Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great moments in theater

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Let’s take time to take stock of just what we have here, Las Cruces theater fans. (Please hold your applause: It’s quite a list.)
Three full-fledged theater companies.
Top notch children’s theater groups.
The Doña Ana Lyric Opera company, Las Cruces Symphony, NMSU Choirs and the Las Cruces Chamber Ballet, all of which occasionally put on theatrical programs which combine drama, music and dance.
Musical revues and original productions at cafés and restaurants and the state’s oldest adobe theater, the renovated Rio Grande Theatre.
Surprisingly polished theatrical presentations by students at local public and private schools.
World premieres of original plays by prize-winning writers.
Mark Medoff plays that made their world premieres in Las Cruces before moving on to Broadway include “Gila” and “Children of a Lesser God,” which won a Tony and went on to become a film that garnered Academy Award nominations (Marlee Matlin won a Best Actress Oscar for her role).
Starting in 1994, for several years, I saw just about every adult theatrical production and several impressive children’s theatrical and school presentations in the Mesilla Valley.
Though some stretch back more than a decade, I still vividly recall some highly diverse, but nonetheless undeniably great moments in theater:
• A play with lovely animated monsters created by artist Stephen Hansen.
• Medoff’s imaginative drama that featured a winsome American Sign Language-literate gorilla, a young woman with a giant Gila monster tattoo on her back, and an onstage underwater romantic encounter.
• Medoff’s feminist Wild Western opera “Sara McKinnon” and his showstopping song, “As Children We Dream.”
• A Bob Diven play that featured singing dinosaurs, and another in which multitalented Diven sang and created original works of art in a tribute to John Singer Sargent. (He also wrote the play.)
• Watching the faces of Irene Oliver-Lewis’ mom and dad as they watched a local presentation of “Ceciliaisms: Dichos de Mi Madre” about her family life, growing up in Las Cruces.
My personal great moments weren’t all from big productions. Talent in a theatrical community seems to be the only trickle down concept that actually works.
I still find myself both tickled and a little teary when I remember a Hillrise Elementary School holiday pageant number, a Southwestern version of the “12 Days of Christmas” sung by a kids' choir that included then-small grandson Alexander the Great.
A few years ago, Sun-News management decided we would no longer send reporters to review the ever-burgeoning number of live performing arts theatrical, musical and dance productions.
I was sad, because I think a measure of a community’s cultural life can be gauged with the presence of treasures like a resident symphony, opera, ballet, and great theater, dance and vocal groups. We are blessed to have them all, an astounding thing in a city our size.
And I grew up thinking that the measure of a metropolitan newspaper was having skilled critics and reporters who could produce intelligent and entertaining reviews of a city’s cultural life.
But cultural treasures have accrued so fast that there’s no way we could cover it all these days.
So we’re asking for your help. If you’ve involved in an upcoming production and would like to share some photos, video clips or preview comments, e-mail me at
This week, we’re starting a new blog called YouReview. You’re invited to share your reviews of area plays and performances and find out what others are thinking at our new interactive online feature. Visit, go to our Blogzone at the right of the screen, click on YouReview and add your comments. You can also find our blogs at the same site by going to the green directory bar and clicking on Opinion, and then Blogs.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

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