Ed Breeding screens films at Rio Grande Theatre in June

2016 Opera Storytellers Camp
The 2016 Opera Storytellers Camp. Photo by Emmitt Booher.
This is the final month the Doña Ana Arts Council will be managing the Rio Grande Theatre and they offer a diverse range of programs to round out their run at the historic adobe theatre. From films by Ed Breeding to rock ‘n’ roll history with George Tomsco of New Mexico’s own Fireballs, and lots of opportunities for young actors, there’s something for everyone.

June 1, 7 p.m.: “Shattered Reality” screening
“Shattered Reality” will be screened at the Rio Grande Theatre Thursday, June 1, at 7 p.m. as a fundraiser for Spirit Ranch through the Kids Helping Kids Foundation. Admission is free with donations accepted. The 51-minute documentary is not, Breeding warns, a film for entertainment. It is about emotions related to the trauma of war and may, he says, bring some viewers to tears. But that is not his goal. He believes the film can bring awareness and understanding to the civilian population about what veterans endured during — and after — war and therapy and healing to the veterans themselves.

June 2, 5 – 7 p.m.: Artist Reception at El Paso Electric Gallery
Roy van der Aa, a local artist and publisher of The Ink, a publication that showcases the arts in our community, will be the artist for June in the El Paso Electric Gallery. He says, “I wish to show a body of work from late 2014 to early 2016. These works contain flowing intertwined forms in a bright color palette. Sizes vary from small to the largest piece I have done to date, three feet by four feet.”

Regular exhibit hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

June 3, 7 p.m.: New Mexico Rock ‘n’ Roll History with American Bandstand and “Sugar Shack”
“Bandstand: The Untold Story” author Stan Blitz is back with a new presentation at the Rio Grande Theatre, accompanied by New Mexico music legend George Tomsco, the founder of The Fireballs, the group that recorded the only number one hit song to come out of New Mexico, “Sugar Shack.” On June 3, they will collaborate to educate the audience about the history of the popular radio and TV show “Bandstand” when it was hosted by Bob Horn, before it became “American Bandstand” with Dick Clark, and the history of New Mexico music. Tomsco will also perform a live solo of his song “Everybody Should Have Lived in the Fifties.”

The first half of the show features Blitz in a “town hall” style program, where he will play clips of songs of the era, tell the story of “Bob Horn’s Bandstand” and the controversy that swirled around its original host, then take questions from the audience. Writing a book about Horn and “Bandstand” has been a life-long crusade for Blitz. As a music-loving kid in Philadelphia, he always felt an injustice had been done to Horn and he felt that someday he would do what he could to set the record straight.

Blitz says of his book, “It’s a piece of rock and roll history never been told before. You will not see it in ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine or any of these music publications. It’s a true history by a purist: myself.” He adds, “It’s like ‘Citizen Kane’ about ‘Bandstand’.

The second half of the presentation at the Rio Grande Theatre features George Tomsco. The Raton native will tell about his involvement with New Mexico’s music scene, which revolved around Norman Petty Studios in Clovis. Petty, his wife, Vi, and Jack Vaughn formed the Norman Petty Trio in the early 1950s and had a big hit with “Mood Indigo,” selling a half million copies. While Petty did quite well with his own music, he is best known for his recording studio and working with music legends such as Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, and Buddy Holly, as well as Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs with their hit song, “Sugar Shack.”

The Fireballs formed in Raton in 1958, using their favorite song’s title as inspiration to name their band: “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis. The Fireballs as originally formed included Tomsco on lead guitar, Chuck Tharp as the vocalist, Stan Lark on bass, Eric Budd on drums, and Dan Trammell on rhythm guitar. They had some top 40 hits such as “Torquay” in 1959, “Bulldog” the next year, and “Quite a Party” in 1961. But in the early 1960s, three of the members left the group and new member Jimmy Gilmer was the lead singer when they recorded their biggest hit, “Sugar Shack.”

Tomsco has never stopped being a Fireball and the band has recorded and performed together, with some restructuring, since the 1950s. Tomsco also performs as a “solo Fireball” for events such as these. He again lives in Raton, after living in Clovis to be near the Norman Petty Studios for many years.

Blitz and Tomsco met in Albuquerque and found they had a mutual interest in music history. “The fact that The Fireballs had a number one record and the fact that it is the only official number one band record out of New Mexico, ever, that’s pretty monumental. So, we just decided we should put the two things together,” Tomsco says.

He and Blitz will collaborate on several presentations around the state, bringing the early days of rock and roll to life for music-loving audiences of any age.

There will be CDs, photos, and other merchandise available that evening, as well as Blitz’s book, “Bandstand: The Untold Story.” Tomsco will also have a newly released box set with four CDs of The Fireballs’ early instrumentals and Chuck Tharp vocals. It’s a brand-new release from Nor-Va-Jack Music. He’ll also offer a book by Frank Blanas about The King of Clovis, Norman Petty.

The presentation is June 3 at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $17, including all fees. For more information or to purchase tickets online, go to riograndetheatre.com or call 523-6403.

June 12 – 23, 8:30 a.m.—2 p.m.: Career Art Path
Career Art Path is a two-week immersion program in the visual arts for middle school students. The program is designed for students entering fifth through eighth grades and will be held at the Alma d’Arte Charter High School, 402 W Court Avenue on Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.—2 p.m. The program includes hands-on experience in many fields which may include ceramics, painting, sculpture, textiles, jewelry, and print making. The students take field trips to local galleries, museums, and businesses for exploration of the many career avenues available in the arts. The program culminates with an art show featuring the students’ art work. Space is limited to 40 students and parents should be aware a teacher recommendation is a required part of the application. Tuition is $100 per student with payment due with the completed application. Partial scholarships are available on a needs basis. For more information, contact development@daarts.org.

June 14, 6:30 p.m.: Every 2nd Wednesday: Danny Ruley
Danny Ruley has previously performed at the Rio Grande Theater and returns once again with mic in hand for his forth performance singing country, rock, and jazz songs. There will be a little romance, a little crying, and some laughing as he tells a story or two. Singing songs of yesteryear, he brings back memories of special moments in time. Bring a loved one, or someone you want to love, for an evening of wonderful memories.

Every 2nd Wednesday is a free monthly program offered by the Doña Ana Arts Council showcasing local musicians. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the performance begins at 6:30 p.m. For additional information, visit RioGrandeTheatre.com or contact the Doña Ana Arts Council at 523-6403.

June 16, 7 p.m. and June 17, 1 p.m.: A Children’s Theatre of the Mesilla Valley presents “Colors of the Wind” and “Casey at the Bat”
This children’s theatre program will present two short works as the culmination of a three-week summer camp. They will perform the classic story of “Casey at the Bat” as well as a performance based on the book about blind artist and champion runner, George Mendoza, entitled “Colors of the Wind.”

Tickets are $7 and are available by calling 644- 9561. This performance is made possible by a grant from New Mexico Arts.

June 19 – 24, daily at 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.: Opera Storytellers Camp
Opera Storytellers Summer Camp is designed for students entering third to eighth grade. Presented with the Santa Fe Opera, a group of 25 – 30 students will use elements of opera: libretto writing, music composition, and theatrical staging to compose and perform their own musical drama based on the hero’s journey. The experience will culminate with a performance on Saturday, June 24, at 11 a.m. at the Rio Grande Theatre. Snacks will be provided during camp, but sack lunch is to be provided by the student.

Tuition is $150 per student for the one-week camp; partial scholarships are available. Additional information and applications are available by calling 523-6403 or email development@daarts.org

June 24, 11 a.m.: Opera Storytellers Camp performance
The culminating performance of Opera Storytellers Camp is free and open to the public.

June 26 – 30, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. daily: Missoula Children’s Theatre Camp, “Aladdin”
The Doña Ana Arts Council continues its tradition of bringing Missoula Children’s Theatre to Las Cruces with their production of “Aladdin.” The try outs will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Monday, June 26, at the Rio Grande Theatre for students entering first through 12th grades. Plan on a full two hours for try outs. Registration will be immediately after try outs for the students cast. The registration fee is $60 and partial scholarships are available. Rehearsals will be from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. daily.

The Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT), the nation’s largest touring children’s theatre, has been touring extensively for more than 40 years. A tour team will arrive in Las Cruces with a set, lights, costumes, props and make-up, everything it takes to put on a play — except the cast. For more information, call the Doña Ana Arts Council at 523-6403.

June 30, 7 p.m.: Missoula Children’s Theatre Camp performs “Aladdin”
A performance of “Aladdin” will take place on the final day of the Missoula Children’s Theatre camp, on Friday, June 30, at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the door: $3 for children 16 and under; $7 for adults.

The Rio Grande Theatre is located at 211 N. Main Street and is managed by the Doña Ana Arts Council. The theatre box office and Doña Ana Arts Council office are on the second floor of the theatre. Box office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and one hour prior to show time. For more information or to purchase tickets online, go to riograndetheatre.com or call 523-6403.