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"Anton in Show Business" pokes fun at world of theater

The New Mexico State University theater department and the American Southwest Theatre Company (ASTC) will present "Anton in Show Business" Feb. 5-10. The play gives a comedic and satirical look into the world of theater, said director Michael Wise, who is also ASTC's new associate artistic director.



Actresses Jessica Settles, left, and Kristin Walcott act out a scene from "Anton in Show Business" on stage at the Hershel Zohn Theatre. The show opens Feb. 5 and runs through the 10th. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips) Actresses Diane Stern, left, and..

is the story of three struggling actresses and an ill-fated production of Anton Chekhov's play, "Three Sisters." Wise describes the play as a serio-comic look at theater that is often satirical and pokes fun at people who understand theater, as well as those who don't. "It's about theater and why we do it," said Wise.


One of the struggling actresses, Lisabette, played by New Mexico State student Jessica Settles, is a third grade teacher who recently made her acting comeback in a community theater production of "Fiddler on the Roof." Casey, a veteran of off-off Broadway who has been in more than 200 productions without ever being paid, is played by New Mexico State student Diane Stern. New Mexico State student Kristen Walcott plays the famous TV star, Holly, whose agent convinces her that performing in a classic play such as Chekhov's will buy her respect and film offers.

The cast also includes New Mexico State Theatre Arts department head Ruth Cantrell and students Anna Lenhardt, Crescent Huhammad and JessicaLynn Robles.

The student actresses quickly overcame any apprehensions they had about working with Cantrell, Wise said. He said Diane Stern, who plays Casey, felt odd when a scene in the play required her to make an obscene gesture at Cantrell, but the action is all the more comedic for those who know their relationship outside of "Anton." Cantrell also uses a swear word in the play, which students are not used to hearing from her. Wise said Cantrell enjoys taking a step outside of her role as a teacher and department head to just be an actress.


Three of the actresses in "Anton" play multiple roles and all but one have multiple costume changes. Wise described backstage as a "costume change hell." Because of the frequent costume changes, the production required six people backstage to assist the actresses, who must make complete costume changes in as little as 42 seconds.

"I thought we might like to sell tickets for backstage because that will be a show all by itself," Wise said jokingly.

Sarah Burns, a New Mexico State student, designed the costumes.

The set, designed by New Mexico State resident designer Jim Billings, is unique in that there are multiple locations that need to be set up as quickly as possible, so most of it is on wheels. Wise described the scene changes as very "fluid." The scene changes are not done in a traditional manner, but are rather made during the action of the play. The all-female stage crew who make the changes were deftly worked into the action of the play by Wise.

Wise said he's been reminded during rehearsals of what a great script "Anton" is. One candidate for a new theater teaching position at New Mexico State saw a run-through of the play and said it was a "bonafide hoot," he said.

"Anton" was written by Jane Martin and published in March 2000. It was named the best play of 2001 by the American Theatre Critics Association.

"Hopefully it will be a nice roller coaster ride for the audience," Wise said.

"Anton in Show Business" will run for six performances only, Feb. 5-10, at the Hershel Zohn Theatre on the New Mexico State campus. For information, ticket prices and reservations call the ASTC Box Office at (505) 646-4515.

First photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/anton_show_1.jpg.
CUTLINE: Actresses Jessica Settles, left, and Kristin Walcott act out a scene from "Anton in Show Business" on stage at the Hershel Zohn Theatre. The show opens Feb. 5 and runs through the 10th. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Second photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/anton_show_2.jpg.
CUTLINE: Actresses Diane Stern, left, and Jessica Settles act out a scene from "Anton in Show Business" on stage at the Hershel Zohn Theatre. The show opens Feb. 5 and runs through the 10th. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Sarah Wheeler
Feb. 4, 2001