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The Debut of a New Era for Theatre at CNM

July 16, 2014 -- A new era is about to be unveiled for CNM’s Theatre Department. A new state-of-the-art theatre scheduled to open for the Fall Term will set the stage for the debut of CNM’s Associate of Arts Degree in Theatre.
The Debut of a New Era for Theatre at CNM

Theatre faculty member Joe Damour in the new "black box" theatre.

The new developments are expected to create an influx of new students taking Theatre classes this fall, said Joe Damour, a Theatre faculty member. The program will also create a new pathway for aspiring Theatre students.

“When students complete the (associate) degree, they can transfer to the University of New Mexico or another four-year school to get a (bachelor’s degree) in theatre,” Damour said. “We have been wanting this for a long time.”

The new 70-seat theatre is taking form through the renovation of a former document storage building located on the north side of Coal Avenue between University Blvd. and Buena Vista Dr., near the crosswalk between the S and JS buildings. Affectionately called the “black box,” for now, the inside of the theatre is completely black, including the walls, the floors and moveable chairs. The black theme is used so that if an area of the theatre is flooded with light, the rest of the building disappears. This is common in the theatre industry.

In addition to the theatre area, the 2,372 square-foot building will include a “green room” – a place for actors to hang out before shows – two new bathrooms and a foyer. The theatre, which is nearly completed, is awaiting the installation of lights, both traditional incandescent lamps and the newer LEDs. The sophisticated lighting system will provide students the opportunity to learn lighting in a real theatre setting.

Damour said the new theatre will be a grand improvement over ST-17, a portable temporary doublewide trailer on Main Campus that eight faculty members have been using as a classroom and theatre for the past couple of years. For a period about five years ago, the department also rented the Vortex Theater near Main Campus to present plays, but that contract expired.

“The new theatre is going to give a heightened legitimacy and interest in our program,” he said.

The Theatre Department usually produced one show a year each spring. This spring it did not present a show. But now, with the new facility, they are planning to have two plays a year – one in fall and one in spring. This fall’s production will be a series of 10-minute plays. Any student, not just Theatre majors, can audition for it. 

Courses to be offered as part of the Associate of Arts Degree in Theatre include: Introduction to Technical Theatre (lights, sound, set building, etc.); Acting I and Acting II; an accredited Theatre Practicum (a produced play with student actors); Acting for Camera; Ensemble Improvisation; Voice and Movement; Beginning Screenwriting; and Theatre Appreciation.

Damour, an actor himself, said he is not under the illusion that all students will be headed for stardom when they walk out of the program. But, he adds, the enduring value intrinsic with taking theatre classes is that it “helps the students to be more expressive human beings.” 

The building renovation was paid for by a 2011 CNM local bond issue.

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