Stage Talk by Carol Viescas
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ — Starlight Children’s Theatre of Las Cruces performs Shakespeare’s comedy with music by Felix Mendelssohn July 27-28 at NMSU’s Atkinson Music Recital Hall. Showtime is 7 p.m. nightly, plus a 1 p.m. matinee July 21, and 10 a.m. children’s matinee July 27. Directed by Ginger Scarbrough with musical direction by Pamela Quiñones, the production features 28 youth actors between the ages of 5 and 22. Tickets: $10($5 students; $8 each for groups of 10 or more); available in advance at Spirit Winds, StarlightOnStage.org or at the door.
Travel to Ancient Athens and its neighboring magical Fairyland, where mortals meet fairies and magic and love potions rule the night in Shakespeare’s most famous comedy.
‘And The Winner Is...” — Boba Café and Cabaret, 1900 S. Espina in Las Cruces, presents a performance celebrating “A Night at the Tony Awards” Friday and Saturday, July 27-28 and Aug. 3-4. Dinner show at 7 p.m. (seating at 6 p.m.); Cocktail show seating at 8:30 p.m. (seating at 8:15 p.m.) Tickets: $27.50 for dinner; $12.50 for cocktail. Reservations recommended: (575) 647-5900.
Performers Mark Klett, Juan Apodaca, Taylor Rey and Melis Derya White perform Tony-winning music from the 1950s to the recent 2018 winner “The Bands Visit.”
‘Ground’ — Chamizal National Memorial, 800 S. San Marcial, presents it first in-house theatre production, written by Lisa Dillman, at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3-5. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273 or nps.gov/chamizal.
The play tells the story of Zell Preston, who inherits her father’s struggling pecan farm and moves back to her childhood home in Fronteras, N.M. She finds the once-united border community completely changed: the government is cracking down on undocumented immigration, families are divided, and neighbors are in conflict.
‘Shrek the Musical’ — Alamogordo Music Theatre’s presents Tony Award-winning fairy tale adventure 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3-5, and Aug. 10-11, at the Flickinger Center, 1110 N. New York in Alamogordo. Tickets: $12. Information: alamogordomusictheatre.org or on Facebook.
Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation film, ”Shrek the Musical” features a book by David Lindsay-Abaire.
‘The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940’ — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, opens its 55th season with the comedy by John Bishop Aug. 3-19. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $15 ($12 seniors 62+, students, military; $9 12 and younger). Information: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
After three chorus girls were murdered in the Broadway flop “Back Door Slasher,” the creative team assembles to audition for a new show.
‘Patience or Bunthorne’s Bride’ — Gilbert and Sullivan Company of El Paso presents the comic operetta for its 49th annual production at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10-12, at First Presbyterian Church, 1340 Murchison. Tickets: $12 ($10 students and seniors over 65). Information: 479-2485, gselpaso.org or on Facebook at GandSElPaso.
“Patience” or Bunthorne's Bride” is a satire about the Aesthetic Movement of the 1870s with its focus on beauty in art and literature. As the operetta opens, all of the maidens in the village are infatuated with Reginald Bunthorne, a handsome aesthetic poet who wears delicate attire, writes and recites poetry, and wanders around pensively. Bunthorne, however, is smitten with the village milkmaid Patience, who finds all his attitudes and mannerisms silly.
‘The Laramie Project’ — Las Cruces Community Theatre, 313 N. Main in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall opens its season with the play by Moises Kaufman and the member of Tectonic Theater Project Aug. 10-26. Directed by Wil Kilroy. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $15 ($12 student, military and seniors, $11 per person groups of 10 or more) Tickets: $25 ($15 student). Angel Tickets (includes post show meet-and-greet) are $50. Information: (575) 523-1200 or lcctnm.org.
Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half, in the aftermath of the beating and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing Matthew Shepard.
‘Indoor/Outdoor’ — No Strings Theatre Company presents the comedy by Kenny Finkle Aug. 17-Sept. 2 at Black Box Theatre, 430 N Downtown Mall, in Las Cruces. Directed by Ceil Herman. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., 2:30 p.m. Sunday Aug. 26 and Sept. 2; and 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65; $10 all seats Thursday. Reservations: (575) 523-1223.
The play is about a kitten that leaves home to find herself, finding kindness and love in the process.
‘Laramie Project’ even more relevant 20 years afterward
Nearly 20 years ago, Oct. 12, 1998, the nation was horrified by the story of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay man who was beaten, tortured, and tied to a fence, left to die in freezing weather near Laramie, Wyo.
How Shepard’s death affected the city, its people, and the friends and relatives of both the victim and the perpetrators became the basis of “The Laramie Project,” showing Aug. 10-26 at the Las Cruces Community Theatre.
It’s no accident that the Tectonic Theater Project is reviving the play this September with some of its original stars, or that LCCT decided to do the show now.
“We have had a recent rise in hate crimes in this country since the election of you know who,” said actor Norman Lewis, who portrays the part of Matthew’s father, Dennis. “It is not just gays, but Jews, blacks, immigrants, Hispanics. This is a response to that.”
Only a month after the tragedy in 1998, members of the Tectonic Theater Company traveled to Laramie to interview those connected and began to write the story that became “The Laramie Project.”
“The plan was to interview as many of the people who were involved and also interview others in town of Laramie to see what their reaction was,” Lewis said. “It was a ‘Rashomon’ story in a way. There were people who very defensive of Laramie, saying it was a drug deal that went bad. There were people who called it for what it was – a hate crime. Part of it tells the story. Part of it is everybody’s reaction how people perceived it and how it changed people.”
Lewis and production supervisor Ron Nash made the trip to Laramie several weeks ago to see as many places as they could that were mentioned in the play, such as the bar where Shepard met his killers and the courthouse where the trial was held for the killers. The only place they couldn’t get near to was where Shepard was tied to the fence. The fence is no longer there and the site is on private property.
“It was a tremendously moving experience,” Lewis said.
The rest of the cast includes mostly LCCT veterans: Eric Brekke, Darin Cabot, Robert McNamara, Barton Mendenhall, Karl Heist, Gus Sanchez, Isaac Lucerno, Gail Wheeler, Susie Ouderkirk, Nora Brown, Alex Wheeler, Xodia Choate, Tatiana Garzon, Mia Ayon, and Layne Lauterbach. Those making their debut include Craig Sanders, Gabriella Brillante, and Ryan Steinmetz, who is president of Las Cruces PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
The biggest challenge to doing the show, Lewis said, was that most people had a disconnect from the title of the show and what it was about.
“People don’t know that it is a docu-drama concerning Matthew Shepard,” Lewis said. “After you explain, they say, ‘Yes, I remember that. That was terrible.’ Back then it was seared into the nation’s consciousness. It brought out a lot of positive things for gay people ultimately.”
It took more than 10 years, but in 2009 President Barack Obama signed into law what is known as the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded the 1969 U.S. federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
Lewis said the show is special to him because it is a true story.
“It really directly comments on our present current political situation,” he said. “We still have hate crimes. A person now suddenly feels that he has the right or permission to say those things that two years ago, he might have thought, but was intimidated out of saying them. He knew it was inappropriate then. Now, he and his cohorts are quite encouraged. This play shows what the results are of that kind of behavior, when one lives in society that says it’s OK to hate people because they’re different.”
Lewis encourages people to see the show because “it reinforces how important it is to hold onto our appreciation of diversity. It shows where the road to hate leads, and it’s not a pretty place.”
Carol Viescas is a veteran of
community theater and teaches
journalism at Bel Air High School.
Feature storyCopyright 2018 by Cristo Rey Communications.
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