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Theater Ensemble Arts production is an adaptation written by actor Thomas LaRue

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FARMINGTON — It's been two and a half years since Joey Herring put aside her other duties with Theater Ensemble Arts to direct a play. But when the chance came for her to lead the company's season-ending production of "The Three Musketeers," she didn't hesitate to say yes.

"I wanted to direct this show," she said. "I have always loved 'The Three Musketeers.' I jumped at the chance to do it."

The TEA production opening Thursday will be a little different from the well-known novel by Alexandre Dumas, as Thomas LaRue — who is also part of the show's cast — wrote this adaptation. Herring described it as a more contemporary take on the classic characters and said most people will find it more accessible.

But LaRue didn't alter the main story or shortchange its primary source of appeal, she said.

"The characters are bold and so well drawn," she said.

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Those larger-than-life personalities — and the physical nature of the play, which features an abundance of swordplay — made it the perfect choice for TEA's annual foray into the outdoors at Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater. Herring said "The Three Musketeers" would have been all but impossible to perform in any other setting.

"It's a difficult show to do indoors," she said. "You could probably do it, but you'd probably have to (size) it down to make it work."

That's not an issue at the amphitheater. Herring and her cast of 40 make full use of the spacious surroundings, which feature multiple sets and allow the actors to engage in all sorts of swashbuckling action without fear of running out of real estate.

"There's a lot of action to it," she said. "There are a lot of combat scenes and a lot of scenes in different places because it is a complicated story."

TEA wrapped up its season last year with a production of "M*A*S*H" at the amphitheater, and that was the first time the company had done a full-length show outdoors, she said.

"It was successful for us, and we really enjoyed doing it," Herring said. "It generated a lot of interest in our theater in the community, and a lot of people wanted to do something again."

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Herring's cast includes Mark Burnham as Porthos, Jeremy Orr as Athos, Steve Clark as Aramis, Jason Chandler as Rochefort, Charles Dobey as D'artagnan, LaRue as Cardinal Richelieu and Rhonda Sigler as Lady De Winter.

Herring said she has worked with about half the cast before and therefore had a high level of comfort with those actors. But she said she also enjoys the experience of directing those who are new to her style.

"It's always gratifying to work with new people because you learn something from them about yourself," she said.

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Herring didn't have to devote much effort to recruiting a cast for the production. "The Three Musketeers" has a timeless appeal, she said, and the chance to work on a production in the amphitheater was an exciting prospect for cast and crew alike. She noted the high quality of her actors and said the conditions at the facility will offer everyone the opportunity to mount a multi-dimensional production.

"It's so aesthetically pleasing, being outdoors, and it just lends itself to being able to tell a story in a lush way," she said. "It gives it many more layers for the audience."

Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: The Theater Ensemble Arts production of "The Three Musketeers"

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Aug. 17-19

Where: Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater, 5800 College Blvd. in Farmington

Tickets: $10 for adult, and $8 for students and seniors

For more information: Call 505-326-2839

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