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Home | Tag Archives: Keith Townsend

Tag Archives: Keith Townsend

Hofstra University Honors Burges Debate Teacher

Burges teacher Keith Townsend speaks eloquently and passionately about his 30-year career in drama, forensics and debate – grinning with pride about his students’ accomplishments.

After only a few minutes of his time, it’s evident why New York’s Hofstra University selected him in its inaugural tradition of honoring forensic coaches regionally and nationally. He will be honored in March at the university’s Pi Kappa Delta National Speech and Debate Association Championship Tournament.

“At the tournament, we will present you with a certificate recognizing your leadership in and service to the debate and forensic community, a few little gifts from our Hofstra gift shop symbolizing our hope that you will be proud of your Hofstra connection, and a modest honorarium as a token of our recognition,” wrote Benjamin Rifkin, Dean of Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in his letter to Townsend.

The award also recognizes his role in supporting speech and debate in El Paso.

“It’s sort of neat to get that kind of a recognition. But it’s like, okay, this is absolutely the last coaching award. There are no more that exist,” he chuckled. “It’s when they start giving you awards like this, it’s like ‘wow, okay, I guess my career is over.’”

But the Burges teacher still has too much fire to retire – committed to coming to work before the sun rises every day to prepare for class and his students, as well as getting that ideal parking space.

“I’m having a good time with this and I can’t even tell you how great the students are,” he said. “I’m just really impressed with these kids. I have a job that I look forward to coming to everyday. That’s what makes this so good.”

Townsend’s career took a 360 turn from being a first-year teacher at Burges in the 1980s to spending seven years at Bowie High, moving on to Bel Air High during its reconstitution days, teaching at El Paso Community College for 17 years and then returning in 2017 to teach more generations of Mustangs.

Townsend lights up reminiscing about his Bowie student who won a state and national championship in persuasive speaking. Then there’s Jacob Rodriguez, Bowie’s current theater teacher, who sat in his class in the 1990s and won second place in nationals in poetry.

“I begged to go to Bowie because they didn’t have a program,” Townsend said. “I said ‘I can get a speech and a theater program there.’ What we had for seven years was the top program in the city.”

In his second stint at Burges, Townsend teaches dual credit speech, technical theater & design and musical theater. He comfortably walks through the multipurpose room – cans of paints, saws and other power tools strategically set throughout the room – watching his advanced students build sets in preparation for Burges’ upcoming show “All Hallow’s Eve Dream.” The dark 2075 adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be staged beginning next week.

He and fellow theater teacher Fernie Arana challenged students to think outside the box during the development of their upcoming production. It took the students a couple weeks to transform their traditional mindset and go deeper into a more creative realm.

“I’d tell them ‘you’re on the right track but now take it further. Go as far as you can. I can pull you back, but I can’t pull you up. They had the most wild, outrageous ideas. Once I could get them to start doing that and trusting themselves, they came up with awesome ideas. We want to take the Burges program, get them to really think outside of the box and be really be over the top creative.”

Chloe Curtis, Burges senior, first met Townsend with his sister at EPCC shows and eventually performed under his direction there and with Viva El Paso. She’s currently taking his musical theater class.

“You can tell he has such a deep passion for what he does,” she said. “He cares about the kids and getting the story across.

Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

EPCC Theater Presents ‘Once on This Island’

El Paso Community College (EPCC) Theater Ensemble will offer its final play of the Summer season with Once on This Island.

Once on This Island is the tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. When their divided cultures keep them apart, Ti Moune is guided by powerful island gods on a remarkable quest to reunite with the man who has captured her heart.

The play is adapted from the book by Lynn Ahrens. Lyrics were written by Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty and directed by EPCC Instructor, Keith Townsend.

The EPCC Performance Studies Program is a multi-disciplinary area composed of students from the fields of Theatre Performance & Production, Speech, Music, Dance, Communications and other behavioral sciences, said Keith Townsend.

“The ultimate goal is to give students the opportunity to build a varied and comprehensive performance, so that when they leave EPCC they can continue their work in Performance Studies at a university of their choice.”

Performances will be held August 24, 25, 26, 31, September 1 and 2 at 8:00 p.m. and August 27 and September 3 at  2:30 p.m. The EPCC Theater Ensemble performs at the EPCC Transmountain Campus Forum Theater, 9570 Gateway North.

Ticket prices are:

  • General Admission-$15
  • Non-EPCC students and military-$10
  • EPCC students/staff and senior citizens-$7

Tickets are available at the door. The box office opens two hours before each performance.


For theater information, call (915) 831-5056. Media may contact Keith Townsend at (915) 637-4029.

Students Lead EPCC Partnership with VIVA! El Paso

For almost 50 years, El Paso Community College (EPCC) has played a significant role in the culture and lifestyle of El Paso. Since 2016 this has not been truer than the partnership forged with the El Paso Community Foundation (EPCF) to produce VIVA! El Paso.

Now celebrating its 40th year in production, VIVA! has become a summertime theatrical staple for visitors to the southwest and residents alike. Through theater, song and dance, VIVA! shares the complex history and makeup of the area.

“El Paso is the multi-cultural capital of the world,” said Keith Townsend, EPCC Instructor and VIVA! El Paso Artistic Director, “VIVA! shows that we do not divide.”

The most important aspect of EPCC’s involvement in VIVA! is the participation of its students.

The EPCC Theater program has a long history in educating young actors in all areas of bringing a theater production to life. A great example is Erick Canales. He is the lead male role in this year’s production, coming back as different characters through El Paso’s history.

An EPCC Theater major, Canales said it’s fun being someone else. Theater is in his blood; he plans to become a professional actor and then proceed into directing and teaching.

Canales knew VIVA! was for him when he heard Keith Townsend was directing. “Keith is always there for the students,” said Canales. “He is there when they have doubts, telling them that they can do it.”

The EPCC Theater program impacts all students who have attended EPCC. The want to come back always exists. EPCC and Western Kentucky University graduate, Camille Acosta returns to VIVA! for a second year.

In this year’s production she narrates segments of the play as the Spirit of Earth. Acosta enjoys working on VIVA! “it has created a new pipeline for El Paso actors,” she said. Acosta plans to try her acting skills in New York and Los Angeles. She sees herself as a teacher someday.

Acosta has fond memories of her days at EPCC.

“Since the age of 15, I performed in Keith Townsend’s productions at EPCC. All the teachers care so much for you; they want you to succeed.”

When you mention theater in El Paso, the name of Keith Townsend is sure to follow. Through VIVA! and all his productions, Townsend encourages his students to give back to the audience, to the community. He chose to make El Paso his home and has spread theater throughout local high schools and EPCC.

He jumped at the chance to lead VIVA! El Paso when the opportunity arose from the EPCC and El Paso Community Foundation partnership. “The Foundation understands the performing arts,” Townsend said. “The promotion team at El Paso Live put students into a learning opportunity at every aspect of the theater production.”

VIVA! El Paso, now in its 40 th year, will light up McKelligon Canyon Fridays and Saturdays through July 29th. Remembering its multi-cultural heritage, two performances on July 21 st and 22 nd will be presented in Spanish.

The strength of the production can be seen in its makeup; many are former El Pasoans who have returned after reaching fame in the world of entertainment. Playwright Marty Martin went on to Broadway with much success, but now finds joy in the work he has done with the new VIVA! El Paso.

Cody Ritchie, Musical Director, has worked in El Paso theater for decades. He has partnered with Keith Townsend on many EPCC productions.

Famed Rock musician, Jim Ward has lent his hand in the musical score of the play. Ward is nationally known through his work with the bands Sparta and At The Drive In.

Dance is a very important part of this year’s VIVA! because of the work of Choreographer, Jaime Carrasco.

Through 400 years, 390 costumes and more than 100 participants, VIVA! El Paso shows the Borderland at its best. EPCC creates a college-going culture by engaging students inside and outside of the classroom. VIVA! El Paso is just one example of EPCC’s commitment to strengthen its partnership with the community.


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