The festival kicks off Wednesday, Jan. 13, and runs through Thursday, Jan. 31, at venues around Albuquerque
BY MEGAN KAMERICK
A Palestinian woman and a stranger clash over shelter, resources and water — all without words. A soldier hides from a war amid the ruins of a circus. A group of men struggle to survive in a collapsed mineshaft. Polish women explore the bright rooms and dark corners of motherhood.
That’s just a sampling of what’s on tap for the 16th annual Revolutions International Theatre Festival. Given the fear around borders and international visitors sweeping the nation lately, it couldn’t come at a more opportune time.
Along with Globalquerque, the Revolutions fest is a signature event that makes Albuquerque feel a bit more cosmopolitan. Among this year’s participants are artists from Palestine and Colombia who join a growing roster of alums from all over the world.
Revolutions Artistic Director Juli Hendren says the fest’s mission — empowering communities and connecting people — has remained consistent throughout shifts in company leadership and members. “Now more than ever, this is the kind of thing we need,” Hendren says.
Having attended nearly every year since 2004, each iteration of Revolutions has delivered at least one amazing experience for me — usually more. One of my most vivid memories is of a collaborative piece Tricklock created years ago with a German company; it required the audience to go through “immigration hearings” and walk through different immigration scenarios at a local high school.
Hannah Kaufman, Tricklock’s associate artistic director, describes the event as “cultural diplomacy.” “What’s so important for us is providing that space for conversation before shows, around shows and after shows. We try to create an environment where we can ask those questions; it’s intimate enough that [audience members] feel they can speak to our artists,” Kaufman says. “It’s not just going to the show. It’s becoming involved in the conversation.”
Palestinian company Ashtar Theatre promises to be most provocative. The group took part in an international theater symposium Tricklock created over the past year. Ashtar specializes in the genre known as Theatre of the Oppressed, using the art form to explore vital, volatile issues such as the impact of Israeli occupation. Ashtar’s show, “48 Minutes for Palestine,” explores these themes with two actors using only physical action and music.
Teatr Kana hails from Poland and will explore ambivalence around motherhood. On the company’s website, member Bibianna Chimiak reveals that she wanted to delve into her own difficulties after her child was born. She felt alone, overwhelmed and at a loss about what to do. Realizing she was far from alone, her thoughts turned to the cultural taboos around admitting the hardships of motherhood. “Mother: The Project” was born.
Aztec Economy, a company from Brooklyn, reframes a mine collapse to delve into the male psyche in crisis with “Butcher Holler Here We Come.” This performance promises to be an immersive experience where the audience shares a sense of the claustrophobia and darkness that miners trapped underground experience.
Paper Doll Militia, whose members hail from Scotland and the United States, will enact a “silk and chain” aerial show titled “LoopsEnd.” The group’s origin story involves a cup of coffee, poetry by Tim Burton and splashes of Trent Reznor, according to the New Orleans Advocate. That may offer insight into what’s in store for witnesses to the Militia’s show, where gravity is more suggestion than law.
Tricklock alum Kate Schroeder returns to Albuquerque with a faux-theatrical documentary by company Nellie Tinder titled “Emily Climbs (Machine Méchant).” In the film, a woman named Emily Climbs is reborn in the future and emerges as three people, all exploring the burdens of individualism and the American Dream.
Colombian newcomer Lucho Guzman Cardozo’s show, “Ceniza,” relates the story of a soldier fleeing war, hiding among circus remnants, hoping to be rescued.
Comedian and Citizen Nation podcast host Jamie Kilstein will be the face of the Free Speech Comedy Series. This component of Revolutions was created years ago by one of the event’s founders, Joe Perrachio, and comedian Paul Provenza. Kilstein’s Rock Rants combine standup with guitar licks. People such as Noam Chomsky, Janeane Garofalo and the late Robin Williams have praised Kilstein while Glenn Beck called him a doofus. It sounds promising.
Local spoken-word artists will also show off their artistic chops. Poets Hakim Bellamy and Carlos Contreras and emcee and singer-songerwiter Colin Diles Hazelbaker will offer up Just Verb, a live on-the-spot creation comprised of dance, paint, poetry and music. Tricklock will perform “Her Murder Ballad,” a work they premiered this fall, and host a workshop for its first co-designed, community-created piece “Desert City.”
Blackout Theater’s “The Show,” a local improv showcase, is also on the schedule, as is the ever-evolving Reptilian Lounge. (Pro tip: Bring lots of change for Target Girl.) “The festival is about cutting edge; it’s about different, newer,” says Hendren. “It goes against the grain. We do not do traditional American theater.”
Tricklock debuted Revolutions just before our world became more fearful after 9/11, and the group has often struggled to get visas for performers and raise enough funds to cover costs. Money comes from a variety of sources, including the City of Albuquerque, the Urban Enhancement Trust Fund, New Mexico Arts, individual donors and ticket sales (which raise $20,000 of the $100,000 budget).
I interviewed Hendren in early December, and she revealed Revolutions was facing a $12,000 funding gap. “I’m definitely in that mode where I wake up in state of panic,” she said. “And I have to say, ‘It will work out. You’ll figure it out. It’s a great community and there’s help. Somehow it always kind of works out.’”
The festival kicks off Wednesday, Jan. 13, and runs through Thursday, Jan. 31, at venues around Albuquerque, including Theatre X at the University of New Mexico, North Fourth Arts Center and Tricklock’s home base (110 Gold Ave. SW). For more information and a full schedule of events, visit tricklock.com.
Megan Kamerick is an independent radio and print journalist and producer at New Mexico PBS.