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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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New Mexico State alumnus to direct ASTC production

Before touring the country directing, acting and teaching theater arts, New Mexico State University alumnus Rod Mechem was the first "Pistol Pete" mascot to wear a full body costume. The spirited Aggie returned to the university this fall as a guest assistant professor of theater arts.



"The Philadelphia Story" features, Christa Popovich, Tracy, who struggles in her relationships with three different men. Kevin Mitchell plays her fiancee George Kittredge. (New Mexico State photo by Javier Peru)

He will begin the semester by directing "The Philadelphia Story," which opens Sept. 28 and runs through Oct. 7. "The Philadelphia Story" is the first production of the 2001-02 season for the university's theater department and the American Southwest Theater Company. The play is a witty story of love, marriage and class distinction during the 1930s in America.

Refusing to take the traditional director's role by telling students what to do, Mechem prefers to let students bring him ideas.

During the first stages of production, "I let the students run the scene, and then give them suggestions," he said. "This way the show becomes their work."

Mechem said he wants students to build a strong foundation for any type of theater work. This year, in his beginning acting classes, he is starting from the ground up with activities to improve students self awareness.


Using hands-on exercises, "the students are up and moving," he said. "They also look at relationships and interact," by watching and listening to other classmates. This fosters awareness, he said.

The process is not only beneficial for the students, but also for him. "I learn from watching and listening to the students," he said.

But students are not the only teachers, Mechem said. He is excited to once again be working with former professors like Jim Billings, ASTC resident designer.

Billings, who designed "The Philadelphia Story," taught Mechem as an undergraduate. Mechem credits his former professor for teaching him "all there is to know about design."

Recently, the pair worked together designing "The Philadelphia Story."

"(Mechem) is one of the best students to come out of our department," Billings said. "Working with him (as a professional) has been great."

Mechem has worked for the Creede Repertory Theater, National Players Company, Guthrie Theater and other groups. He received his bachelor's degree at New Mexico State in 1991 and his master's of fine arts from the University of Minnesota in 1994.
Tickets for "The Philadelphia Story" range in price from $5.50 to $10.75.

For tickets or more information call the ASTC box office at (505) 646-4515 or toll-free at 1-800-525-ASTC.