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New production ?West Highland Way? premieres at NMSU Center for the Arts

Finding your way in the world and figuring out who you want to be are two of the main themes explored in ?West Highland Way,? a new play directed by Larissa Lury. The production is presented by the American Southwest Theatre Company at New Mexico State University and will run through Oct. 12 at the NMSU Center for the Arts.

Veronica Bissell performs with professional actor Dean Robinson in a scene from "West Highland Way." The set was designed by Jim Billings. (Courtesy photo)

NMSU students Veronica Bissell and Ron Drynan star in "West Highland Way," directed by Larissa Lury. (Courtesy Photo)

Written by Meredith Friedman, ?West Highland Way? tells the story of Jane, a young woman who, recovering from a broken engagement, ventures on a 95-mile walking trail in Scotland accompanied by her father. A chance encounter with a stranger forces her to reevaluate her life and choose between the life she knows and new experiences.

?This play is very different from the kinds of plays I usually direct; I connected to it on a personal level,? said Lury, theatre arts assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. ?The father-daughter relationship really spoke to me. The more I started working on the play, the more I connected to other themes: that feeling of arriving at a point in life where you thought things would go one way and finding out life isn?t going to happen the way you expected it to, and figuring out how to move forward from that.?

Friedman?s play was selected during the NMSU High Desert Play Development Program and had a public reading early this year. The program solicits scripts from emerging playwrights and two are chosen to go through developmental workshops to prepare for a public staged reading. Of those, one is selected for a full production. ?West? had a reading earlier this year and premiered at NMSU Sept. 26, kicking off the 2014-2015 season.

?The program is great for this community because it gives us access to plays and playwrights taking off in the world,? Lury added.

Starring in the production are NMSU student actors Veronica Bissell and Ron Drynan alongside guest professional stage actor Dean Robinson as Jane?s father.

?Dean Robinson has been doing workshops with students, and he?s brought a tremendous amount of professionalism and playfulness,? Lury said. ?He really has served as a role model. It?s a great opportunity (for our students) to have access to somebody who is making a living as professional actor.?

Friedman was recently awarded the 2014 National New Play Network Annual Commission to write and develop a new play with the Curious Theatre Company in Denver, Colorado. Currently, she is the Communications Manager at The Civilians, an investigative theatre company in New York City. She was inspired to write the play while hiking the West Highland Way.

?Every night, after an 8-10 hour day of walking, I would write until the early hours of the morning,? she said. ?I was at somewhat of a crossroads in my own life, unsure of where I was going to lay my hat when I returned to the States, and I found myself pouring my anxieties and fears about life into the play.

?Ultimately, I think it?s a story about direction, and how often in life we equate success with a destination ? reaching a specific goal or objective. Yet, it?s that drive to ?succeed? that often keeps us on the wrong path because we are too afraid to change course midstream.?

The production?s scenic and lighting design are by Jim Billings, with costume design by Deb Brunson and sound design by Matt Reynolds. Dave Hereford is the props designer and Mike Wise is stage manager.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 12. Tickets are $10-17 and available at the Center for the Arts box office and through Ticketmaster at http://bit.ly/1BynKLD.

There will be a series of special events complementary to the production including:

? Post-show discussion with the cast, director and lighting designer at 3:40 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5, in the Medoff Theatre at the Center for the Arts

? Reception and conversation with playwright Meredith Friedman immediately following the 7:30 performance, Saturday, Oct. 11, in the Center for the Arts Rehearsal Room

? The Search for Identity: An Elusive Quest (workshop with Yosef Lapid, political science; Jamie Bronstein, history; and Ilana Lapid, Creative Media Institute; moderated by director Larissa Lury) at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12, in the Center for the Arts Rehearsal Room.