New theater tandem aims for empowerment
by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, April 28, 2011
Big things can start in small places. That’s the driving philosophy behind Albuquerque’s newest artistic foray, Rainbow Studio Theater Company.
The endeavor is the brainchild of Cathryn McGill and Regina Dawley. McGill is well-known locally for her extensive work in theater as well as her tremendous vocal talent. Dawley is newer to the Albuquerque scene, having moved here two years ago. She comes with an impressive résumé as a choreographer, writer, filmmaker and a principal dancer who’s worked both on Broadway and in Hollywood with heavyweights like Shirley MacLaine, Redd Foxx and Marvin Gaye.
The mavens met soon after Dawley arrived, as a result of living down the street from each other. “We set a lunch date and starting talking,” says Dawley. The two learned they share the same dream.
That dream is, in part, to write a musical and take it to Broadway. They want to keep all the details of their work-in-progress to themselves for now, but they’ve been writing for a year and still see a sizable road ahead. That’s why they decided to stage a smaller show before they put on their big one. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf was written by Ntozake Shange in 1975, but McGill and Dawley, who have both performed in separate productions of the play previously, say they’re making it their own.
For Colored Girls ... can be a heavy piece—it’s a set of 20 poems grappling with themes of abandonment, love and abuse. But set to dancing and live music, and backdropped by video (shot by local filmmaker Marie-Michèle Jasmin-Bélisle), McGill and Dawley hope audience members walk away with “a feeling of empowerment,” Dawley says.
They chose the piece because they were inspired by its recent film adaptation, and they realized that the issues it explores are still, unfortunately, relevant—especially in this state. “It’s important for us, as artists, to show that the arts have the power to help in social issues, and domestic violence is huge in New Mexico,” says McGill. “The goal is to use the arts to invoke civic dialogue.”
McGill and Dawley want to do that in a literal sense on opening night. On Friday, April 29, there will be a reception and talkback following the show. It will include much-loved man-about-town and “New Mexico In Focus” host Gene Grant, African-American literature expert Dr. Kadeshia Matthews, psychologist Dr. Stephanie McIver, and former senior editor at Essence Magazine Pamela K. Johnson. “We want to use the arts as a background and put it into context,” says McGill.
One of the missions of the fledgling company is to engage and create community. That’s why even though the play only calls for seven actors, McGill and Dawley cast 12, splitting up some of the monologues so they could include all the actors they liked, including UNM theater students.
Nourishing students’ learning and providing opportunities for them is important to McGill and Dawley, who also hope to use their company to advocate for the arts in schools. “The reason that I would be comfortable getting up in front of a crowd of five people or 5,000 people is because I had arts training as a kid,” says McGill. She argues that due to budget cuts, many young people now have limited or zero access to the arts, which are “just as important as the infrastructure needs of the city.” Rainbow Studio Theater Company has drafted a hefty blueprint for what it would like to accomplish, and For Colored Girls ... is the first page in that plan. “I try to use my art as a way to give voice to others,” says McGill. “To help us move to the end of our own rainbows.”
For Colored Girls ...
8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
VSA North Fourth Art Center
4904 Fourth Street NW
Tickets: $20, $15 students and seniors
vsartsnm.org or 344-4542