BWW Feature: Change in Leadership and 2020 Season Announced at New Mexico Actors Lab
New Mexico Actors Lab founder Robert Benedetti announced today that co-Artistic Director Nicholas Ballas has been named the group's sole Artistic Director, and that Benedetti will now serve as Managing Director in concert with Mr. Ballas.
Ballas performed in a number of regional repertory companies before moving to Santa Fe where he worked with The New Mexico Repertory Theatre and Shakespeare in Santa Fe. In the 80's and 90's he founded and operated the Santa Fe Actors' Theatre. Notable New Mexico appearances include Prospero in The Tempest, Ahab in Mother Road's production of Moby Dick, Dostoevsky in Jewel in the Manuscript, the world premiere of Cascarones at Teatro Paraguas, and Ironweed's production of Death of a Salesman and The Crucible.
Since joining with Benedetti, Jonathan Richards, and Barbara Hatch to found NMAL, he has appeared with the company in many productions including Sylvia, Quality of Life, Art, Ages of the Moon, A Doll's House, Part 2, and No Man's Land. He also has numerous film and TV credits, including the title role of the independent film The Incredible Voyage of Captain Hook, and currently has a recurring guest starring role in the Netflix series, Roswell. Mr. Ballas holds an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied when Benedetti was Dean of Theater there.
Benedetti was an early member of Chicago's Second City Theatre. He served as Head of the Acting Program at the Yale Drama School and Dean of Theater at The California Institute of the Arts. He was Company Director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and has directed at many regional theaters, including the Tyrone Guthrie Theater and the Oregon, Colorado, and Great Lakes Shakespeare festivals. As a film/TV producer he won three Emmys, two Humanitas Prizes, and a Peabody Award. He is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Theater at the Kennedy Center.
Ballas has announced his choices for the 2020 season, the group's fifth. They are:
MAY 7 - 24: SHINING CITY BY Conor McPherson, DIRECTED BY JEFF WARE
The first play will be performed at the group's traditional home at Teatro Paraguas. When the play opened on Broadway in 2006, Ben Brantley said in the New York Times, "the quiet, haunting and absolutely glorious new play by Conor McPherson ... is as close to perfection as contemporary playwriting gets... there's not a word or pause that doesn't feed the work's theme... and what turns out to be the most shocking ending on Broadway." Nominated for two Tony's, the play won the Obie for its 2016 revival.
JUNE 4 - 21: THE CHILDREN BY Lucy Kirkwood, DIRECTED BY Robert Benedetti
Also at Teatro Paraguas, The Children is a play written by Lucy Kirkwood which premiered in London in 2016 and then on Broadway in 2017, and was produced at Chicago's Steppenwolf this year. Inspired by the Fukushimi tragedy in Japan, the play received two Tony Award nominations. The New York Times said, "In Lucy Kirkwood's chilling play, the meltdown of a nuclear power plant is not just an environmental crisis, but an existential one."
JULY 9 - 26: RADIANT VERMIN BY Philip Ridley, DIRECTED BY NICHOLAS BALLAS
The group's last production at Teatro Paraguas in 2020, Ben Brantley called this play "nasty and energetic fun." When a young couple is offered an ideal house by a mysterious stranger, it prompts the question: How far would any of us go to get our dream home? A fast-paced, pitch-black comedy, Radiant Vermin is a provocative satire about the housing market, homelessness, and inequality.
AUGUST 6 - 23: THE CRADLE WILL ROCK BY Marc Blitzstein, DIRECTED BY Robert Benedetti
For NMAL's first production at the Swan Theater and also its first musical, Benedetti will recreate the infamous 1937 opening night of this "labor opera" when the WPA forbade the opening of Orson Welles' production of this incendiary show inspired by Bertolt Brecht. Defying the WPA ban, Welles and producer John Houseman moved the expectant audience to a vacant theater where the show went on without sets, costumes, or lights, with Blitzstein alone at a rented piano. Forty years ago, Benedetti worked with Houseman to recreate this milestone of the American theater and he has subsequently directed four others. The NMAL production will be his third with noted composer/pianist Christian Matjias Mecca as Musical Director and performing the role of Blitzstein.
SEPTEMBER 10 - 27: REASONS TO BE PRETTY BY Neil LaBute, DIRECTED BY NICHOLAS BALLAS
The fifth and last production of the 2020 season will also be at the Swan Theater. This 2009 play by Neil LaBute, his first to be staged on Broadway, was nominated for a Tony and a Drama Desk Award. Ben Brantley said of this play "you realize anew what a sensitive ear Mr. LaBute has for the uncommonness in common speech - of the individuality within everyday language - and for how people of all levels of education and eloquence use words as instruments of power... The plot centers on four young working-class friends and lovers who become increasingly dissatisfied with their dead-end lives and each other... it is the final installment of a trilogy that focuses on modern-day obsession with physical appearance."
All five plays will be performed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM for three weeks each.
Season tickets are $100 for all five plays and season subscribers receive preferred seating. Individual tickets are $25, $5 for persons under eighteen. Tickets will go on sale in January at the company's website, www.nmactorslab.com.