Stage Talk by Carol Viescas
‘A Christmas Story’ — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, presents the comedy by Philip Grecian. Dec. 1-10. 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.
A young boy named Ralphie Parker only wants one thing of Christmas: a Red Ryder BB gun. It’s not sure he will ever make it to Christmas, between his brother Randy and the school bully, Scut Farkus.
‘Annie’ — Las Cruces Community Theatre, 313 N. Main in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall, presents the beloved musical Dec. 1-17. The story of the lovable orphan is by Thomas Meehan, with music by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin. Directed by Janet Beatty-Payne, with musical direction by Meagan Higgins. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $15 ($12 student, senior, military; $10 age 12 and younger). Information: (575) 523-1200 or lcctnm.org.
‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ — ACT (A Children’s Theatre) of Mesilla Valley presents the holiday comedy at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec 1-2, at Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall. Tickets: $6 in advanced; $7 at the door; available at (575) 644-9561.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” follows the outrageous shenanigans of the Herdman siblings, or “the worst kids in the history of the world.” The siblings take over the annual Christmas pageant in a hilarious yet heartwarming tale involving the Three Wise Men, a ham, scared shepherds, and six rowdy kids.
‘Tick, Tick..BOOM!’ — UTEP Dinner Theatre, in the UTEP Student Union West building, presents the autobiographical musical by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning composer of “Rent,” Jonathan Larson, Dec. 1-10, as its Side Dish Student Production. Show time is 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. No dinner served; all seats general admission. Tickets: $15 ($12 UTEP faculty, staff, alumni assoc. members, ages 4-12, non-UTEP students and groups of 20 or more; $10 UTEP students with valid ID) Information: 747-6060 or utep.edu/udt (Ticketmaster).
“Tick, Tick...BOOM” follows the playwright-composer's journey that led to a Broadway blockbuster. Set in 1990, this story of personal discovery is presented as a rock musical. Adult subject matter and language.
‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ — American Southwest Theatre Company presents the holiday play based on the Frank Capra classic through Dec. 2 at NMSU’s Center for the Arts, Las Cruces. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $17. Information: (575) 646-4515 or nmsutheatre.com.
No Strings Theatre auditions — No Strings Theatre is hosting auditions for the Anna Ziegle play “Photograph 51” at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, directed by Ceil Herman, at Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. Information: (575) 523-1223 or email@example.com.
Auditions will consist of readings from the script. Needed are 5 men, ages 20's to 40's. The role of Rosalind Franklin is cast. A copy of the script is on reserve at the Branigan Library Research Help Desk.
Holiday Comedy ShowHoHo — The Jesters League of America presents the improv show at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at the Glasbox Theater 210 Poplar. BYOB, Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest. Tickets are $5 in advance, $6 at the door. Information: facebook.com/elpasoimprovleague
‘A Christmas Carol’ — The UTEP Department of Theatre and Dance presents its popular holiday season production Dec. 9-17, in UTEP’s Fox Fine Arts Wise Family Theatre. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9 and Friday, Dec. 15, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10 and 17. Tickets: $14; $12 UTEP faculty/staff, seniors, military, groups of 10 or more, Alumni with card, non-UTEP Students; $9 UTEP students and children. Information: 747-5118, theatredance.utep.edu or on Facebook.
Solstice Showcase — The Border Theater presentation is 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Dec. 15-17, at Glasbox, 201 Poplar. Door open at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information: 412-5283 or bordertheatre.org.
El Paso Playhouse auditions — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, hosts these auditions for upcoming shows. Information, audition times: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
• Dec. 17-18: ‘On Golden Pond’ by Ernest Thompson. Show dates are Feb. 9-March 4.
Theater student puts decade of experience into Side Dish show
Just over 10 years ago, a little 10-year-old blonde dynamo walked into my theater summer camp and proceeded to soak up everything I could teach her about acting. Over the years, she tackled whatever character I threw at her with verve, even the title character of the golden goose in that famous fairy tale.
Rachel Robins went on to teach little ones herself, and now as a music theater major at UTEP takes on her first “adult” directorship with “Tick, Tick…Boom!” a Student Side Dish production at UTEP Dinner Theatre, where she has performed numerous times.
“This is actually my first time directing people above the age of 6, and the most obvious difference is that this cast can read,” Robins said. “A great thing that comes from working with children is letting them use their creativity and then molding it to fit the storyline. With adults, there isn’t an exorbitant amount of childlike-creative energy, but there’s a knowledge of the theater and theatrical workings. As a director, I’ve been trying to find ways to use their understanding of the theatrical world while also bringing in some of the childlike energy that so many of us seem to forget we have. I’m trying to get the ‘best of both worlds’ one might say.”
The Side Dish productions, introduced three years ago by UDT director Greg Taylor, are intended to give theater students a chance to direct a professional production.
“For the Student Side Dish production, there was an application process that took place over the summer,” Robins said. “’Tick, Tick…Boom!’ is a show that I’ve known for a couple years now, and when the time came to apply for Side Dish, it was the first show that came to my mind. It fit all the requirements while being a show I really love.”
The show is an autobiographical musical written by Johnathan Larson of “Rent” fame.
“In’ Tick, Tick…Boom!’ Jon is figuring out how to deal with the ongoing struggle of balancing creativity, family, and work while trying to fulfill his dreams,” Robins said. “With his encroaching 30th birthday, Jon is trying to navigate his mounting anxiety without falling apart completely.”
The musical only has three actors, two of whom play multiple characters, thus qualifying for the Student Side Dish program. Unlike most UDT offerings, the program’s plays do not include dinner.
“In the role of Jon is Jeffrey Quintana, a UTEP double major in dance and music theater who has been seen many times before on the dinner theater stage,” Robins said. “As Susan (and others) is Larissa Reyes, a recent transfer student majoring in music theater, and this will be her second time on the UDT stage. Finally, as Michael (and others), Malcom Stokes will be performing on the dinner theater stage for the first time.”
Even though Robins has been involved in theater for almost 11 years, working with the EPCC Performers Studio, UTEP Department of Theatre and Dance, UTEP Department of Music, UTEP Dinner Theatre, Plaza Theatre, Magoffin Auditorium, Chamizal National Memorial, El Paso Youth Opera, and the Gilbert and Sullivan Company of El Paso, she said she had to learn to trust herself when it came to directing this show.
“As someone who is usually on the stage and making ‘actor choices,’ it’s been a bit of an adjustment to take what the actors are giving me and molding it to fit the storyline and where/how it needs to build. On this front, I’m learning more and more every day. I continue to try to trust that I’ve done the prep work to prepare myself and my cast for this journey.”
But her cast, she said, has helped make her job easier.
“My biggest joy so far is seeing how excited my actors were when they all sang together for the first time. When they all learned their harmonies, and knew what they were singing - the excitement was palpable, the air was electric, and I had a huge surge of joy and excitement. It was honestly one of the best moments of my adult life.”
Carol Viescas is a veteran of
community theater and teaches
journalism at Bel Air High School.
‘Tick, Tick…Boom!’ runs 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1-10, at the UTEP Dinner Theatre. Tickets: $10-$15. Information: 747-6060 or utep.edu/udt
Feature storyCopyright 2017 by Cristo Rey Communications.
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