From Left: Kamryn Neill, Dominque Gomez, JJ Hanley, with Riley Merritt (crouching) in a scene from “Syd the Solstice Kid” where the Inuit family asks the crow to help them find the sun. (Courtesy photo)
Culture, connection and a sense of wonder are in store for families and anyone who is young at heart when New Mexico State University’s theatre department and American Southwest Theatre Company present “Syd the Solstice Kid.”
Opening night begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19 at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts. Snacks and a meet and greet with the cast and crew will immediately follow the opening night of the musical. The show will have five performances through Nov. 28.
Join Syd and three of her friends as they explore winter solstice stories, act them out and show us which ones have evolved into familiar holiday traditions such as decorating, making wreaths, gift-giving and candle lighting. Theatre-goers will learn where many of these traditions come from and how other communities commemorate the winter solstice.
“In the story, Syd and friends uncover customs, traditions and legends around the winter solstice from other cultures so it is fun and informative,” said Wil Kilroy, theatre professor, department head and director of the musical. “It feels wonderful to offer something uplifting, a show that celebrates individuality and the fact that we are more alike than different. One of the lines speaks about how many holiday traditions have come to us from other cultures, and we can celebrate others and their uniqueness.”
Kilroy is directing the play based on the adaptation by Lani Brockman with music and lyrics by Susan Bardsley. NMSU assistant professor of theatre arts Lisa Hermanson is providing music direction.
The musical aims to build awareness about diverse cultures, and the cast and crew are looking forward to the in-person performance.
“It is an ensemble piece, which is always exciting,” said Riley Merritt, a senior theatre arts major who plays the role of Simon. “There is a power that is not individual, that fills an artform with soul. That experience requires us to be together, to see each other, to feel each other’s energy. Being together is profound, and I believe that in the post-COVID world we will all come to appreciate that more than ever.”
Kamryn Neill, NMSU senior theatre arts major, also is eager to perform for a live audience. She plays the role of Kaysy, a carefree character who loves adventure.
“The stage is my home, to be back on the stage feels like I am complete again,” said Neill. “I will always be grateful for the experiences developed upon the NMSU theatre arts stage. I would also like to thank the community for their outstanding support of the arts. It’s an opportunity for all of us to have a connection and a memory together. That is truly a blessing.”
“COVID-19 has been an enormous struggle for me, and it rocked the very foundations of why I do art,” said Merritt. “However, through that experience, I was able to truly appreciate what is so special and profound about live theatre. There is an indefinable quality, an energy that permeates the space between performer and audience. I can’t begin to explain how overjoyed I am to have the opportunity to be live once again.”
In the midst of the excitement surrounding the performance, Kilroy said COVID-19 safety measures are a priority.
“Actors are so happy to come together even if they are wearing masks in rehearsals. However, ensuring vaccination status and having negative COVID tests just prior to performances allows the actors to unmask in order to present. Our ticketing right now is all general admission. This way everyone can choose their comfort level and decide to sit up in one of our balconies to be distant, or if comfortable, to sit close to the stage.”
Tickets for five in-person performances are available through Nov. 28. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $10 for students or seniors and $8 for children under 18.
“This is an hourlong show that is full of song and fun, and I believe it will delight both children and adults, so it’s a great family outing,” Kilroy said. “We have reduced the prices from our typical shows to make this affordable for families.”
The group is also providing two free student matinee shows during the week as a service to the community. “Las Cruces Public Schools has booked these shows fully with hundreds of children who will be treated to free theatre here at NMSU,” Kilroy said.
Author: Minerva Baumann