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NMSU play “Tracer” presents whodunit mystery with a twist Nov. 11-18

Release Date: 05 Nov 2020
NMSU play “Tracer” presents whodunit mystery with a twist Nov. 11-18

The next production of New Mexico State University’s Department of Theatre Arts is called “Tracer.” The plot follows a student who becomes ill at a Halloween party and the contact tracer sent to investigate foul play. This mix of current events and “who done it” is served up for audiences via live streaming in the age of COVID-19 restrictions.

The play, which runs 50 minutes with an optional post-show discussion with the audience, will be live streamed at 7 p.m. each evening between Nov. 11 and Nov. 18.

NMSU students, faculty and staff are finding creative new ways to continue to teach and learn the art of performance while appealing to audiences online.

“It's a challenge, not being in the room with my scene partners,” said Nora Brown, an NMSU alumna who plays the role of the contact tracer. “But I have learned that with focused watching and listening, we are still able to sense and react to each other's energy.”

Freshman theater student Elia Vasquez, who plays Madison, agrees. “It was a bit of a struggle at first to keep a high energy level through Zoom, but everyone was fully committed to working around the challenges,” she said. “Though it has been a little unusual to perform to a webcam rather than an audience, I feel super lucky to be working with such a talented director, cast and crew.”

"Our idea was to create something topical, with the students' voices in mind, but also to play with form,” said Nichole Hamilton, director of the play and NMSU theatre arts assistant professor. “What is theatre? Can storytelling be reflected though the current, necessary mediums - film, live streaming, social media - and still be considered theatre? Digital Theatre?"

An original play, set for production earlier this fall, was written by Hannah Benitez but was postponed since it was not intended to be performed via video conferencing. Instead, the American Southwest Theatre Company and NMSU’s Department of Theatre Arts commissioned Benitez to craft an original story for NSMU in this era of “Digital Theatre.”

“Tracer” will be a unique blend of five actors performing during the live stream along side a pre-recorded supporting ensemble cast. While live streaming, the actors will be in separate rooms inside the NMSU Center for the Arts.

“We're all going to be in the same building because we want better bandwidth,” said Hamilton. “So, we're teaming up with ICT to use webinar technology and most of the cameras linked to computers will be hardwired in the building for the clearest picture and to avoid lags from actors being in separate places.”

Each actor will have his or her own acting space large enough to remain more than six feet apart from a crew member, allowing the actor to be mask free while performing. “The entire event in the space will be 90 minutes or less which I think that helps mitigate risk as well,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton describes the process of preparing for this production as “its very own entity” but has developed ways to help the cast and crew adjust.

“On stage, your senses are alive. But in Zoom I feel like we have to use our imagination much more,” Hamilton said.

“One thing that we started doing a lot more of is adding physical warmups before every rehearsal to get life into our own body. We rehearse in the evening, so sometimes during the day all of us have been sitting down most of the day in classes. So, we add those warmups to have that sense of play and let the actors fully get into the body.”

Although the stage is completely different than years prior, Hamilton hopes audiences can still walk away from the play as if they were sitting inside the Center for the Arts and not their living rooms.

“Our job is to be relevant and see what discussions come out of our play. What questions come out of the process? I think in this world we're living in right now; I want them to be able to be entertained. Maybe to be a little self-reflective and then have conversations born from that.”

To purchase tickets, visit For more information on “Tracer” and upcoming productions, call Yoli Bacon at 575-646-5122 or email

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