Stage Talk by Carol Viescas
‘Banging the Bell’ — El Paso Community College Performer’s Studio 2017 summer repertory opens with the original play by El Paso playwright Ted Karber Jr. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday May 26-June 4, at EPCC Transmountain Campus Forum Theatre, 9570 Gateway North. 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.
“Banging the Bell” is a comedy about a group of women who plan to be the belles of the ball at the annual cotillion, but infidelity, a corpulent corpse and a dim-witted deputy could get in their way.
‘Seussical the Musical’ — Sun City Musical Theatre, 3733 Shell Suite C, presents the zany musical adventure based on the works of Dr. Seuss, through May 28, co-conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Eric Idle. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $15 ($12 military; $10 students with valid school ID and children under 12). Information: suncitymusicaltheatre.com or on Facebook.
“Seussical the Musical” is a twist on Dr. Seuss’s tales and follows Horton the Elephant and his quest to keep the Who’s on Who-Ville safe and sound on the clover he has found. Narrated by “Jojo,” and the “Cat in the Hat,” and includes a cast ranging from age 5 to 28.
Artistic Director is Courtney Curtis.
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.
• “Blazing Gun at Roaring Gulch” Friday through Sunday, May 26-28 (Mayfair weekend); and Friday and Saturday, June 2-3.
• “Fiendish Firebug Strikes Again” is June 30-July 3, July 7-8, and July 14-15.
Seagulls in a Cherry Tree’ — No Strings Theatre Company presents a zany new comedy William Missouri Downs, through May 28, 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. Sundays May 28; and at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 25. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65; $10 all seats Thursday. Reservations: (575) 523-1223 or no-strings.org.
The comedy follows the adventures of Boris and Stan, two Hollywood screenwriters who have been hired by Disney to adapt Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” into a new movie for Mel Gibson.
‘No Sex Please, We’re British’ — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, closes its season with the farce by Alistair Foot and Anthony Marriot through June 4. 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.
‘A Bridge Well Made’ — The Border Theater presentation is 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday, June 9-11 and June 16-18, at Glasbox, 201 Poplar. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Information: 412-5283 or bordertheatre.org.
‘Colors of the Wind’ & ‘Casey at the Bat’ — ACT (A Children’s Theatre) of Mesilla Valley presents two short works as a culmination of their three-week summer camp at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday, June 16-17, at Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall. Actors range in age 5 to 15. School shows are 9:45 a.m. and noon Friday. Tickets: $7; available at (575) 644-9561.
The children’s theatre will perform the classic story of “Casey at the Bat” as well as a performance based on the book about blind artist and champion runner George Mendoza, “Colors of the Wind.”
‘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 June 16-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). Opening weekend tickets (June 16-17) are $10 (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. There will also be live music by Paso Del Norte and EPCC’s Mariachi Real De El Paso.
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.
• June 17-July 2: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps.” Tickets: $8-$10.
• July 7-23: “The Fantasticks.” Tickets: $10-$12.
‘Baggage’ — No Strings Theatre Company closes its season with the play by Sam Bobrick June 23-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, June 23-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).
‘Aladdin’ — Missoula Children’s Theatre will host its performance of the classic tale at 7 p.m. Friday, June 30, at the Rio Grande Theatre, 211 Downtown Mall, Las Cruces. About 60 children grades 1-12 will be cast as actors or as assistant directors or technicians as part of a weeklong theater experience. Tickets: $7 ($3 age 16 and younger). information: (575) 523-6403, email@example.com or riograndetheatre.com.
Auditions are 10 a.m. to noon Monday, June 26, with rehearsals scheduled 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily until the performance. Those auditioning should arrive at 9:45 a.m. and plan to stay the full two hours. Tuition: $60, due upon casting; partial scholarships available.
‘Banging the Bell’ takes encore on EPCC stage
Theater lovers who love to see original shows will get another chance to see an El Paso artist’s work if they missed the shows at the Glass Box Theater — and help fund a theater scholarship.
El Pasoan Ted Karber Jr.’s original comedy, “Banging the Bell,” will be remounted on the EPCC stage, will all ticket sales going to help EPCC’s theatre scholarship fund.
Karber is a part-time faculty member at EPCC.
“Keith Townsend (EPCC theatre artistic director) had mentioned that there existed a theatre scholarship fund which was frequently funded by their summer season,” Karber said. “When I approached Matthew Smith (the theatre discipline coordinator) and Keith about doing my show, I pointed out it would be a good vehicle for their scholarship fund because there’s no cost for the show.”
Karber has a long (and award-winning) history in theater. He earned his B.A. in English and Theatre Arts from UTEP in 1985 and his M.A. in Theatre Arts in 1988. He was founder and artistic director of Aardvark Theatre, Inc., which ran from 1996-2005. He has directed many plays, including O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night”; Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “The Glass Menagerie,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Orpheus Descending,” “Suddenly, Last Summer” and “The Seven Descents of Myrtle”; Garcia Lorca’s “The House of Bernarda Alba”; Beckett’s “Happy Days”; and Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler.”
Most of his work has been serious.
“My play ‘Bunty’s Bones’ dealt with the retelling of the Christ story. ‘Irresponsible Gravity’ dealt with levels of deceit in a twisted south Texas family. My most well known work is ‘Precious Heart,’ which is really about several women in my life; my mom, my godmother and a distant cousin many times removed. ‘Precious Heart’ was presented as part of the Jewel Box Series last year. It has also become a very popular vehicle for the multiple talents of Greg Smith in Ohio. It seems my plays always center around life in Texas and that archetypal female power which binds people together.”
His plays also often center on women, as does “Banging the Bell.”
“I decided I wanted to try my hand (or pen, that is) at a full-fledged comedy. I like writing women’s roles, so I found five female characters I liked and thought were fun, I pushed them around a little, found which story they wanted to tell and then set out to make people laugh,” Karber said.
The story is set in south Texas in the mid-1990s.
“It centers around the antics of five friends, local social matrons who are preparing for the yearly cotillion,” Karber said. “In an unexpected twist of events, the five women must band together to help save the already tarnished reputation of one of their ranks. In order to help her, they agree to help hide the corpulent body of a local political figure, and in so doing they start a set of comic events that get more and more ridiculous and hilarious.”
His cast is a list of El Paso theatre who’s who:
“Amanda Vasquez plays Opal Marie Thorn. Rafaela Graffos plays Marlene Shinn. Carol Bernstein plays Ina Jo Mott. Kathryn Forest plays RubyLee Hyatt. Valerie Hart AND David Villanueva play Candymine Ballinger (for alternating performances). Michael Bernstein plays the sheriff, and Shaun Nixon plays the deputy, Looty Beaver. It is a solid cast and they are making the play very funny. The biggest joy for a playwright is always to hear his words spoken, taken seriously, coddled and cared for by actors.”
His biggest challenge, he said, was directing his own work.
“I have to distance myself from the script as a writer and look at it more clinically, more severely... as a director,” he said. “It’s been great because I’ve been able to fix some difficulties with the play, cut some lines, streamline a few parts. But... ultimately, the reaction of the audience will be the only proof that the play is successful.”
Carol Viescas is a veteran of
community theater and teaches
journalism at Bel Air High School.
“Banging the Bell: A Texas Comedy in Two Acts” will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 26-June 4, at EPCC Transmountain Forum Theatre.
Feature storyCopyright 2017 by Cristo Rey Communications.
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