Danielle Reddick is trying to find the perfect shape for her life. The length of time it might take is immaterial. If there are any hard and fast rules to her process for getting there, the most important one is that art comes first.
“She’s a working artist, and that’s not something you switch on and off,” says John Flax, the founding artistic director of Theater Grottesco, where Reddick is a member of the core ensemble. She most recently appeared in the company’s production of Different.
“The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Danielle is great integrity,” Flax says. “In everything she does, she’s got to find a way into her own truth. She’s working on a lot of different levels, which are intellectual, emotional, and really connected to the heart.”
Since moving to Santa Fe in 1999, Reddick, 54, has become a ubiquitous stage presence. Her first love is experimental, movement-based theater, because this is the kind of theater that “keeps the edge alive.” But she takes on plenty of conventional roles.
She is also a licensed fitness instructor and a certified clinical hypnotherapist. She and her husband, Giuseppe Quinn, used to hold creative performance salons, called the RedQuyn Experience, when they lived together in a warehouse on Bisbee Court. They met in the mid-1990s when they were both part of the national touring company for the percussive movement show Stomp. When Reddick left the tour, she stayed alone for a year in an Eldorado house Quinn owned at the time.
She says she was just regrouping. “Who am I? Why am I? What now?” She poses these questions rhetorically — and theatrically, pressing her hand to her heart and affecting a Greta Garbo demeanor.
Reddick and Quinn are still married, but they don’t currently live together. She rents a small basement apartment from a friend that is set up for a slightly monastic existence: a station for sleeping, one for reading, one for stretching, and so on. Quinn lives in a warehouse on the Southside, where he can be as messy as he needs to be. He compares their arrangement to another artist couple who required their own abodes: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, albeit with less romantic drama. “There’s a financial aspect. Two studios together with enough separation, in Santa Fe? That’s hard to find,” Quinn says. “We don’t have a compound, so we have to be across town. It has its ups and downs, but we try to live pretty creatively in all aspects.”
Reddick is usually more concerned with believing in what she is doing than with whether or not other people understand it. Different is a perfect example. The structured improvisation is based on the story of Joan of Arc. The six women in the cast do not have defined roles or memorized dialogue. The emphasis is on sound, movement, and feeling — more of an actor’s exercise than a standard play. It’s a bit like modern dance, although that doesn’t adequately explain it, either.
You don’t receive such a performance passively, as you would a family drama set in a living room, Reddick says. Instead, actors and audience members must engage moment-to-moment in what is happening onstage and glean meaning from the experience. “It’s a huge treat,” Reddick says of performing in Different, as well as of Grottesco’s overarching aesthetic. Her heady explanation might not make sense to someone who is unfamiliar with such an all-consuming creative journey: “Nobody gets to do this. And maybe nobody would want to, and that’s their loss, because you don’t know until after you’re in it, and things come up, where the value in it is. For me, it’s muscle-building work.”
She gets some of the same satisfaction playing characters at Meow Wolf, where she has performed in costumes at the House of Eternal Return and the summer music festival, Taos Vortex. For the 2019-2020 holiday season, she’s been playing Lady Fish at the House of Eternal Return, for which she wears iridescent magenta makeup and sucks her cheeks in as if she had gills. When it comes to mainstream roles, Reddick has found a niche in Santa Fe, where she is one of only a few African-American actresses.
In addition to many roles that do not specifically call for a black performer, she has played several that do, including Tituba in The Crucible (Ironweed Productions, 2017), Robyn in The Roommate (Adobe Rose Theatre, 2018), Marianne Angelle in The Revolutionists (Adobe Rose Theatre, 2018), and Kate in Good People (Ironweed Productions, 2014).
Interviewed by Pasatiempo about The Crucible in 2017, Reddick said that Tituba was a tricky part. “I can hear my mother’s … concern about me doing roles that black actresses tend to do, the roles we get to win Oscars for. She was never on board with that. And this isn’t a bad role, but still I have to go through a sort of gauntlet,” she says.
Reddick is grappling with some of the same issues as she pursues a master of fine arts degree in interdisciplinary arts, with a focus on performance creation, in the low-residency program at Vermont-based Goddard College. (She earned a BFA in theater at Santa Fe University of Art and Design in 2015.) She often has to write essays about her creative process but she doesn’t always know how to express the nuances of these experiences. The racial implications of playing an accused witch from Barbados in Arthur Miller’s classic play are somewhat simpler to latch onto, for instance, than what happened when Theater Grottesco did an early run-through of Different for a test audience. At that point, the play included elements of buffoonery, a sort of heightened theatrical horseplay that Grottesco often uses — but that did not come across as intended in this instance.
“The responses were surprising,” says Reddick, who was the only black actor in the piece. “I’m the one who looks different and so the narrative changes. People were upset. They thought my buffoon character was being abused. People from the audience were asking me if I was okay, almost like they felt guilty for witnessing it.” Although white audiences growing more cognizant of racial context is a positive step, she says, “People were really projecting their fear and discomfort onto me.”
Right now, these ideas may or may not play into the solo piece she’s working on, which she says includes puppetry and performance art, and is about the multiplicity of self. “It’s an Everyman kind of story which is going to be challenging — being in this body — to portray. How do humans evolve? How would we evolve if we’re evolving?”
Quinn says that every time Reddick learns something new, new doors of exploration open up for her. She says she’s building up her knowledge base with clear goals in mind. She doesn’t care about money. She would love to regularly take on private fitness clients but worries that such structured obligations could get in the way of her art. In her grand plan, everything must work in concert. And she’s still looking for the perfect space.
“It’s all like theater. The set has to be right. I might want to do a relaxation hypnosis one day, or something physical the next. Whatever the person needs, I want to be able to do that. I’m waiting for a studio I can afford and want. It will happen. All in good time.”