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NMSU alumnus, faculty collaborate on children’s play based on book

With the help of New Mexico State University faculty and staff members, a play based on the children’s book about an NMSU alumnus is coming to Las Cruces June 16 and 17 at the Rio Grande Theatre, 211 Main Street.

Blue and orange book cover
"Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza" by J.L. Powers. (Courtesy Image)

George Mendoza, who graduated from NMSU in 1978 from the individualized studies department in the College of Arts and Sciences, is an internationally acclaimed artist and subject of a children’s book, “Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza.”

Mendoza said he wanted to put on a stage production of the book because of his friendship with Kelly King, artistic director of A Children’s Theatre of the Mesilla Valley.

“She read the script that Craig and Neal and I put together and loved it,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza adapted the book for the stage, with help from Craig Holden, associate director of corporate and foundation relations at the NMSU Foundation, who has several published novels, and Neal Adelman, an adjunct faculty member in NMSU’s English department who has written several plays produced at the Las Cruces Community Theatre.

“I think George’s story is just so extraordinary and what I hope is that the play communicates the story to kids without being scary,” Holden said. “And I think it does that—it takes them through his story and shows them that obstacles can be overcome.”

The book and play recount Mendoza’s life from when he started going blind at the age of 15. He didn’t fully lose his vision, but only his central vision. He can still see things such as eyes floating in the air, extraordinary colors, objects multiplied and reflected back, which are examples of what he paints. The book and play also chronicle his triumph over blindness by setting the world record in the mile for blind runners. Mendoza also competed in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics for the Disabled.

Holden and Mendoza met through a mutual friend and hit it off shortly before deciding to work together on a project, which turned into a stage adaptation of Mendoza’s children’s book. Holden recruited Adelman to help.

“Neal did most of the heavy lifting while I did some rewrites and added some stuff in,” Holden said.

Mendoza, Holden and Adelman finished the script last year and sent it to A Children’s Theatre of the Mesilla Valley. The theatre company began rehearsals for the play on May 30th.

“I hope audiences are inspired from seeing the play,” Mendoza said. “No matter what obstacles come your way, you can overcome them if you’re persistent.”

Future plans for the play might include a run in the near future in NMSU’s Theatre Arts’ season. Mendoza said Megan McQueen, college assistant professor in the Theatre Department, has expressed interest in doing a production.

The play has three showings: one at 10 a.m. on Saturday—tickets $3—another at 7 p.m.—tickets $7—and the third at 1 p.m. Sunday—tickets $7. Call 575-644-9561 to order.