Film/Television Editor, Copy Editor Devin D. O'Leary served as film/television editor at Weekly Alibi for 28 years. He wrote and produced four feature films here in New Mexico and has been the booker/host of Midnight Movie Madness screenings at Guild Cinema for 13 years.

There are those who are working their way back to life from the low point of COVID lockdowns, and there are those who are racing back with a vengeance. Albuquerque’s FUSION Forum—a whole host of newly renovated venues located between 700 and 708 First St. NW—has spent the bulk of 2022 eagerly hosting live theater, music, comedy, dance, film shoots and screenings, corporate gatherings, camps, weddings, workshops, yoga, classes, art markets, graduations, rehearsals, press junkets and more. It is home to Albuquerque’s longest-running professional theater troupe, FUSION Theatre Company, and in just the last few months has been home to The Seven New Works Festival, the “Two Moons” surrealist dreamer art exhibition and the innovative, effects-filled sci-fi stage show Edmund and the Astronaut.

But, admits FUSION Director of Finance and Administration Jacqueline Reid, navigating COVID has not been an easy journey. “We were completely shut down for two years. We sustained a $67k loss at the start of the shutdown, because we were in the middle of our largest show in 10 years, which could not open. We had to lay off every employee. As it became obvious that mandated closures would last, we used that quiet time to fully renovate our facility. New ventilation, duct work, heating and cooling, as well as the build-out of a huge outdoor stage made our venue singular concerning COVID mitigation. New bathrooms, dressing rooms, flooring and an imminent cafe are here to stay.”

Way back in January of 2001, FUSION’s founders signed the lease for 700 First St. NW in Downtown Albuquerque, a rundown building in a less-than-desirable neighborhood that had been vacant for 18 years. The small space was rebuilt and renamed The Cell Theatre. For over two decades FUSION Theatre Company used that venue to provided an annually negotiated union living wage plus pension and health benefits and has now become the longest-lived professional theater in New Mexico’s history. In 2015 the organization leased additional nearby buildings on the 700 block. FUSION’s long-brewing “arts campus” now consists of two indoor venues, a permanent outdoor stage, a co-op office space, a soon-to-be coffee shop and several indoor and outdoor fine art exhibition spaces totaling more than 35,000 square feet.

“All spaces are being used 24/7 by every art form, even cooking!” says Reid. “When we began 21 years ago, we had a goal of a community inspired creative space, a space of service and beauty. We stated this in our mission statement.”

Now FUSION Theatre Company is opening its first in-house show since that aborted 2019 season. Season 22 kicks off with John Steinbeck’s Burning Bright, one of only three plays the famed writer crafted for the stage. It’s described as a “turn on a medieval morality play” and tells the story of a troubled family torn apart by “vulnerability and passion, desperation and desire.” Reid, who is directing the play, was drawn to it because of “the navigation out of COVID trauma, informed by our nation’s unrest, politically and socially, and our need to find peace and clarity as we critically think and make choices. Burning Bright says we have to wrestle individually and collectively. History repeats as we navigate life’s beauty, as well as its certain demise: death itself.”

Reid is particularly excited for audiences to experience FUSION’s long-delayed 22nd season. “We have shows of particular socio-political relevance (Grounded), shows of universal relevance transcending time and space (Burning Bright) and intellectually smart comedies (Stoppard: The Real Inspector Hound). All shows have a strong literary component, and take the audience on a realized, nuanced journey of mind and soul as they participate from show to show.”

Burning Bright runs September 15 through 25 at @708, FUSION’s newest indoor venue on their expanded campus. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 7pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Individual tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors and $20 for students. You can find tickets and details on the rest of the Main Stage season at fusionnm.org/burningbright.