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UNM opens theater season with ‘con flama’

The University of New Mexico theater department is presenting "con flama" as its first production of the season. (Courtesy of Joanna Furgal)

The University of New Mexico theater department is presenting “con flama” as its first production of the season. (Courtesy of Joanna Furgal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Erik Ehn jumped right into the production of “con flama” when he arrived at the University of New Mexico.

The award-winning playwright is spending some time at UNM as a visiting professor in the theater department and was immediately drawn to the production, the first of the season.

“The biggest challenge should have been the shortness of time,” he says. “The day I got here, we were already in auditions, and we hit the ground running. The text is really silky. It goes down smoothly, and there is this songlike poetic text. It’s beautiful.”

The play is a coming-of-age story about Gurl, a young African American woman living in Los Angeles.

Memories and aspirations unfold on a city bus, which moves across the city and through time – from the 1940s through the 1970s.

Gurl builds a future for herself, all while thriving on legacy, family love and social compassion.

The production invites attendees to gather in a space of listening, to look at one another on the bus and embrace an opportunity to witness the humanity in one another.

It was written by Sharon Bridgforth (a Doris Duke Performing Artist) to inspire people to love, connect with and heal one another. Through the play, she urges us to establish communities of love.

Ehn has known Bridgforth for years, and knowing he was coming to UNM, he wanted to take on one of her works.

“Her writing is so inspirational to me,” he says. “I was finding my identity at UNM, and I wanted to do one of her pieces because it deserves to be seen.”

Ehn is working with a cast of seven – all women and strong.

“The script makes appeal to ancestors, and we reflected on those people and authorities that have helped us along,” he says. “Rehearsal has been a moment-by-moment process. We approached the script through the body and intuition. It’s rare for me to end each day with a feeling of happiness. I’m enjoying this journey with this powerful play.”

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