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Artful journey: CNM studens’ ‘Sombras’ tells stories linked to works in Harwood scuplture garden

The Central New Mexico Community College Theatre Department in collaboration with the Harwood Arts Center will premiere its production “Sombras” on Saturday, April 10. (Courtesy of Dani Belvin)

When a woman discovers her magical powers, she sets out on a journey of self-discovery.

This is the story of Sombra, the main character of “Sombras,” written and created by Central New Mexico Community College’s Coal Avenue Theatre students. CNM theater instructor Dani Belvin directed the production, which incorporates the works of local sculpture artists whose work is featured on the grounds of the Harwood Arts Center, 1114 Seventh NW.

“The story itself follows a girl,” Belvin said. “Her name is Sombra. And it’s kind of a story about both her discovery and her growing into herself. So it starts kind of with a discovery of her ability to use magic. And when she discovers this, she has some strange relationship with her mother. She decides to leave home to learn how to hone this magical skill that she has and figure out what it is.”

During this time, Sombra also seeks to maintain her connection with her best friend despite their being separated by distance. The story unfolds over nine parts. Each part is inspired directly by one of the outdoor installation pieces at Harwood. Each of the segments, which range from about four minutes to 15 minutes, is written so that it can be listened to and experienced at each artwork.

The audio production includes songs by Santa Fe musician Cory Feder.

“Her music heavily deals with identity, and that’s a big theme of the production, so we were able to use her music as kind of the ambiance and background music in the performance,” Belvin said.

The public can access the audio for free from major podcast platforms and have the option of listening from home or while strolling the Harwood’s outdoor sculpture grounds for the full experience beginning Saturday, April 10. A light installation will also be featured on the same day, according to an event news release. Access to the audio link can be found at cnm.edu/cat. The audio link will remain up indefinitely.

The sculptures played a part in creating the auditory episodes. CNM theater students participated in Zoom meetings over a period of several weeks. Some also visited the sculpture installations. Students who were unable to visit the sculpture garden were able to experience it through photographs and video.

“We started with some world-building writing based off of all of it,” Belvin said. “So we worked on kind of creating the world first, and then creating the characters, and then kind of organizing the overall arc of the story. And then students kind of picked characters and pieces of the story that resonated most with them and then would write on their own. We would come back and read, and then another student might edit and do the next rewrite of that story. It was very collaborative, but there were definitely moments that were kind of individual. And then we also had a few scenes that were written pretty collaboratively with students talking over Zoom and then writing in Google Docs together.”

CNM recently launched a degree program in theater that introduces students to the basics of theater, acting and production. CNM focuses on creating theatrical productions as well as training students in set design, research, performance and collaboration in other professions, according to the news release.




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