Theater Department Chairman Bids Farewell to NMSA | Education


Drama Department Chairman Joey Chavez may have finished his last show at the New Mexico School for the Arts, but it’s not his last act.

Chavez is retiring after 29 years of teaching aspiring actors – first in Manhattan, then at his alma mater, Santa Fe High School, and finally at the New Mexico School for the Arts, where he is developing the curriculum for school theater for 12 years.

It hurts Chavez, 64, to leave; he had two strokes and several seizures that affected his ability to speak, write, set sets and drive.

A diagnosis of a rare disease this spring revealed that the blood vessels in her brain are particularly fragile. After a hospital stay in Colorado in May, he returned to class as soon as he could.

Chavez’s last day is Tuesday. The curtains fell on November 13 on a production of a play he wrote in 1994, 23 Return flights.

During his final months of work, students and colleagues helped him rediscover parts of his lost vocabulary, he said.

“Sometimes I have trouble with words,” he said. “When I returned, I was very transparent with my students.

Chavez has recognized that some days are filled with angst, and he tries not to show it. At the same time, he is optimistic about the future.

“I haven’t finished yet,” Chavez said in a recent campus interview.

He plans to write a play and a film manuscript, two projects that have been on his mind for years.

Charles Gamble was Chavez’s first hire for the theater department at the New Mexico School for the Arts.

Gamble first met Chavez 25 years ago when the duo took on the role of Disciples in a Santa Fe Performing Arts production of Jesus Christ Superstar. The role of disciple was appropriate, said Gamble, who sees Chavez as completely dedicated to his craft.

“It takes extraordinary discipline to create the ecstatic experience that the best theater can be,” Gamble said in a recent email. “It takes daily dedication to break through the grind. As a playwright and director, Joey has done it, and as a teacher of students, adults, fellow artists, he’s an inspiration.

Chavez discovered comedy in college when his best friend persuaded him to join the local theater club. The Incentive: It consisted of 12 girls and no boys.

“I found that I liked it, and it was not difficult for me to be in front of people and to play,” he said.

Chavez went on to study architecture and theater at the University of New Mexico and went on to study theater at the University of Oklahoma before moving to New York to teach, perform and write for five years. . After the birth of her son, her family returned to their hometown of Santa Fe.

Chavez worked for 15 years redesigning theater spaces and improving programming at Santa Fe High School, where he has conducted up to 10 shows each year, he said.

In 2010, the New Mexico School for the Arts recruited him before it opened, and he has spent years working to give stage students a taste of different acting methods.

“I decided to come where there was nothing. I had a closet, ”he said. “So I had to create again, with imagination and creativity, a space to create theater. “

When the first class started, he said, the atmosphere was electric: violins echoed in bathrooms, students painting in hallways, others preparing scripted arguments for a theater rehearsal. A “creative collision,” he called.

The theater department, Chavez said, is not just a place for future Broadway stars. Many of those who took acting classes at the New Mexico School for the Arts went on to study neurology and even yoga, taking their acting skills with them to engage others, he said.

Gabriel Kessler, a New Mexico School of the Arts alumnus, can thank Chavez and the drama department he chaired for the successful start of his own acting career, which culminated in two television roles until ‘now.

He said Chavez brought in a guest speaker who motivated him as a teenager to pursue his acting career in college, rather than trying his luck in Los Angeles right after high school.

Kessler said Chavez sets firm boundaries with younger students. Long before the local actor knew Chavez personally, his sister had attended high school in Santa Fe.

When the young student was late for acting class on the first day of school and attempted to switch seats in the auditorium to join the other students, Chavez sternly warned, “If you disrespect the theater once in a while. plus, you’re out of here. “

“He’s got this really nice progression which I think is intentional,” Kessler said of Chavez. “He’s just super real.”

Senior Kat Howe, who plans to pursue a career in costume, said when she got to school she had no idea the program would be so rigorous.

Chavez taught him to improvise through monologues about his short-term memory problems.

“[It’s] really interesting to see how he took a different perspective on theater and taught [the techniques of] her generation to the next generation, which is really inspiring, ”she said.

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