The NMSU’s Department of Theatre Arts and the American Southwest Theater Company’s production of “Carmela Full of Wishes” premiered for its first and only showing at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22. The one-night performance marked a historic collaboration between the NMSU Music Department mariachi program, the campus art department, and the theatre department.
The energy-filled performance took place in the Mark and Stephanie Medoff Theatre at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts, and was adapted by Alvaro Saar Rios from a children’s book that was originally written by Matt De La Peña.
“Carmela Full of Wishes” is a kinetic adaptation that tells a familiar story for many borderland immigrants. It deals with the looming threat of deportation and the devastation it inflicts, especially on children.
The director, Monica Mojica, crafted a multifaceted production that utilizes mariachi music performed by NMSU’s Mariachi Orgullo de Nuevo Mexico. Additionally, NMSU’s Art Department provided a series of stunning oil paintings that were utilized as set backgrounds. These paintings transformed the stage into bustling city streets, a laundromat, and a field full of dandelions for one of the performance’s most poignant moments.
The story starts on the morning of 7-year-old Carmela’s birthday as she eagerly accompanies her older brother to the laundromat. During their journey to the laundromat, Carmela stumbles upon a dandelion, and her brother explains that the flower’s blowing seeds will grant one wish. This discovery leads to the central premise of the story because, with the dandelion in her possession, Carmela must now make the ultimate decision of what to use her wish for.
The character of Carmela is brought to life by actor Karen Shaw in a performance that’s both exuberant and captivating. Shaw transformed herself into a real-life 7-year-old by zooming across the stage on a scooter, speaking a mile a minute, and purposefully getting on her older brother’s nerves. Shaw also excelled when it came to the more serious aspects of the show by providing the depth and emotion needed to create a truly compelling character.
The role of Carmela’s big brother was played by NMSU freshman, Carlos Huereca. Huereca was hands-down the standout of the show, garnering laughter from the audience with his picture-perfect performance of the obnoxious older brother that most of us either have or know of.
Shaw and Huereca also deserve praise for their expertly crafted chemistry. The duo was convincing as a pair of young siblings who drove each other mad, but ultimately still loved and cared for one another.
A special shoutout must also be given to NMSU junior, Eva Cullen, who played five characters, including Carmela’s mother, a bodega owner, and the bodega owner’s missing cat, Anatoli. Out of the ensemble of characters she played, Cullen shined the brightest as Carmela’s mother by embodying her fiery Latina spirit.
“Carmela Full of Wishes” is packed with comedy, music and gut-punching emotion. The cast was stacked with talented young actors, and not only is the plot relevant in today’s world, but it’s a deeply important story to tell.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual.