indeed, all New Mexico—as pretty fertile. If you come here looking to establish tight relationships with theatres dedicated to nurturing new work from page to stage, you’ll likely be disappointed. But if you come with a spirit of adventure and a willingness to experiment and explore, this is a good place to be.”

It is a good place to be. One must live somewhere, and living in Santa Fe offers playwrights a creative-friendly place to call home and thrive.

Talia Pura
Talia Pura

is a Santa Fe-based stage and film writer, actor, director, designer, and producer. Her plays, films, and aerial dance performances have been seen around the world. She has published numerous plays, drama teaching resource books, a picture book, and two books of monologues for actors.