July 2019

On Stage

 

Stage Talk by Carol Viescas

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns


‘Viva El Paso!’ — El Paso Community Foundation and El Paso Live present the 42nd season of the summertime outdoor musical extravaganza with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through July 27, at McKelligon Canyon Amphitheatre, directed by Keith W. Townsend. June 29, and July 19-20 performances in Spanish. Tickets: $24 ($16 ages 2-12, seniors 65 and older and military with valid ID). Tickets opening weekend (June 15-16) are $10. All tickets available at Ticketmaster. Information: ElPasoLive.com.
  Created by Hector Serrano in 1978, “Viva! El Paso” depicts 400 years of the El Paso area’s rich history. The show will combine many of the popular songs, dances and characters from the past, such as the iconic deer dance, with a new one. The updated script is by Tony Award-winner Marty Martin, with music by Jim Ward, Gabriel Gonzalez and Cody Ritchey.

‘Closer than Ever’ — The El Paso Community College Theatre Ensemble presents the musical revue by Richard Maltby Jr. and David June 27-July 7 at Transmountain Campus Forum Theater, 9570 Gateway North. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $15 ($8 children, students, military and seniors). Information: 831-5147.
  “Closer Than Ever,” which has no dialogue apart from its songs, deals with such topics as security, aging, mid-life crisis, second marriages, working couples, and unrequited love.

‘Closer Than Ever’ — El Paso Community College (EPCC) Theater Ensemble presents the regional premiere of Maltby & Shire’s musical revue June 27-July 7, at the Transmountain Campus Forum Theater, 9570 Gateway North, directed by Greg Thompson. Lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and music by David Shire Schwartz. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. No performance July 4. Tickets: $15 ($8 EPCC students, staff/faculty, children, military and seniors); available at the door; cash only. Information: 831-5147 or on Facebook.
  “Closer Than Ever” is a nonstop exploration of everyday struggles. Topics ranging from unrequited adoration to aging to Muzak are tackled sincerity and hilarity. Each song is a unique story told by a new character.

Cloudcroft melodramas — Cloudcroft Light Opera Company’s live open air melodrama performances of “Big Trouble at Mr. Pinkie’s” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 5-20, at Zenith Park’s pavilion on Burro Ave. Admission is free, but seating is limited. Early arrival recommended. Information: (575) 682-2733 or on Facebook at CloudcroftLightOperaCo.

‘Hello Dolly!’ — UTEP Dinner Theatre, in the UTEP Student Union West building, closes its season with the classic musical from composer Jerry Herman July 5-21. Show time is 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; non-dinner matinees are Sunday 1:30 p.m. July 14 and 21; dinner matinee is 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 7. 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.
  The show centers on the comic exploits of Dolly Gallagher-Levi, turn-of-the-century matchmaker and “woman who arranges things” with memorable songs like “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “Before the Parade Passes By” and “It Only Takes a Moment.”
  The original production starred a succession of Broadway’s greatest leading ladies including Pearl Bailey, Ethel Merman, Mary Martin and of course, the original Dolly, Carol Channing. The musical was recently revived on Broadway with Bette Midler descending the famous staircase.

Theatre of the Big Bend — Sul Ross State University’s Summer Theater Program performances are 8:15 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, through Aug. 4, at Kokernot Outdoor Theatre in Alpine, Texas. Lawn chairs welcome. Information: (432) 837-8218, 1-888-722-SRSU (7778) or sulross.edu/tobb.
Through July 7: ”Our Lady of the Tortilla” by Luis Santeiro. Tickets: $10 ($8 children and seniors).
July 12-Aug. 4: “Nunsense” by Dan Goggin. Tickets: $12 ($10 children and seniors).
  The 5th annual Sul Ross State University Children’s Theatre Camp is July 22-26 for age 6-8, and July 29-Aug. 2, for age 9-12, a the university’s Fine Arts Building. Cost: $75 ($50 each for two campers from same family).

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ — Missoula Children’s Theatre hosts performances of the classic tale at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, July 13, at Las Cruces High School. Tickets: $7 ($3 age 12 and younger) at the door. Information: (575) 523-6403, events@daarts.org or riograndetheatre.com.
  About 60 children grades 1-12 will be cast as actors or as assistant directors or technicians as part of a weeklong theater experience. Auditions are 10 a.m. to noon Monday, July 8. Tuition: $60 ($20 each additional child in same family), due upon casting; partial scholarships available.

Jewel Box Series call for submissions — El Paso Community Foundation’s Jewel Box Series at the Philanthropy Theatre, which showcases community talent, seeks submissions through July 14 for performances for the 2019-2020 season. Submission specifications, information: Kathrin Berg, 533-4020 or epcf.org/jewelbox.

‘Rock of Ages’ — The El Paso Independent School District’s Fine Arts Department presents the high school edition of the musical by Chris D’Arienzo, featuring music from “a bunch of sweet 80’s bands,” for its 34th annual summer musical at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, July 17-20, at Bowie Auditorium, 801 S. San Marcial. Tickets: $5 at the door (cash or checks only) Information: 230-3500.

‘Little Women’ — Performances of the Broadway Musical based on the famous book my Louisa May Alcott are 7:30 p.m. Friday, and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 19-21, at EPCC’s Forum Theatre on the Transmountain Campus, as part of the El Paso Summer Musical Theatre Intensive theatre program for ages 9-20. Admission is donation based. Information: 474-8292.
  El Paso Summer Musical Theatre Intensive represents the collaboration of three of the region’s premier performing arts training programs: the Youth Opera of El Paso, ACTORSPACE and Kids Excel. The six-week program focuses on technique-based training and skill development for singing, acting, dance and song interpretation.

‘Pirates of Penzance’ — Gilbert and Sullivan Company of El Paso presents the comic operetta for its 50th anniversary production at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 19-21 and July 26-28, at First Presbyterian Church, 1340 Murchison. Tickets: $12 ($10 students, seniors, military); available at the door. Information: 479-2485, 584-9319, gselpaso.org or Facebook at GandSElPaso.
  As a child, Frederic was apprenticed to a band of tenderhearted pirates by his nurse who, being hard of hearing, had mistaken her master's instructions to apprentice the boy to a pilot.
  The show will be also be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 Sunday, Aug. 2-4, at Black Box Theatre 430 N. Main in Las Cruces. Reservations: (575) 523-1223.

Jewel Box Series call for submissions — El Paso Community Foundation’s Jewel Box Series at the Philanthropy Theatre, which showcases community talent, seeks submissions through July 14 for performances for the 2019-2020 season. Submission specifications, information: Kathrin Berg, 533-4020 or epcf.org/jewelbox.




STAGE TALK by Carol Viescas

‘Pirates of Penzance’ marks 50th year for G&S


Fifty years ago, the late, great UTEP English professor Joan Quarm founded a theater group unique in this city: the Gilbert and Sullivan Company of El Paso. Devoted to producing the operettas of W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, the company has produced at least one G&S show every year since then.
Artistic director Stephanie Conwell celebrates the milestone by directing one of the all-time favorites, “Pirates of Penzance.”
“Six years ago, the board sat down to discuss it, since we knew it was coming. We all agreed it should be ‘Pirates.’ It is so universally known and loved – and fun for the cast. Joan directed it for the 40th anniversary show. It was the last show she directed.”
Quarm died a year later, in 2010.
This 50th anniversary production also marks the 140th anniversary of the comic operetta, which opened in New York in 1879. It tells the story of Frederick, who has been indentured to some tender-hearted pirates until his 21st birthday. He is released and is in love with Mabel, the daughter of a major general. Then comes the twist famous in all G&S stories. Turns out Frederick was born in leap year, so he won’t really be 21 for 63 years. The good-natured fun and frivolity that ensues, of course, ends up happily for all involved.
As is usual in El Paso G&S, each major role is double/triple cast, with the principals joining the chorus on they days they don’t play leads. Abraham Quezada, Nathaniel Matkin and Isaac Hernandez play Frederick. Jamille Brewster and Karmina Guzman share the role of Mabel. Other major roles include David Tomblin and Pablo Perea as the Pirate King; David Castro and Arlin Guess as the Major General; and Marsha Watley (the vocal director), Irene Rivas and Brittney Williams as Ruth.
Gilbert and Sullivan shows are family friendly, both for the audience and the participants. Often entire families become part of the cast. And these casts become families. Conwell points out that she, Watley and board member Alicia Williams did “Pirates” when Quarm first directed it in 1986.
And as it is often true for community theater, the shows are produced with tiny budgets, not easy for an operetta with a large cast.
One obstacle is a place to perform. The only theater inexpensive enough for the budget, the Chamizal Memorial Theatre, is closed this summer to change out its light grid. So, the group will perform at First Presbyterian Church, which also generously lends its sanctuary to Kids-N-Co.
But that venue itself presents challenges.
“It’s hard to put up a set,” Conwell said. “We are aware that it’s a sacred space. It does make it harder to light. Fortunately, several of our former performers, who couldn’t be in the show this year, had some brilliant ideas how to create a set. They’ve done a wonderful job.”
Regulars to G&S operettas will notice one new feature of this year’s offering, Conwell said.
“In all the years we’ve done this show, the policemen never had (the correct) uniforms — they were often borrowed from El Paso PD. This year, we will have British bobby uniforms for the first time in 50 years.”
Conwell also hopes to invite back some who have performed with the G&S family before and have them recognized before the performance.
Conwell does make one promise.
“The show is probably the most fun you’ll have in two hours. You’ll have an absolutely good time and enjoy yourself.

Carol Viescas is a veteran of
community theater and teaches
journalism at Bel Air High School.

Gilbert and Sullivan Company of El Paso presents ‘Pirates of Penzance’ July 19-28 at First Presbyterian Church in El Paso; and Aug. 2-4, at Black Box Theatre in Las Cruces.

 

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