Aug 29-Sep 14, 2008
No Strings Theatre Company begins its 2008-2009 season with a splash with A.R. Gurney's lovely and touching autobiographical coming-of-age play about a young boy growing up during the 1940s. The play runs from August 29 - September 14 and is directed by No Strings Theatre Company's Artistic Director, Ceil Herman.
"What I Did Last Summer" takes place on the shores of Lake Erie, in a beach vacation home, where viewers can nearly hear the waves lapping on the shore. Charlie Higgins, played by Dalton Gorden in his debut performance at the Black Box Theatre, is greatly influenced by a bohemian artist during his summer vacation. Nikka Ziemer plays Anna Trumbull, who the locals call "The Pig Woman," an eccentric artist with an off-beat view of the world, and Kathi-Jane plays Grace, Charlie's mother who is dealing with the frustrations of having a husband away in the war and two teenage children to raise alone. Brooks Gorden plays Charlie's Canadian friend Ted, his older sister is played by Katie Armijo, and Bonnie, his American friend, is played by Tina Hartell.
Told mostly from the perspective of Charlie whose father is serving in the armed forces, Gurney also employs soliloquy to move the narrative along and to reflect upon the self-centeredness of characters whose backgrounds should ideally widen, rather than narrow, their horizons. Clear antiwar messages and philosophical commentary on the family, sibling rivalry, materialism, and friendship, are entwined within the plot. The bittersweet role of parents and children, especially in places where everyone knows everyone else, and the inevitable outside influences upon the young, are touched upon as well as the awkwardness of being a teenager. For those who have enjoyed Gurney "Love Letters," presented annually on Valentine's Day since 2001 at the Black Box Theatre with different actors each year, his less commonly performed "What I Did Last Summer" affords a special treat.
The 1940's musical selections used before and during the show range from Bing Crosby's "Would You Like to Swing on a Star" and "Accentuate the Positive" to the "Buy War Bonds" jingle, tweaks emotion and adds authenticity to the nostalgia that "What I Did Last Summer" provokes. Peter Herman designed the multi-location set and Danny Wade selected the nostalgic music for the show. The costume designer is Elaine Childs and the lighting designer is Jessica Kohn. Mary and Bruce Wilson, who recently retired from Indiana to Silver City, round out the production team, with properties design, stage management and backstage support.
An art exhibit entitled "What I Did Last Summer" by members of the Las Cruces Arts Association will run in conjunction with the play in the thetheatregallery. A wine and cheese opening reception for the artists is scheduled at the Downtown Ramble on October 3 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. thetheatregallery is open an hour before performances or by appointment by calling (575) 523-1223
Mother fights teacher in What I did Last Summer
- By Jacob Divett, NMSU Round Up [ 9/11/08 Section: Arts and Entertainment ]
Two grown women fight over a 14-year-old boy in the No Strings Theatre Company production of What I Did Last Summer, which runs through Sept. 14 at the Black Box Theatre.
The play takes place in the summer of 1945 and stars NMSU student Dalton Gorden. Dalton plays Charlie, the 14-year-old struggling to deal with his father being away at war while his relationships with his mother, sister and friends all change as he grows up.
As the summer begins Charlie decides to find a summer job, leading him to the door of eccentric art teacher Anna, played by Nikka Ziemer. As they work together, Anna tries to teach Charlie how to think for himself, find what makes him happy and reach his full potential.
Meanwhile, Charlie's mother Grace, played by Kathi-Jane, wants him to fit in, go to boarding school and learn Latin. Charlie's sister Elsie, played by Katie Armijo, just wants peace and quiet.
Charlie also gets confusing advice from his friends Bonny and Ted, played by Las Cruces High School junior Tina Hartell and Alma d'Arte Charter School student and Dalton's real-life brother Brooks Gorden.
Before long, the summer draws to a close and Charlie finds himself faced with a decision.
"To me, the play is about the choices we make in life and the effect that a good teacher can have on a student," said director Ceil Herman. "It shows that however dorky you are as a 14-year-old, something good can happen in your life if you meet the right people."
Almost all of the characters take a turn at different points in the play to address the audience directly and explain what they think the play is really about, but ultimately, that decision is up to the audience.
"I think the audience will get different kinds of things from it," Herman said. "It's not a lightweight play at all."
What I Did Last Summer is Hartell's first acting adventure outside of a school setting.
"It was fun, but it takes dedication because it is very time consuming. But it's worth it," Hartell said.
NMSU student Jessica Kohn did lighting design for the play and will also do lighting for the university's upcoming production of The Pillowman, which opens Sept. 26 in the Hershel Zohn Theatre.
"It's always nice when you can use theatre students to work here at the theatre," Herman said.
Spend time at the Black Box
Finding potential in 'What I Did Last Summer'
- By Jenna Frosch , Las Cruces Bulletin
Set in 1945, "What I Did Last Summer" follows the growing pains of one 14year-old boy, Charlie, played by Dalton Gorden, and his family during wartime.
Charlie is out of school for the summer, and after flunking Latin, is stuck in tutoring, but growing more bored by the day. He decides to get a job with "the pig woman," Anna, played by Nikka Ziemer.
Through her teachings and her trying to get him to "realize his potential," Anna creates a monster in freethinking Charlie, who begins disobeying his mother, Grace, played by Kathi-Jane.
Through a series of arguments with his mother, Charlie winds up at odds with her decision to send him off to boarding school.
Meanwhile, his friends, Bonny, played by Tina Hartell, and Ted, played by Brooks Gorden, can't seem to understand his connection with this "pig woman," and chaos ensues.
The play, written by A.R. Gurney and directed by No Strings Theatre Company's Artistic Director Ceil Herman, is an adventurous one. It is complicated and has audience members guessing what will come next.
Dalton Gorden is an impassioned young man, playing Charlie with all his might. Despite a few missteps, he is convincing as the angst-ridden teenager trying to figure out what's what, absent a father figure (his father is fighting in the war).
My personal favorite, Bonny, played by Tina Hartell, is adorable and lovable and will certainly be a star on the Las Cruces theater scene. Opposite her in a lot of scenes was Brooks Gorden, who played Ted, and despite a few errors, played the role of the "frenemy" very well.
Kathi-Jane and Nikka Ziemer gave the best performances as Grace and Anna, respectively, and you could tell the two had done this before. Ziemer is powerful and concise in her delivery, while Kathi-Jane is able to incite sympathy easily from audience members.
"What I Did Last Summer" runs through Sunday, Sept. 14, with shows at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 regular admission and $9 for students and seniors over 65. Reservations may be made by calling 523-1223 or online at www.nostrings.org.Season tickets are also available.
Don't miss the "What I Did Last Summer" art exhibit by members of the Las Cruces Arts Association in the theatre gallery. A variety of different media, including watercolor, fabric art and photographs are on display.The gallery is open an hour before performances or by appointment. Call 523-1223 for more information. The exhibit will run through October.
No seating plan has been posted.