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Which play should start fall theater season at NMSU? Public asked to make the choice

The public has an opportunity to help choose the first play of American Southwest Theatre Company's 2012-2013 season. Two plays have been chosen for ASTC's annual High Desert Play Development program, and readings will take place at 7:30 p.m. March 30-31 in the Hershel Zohn Theater on the New Mexico State University campus. Audience members will participate in a discussion immediately following the readings.

"The public's input is vital to the playwright," said Tom Smith, the theater department head and professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. "Knowing what works in the script, what's confusing, which characters are strong?this information helps the playwright develop and hone the play to prepare it for its world premiere."

The High Desert Play Development program, in its seventh year, solicits scripts from nationally known playwrights. The program's co-director will lead the talkback using questions provided by the playwright.

Chosen for the weeklong workshop are Andrea Stolowitz's "Antarktikos" and "Sweet, Sweet Spirit," by New Mexican playwright Carol Carpenter.

Scheduled for March 30 is "Antarktikos." Writer Susan finds herself at the South Pole cared for by an EMT. When famed explorer Capt. Robert Falcon Scott enters her tent, Susan must make sense of her life, as time and geography blend and reality blurs.

Stolowitz is a graduate of the MFA playwriting program at the University of California-San Diego. Her plays have been presented at many venues including The Cherry Lane (N.Y.), The Old Globe (S.D.), The Long Wharf (Conn.), New York Stage and Film (N.Y.), and Portland Center Stage (Ore.). She is the Portland regional representative to the Dramatists Guild.

In "Sweet, Sweet Spirit," scheduled for March 31, faith, culture and family clash as a conservative evangelical family grapples with the aftermath of a father beating his gay son to near death, leaving the family with the overwhelming task of figuring out who should raise the son in his final teen years. Her plays have won the Audience Favorite Award at the National NewBorn Play Festival (N.Y.), Best Playwriting award at the Planet Connections Festivity (N.Y.), and have been headlined by Lily Tomlin and Bruce Vilanch.

Carpenter's screenplays have been nominated for an Academy Award (student short drama category) and have won best short drama awards at New York, Long Island and Houston International Film Festivals.

"We are thrilled to be connecting our audiences with plays before they move on to New York and other markets," Smith said. "Our company has a long history of producing new works to support living playwrights, and High Desert is an extension of that commitment."

Tickets are $5 and available at the Hershel Zohn Theatre Box office between the hours of noon to 4 p.m. or by calling 575-646-4515.