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ASTC and NMSU Theatre Arts announce plays for upcoming season

As the American Southwest Theatre Company at New Mexico State University prepares for its 15th season, NMSU theatre arts department head Frank Pickard is promising patrons "exceptional, outstanding, world-class theatre."

The ASTC Theatre will open Sept. 24 with the Noel Coward classic comedy "Blithe Spirit," and end the season in May with the smash-hit musical "Cabaret."

"Blithe Spirit" first opened on Broadway in 1941 and "has been delighting audiences ever since," Pickard said. While at a dinner party, novelist Charles Condomine inadvertently conjures the spirit of his first wife, Elvira. Charles must convince his second wife that he is not losing his mind while he dodges the efforts of beautiful Elvira to hasten his death. "Blithe Spirit" runs Sept. 24 through Oct. 3.

ASTC's next play, Paula Vogel's "How I Learned to Drive," runs Oct. 26-31. "USA Today" deemed the 1998 Pulitzer Prize winning play as "one of the best plays of the decade." The highly theatrical and delicately told tale is about the sexual awakening of a young girl. The subject matter is mature and not recommended for children.

Reflecting on both Christmas and Chanukah seasons, "Holiday Memories" runs Dec. 3-12. Written by NMSU associate professor Ruth Cantrell, the play is a nostalgic romp through the images, sounds, colors and smells that make the holiday season special. "This is theater fare for the whole family to enjoy," Pickard said.

A chance meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein is the idea behind "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," which runs Feb. 22-27. The critically acclaimed play, written by playwright and comedian Steve Martin, is an imagined meeting between the two geniuses at a Parisian cafe in 1904. Picasso and Einstein muse on the century's achievements and other fanciful topics. The "New York Times" hailed Martin's play as "very good fun."

The 1999-2000 season will end with a "wilkommen" to the Kit Kat Klub on New Year's Eve, 1929. ASTC's season finale, "Cabaret" is set in Berlin, Germany, where American writer Cliff Bradshaw encounters a seedy cross-section of Berlin nightlife just before the doomed city's fall into the Third Reich and World War II. In addition to the song "Cabaret," memorable hits include "The Money Song," "Two Ladies," "Sitting Pretty," "Sally's Revolt" and "Why Should I Wake Up?" "Cabaret" runs April 21 through May 7.

Season subscriptions are the only way to secure tickets for all of the plays. Four-play selections also are available. Curtain times are 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (including previews); 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. for the Sunday matinee. All plays are performed in NMSU's Hershel Zohn Theatre. For season flyers, mailers and ticket information, contact the ASTC Ticket Office at (505) 646-4515 or 1-800-525-ASTC.