Stage Talk by Carol Viescas
‘The Motherf***er with the Hat’ — Players on the Wall present the play by Stephen Adley Gurgis at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 12-13, at Lowbrow Palace, 111 E. Robinson. Tickets: $12; $10 student; $8 military. Tickets at lowbrowpalace.com.
Described as “a high-octane verbal cage match about love, fidelity and misplaced haberdashery,” the 2011 play involves complicated relationships among a paroled drug dealer, his girlfriend, his parole counselor and his cousin.
‘Rent 20th Anniversary Tour’ — Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning masterpiece returns to the stage in a 20th anniversary touring production at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 16-17, at the Plaza Theatre, as part of the Broadway in El Paso series. Tickets: $30-$70 (Ticketmaster). Information: 231-1111, ElPasoLive.com/Broadway or on Facebook at Broadway in El Paso.
A re-imagining of Puccini’s La Bohème, “Rent” follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams.
‘Lend Me A Tenor’ — Las Cruces Community Theatre, 313 N. Main in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall, presents the Ken Ludwig musical Jan. 19-Feb. 4. Directed by Michael Wise. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $15 ($12 student, senior, military). Information: (575) 523-1200 or lcctnm.org.
World-renowned tenor Tito Merelli has signed on to play Otello at a Cleveland opera company in the fall of 1934. He arrives late and, through a set of crazy circumstances, passes out after mixing wine with a huge dose of tranquilizers. Believing that the divo is dead, the excitable opera manager taps his hapless assistant, an aspiring singer named Max, to suit up as the Moor and replace Merelli.
‘The Grid’ — Human Nature Contemporary Ballet presents a new work that explores the visceral reality of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s through dance at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19-21, at the Chamizal National Memorial, 800 S. San Marcial. Admission: $10 Information: 213-8410.
‘A Chorus Line’ — UTEP Dinner Theatre, in the UTEP Student Union West building, presents the Michael Bennett musical, winner of the 1976 Tony Award for Best Musical and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Jan. 26-Feb. 11. Show time is 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; non-dinner matinees are Sunday 2:30 p.m. Feb. 4 and 11; dinner matinee is 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28. Tickets: $33.50 to $43.50 Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday discount dinner performances; $36.50 to $48.50 (Friday and Saturday dinner performances), and $19.50 to $29.50 no-dinner matinee performances (Ticketmaster). Information: 747-6060 or utep.edu/udt.
“A Chorus Line” captures the spirit and tension of a Broadway chorus audition. Exploring the inner lives and poignant ambitions of professional Broadway gypsies, the show features one powerhouse number after another. Memorable musical numbers include “What I Did for Love,” “One,” “I Can Do That,” ”At the Ballet,” “The Music and the Mirror,” and “I Hope I Get It.”
‘Los Desarraigados’ — Los Actores Spanish-language theatre company presents the play by Humberto Robles at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26-28, at the Chamizal National Memorial, 800 S San Marcial. Admission; $10 ($8 seniors, military, students; $6 each for groups of 10 or more). Information: 540-3813 or 474-4275.
The play tells the story of an attractive well-to-do young woman from Mexico City whose unexpected arrival in El Paso at the house of a working-class Mexican American family forces them to confront their own identity and place in American society. Co-presented by International Hispanic Cultural Institute (IHCI).
‘Photograph 51’ — No Strings Theatre Company presents the story of Rosalina Franklin and DNA by Anna Ziegler Jan. 26-Feb. 11 at Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main in Las Cruces. Directed by Ceil Herman. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., 2:30 p.m. Sunday Feb. 3 and 10; and at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65; $10 all seats Thursday. Reservations: (575) 523-1223.
“Photograph 51” is the story of Rosalind Franklin and DNA and neatly coils a scientific detective story around a rumination on how sexism, personality, and morality can impact collaboration and creativity.
Improv Comedy Show — Jesters League of America, hosts its first improv show of the year 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, at Glasbox, 210 Poplar. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Mature content. Admission: $6 at the door; $5 on the league’s Facebook page by clicking “attending.” Information: (813) 785-6664.
The Jesters League of America is a group of improv comedians who perform live, unscripted comedy throughout El Paso.
‘On Golden Pond’ — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, presents the Ernest Thompson drama Feb. 9-March 4. Directed by Veronica Flores. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $15 ($12 seniors 62+, students, military). Information: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
Ethel and Norman Thayer return home to Golden Pond for the 48th year, in a love story made famous on film by Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda.
Auditions are Feb. 25-26 for ‘Love from a Stranger’ by Agatha Christie. Show dates are April 20-May 12.
‘Photograph 51’ is based on true story
For most theater groups, planning a season means planning a season of popular standards, with maybe one “daring” show so actors and directors get to stretch their creativity.
But that never has been true of No Strings Theatre in Las Cruces. Their season is mostly new and different, and a perfect example is their January-February offering of “Photograph 51.” The play, which was first presented only a few years ago, is based on the true story of Dr. Rosalyn Franklin (played by Nicole Kidman when first presented in London), a scientist when there weren’t many women scientists. It focuses on the often-overlooked role of Franklin, an X-ray crystallographer, in the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA while working at King’s College London.
“Dr. Rosalyn Franklin was working with Dr. Maurice Wilkins in the early 1950s on the structure of DNA at the same time that Drs. James Watson and Frances Crick were working in a competing laboratory,” Herman said. “The play shows the attitudes of male scientists towards marginalizing bright women scientists at the time.”
The title of the play comes from the nickname given to an X-ray diffraction image taken by Raymond Gosling in May 1952, under the supervision of Franklin. It was critical evidence in identifying the structure of DNA.
Herman said she was intrigued when she saw the play in Albuquerque.
“Directing it was appealing to me because I was a scientist for my first career (professor of biology at NMSU for 21 years). The play is certainly about a very important scientific discovery, but most interesting to me was the treatment of Dr. Franklin as a woman in a male-dominated scientific environment. Sadly, not much has changed in over 60 years.”
Herman’s interest in theater grew in 1997 when she started taking courses in theater at NMSU.
“Peter (her husband and theatrical collaborator) and I retired from NMSU and built the Black Box Theatre in 2000, and this is our 18th season. I have been directing three out of the seven plays we produce each year, and Peter has designed lights and sets for most of our productions.”
In the current production, Nora Medina plays Franklin. Rounding out the cast are Scott Peterson as Dr. Maurice Wilkins; Matthew Frietze as Ray Gosling, a graduate student working on his Ph.D. in Dr. Wilkin’s lab; Joseluis Solorzano as Dr. James Watson; David Arias as Dr. Frances Crick; and Joshua Taulbee as Dr. Don Casper, a postdoctoral fellow who works with Dr. Franklin.
“Since all six characters are/were real people, it was very important for the actors and myself to understand the historical background of the play,” Herman said. But her cast has worked so hard on this, it has made her job a joy.
Still, she added, the growing theater can always use more help with the seven-play season, plus playing host to other dance, music, visual art and performance groups.
“We are happy to have volunteers help us with productions on stage (actors, directors, designers) or behind the scenes (stage crew, house managers, stage managers). Just give us a call.”
Carol Viescas is a veteran of
community theater and teaches
journalism at Bel Air High School
No Strings Theatre Company presents “Photograph 51” Jan. 26-Feb. 11 at Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main in Las Cruces. Reservations: (575) 523-1223.
Feature storyCopyright 2018 by Cristo Rey Communications.
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