NMSU branding

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center


Search News Center Articles


Related Articles




NMSU?s American Southwest Theatre Company celebrates 30 years with public gala

It was a September evening in 1984. Local patrons filed into New Mexico State University?s old Hershel Zohn Theatre in anticipation of the season opener ? ?Crimes of the Heart,? a tragicomedy by Beth Henley. As the lights dimmed and the audience settled, the curtains opened on a new chapter for NMSU theatre arts.


Woman in a teal shirt and backpack, with man in blue vest and green shirt
Veronica Bissell performs with professional actor Dean Robinson in a scene from the NMSU Department of Theatre Arts and American Southwest Theatre Company?s 2014 production of ?West Highland Way.? (Photo courtesy of Jim Billings)
Kitchen scene with table and chairs knocked over.
A scene from the NMSU Department of Theatre Arts and American Southwest Theatre Company?s 1988 production of ?True West.? (Photo courtesy of Jim Billings)
Group of actors on a stage that is painted like the U.K. flag.
?Cloud Nine? was shown through the NMSU Department of Theatre Arts and American Southwest Theatre Company in 1995. ASTC has now operated for more than 30 years as the resident theatre company at NMSU, and will celebrate this milestone with a gala at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts. (Photo courtesy of Jim Billings)

This play served as the inaugural production for the American Southwest Theatre Company, which has now operated for more than 30 years as the resident company within NMSU?s theatre arts department in the College of Arts and Sciences.

In celebration of this lasting and thriving partnership, the organization will host ?ASTC Anniversary Gala and Theatricals,? at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts.

?It should be quite an exciting occasion,? said William Storm, professor of theatre arts and ASTC board president. ?ASTC has been an important artistic presence on the NMSU campus since the mid-80?s, and we?re taking this opportunity to shine a light on the company and also to let people know about some new initiatives.?

Along with dancing and hors d?oeuvres, the evening will include a silent auction, costume parade, production videos and a live theatrical performance celebrating the last three decades of shows, called ?30 minutes from 30 years.? Additionally, the event will recognize ASTC?s founders Mark Medoff and the late Bruce Streett, as well as offer a musical preview of ASTC?s upcoming presentation, ?Broadway Today!?

The gala also will act as a fundraiser to help support student educational travel, the High Desert Play Development Workshop and the ASTC Guest Artist Program.

The Guest Artist Program was a key motivational factor behind the creation of ASTC. The program enables NMSU to hire professional guest artists, from all aspects of production, to perform in ASTC shows and work alongside theatre arts students.

?Being able to learn from experts in your field can be life changing,? said Deborah Brunson, professor of theatre arts and resident costume designer for ASTC since 1988. ?So much of how theatre majors learn is in addition to the formal classroom.?

The visiting professionals conduct workshops, demonstrate craft-specific techniques and discuss how to navigate the profession. They are also involved in the productions themselves, during which ?a student gets a real-time, in-the-trenches education,? Brunson said.

Most recently, ASTC funding allowed for guest actor Dean Robinson to appear as Ben in Meridith Friedman?s ?West Highland Way,? which opened the 2014-2015 season. For the production, Robinson worked alongside NMSU student actors Ron Drynan and Veronica Bissell.

?I got to witness his techniques, his artistry and his dedication,? Bissell said. ?Seeing that dedication is inspiring to a young artist who is just getting started. I have only good things to say about working with him, and without our program that allows us to bring artists to participate in our productions, I wouldn?t have had the chance to do that.?

?West Highland Way? was selected through the High Desert Play Development Workshop, a bi-annual program through ASTC and NMSU theatre arts, which solicits new plays from emerging playwrights nationwide. Two scripts are selected to participate in a weeklong developmental reading program, with one of the scripts selected for a fully mounted production.

Using a portion of the funds raised through the 30th anniversary celebration, the ASTC board will institute a platform to finance one of the two visiting playwright?s travel expenses.

Through these initiatives, ASTC has presented the Mesilla Valley with years of fresh and illuminating entertainment; local audience members not only see theatre arts majors in action, but professional actors, writers, designers, technicians and community members alike.

?My hope is that our productions inspire audience members to continue to seek out the experience of ?live? theatre, and perhaps even decide to study and work with our program here at NMSU,? said Wil Kilroy, head of the Department of Theatre Arts. ?Our auditions are always open to all, and we welcome volunteers to ASTC so that it truly is a community effort.?

Tickets for ?ASTC Anniversary Gala and Theatricals? are $30 per person, or $10 for NMSU students, and may be purchased in advance at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts box office or by calling 575-646-4515. For more on the event, or to view the evening?s agenda, visit nmsutheatre.com/astcgala.php.

For more information on the American Southwest Theatre Company or the NMSU Department of Theatre Arts, visit nmsutheatre.com.