Down in Durango, a southwestern Colorado town we Front Range sophisticates don't usually associate with cutting-edge culture, Fort Lewis College theater professor Kathryn Moller has the pioneer spirit. Her fully staged theatrical work Skins, adapted from a collection of sculpture and poetry by artist Elizabeth Ingraham, is proof of that. Spare and conceptual, with minimal staging that evokes a desert landscape, its dreamy text floats through Moller's "theater of images," expressed through movement, sound and symbolism. "It's about finding ourselves, about taking off the layers of skin that we learn to cover ourselves with by indoctrination," Moller says. That's heady stuff in the theater world. Not a drama, comedy, musical or monologue, Skins, which premiered last week at the college's Mainstage Theatre, occupies its own category.
The performance, which Moller insists is more a collaborative ensemble work than her own creation, caught the eye of Ellen Stewart, founder of the La MaMa experimental theater club in New York City. Stewart invited Moller to bring her production to the La MaMa e.t.c. stage for a March opening. Rehearsals begin in January, and it will cost Moller $60,000 to tote Skins, lock, stock and barrel, to New York. At this writing, she's only halfway there. While the La MaMa staging would include some international performers and New York actors, Moller also intends to bring some of her Durango cast with her -- no matter what.
"It's become an act of guerrilla fundraising for me," Moller says, noting that all other conditions are perfect. "Skins fits the objective vision of La MaMa: It's multicultural and multi-disciplinary, it travels well, and it's an empty-space performance. There are just a few rocks on stage and a bunch of fabric and the performers. It's all a matter of getting enough money."
To that end, Fort Lewis is hosting a benefit performance and reception on Friday night, with stagings continuing through Sunday. And if you love the idea of sending an innovative chunk of Colorado to shake up Manhattan but won't be traveling to Durango this weekend, donations are certainly welcome.