By VIVIAN CARROLL
IAIA’s inaugural performing arts program burned brightly for a decade before the stellar Lights leading the program moved on. Twenty years later, an effort to revitalize the performing arts succeeded until a financial crisis in 1995 ended the program. Now, 20 more years later, the performing arts program as returned to IAIA.
In 1962, IAIA opened on the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School. Louis Ballard, renowned composer, music educator and author, directed the music and performing arts program. Rolland Meinholtz, dramatist, director and actor/singer, became the drama instructor in 1964.
Under Meinholtz’ direction, IAIA students developed plays that rose from their history and culture. Students toured the Pacific Northwest performing plays and dances in a work entitled “Deep Roots, Tall Cedars.”
Drama and dance students also traveled to Washington, D.C.’s Festival of Indian Performing Arts to perform in Sipapu, based on Coyote trickster stories of the Southwest. Meinholtz directed and Ballard composed a symphonic and choral score.
The featured photo above was of one of these plays. The actors are unidentifed.
When both Ballard and Meinholtz moved on to other positions in 1970, the performing arts program languished.
Rosalie Jones, founder and director of Daystar Dance Company, had taught dance at IAIA form 1966 ”“ 1968. In 1989, Jones returned to IAIA as chair of the performing arts program. Playwrights William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. and Bruce King also taught at IAIA at that time.
In 1995, IAIA’s congressional appropriation was cut in half, according to archivist Ryan Flahive, and once again the curtains came down on the performing arts program.
In the mid- to late 2000s, Project HOOP, partly funded by the Ford Foundation, contributed monies to IAIA for performing arts activities. Acting classes were offered but not as a degree program.
Act I ”“ New Program
In 2014, Dr. Robert Martin, IAIA President, announced a resolution to revive the performing arts program. Daniel Banks, current Chair of the Performing Arts Program, was offered the job of developing the program in the summer of 2014.
During his first semester last fall, Banks taught two acting classes offered through the cinematic arts program. Act I for Banks began when performing arts moved out from under the cinematic arts department at the end of spring 2015. A minor program was proposed and approved.
Banks’ first year of guiding the performing arts culminated with student performances. Plays especially written for the performing arts program to take to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium were presented at the end of the semester. The spoken-word class also presented their work and the new ceremonies class displayed an exhibit.
Fall 2015 is technically the performing arts’ first semester as an academic program. Courses offered are determined semester by semester based on students’ needs to fulfill their minors program.
Banks is appreciative of how IAIA has rallied behind the creation of the revived program. There are currently four courses running, including playwriting, devised performance, music fundamentals and composition, plus costume design. A dozen students have declared performing arts as a minor.
“That’s pretty amazing,” Banks said.
Act II ”“ New Building
Banks is looking forward to the construction of the new, combined performing arts theatre/fitness center. He was involved in the planning of the theatre component. The new building will be located in the area abutting the library and the student dorms.
Banks’ excitement was evident when he described the theatre’s components. In addition to a huge lobby, the theatre will include a waiting room/lounge for performers, dressing rooms, a gender neutral restroom, a rehearsal space equal to the performing space, a dance studio with spring floors, a state-of-the-art LED lighting system, 120 seats capable of flexible seating arrangements, and a small outdoor amphitheater.
“There is not a firm date for beginning of construction,” Lawrence T. Mirabal, chief financial officer said, “but we do have a tentative window for its commencement. We foresee this window as late as 2016 to early 2017.”
Some of the building’s funding will come from private fundraising as well as New Mexico general obligation bond funding, Mirabal said
The bond will be on the 2016 November election ballot and requires approval by the voters. The election outcome will determine the level of private funding needed.
Flahive said there is still $8 or $9 million to raise.
Once construction of the theatre/fitness center begins, Mirabal said that the building should be completed in 12 to 13 months.
Act III ”“ Into the Future
With the return of the performing arts program, Banks hopes to bring a new level of visibility to Native American performing arts. The performing arts department has begun recruiting future students from the Santa Fe Indian School and other schools around the state.
Upcoming performing arts events on campus include the appearance of playwright and former IAIA instructor, William S. Yellow Robe, Jr., November 19-20, and, Spiderwoman Theatre in December.
(Featured Photo courtesy of the IAIA Archives)