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New Mexico State University

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NMSU theater department and dance program to present desert-themed production

The New Mexico State University theater department and dance program will present the production "A Walk in the Desert" Oct. 27 and 28 at the Rio Grande Theatre in downtown Las Cruces.

The production was the idea of Ruth Cantrell, NMSU theatre arts department head and professor. "A Walk in the Desert" tells the story of a young girl who learns to value the beauty and tradition of the American southwest. Various southwest creatures use distinct forms of music and dance to make their messages clear to the main character and to the audience.

"Each character has a distinct dicho and dance," Cantrell said.
Debra Knapp, director of the NMSU dance program, choreographed the piece.

"Lizards and roadrunners do the merengue, coyotes do the tango, and tumbleweeds dancing the salsa are just a few of the dance sequences that help to tell the story," Knapp said.

"A Walk in the Desert" also showcases the combined talents of many area artists. Flamenco guitarist Jake Mossman worked with local composer and NMSU senior Justin Raines to provide music for the production. NMSU alumnus Julio Ortiz helped to translate the story and serves as narrator for performances. Jim Billings and Deb Brunson, theater faculty, helped the production as well. Billings designed scenery and lights, while Brunson created costumes.

Like many of the artists involved, Knapp expressed joy about her work on the piece.

"Choreographing this play has been so fun," Knapp said. "Fitting the different musical and dance styles to southwest animals and flora has been a creative challenge."

The project is a joint production. In addition to the combined talents of the artists, "A Walk in the Desert" was made possible through the support of New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation; the Stocker Foundation; and Las Cruces Lodge No. 2081 Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge.

"This production is richly layered in meaning," Knapp said. "It will be a feast for the eyes as well as the heart!"

"A Walk in the Desert" will premiere on Oct. 27 for area school children. Performances for the public will be held at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Oct. 28. All performances are at the Rio Grande Theatre. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for children. Call (505) 646-4515 for more information.

Oct. 12, 2006
Jacqueline Armendariz