Two theater majors from The University of Texas at El Paso earned first-place honors at the 2020 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival regional competition in Abilene, Texas. Junior T’Keyah Roberts, left, and senior Itzel Martinez were honored. | Photo courtesy UTEP
Two theater majors from The University of Texas at El Paso earned first-place honors at the 2020 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival regional competition in February in Abilene, Texas.
Junior T’Keyah Roberts earned a National Stage Management Fellowship, and senior Itzel Martinez earned an Excellence in Festival Management, Stage Management Intensive & Excellence in Arts Administration/ASPIRE Initiative.
The pair were scheduled to participate in the national conference this week in Washington, D.C., before the event was canceled in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Roberts, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, who grew up on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, and Martinez, born in Juárez and raised there and in El Paso, praised UTEP’s Carolyn Cubit-Tsutsui for her mentorship that prepared them for the competition.
Cubit-Tsutsui, a full-time lecturer in stage management/production, said that Roberts and Martinez represent the department’s high standards. She said their performances at the regionals would remind others across the country, especially those in the arts management field, about the passionate students that UTEP helps to create.
“They are both hard-working and passionate about their craft in management and I have no doubt that each will go on to great success,” Cubiti-Tsutsui said.
Roberts said that the honor shocked her, but she was proud to have won based on her binder from “Real Women Have Curves,” which the UTEP Department of Theatre and Dance produced in October 2019. Roberts was the production’s stage manager. She explained that a “binder” contains all pertinent materials – agreements, calendars, scripts, etc. – for a production.
“I knew I had worked hard on this,” said Roberts, the first UTEP student in this competition to place first in this category since 2012. “Being in a predominantly white space, and being African-American and being recognized was so inspiring for me.”
She thanked Cubit-Tsutsui for her tutelage, but also for giving her the space as a stage manager to figure things out.
Roberts expects to graduate in May 2021 and then pursue a career in production stage management with a regional theater company. She will work at a theater in the Caribbean this summer.
At the regional competition, Martinez shared the story of Esperanza Theatre, a fictional nonprofit theater company that she revised during the fall 2019 semester as part of an independent study course supervised by Cubit-Tsutsui. She created the original concept during a performing arts management course Cubit-Tsutsui offered. Martinez presented her project to representatives from two of the nation’s leading theater companies and beat out graduate-level competitors.
Martinez said she was intimidated at first to go up against two graduate students, but her fears quickly dissipated as she spoke of her theater. Her victory stunned and excited her.
Martinez is scheduled to graduate in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in stage management. She has accepted a job with the Des Moines (Iowa) Metro Opera.
Cristina Goletti, chair and associate professor in UTEP’s Department of Theatre and Dance, said the UTEP students competed well and won or placed in the top tier against peers from more prominent programs.
“This is definitely the result of the phenomenal work our acting and tech faculty does every day,” said Goletti said.
The Region 6 competition held Feb. 23-27 in the Abilene Convention Center included institutions from Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana.