After an international search, the Durango Arts Center found its new artistic director in Pueblo native and former long-term New York City resident Kristin Skye Hoffmann. Hoffmann is the founding artistic director for NYC theater company Wide Eyed Productions. She has a Master of Fine Arts from the New School for Drama, a bachelor’s in performing arts from the University of Northern Colorado, and grand plans for the Arts Center.
DGO chatted with Hoffmann about why she traded in the big city, community building, and what excites her about creating theater in Durango.
Bonus: Hoffmann’s doxie/fox terrier pup, Loomer, was chilling in her office with us. Yes, you should look him up on Insta at @fruitoftheloomer. SO ADORBS.
You’ve been big-citying it for a long time, why come back to small town life?I love New York. It’s so early that it hasn’t completely sunk in that I’m not going back any day now. It is wonderful, magical, and unlike any other place, but it is exhausting. It is also saturated with artists. It’s a great breeder of groups and communities, but after I got my masters I was like, “Let’s do the work!”
I graduated from the New School and was applying everywhere, all over the country, for directing plays and artistic directorships … I was going to hunker down in Pueblo for a year, save some money, and keep applying for positions. I had applied to the Arts Center before my decision to move back to Pueblo. It was about a week before I was supposed to hit the road that the interview process started.
It felt like once I made the decision to make a big change, a door opened up. This was exactly the kind of position that I was looking for.
What the heck does an artistic director do? I do lots of intricate little things, but really, what I do more than anything else is I get to choose the seasons … It’s my job to figure out what the community wants to see. It’s tricky, since I am so new. I don’t know yet what everybody wants and I’m learning little by little how theatrical needs are being filled in Durango. I’m learning about Merely Players and the high schools and 20Moons. I’m trying to figure out what everybody does and how to make it work that I think is important, timely, and pushes the audience but takes them in consideration, too.
Are you automatically the director of plays? Not automatically. I would love to be the director of all the plays. I love directing … My job is making sure everything is staffed and cast, and if there is a job that isn’t filled, I fill it.
It’s really exciting. This year, we have women directors for each show. I love it. I was assigned “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress,” which is fun because it’s in March and that’s Women’s History Month. Theresa (Carson) steps in with “Next to Normal,” and then we’re doing “Seussical” and that will be the second play that Emily (Simpson Grandt) has directed.
What are you excited to explore when picking your own season?I think when people hear the term “community theater,” they tend to think of revivals of old plays that we’ve seen a thousand times, like “Death of Salesman.” There’s a place for that. I enjoy those as much as everybody else, but I think there’s such amazing things coming out and new writers to explore.
The thing I am most excited about is the 10-Minute Play Festival. That’s the only place, right now, where we delve into original works that we can help develop and (where) new playwrights come to life. I want to do more with that.
Thematically, things I want to delve into are maybe a little darker. I also want to try my best to work with the education department to create themes for the season-entire … I’d like to have a season dedicated to something like truth versus fiction – what plays support that and what is the power of that? Or road trips, where each play we do takes us to a different place and the audience gets a different perspective. I’m also excited by political theater.
People are writing interesting work right now. It could be that there are writers in this city that want a place to have a staged reading. Even if it isn’t dedicated in the season, I would love to do those.
You’d like the DAC to do more staged readings? That kind of thing needs to be, and can be, in the theater. It’s something I think we can support. It’s so easy. If you wrote a one-act play and wrote me an email saying, “Please read this one-act play. I would love to have a staged reading. I have never heard it out loud.” That’s the kind of thing that, after I’ve been here for a minute, I can go, “This actor, this actor, this actor.” You don’t have to have auditions. You maybe have one rehearsal with the writer and talk about what it is and then block it a little and then invite people. Charge a donation. Open the bar. See what happens. That is beneficial to the Arts Center and also to the writer and the community. That’s what community theater is. It is something that not only entertains and challenges the community but supports the community.
I really want people to reach out to me. I don’t know anyone. I don’t know who we have in terms of talent or who is interested.
What kind of community partnerships are you looking for?I think looking at different local businesses and seeing if they’re interested in having performances in their spaces is interesting. I like doing found-space events, especially if (the Durango Arts Center) is occupied.
I love collaboration with other companies. I think it is really important, especially in a city this size, for theater companies and artists to support one another.
Interview edited and condensed for clarity.Patty Templeton