By Rodrigo Castañeda
UTEP News Service
Students chattered and whispered throughout the gymnasium at Constance Hulbert Elementary. They waited with excitement and wonder, hoping to soon discover which story they would see from the traveling children’s shows titled “Centennial Pick-Acts” presented by The University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Theatre and Dance.
The series of shows encompassed a touring cast of approximately 35 UTEP students and graduates who presented free theatrical plays and dance performances to different elementary schools across the city in conjunction with the University’s Centennial Celebration. The weekly performances started Friday, Sept. 19 and concluded Friday, Nov. 21 after reaching 23 schools.
“We wanted to take some theatre and dance to students who don’t typically have the opportunity to experience it,” said Rebecca Rivas, associate professor of UTEP’s Department of Theatre and Dance and one of the faculty sponsors of the program. “Students usually don’t get to take theatre until much later when they’re in high school, and even then it’s mostly seen as an elective.”
The idea behind the performances was to expose younger students to theater and dance. She hoped the shows helped kids cultivate an appreciation for the fine arts.
Pick-Acts cast members split into groups and performed at different elementary schools every Friday. Some of the performances offered were Peter and the Wolf, The Boy Who Wanted the Willies and The Sea King’s Daughter.
On Friday, Nov. 14, a group of four students and alumni performed The Sea King’s Daughter for an audience composed of fourth, fifth and sixth graders at Constance Hulbert Elementary.
“Having never performed to an audience entirely made up of kids, I felt like I owed myself that experience,” said Lluvia Almanza, a 2013 UTEP alumna. “After this, I can only say ‘I love it.’ The kids get much more into the story than the adults sometimes; they tend to follow on every detail.”
Almanza considered the opportunity of working with kids as a wonderful one, laughing as she vividly remembered their energy and enthusiasm during her group’s performance.
“When I was in elementary school, we never had something like this,” said Raul Chavez, a senior majoring in theatre performance and one of the actors in the program.
“I think that what we’re doing is important, we need to nurture the minds of these kids and support them if they want to get into the arts,” Chavez said.
Having rehearsed since summer, the Pick-Acts cast members wanted to impress their spectators during their performances. Not surprisingly, their hard work paid off. Their shows were always followed by energetic questions for the cast by the young audience members.
“It is clear that there is a need for the performing arts in our elementary schools,” said Adriana Dominguez, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor and director of audience development for the Department of Theatre and Dance, and a faculty sponsor of Centennial Pick-Acts.
According to Dominguez, it took less than 12 hours after information on the program was distributed to local schools for all of the available slots to be filled. The turnout led to the creation of a 20-school waiting list and the motivation to create more performance pieces in order to meet the demand.
“The UTEP Department of Theatre and Dance is honored to provide a unique experience to the youth of our community and introduce them to the power of the performing arts,” Dominguez said.
Published 11/21/14 at http://news.utep.edu/?p=27886