Stage Talk by Carol Viescas
‘Viva El Paso!’ — El Paso Community Foundation, El Paso Live and EPCC present the summertime outdoor musical extravaganza with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through July 29, at McKelligon Canyon Amphitheatre. July 21-22 shows in Spanish. Tickets: $20 ($12 ages 2-12, seniors 65 and older and military with valid ID) (Ticketmaster). Information: ElPasoLive.com.
The show features a refreshed script by Tony-winning El Paso playwright Marty Martin and chronicles the 400-year history and cultural evolution of the El Paso region. This colorful musical spectacular celebrates the four major cultures that have influenced the City of the Sun. The Native American, the Spanish Conquistador, the Mexican and the Western American cultures and their histories come alive through drama, song and dance by a cast of over 50 performers, including live mariachis with Mariachi Paso Del Norte and EPCC’s Mariachi Real De El Paso.
Keith Townsend, director of EPCC’s theatre and forensics program, is artistic director. The show features music by Jim Ward and Gabriel Gonzalez. New this year is a group of young performers, VIVA Kids, led by Margaret Barreras.
‘A Masterpiece of Comic ... Timing’ — El Paso Community College Performer’s Studio 2017 summer repertory presents the play by Robert Caisley 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 30-July 9, at EPCC Transmountain Campus Forum Theatre, 9570 Gateway North, directed by Matthew Smith. All proceeds go to scholarships for Performance Studies students at EPCC. Admission: $15 general admission: $10 non-EPCC students, military; $7 EPCC students, faculty, staff and seniors. Available at the door; box office opens two hours before each performance. Information: 831-5056.
“A Masterpiece of Comic … Timing” is about a Broadway producer who wants to write the next comedy hit. He hires a writer who is suffering from depression and no one knows why.
Cloudcroft melodramas — Cloudcroft Light Opera Company’s live open air melodrama performances at 7:30 p.m. at Zenith Park’s pavilion on Burro Ave. Admission is free, but seating is limited. Early arrival recommended. Information: (575) 682-2733 or cloudcroftlightopera.com.
“Fiendish Firebug Strikes Again” is June 30-July 3, July 7-8, and July 14-15.
Theatre of the Big Bend — Sul Ross State University’s Summer Theater Program celebrates its 52nd season. Performances are 8:15 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, Sul Ross’s Outdoor Theatre at Kokernot Lodge in Alpine, Texas. Lawn chairs welcome. Tickets: $8-$10. Information: (432) 837-8218, 1-888-722-SRSU (7778) or sulross.edu/tobb.
• Through July 2: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps.” Tickets: $8-$10.
• July 7-23: “The Fantasticks.” Tickets: $10-$12.
‘Sister Act’ — UTEP Dinner Theatre closes its season with the hit musical based on the movie by Joseph Howard July 7-23, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater and book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner. The theatre is in the UTEP Student Union West building.
Show time is 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; non-dinner matinees are Sunday 2:30 p.m. July 16 and 23; dinner matinee is 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 9. Tickets: $31.50 to $41.50 Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday discount dinner performances; $34.50 to $46.50 (Friday and Saturday dinner performances), and $17.50 to $27.50 no-dinner matinee performances. Information: 747-6060 or utep.edu/udt.
Based on the hit Whoopi Goldberg film, “Sister Act” The Musical tells the hilarious story of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a crime and the cops hide her in the last place anyone would think to look — a convent.
‘Baggage’ — No Strings Theatre Company closes its season with the play by Sam Bobrick through July 8 at Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Downtown Mall, in Las Cruces. Directed by Nikka Ziemer. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., 2:30 p.m. selected Sundays; and at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 6. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65; $10 all seats Thursday. Reservations: (575) 523-1223.
“Baggage” follows two annoying thirty-somethings who accidentally take each other's bags at JFK airport, then - for reasons known only to the playwright - decide to start dating. The title has more than one meaning, referring not only to a mix-up of luggage at the airport, but also the emotional impediments people tend to carry through life.
‘Pippin’ — Las Cruces Community Theatre, 313 N. Main in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall, closes its season with the hit musical by Robert O. Hison and Stephen Schwartz, through July 9. Directed by Nora Thomas. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $14 ($13 student, senior, military, $11 children under 6. Information: (575) 523-1200 or lcctnm.org.
Heir to the Frankish throne, the young prince Pippin is in search of the secret to true happiness and fulfillment. He seeks it in the glories of the battlefield, the temptations of the flesh and the intrigues of political power (after disposing of his father, King Charlemagne the Great).
‘The New Hip Club’ — Discover El Paso hosts a fundraising performance of a “hip” comedy Sunday, July 9, at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing, One Ardovino Drive in Sunland Park. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. followed by lunch and performance. Performance features Discover El Paso member and other local talent. Cost: $30. Information: Darci, 261-9648.
A group of older friends all move into a retirement home after hip replacements. When they discover one of friend’s son has gambled away all his money, they decide to put on a talent show to raise money to help him out.
‘Danny and the Deep Blue Sea’ — Players on the Wall, El Paso's newest theatre company, presents their first production by John Patrick Shanley July 14-16 and 21-22, at Glasbox, 201 Poplar. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 16. Directed by Austin Savage. Tickets: $7-$12 at the door; $12 reserved at eventbrite.com. Information: 204-5356 or bordertheatre.org.
Shanley’s electrifying 1984 drama, Danny and Roberta are two lost souls who meet in a rundown bar in the Bronx to lick each other's wounds in an unexpected night of guilt, love, and redemption.
The event also features food trucks, and pre-show concerts at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 14, and Saturday, July 22. El Paso musicians scheduled include Mountain Vibes, Nicholas Duron, and more.
‘Into the Woods’ — Sun City Musical Theatre, 3733 Shell Suite C, closes its season with the musical, July 14-30, in collaboration with UTEP. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $15 ($12 for students and military, $10 for children 12 and younger). Information: suncitymusicaltheatre.com or on Facebook.
Lerner & Loewe’s ‘My Fair Lady’ — The El Paso Independent School District’s Fine Arts Department presents its 32nd annual summer musical at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, July 19-22, at the Lee Ross Capshaw Auditorium at Coronado High School, 100 Champions. Tickets: $5 at the door. Information: 230-3500.
The famed musical, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, and music by Frederick Loewe, was adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s play and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture “Pygmalion.”
‘Calendar Girls’ — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, opens its season with the comedy by Tim Firth, July 21-Aug. 13. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $11 ($9 seniors; $8 students and military). Information: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
Based on the true story of eleven Women’s Institute members who posed nude for a calendar to raise money for the Leukemia Research Fund.
‘The Yeoman and the Guard’ — Gilbert and Sullivan Company of El Paso’s 48th annual production presents, for the first time in the company’s history, the classical operetta, ”Yeomen of the Guard, or The Merryman and His Maid” July 28-Aug. 6, at Chamizal National Memorial, 800 S. San Marcial. Showtime is 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $10 ($8 students, seniors and military) in advance; $12 ($10 students, seniors and military) at the door. Information, reservations: 584-9319, GSelPaso.org or on Facebook at GandSElPaso.
Performances are also 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 21-23, at Black Box Theatre, 430 N Downtown Mall, in Las Cruces. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65). Information, reservations: (575)523-1223.
“Yeomen of the Guard, or The Merryman and His Maid” was called “a genuine English opera” when it premiered in London in 1888. It tells a tale of bravery, deceit and disappointed love, against the background of the Tower of London, the notorious site of torture and royal treasure in the early 16th century (Shakespearean times).
Alarum Festival — The Border Theatre hosts the event at 5 p.m. July 29, at Tricky Falls. Details to be announced. Information: 412-5283 or bordertheatre.org.
‘Players on the Wall’ launch first production
In the 1970s, many groups existed on the local theatrical landscape that exist no more: Upstairs Theatre Downtown, Music Theatre El Paso, Los Pobres Bilingual Theater, among many others that have come and gone. Starting and maintaining a new group is an uphill battle, but Vanessa Keyser, who literally grew up on stage, and her friends have high hopes for their conception: Players on the Wall.
“El Paso is such a large community, and we have so few theatrical opportunities,” said Keyser, Players president. “My parents (Kate and the late, great Fred Keyser) always used to talk about the thriving theater scene when they were in college. I think that there is always room for new groups. Now is as good a time as any. I have wanted to start my own theater company for years, I just happened to find like-minded individuals.”
Keyser, involved in theater here since 1996, recently got her BFA in Theatre Performance from UTEP.
One of those like-minded individuals is Brian Ceely, who is handling PR and social media for the group and stars in its first production, “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” by John Patrick Shanley. He studied stage acting and performance at Texas State and UTEP before he left school to focus on building his career. He’s performed with EPCC, Shakespeare on the Rocks, El Paso Playhouse and the Border Theatre.
“We have a handful of non-profit companies, a few academic opportunities, but few opportunities to do paid or high-quality work in El Paso theater,” Ceely said. “We wanted to create a theater for El Paso that utilized professional level talent and skill to create paid opportunities for actors, directors, and designers.”
These two, plus thespian friend Daniel Rios, joined forces to do exactly that.
“We wanted to produce the content we wanted to produce, in the way we thought it should be done,” Ceely said. “No more relying on the decisions of other people. We called Vanessa and found ourselves having meetings, making phone calls, and producing a play.”
Their goal is to become a professional company, part of Actors’ Equity.
“As for the name,” Ceely said, “We’re all fronterizo here: whether it’s a bridge, a wall, or free desert, we will be making plays right here on the border and beyond.”
The first show, “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea,” tells the story of Danny and Roberta, two lost souls who meet in a rundown bar in the Bronx to lick each other’s wounds in an unexpected night of guilt, love, and redemption.
“Their electrifying connection chips away at their rough and tough facades until they share their true selves: young, scared, and vulnerable,” Ceely said.
Ceely said he’s wanted to do this show ever since he became an actor.
“It’s just so visceral and real,” he said. “This play exemplifies the beauty of live theater: You’re getting to share intimate moments with real people. It’s the ultimate form of people watching. Quite the vulnerable experience for the actor, but that’s why it’s so fun to watch. This show isn’t for visual spectacle, it really does focus on the acting and writing.”
Theater and film director Austin Savage directs the show.
“Savage has acted as a mentor for us, and has been invaluable to our production (which also stars Stephanie Carrillo as Roberta),” Keyser said. “Often in theater, you find yourself working with the same people a lot—this has been a great opportunity for me to work with people that I don’t normally get a chance to work with.”
Ceely added, “The guy’s brilliant. The three of us are putting together some pretty wild stuff in rehearsal.”
Ceely also said he’s loving working with Carrillo again.
“I mean a good actor can work with anybody, but it’s rare you find somebody that you just click with creatively. When we’re up together, we’re always engaged, always in tune. We’ve practically had telepathic conversations on stage while acting.”
The group has started a GoFundMe project and has a private page for donors where they’ve been posting exclusive content from rehearsals.
They also are thinking about the next shows: “One will spotlight another former UTEP graduate who is now living and performing in California. The next one will be a large cast show where we can utilize a great deal of talent,” Keyser said.
That next show, Ceely said, will be a comedy.
“We’ll be playing around with the idea of incorporating the El Paso standup comedy scene,” he said. “We also are planning workshops that we intend to teach on Shakespeare, script analysis, voice and movement, and stage combat. That’s all coming down the pipeline later this year.”
Keyser added, “El Paso deserves to have the same amount and quality of theater that cities like Albuquerque have. ... There are so many passionate artists here, not just in theater but also in film, dance, art, and music. All of them are using their passion and talent to make this city more beautiful, and I am proud to be a part of that.”
Carol Viescas is a veteran of
community theater and teaches
journalism at Bel Air High School.
‘Danny and the Deep Blue Sea’ runs July 14-16 and 21-22 at The Glasbox, 201 Poplar. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Feature storyCopyright 2017 by Cristo Rey Communications.
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