Stage Talk by Carol Viescas
‘Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, presents the family holiday comedy based on the Barbara Robinson book Nov. 30-Dec. 16. 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.
‘Mary Poppins’ — Las Cruces Community Theatre, 313 N. Main in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall presents the musical based on the Disney movie Nov. 30-Dec. 16. Directed by Janet Beatty-Payne. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $15 ($12 students, seniors, military, $10 children under 12; $11 per ticket for groups of 10 or more). Information: (575) 523-1200 or lcctnm.org.
Based on the books by P.L. Travers and the classic Disney film, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins delighted Broadway audiences for over 2,500 performances and received nominations for nine Olivier and seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
‘The Snow Queen’ — Kids-N-Co. presents John Robledo’s original adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story Nov. 30-Dec. 16, at First Presbyterian Church, 1340 Murchison, directed by Raul Chavez. Shows are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $7 ($5 children, students, senior citizens, military), available at the door. Information: 274-8797 or on Facebook at El Paso Kids-n-Co.
Adapted from the classic fairy-tale by Hans Christian Andersen and narrated by the ever-present Aurora Borreal, the story focuses on two best friends: Kai & Gerda. When Kai falls under an evil spell and mysteriously disappears, just a few days before Christmas, Gerda goes on a journey to find her lost friend.
El Paso Playhouse auditions — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, hosts these auditions for upcoming shows. Information, audition times: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
• Dec. 2-3: “And the Winner Is.” Shows run Jan. 18-27.
• Dec. 9-10: “Always a Bridesmaid.” Shows run Feb. 8-24.
• Jan. 20-21: “Wait Until Dark.” Shows run March 22-April 7.
‘Inspecting Carol’ — American Southwest Theatre Company presents the wicked satire of ‘A Christmas Carol” by Daniel Sullivan and the Seattle Repertory Co. through Dec. 2 at NMSU’s Center for the Arts in Las Cruces. Directed by Nichole Hamilton. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets: $17 ($14 seniors; $10 students; $5 high schools students with current I.D.) Tickets: (575) 646-41420 or nmsutheatre.com.
Behind the scenes of a struggling theater's annual slapdash production of “A Christmas Carol,” rehearsals are at a standstill. Tim is no longer Tiny, Scrooge wants to do the play in Spanish and their funding is on hold pending an inspection.
‘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.
‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ auditions — Kids-N-Co. hosts auditions 6 p.m. Sunday and Monday, Dec. 2-3, at First Presbyterian Church, 1340 Murchison. The musical has roles for six students and three adults. Shows are Jan. 11-Jan. 27. Information: 274-8797 or on Facebook.
‘You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown’ — UTEP Dinner Theatre, in the UTEP Student Union West building, presents a fresh approach to the 1967 classic based on the beloved Charles M. Schultz comic strip Dec. 4-9 for its Side Dish Student Production. No meals served. Show time is 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $10; $7 UTEP faculty, staff, alumni association members, non-UTEP students and military; $5 UTEP students with valid ID (Ticketmaster). Information: 747-6060 or utep.edu/udt.
Sally Brown joins Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder and Snoopy in this revue of vignettes and songs, including two new songs “Beethoven Day,” and “My New Philosophy,” along with favorites “My Blanket and Me,” “The Baseball GAme,” “Little Known Facts,” “Suppertime” and “Happiness.”
‘Life and Beth’ — No Strings Theater Company presents the play by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by Autumn Gieb, Dec. 7-23, at the Black Box Theater, 430 N. Main in Las Cruces. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday Dec. 16 and 23. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65; $10 all seats Thursday). Information: (575) 523-1223 or no-strings.org.
It’s Christmas, and Beth Timms is mourning the recent death of her health and safety officer husband, Gordon. When David, the local vicar, says a prayer, he unwittingly summons Gordon's ghost. It soon becomes apparent, however, that his return is not altogether welcome.
‘Pick Your Fancy’ — Burlesque on the Rio presents its 8th biannual show at 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at Touch Bar & Nightclub, 11395 James Watt, featuring Tifa Tittlywinks from Houston and Miss Mary Jane Green from Dallas, as well members from Burlesque on the Rio’s sister production company in Albuquerque, Unicorn Productions. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets: $10; $15 at the door, age 18 and older only. Limited amount of VIP tables available for $100 (includes treats, bottle of champagne and four chair); one or two additional chairs available for $10 each; space limited to six per table. Information:burlesqueontherio.weebly.com.
‘A Christmas Carol en la Frontera’ — The UTEP Department of Theatre and Dance presents an original adaptation of Charles Dickens’ holiday season classic by Jay Stratton & Adriana Dominguez Dec. 8-16, in UTEP’s Fox Fine Arts Wise Family Theatre. Directed by Stratton, choreographed by Leanne Rinelli. Showtime is 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 and 16, and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14. Tickets: $12-$18 ($10 on Dec. 8). Information: 747-5118, theatredance.utep.edu or on Facebook.
This holiday ghost story is filled with thrills and chills, but is also a tale of family, solitude, and redemption, with the unique flavor of the border.
‘Icarus Was a Rookie’ — El Paso Community Foundation’s Jewel Box Series presents the play by the Border Theatre at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Philanthropy Theatre (next to the Plaza Theatre) Tickets: $16 (Ticketmaster). Information: 533-4020 or epcf.org.
Director Austin Savage and the Rio Grande Writers team up to create an interactive experience where the audience orders plays from a menu — 30 plays in 60 minutes. No costumes. No sets. Just five actors responding to what’s ordered. And they’ll be on the clock. If it sells out, they’ll order pizza for the audience.
‘Señora Tortuga’ — El Paso High School Tiger Theatre Troupe presents the English/Spanish bilingual play using the wisdom tales of Mexican culture to give hope to a family faced with too much reality at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14-15, at El Paso High School, This 45-minute play is suitable for all ages. General admission: $5. Information: 236-2500
Young Pedro and his family make their home in a barn on the Mexican border. One evening, his mother invites a hungry woman to share the family dinner. This señora returns time and again to eat and tell fantastic stories of the enchanted serpent and Cucuy of Mexican legend. Pedro is learning from these wisdom tales, but his mother is suspicious of the señora until it is revealed that Señora Tortuga holds the thread that ties their past dreams to their future.
‘The Game’s Afoot’ — Doña Ana Repertory Theatre presents Ken Ludwig’s “Holmes for the Holiday” comic whodunnit at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14-15, at Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main Street in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall. Tickets: $10 (eventbrite.com). Information: (575) 523-6403 or RioGrandeTheaftre.com.
It’s December 1936, and Broadway star William Gillette, admired the world over for his leading role in the play Sherlock Holmes, has invited his fellow cast members to his Connecticut castle for a weekend of revelry. But when one of the guests is stabbed to death, the festivities in this isolated house of tricks and mirrors quickly turn dangerous.
Dinner Detective Holiday Season Show — The Dinner Detective Murder Mystery Show presents the Christmas-themed show 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15 and 22, at Holiday Inn Sunland Park, 900 Sunland Park Drive. Actors are hidden in the audience in plain sight. Tickets: $59.95 at eventbrite.com. Information: dinnerdetective.com.
A New Year’s Eve Show is 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31.
Chamizal Asks: ‘What Would Dickens Say?’ — Chamizal invites community members to a the bilingual “A Christmas on the Border” version of the holiday classic at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, at Chamizal National Memorial, 800 S. San Marcial. The play tells the story of a bitter curmudgeon who learns the value of goodwill and charity. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273.
UTEP adds border flavor to Dickens
Scrooge. Saying that word brings only one image to mind. A miser. A cheapskate. A tightwad. The word is in the English language because of the famous character in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” whose miserliness almost costs him his soul.
UTEP theater assistant professor Jay Stratton, along with assistant professor Adriana Dominguez, decided to rewrite the traditional story with a border flair in “A Christmas Carol, En La Frontera.” But Scrooge remains, well, Scrooge.
It is a bilingual tale that proves that any great literature can be set in a different time and place, but not lose its meaning. Ebenezer Scrooge still runs a counting house. His clerk is Roberto Cratchit whose son Tiny Tim is extremely ill. And his former love is Bella instead of Belle. Scrooge disdains Nochebuena, but the story is the same. Jacob Marley visits him and promises visits from three espíritus de Navidad who turn the former miser into a giving soul. But the rewritten version adds a little Spanish and a lot of border flavor, said Stratton, who is directing the piece.
“This version is unique to our border region. It is bilingual and should be fun and familiar to our audience. The story rolls back and forth across the river,” he said. Stratton has gathered a cast of more than 30, with Joseph Fernandez as Ebenezer Scrooge, Jeffrey Quintana as Roberto Cratchit and Larissa Reyes Arzate as Bella.
The biggest challenge, Stratton said, was gathering a cast who could embrace both languages. “Plus, I personally as director only know enough Spanish to order dinner in Juárez,” he joked.
“Adriana Dominguez and I spent the summer adapting the script — which was delightful, but not easy. There’s also a strong dance element this year which (assistant professor) Leanne Rinelli and I are coordinating and trying to work into the traditional story.”
But Stratton brings a wealth of experience to the show.
“I dove into theatre about 30 years ago as an undergraduate in college and never really looked back,” Stratton said. “I spent 17 years in NYC as a professional actor (including numerous productions of ‘Christmas Carol’) Then, four years ago, I got an offer to come teach theater at UTEP.”
Jay has directed “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Medea” and “Bloody Shakespeare!” at UTEP Department of Theatre, and “Sister Act” at the UTEP Dinner Theatre. He also played Bernadette in the dinner theatre’s production of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
Stratton hopes this border version will bring a little holiday spirit to its audiences.
“’Christmas Carol’ has always been a favorite story of mine, but of course it is very British and Euro-centric,” Stratton said. “So, I am delighted to take this beloved tale and reshape it to be something that excites our theatre students at UTEP.”
No one should be deterred from seeing the show by the bicultural elements, he added. “It’s bilingual, but you don’t need to speak Spanish to enjoy it. The play is written to be enjoyed by all the people of our region.”
Carol Viescas is a veteran of
community theater and teaches
journalism at Bel Air High School.
UTEP Department of Theatre and Dance presents “A Christmas Carol en la Frontera” Dec. 8-16 at UTEP’s Fox Fine Arts Wise Family Theatre. Information: 747-5118, theatredance.utep.edu or on Facebook.
Feature storyCopyright 2018 by Cristo Rey Communications.
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