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Conrad Skinner

A History of the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater
Posted on: March 11, 2011

In 1966, Paolo Soleri designed the amphitheater for Lloyd New’s Institute for American Indian Arts (IAIA) Native drama program. New wrote a Credo of Indian theater and charged drama director Rolland M

einholtz with developing the theory of contemporary Indigenous drama and guidelines for its architecture. Over the years, the amphitheater, with its unique multi-dimensionality, became an armature for performance, inviting actors to physically engage with the structure’s specific meaning derived from Native cultures. Today this structure is marked for possible demolition. I am currently developing a history of the amphitheater and seek SPREAD funds to continue my work.The history taps three source types: Inspection of the building, interviews with Soleri, Meinholtz, Cosanti members, IAIA faculty, and Native dramatists. Researching IAIA, Arcosanti and University of New Mexico archives. The history emphasizes concept, design and construction, comparing IAIA theories with Soleri’s drawings and the theater as it exists. It will touch on political issues around its possible demolition and the IAIA’s controversial occupancy of the Cerrillos Road campus.

A SPREAD grant will defray writing, research and travel expenses related to this project. Anticipated expenses include: Research of executive architect Pacheco and Graham’s archive at the University of New Mexico Library, interviews with Native dramatists and principal figures in the amphitheater’s history, writing, editing and peer review.

My work on this history is a work in progress. The final product will include two versions of the history, one for publication in the popular/professional press, and the second, an annotated academic history.

Northern New Mexicans know the Paolo Soleri as a site for SFIS ceremonies and as a popular concert venue. This history illuminates the theater’s value as the crystallization of Soleri’s imagination and Native American self-determination giving birth to American Indigenous dramaturgy. For Santa Fe, where imitative historic style comes cheaply, it is important to recognize the cultural and political history embodied in a building that is merely 45 years old and represents no categorical style yet is packed with meaning. Documenting the amphitheater’s history is the first step toward restoring its designer’s original program; a venue for Native American performance.

2 Responses to “Conrad Skinner”

  1. John Morris Says:

    How to start ? I was one pf Lloyd’s best friends,and shared his house for many years. From the opening of Solari until about 20 years ago. I arranged Benefit concerts for Lloyd and later with John Henry (who had run the Line Camp produced concerts in Solari under contract with the school.
    I would be more than happy to speak with you and help in any way I can
    to further your project. Phone 310-456-2120
    I will be in NM from about August 1 through the month working on my show. See the website. Best, John Morris

  2. RuthClaire Weintraub Says:

    John, I was working for Paolo when Lloyd and Charles came to see Paolo and Colly to ask him to design and build the amphitheater. (I also worked w/ monumental sculptor Julie Graham, whose architect husband Chan ‘signed off’ on the drawings for the structure since he was licensed in NM and PS was not.) I’m in Ft Defiance and wd love to talk w/ you if you have time. Home number 928 729 5258, cell 520 249 9639. I’ve been brainstorming w/ Conrad by email and wd like to have yr thoughts on an idea we’ve been tossing around.

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