UTEP students Kalina Gallardo, from left, Isabelle Rivera and Sarah Curtis won their competitions at the recent regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and will participate in the virtual finals in mid-April 2021. Courtesy photos from the UTEP Department of Theatre and Dance

Trio of UTEP Students win at Regional Theater Festival

Three students from The University of Texas at El Paso earned top finishes at the recent Region 6 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) that was conducted virtually.

The winners were Kalina Gallardo, sophomore creative writing major; Sarah Curtis, senior theatre arts major; and Isabelle Rivera, senior theatre major. The students will now compete in the national festival that also will be conducted virtually April 13-18, 2021.

“UTEP did amazing,” said an excited Adriana Dominguez, Ph.D., assistant professor of theatre arts and director of theatre programs. “We are incredibly proud of our students. They have adapted and excelled.”

Gallardo won as a playwright in the 10-Minute Play competition for “Into the Mystic,” the comedic story of a young woman who summons her grandmother from the dead for a deep conversation that touches on legacy, individuality and generational inheritance. Gallardo also won the Jim Anderson Outlaw Playwright Award for her play.

Curtis earned the top prize in the Student Directing Initiative and a scholarship to the 2021 Kennedy Center Directing Intensive, a weeklong opportunity in July 2021 to learn from experienced professional directors about their duties from how to research, select and pitch a project to text analysis and the things you need to know before you set foot on a rehearsal floor.

Rivera triumphed in the Excellence in Arts Administration/ASPIRE Initiative, which involves management development. This category is specifically for participants who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The respondents, who act as judges, based their decision on an interview with Rivera as well as her management plan for an imaginary theater company. The paperwork included a mission statement and a proposed season. She also won excellence in directing “Into the Mystic,” which was part of the 10-Minute Play competition, and also earned the Regional Award for Dedication to Representation, Equity and Diversity Initiative.

What added a little more drama to the event, which originally was scheduled Feb. 19-28, 2021, was that it was condensed from two weekends to one because of the winter storms that crippled much of Texas in mid-February. This meant that many of the student performers had less time to prepare between their semi-finals and finals competitions.

The competition included performances from students in colleges and universities throughout Region 6, which is made up of Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Dominguez lauded the UTEP competitors for their focus throughout the competition.

“We’re very proud of them,” said Dominguez, who was among the faculty members who used Zoom to work with the students during the competitions.

KCACTF is a national organization that exists to celebrate the educational and creative process of university and college theatre. KCACTF promotes professional standards and provides students and faculty with opportunities to bridge the academic and professional worlds. KCACTF honors achievements in diversity and excellence and encourages experiences in all areas of theatre.