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Dillon brings experiences from sabbatical back to New Mexico State theater stage

New Mexico State University theater faculty member Cynthia Dillon, just back from a year in New York and abroad, is directing the American Southwest Theatre Company's (ASTC) current production, "Six Characters in Search of an Author." The play runs Oct. 4-13 at the Hershel Zohn Theatre.

New Mexico State University students Iliana Perez (top) and Ken Peterson act out a scene from "Six Characters in Search of an Author," playing Oct. 4-13 at the Hershel Zohn Theatre. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

"Six Characters" begins at a stage where a group of actors appear to be rehearsing a play. They are approached by six people claiming to be characters who have been abandoned by their author and ask the actors to enact their drama.

The play was written by Luigi Pirandello and was first produced in Rome in 1921. Adaptations were made by Joseph Hanreddy and the ASTC for this production.

Dillon, who has been teaching at New Mexico State for eight years, traveled to New York and Germany during her sabbatical. She said it was a time to recharge.

"In theater we work pretty long hours and it can be really draining, so this was just perfect," she said.

While in New York City for six months, Dillon participated in a workshop by the Saratoga International Theatre Institute and directed Shakespeare's "As You Like It" at Wagner College. She was also in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks.

During her time in Germany she taught an American theater class, studied German and saw as many German plays as she could.

Dillon happened to sit down and write her director's notes for "Six Characters" on the one-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centers.

"It became crushingly clear that what I was feeling was what Pirandello was writing about in this play," she said. She explains in her notes that so many people thought the attacks were not real, but rather a computer-generated hoax or a movie clip.

"We're so used to seeing images on television that are not real," she said. "That blurring of what's real and what isn't is totally what this play is about."

In directing "Six Characters," Dillon has utilized some of the techniques she learned while on her sabbatical. She said it has been a challenge to put some of these practices into effect.

"I've left much more of the creation of this play up to the actors than I normally do," she said. At some rehearsals Dillon has only given the actors a set of guidelines to go by and watches what they come up with.

"I've just been so thrilled with their creative energy and what they've brought to the play."

"Six Characters" contains a brief nude scene that may not be appropriate for some viewers. Dillon did not want to give away too much about the scene, but said the characters who have asked the actors to portray their lives in the play are insistent on the accuracy of the portrayal.

"At a pivotal moment nudity is necessary," she said.

For ticket information call the Hershel Zohn Theatre Box Office at (505) 646-4515.