Debuting their first production, “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea,” at the Glasbox studio this Friday, July 14, Players on the Wall aims to bring El Paso’s performance art community to new heights.
“El Paso deserves to have a large, thriving artistic community,” said Vanessa Keyser, president and co-founder of the new theater company. “We have so much talent here! The companies that are already here have done an amazing job, and we are so happy to be able to stand next to them to help better our community.”
Veteran actors and directors including Keyser, Brian Ceely and Daniel Rios formed Players on the Wall this spring.
“All three of us grew up here and started theatre at a young age,” said Ceely, who has performed with UTEP, EPCC and The Border Theatre.
Along with her on-stage and behind-the-scenes involvement in countless plays, Keyser has served on the board at the El Paso Playhouse and teaches acting at Kids-N-Co and EPCC. Her roots in theater run deep.
“Both sets of my grandparents dabbled with theater. My parents met onstage. I grew up in community theater,” Keyser said. “All three of my kids have been heavily involved in all aspects of theater. It is my life.”
A long-time member of the theater community, Rios acted, directed, stage managed and designed lights for many UTEP shows and has worked with projects at Glasbox, Kids N’ Co. and Shakespeare on the Rocks.
“Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” was written by Pulitzer Prize, Tony and Academy award-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley. He wrote the screenplay for “Moonstruck,” the 1987 romantic comedy that stars Cher and Nicolas Cage.
The play’s local production is directed by Border Theatre co-founder Austin Savage and will star Ceely as Danny and Stephanie Carrillo as Roberta, two lost souls who meet at a bar. Love, violence and vulnerability help paint this “ haunting tale of pain,” as described by Keyser.
“I’ve wanted to do it for the better part of a decade,” Ceely said. “I saw it my freshman year of college, and it just blew me away.”
On opening night, there will be food trucks and pre-show music performances by Mountain Vibes, Nicholas Duron and Talia Leilani. Proceeds from “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” will help Players on the Wall become an official for-profit business.
“The success of our first production will enable us to build the company and create bigger and better paid opportunities for actors, directors and designers in El Paso, as well as opportunities for musicians, comedians, and other stage performers, as we seek to include a wide range of entertainment in our productions,” Ceely said.
What does the future hold for this company?
“We’re planning a comedy in January with some UTEP grads,” Ceely said. “We’ll be looking to include the standup comedy scene here, since it’s actually pretty happening right now.”
The company’s founders hope to be one of many new theater companies that will help El Paso’s performance community catch up with the breadth of other large cities.
“There is always room for more theatre, especially in a city this size,” Keyser said. “Albuquerque has a population of just under 600,000 people and they have close to 40 theatres. El Paso has just over 800,000 people and we only have a handful of theatres. If anything, we need more artists to open more theaters to give this city a thriving theatrical community.”
Ceely’s sentiments echo Keyser’s:
“We hope to transcend the idea of ‘El Paso quality’ and represent more than that and bring a higher standard of expectation for our artists and community.”