News Column

Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M., S. Derrickson column

July 21, 2013

YellowBrix

July 21--Some might scoff when people refer to us as Cruceswood or Hollywood on the Rio Grande.

You may have to explain, when Tonto, the Lone Ranger, Indiana Jones, assorted Transformers and their respective crews aren't careening around nearby ravines, that the history of New Mexico's deep involvement in the film industry dates back to the 1890s -- even before statehood, in fact.

But you don't have to be familiar with film locations to appreciate all the entertainment opportunities that are based here, all year around.

We're known as the Broadway of the Southwest for good reason.

Check out today's SunLife feature to see what's in store for the 2013-14 theater season.

Las Cruces boasts three major theater companies: Las Cruces Community Theater, the American Southwest Theatre Company at New Mexico State University, and Black Box Theatre/No Strings Theatre Company, along with some intriguing specialty and children's theater groups.

The "Big Three" seasons routinely include premieres of original works as well as beloved classics, including productions of the newest hits from that other Broadway in New York.

And speaking of the Big Apple, newcomers may not realize that three plays that made it to the Great White Way, all written by Mark Medoff, were

launched here in Las Cruces, including the Tony Award-winning "Children of a Lesser God."

In addition to our thriving theater community, Las Cruces also boasts its own symphony, opera and ballet companies, the Creative Media Institute film and multimedia school, a charter arts high school, entertainment programs at museums, the library and art galleries and at world-class fiestas.

The Pan Am Center has attracted sell-out crowds of more than 12,500 to see stars like George Strait, Elton John and Garth Brooks.

And despite the summer heat, gatherings like Warped Tour continue to draw thousands of rock fans.

Though some feel we are in need of a venue that ranks somewhere between stadium and intimate small theaters, we continue to get creative with the spaces we have.

The most recent additions are the renovated Rio Grande Theatre, billed as the nation's oldest adobe theater, and the state-of-the-art Mark and Stephanie Medoff Theatre at the brand new $37.5 million Center for the Arts at New Mexico State University, now home to the American Southwest Theatre Company.

Both venues are evidence of community support for the arts and represent the dedication of many community leaders who devoted years of volunteer efforts and resources to ensure their completion.

Audience demand and talent seem to keep pace with growing venues, too.

NMSU's buldging-at-the-seams Atkinson Music Center Recital Hall is booked with Las Cruces Symphony, choral, and numerous other concerts, plays and recitals.

Creative Las Crucens have found ways to bring entertainment to many other venues, too, including the new Las Cruces Convention Center, the renovated Court Youth Center, area churches and school auditoriums, museums, galleries, shops, malls and restaurants.

Our burgeoning talent base has chances to shine, indoors and out.

The Mesilla Plaza offers musical and dance performances several times a year. The newly renovated (there's that word again) downtown Main Street area features a host of musicians and street performers of all ages during Wednesday and Saturday Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Markets.

And our parks often have entertaining opportunities beyond picnics and strolls with the family and friends.

Many make Sunday Music in the Park concerts a summertime tradition.

And when FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season) resumes in August, we'll be reminded that our festivals celebrate more than, say, fast ducks, salsa, enchiladas, chiles, wine, Borderland traditions and the costumes of yesteryear.

From theatrical troupes at RenFaire to dancers and singers at Meerscheidt and top national acts at the Southern New Mexico Fairgrounds, we know how to put on a show.

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450

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(c)2013 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)

Visit the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.) at www.lcsun-news.com

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