From the time of its founding, ASTC as a non-profit organization has prioritized the ability to employ professional guest artists to work alongside students in Theatre Arts. Actors and other theatre artists can be hired by ASTC through an Equity Guest Artist contract, and this can include members of unions other than AEA as well. Union membership is not, however, necessary for working with ASTC and NMSU Theatre Arts as a guest artist.
Guest artists in residence for a certain play may also conduct workshops or speak to theatre classes in areas of their particular expertise, in this way contributing also to broadening the educational experience of majors in Theatre Arts.
Thirty years ago, for ASTC’s 1984-85 inaugural and season-opening production of Crimes of the Heart, director Lynne Greene was a professional guest artist, as were actors Mary Duncan, who played the part of Meg (one of the three McGrath sisters) and Steven Schwartz-Hartley in the role of Doc. Also in the first ASTC season, Mary Duncan wrote book and lyrics for the musical, Spring Awakening, which also featured guest director Edward Berkeley and actors Sheilah Walker and Gregory Welch. Enyd Williams was guest director for The Rivals, and David W. Hoover was guest director for Hay Fever, while actor Lynn Mathis appeared in the title role in Prometheus Bound.
ASTC’s second season, 1985-1986, led off with guest actor Ben Zeller in the role of H.C. Currie in The Rainmaker, followed by guest actors Stephen Kane and Anthony Kittrell in Beyond Therapy, which included another guest appearance by Mary Duncan.
Most recently, ASTC funding allowed for Equity guest actor Dean Robinson (above, left) to appear as Ben in Meridith Friedman’s West Highland Way, which opened the 2014-2015 season, working alongside student actors Veronica Bissell and Ron Drynan, with setting and lighting by Jim Billings, costumes by Deb Brunson, and directed by Theatre Arts assistant professor Larissa Lury. For the previous 2013-2014 season, Stephanie Monday (right, with student Claire Koleske) appeared as guest actor in the title role of Tom Smith’s play, Aunt Raini.
Jim Billings joined NMSU Theatre Arts as a guest artist in 1985, and was the set designer for ASTC’s inaugural season productions of Spring Awakening, Prometheus Bound, and Hay Fever. He was lighting designer for Greater Tuna. For ASTC’s second season, 1985-1986, Jim was a full-time employee and designed sets and lighting for The Rainmaker, setting for Beyond Therapy, set and lighting for Kringle’s Window and Barnum, scenery for Who Will Carry the Word, and scenery for Macbeth. Jim has designed the sets and lighting for countless plays since, over thirty years. Most recently, for the 2014-15 season, he designed settings for The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Other Desert Cities, and Twelfth Night, in addition to West Highland Way.