It has been said we are defined as a culture by our artistic achievements. Some might disagree with that claim, but if those naysayers would reflect a moment or two on just the Greek Empire, the Italian Renaissance and the U.S. since its inception, most would probably have to accept that the opening sentence has merit. It is with that assertion that the Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts rises majestically on a mesa between two mountain ranges surrounded by the Lincoln National Forest in Alto.
Since its grand opening on October 3, 1997, it has served as a major attraction for aficionados of national and international arts to the residents of and visitors to Ruidoso, Lincoln County and beyond. It is an exceptional asset to the community and the state which brings added financial and artistic inclusion to the area. Its consistent popularity benefits one and all in multiple ways. That prestigious acclaim requires a concentrated effort by the staff of the Spencer Theater to continuously present outstanding entertainment, state-of-the-art costumes, a fostering of humanities and an enriched art curriculum for students.
The approximately $22 million construction cost was funded solely by the late Dr. A.N. and Jackie Spencer. It was 15 years in planning and broke ground January 19, 1996. Regally situated on 74 acres of more-than-suitable countryside property, it contains 49,474 square feet of space. The non-profit organization’s mission statement is straightforward and noble: “To enrich the cultural lives of community members and visitors by presenting the finest in performing arts.” Jackie Spencer’s vision of an active stage, one which encompasses changing performance approaches, styles, genres and themes, has continued.
This quintessential home for the performing arts has something for all ages and all genders. It basically has two seasons: summer (June, July and August) and winter (October through April). It is closed in September and again in May for maintenance and advertising.
The Class Act Series is made of up professional shows geared for school children in grades two through eight, which include both national and international tours, as is true for all Spencer shows. This program presents two shows a day in the fall and again in the summer. These exhibitions are presented in the 513-seat capacity playhouse where the distance from the stage (at 4,770 sq. ft.) to the farthest seat is 67 feet. It’s easy to see how 1,000 people or more could attend these performances in a single day. Additionally, the Spencer has an open air stage and amphitheater (964 square feet) that can seat 1,800 or more people for outdoor performances.
Normally, the Spencer Theater offers 40-45 events annually of world class touring concerts, shows, plays, operas, dance companies and family and children’s presentations.
On June 17, the renowned Alto landmark will host the Taste of the Spencer fundraiser. This 10th annual affair will have gourmet food tastings, generous pours of wine and an auction of first-rate items from around the country, all collected to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Spencer. It will take place on both levels of the Crystal Lobby, and patrons are invited to savor samplings at various catering stations while indulging red and white libations. Supporters in attendance may bid on items in a silent auction. Items close to home that are up for auction include fine art, home furnishings, golf memberships and other premier contributions. Further from home, bidders may compete for package journeys to fancy locales around the globe, outdoor adventures or old world experiences. This year’s auction will feature more than 200 items.
Other June events will include the Texas country group Reckless Kelly on the 23rd. On July 1 at 8 p.m., the 39-member Air National Guard Band of the Southwest will perform a free concert preceded by a pecan smoked pork rib buffet offered at 6 p.m. for $20. Friday, July 14 is being set aside for the Missoula Children’s Theater; the Spencer Theater is calling for 50 to 60 young actors between the ages of six and 17 for a performance of the Tortoise and the Hare.
Other engaging happenings for the summer season will include the gold medal winner of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (July 22, 8 p.m.); Shining a New Light on the Arts (July 29, 8 p.m.); Crystal Gayle (August 5, 8 p.m.); The Lettermen (August 12, 8 p.m.); Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits (August 19, 8 p.m.); Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder (August 24 and 25, 8 p.m.); and brothers Dylan and Zachary Zmed bringing the Everly Brothers Experience to the stage (September 2, 8 p.m.).
Throughout the year (excluding holidays), public tours are offered at 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tour reservations (subject to cancellation due to weather) can be made by calling 575-336-4800. Parking in the upper lot is free, and valet service is available for $5.
The Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts relies on the generous support of people who want to see this cultural gem maintain its world-class stature. For further information, please call 575-336-4800 or visit www.SpencerTheater.com.
In the meantime, to quote the credo of the Spencer, “The show must go on–and always will.”