'Our Town' to Open NMSU Arts Center

Feb 13, 2013

Thornton Wilder's 'Our Town' will be the first performance to open the new Center for the Arts  at the corner of University and Espina on New Mexico State's campus.

A gala kicks off with the invitation-only reception co-hosted by the Las Cruces Sun-News and tours of the facility from 5:30-7:30 p.m., followed by the sold-out performance of 'Our Town.'

The lights will dim. The curtains will part. And a new theater at NMSU will open to the public. Liz Staski will be one of the actors on the stage when the play "Our Town" opens. She started acting on stage when she was just 8 at NMSU's former main stage - the Herschel Zohn Theatre. "It was nice to see the transition and to see how I've grown and to enjoy it from the start of my acting career to the end of its building career." Trevor Nazario will be up on stage with her. He's put a lot of work into his character, Simon Stimpson. For him, it's all about acting.  "the thing is we have a really simple set, so the audience will really be able to see what the theater is right now...they're just gonna be able to see the actors in their magnificence. It's just simple. " Josh Chenard is directing the Art Center's first play. For him, Our Town might be testing the waters for something more dramatic later. "I'm started thinking what shows can go in here? So I'm excited next season we're doing a big Mollier piece...with the wigs and makeupand gorgeous costumes. It seems to make a lot of sense for that space." Chenard says the building is an open door but it's also a bridge into the community. "The arts benefits everybody from the students here to the participants to the audience to the people who design the posters, there's something about the arts that reek of community to begin with it's about telling, sharing stories and bringing people in to see those stories and I think with the Herschel Zohn building in the middle of campus, it felt like a campus-only structure." The new Center for The Arts building is different than other buildings on NMSU's campus because it faces out onto the street. The building -- and the vision -- was almost a decade in the making. Tom Smith is head of NMSU's Theatre Arts program. "...but really the last five years has been a gathering of resources and artists and people and architects to plan the we started to...refine our ideas, that's where it got really exciting for us.," said Smith. All together, the building cost around $37 million dollars to construct. The largest portion of that -- $19 million dollars -- was raised in 2008 by a general obligation bond. But another large part, between $6 and $7 million dollars, was raised by students and the community.
 "When students use this, they need to remember their own organizations helped to provide the funds to build the building," said Dean Christa Slanton of NMSU's College of Arts & Sciences. She was a big part of the fundraising. 
 "You'll see names on the backs of seats and on offices and parts of the building named after donors who contributed money," said Slanton.
 Trevor and Liz will feel it all come together under the bright lights. But they won't be the only ones...
 "Kids who are sophomores or juniors or seniors who previously performed at the old theater, it'll be nice to be on the new stage and have a new feel for everything."
 A new feel, a new look, and a new place for "our town" to come for theater.