The Prospector

‘Viva! El Paso’ returns after year-long hiatus

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‘Viva! El Paso’ will will begin Sat. Aug. 8 at McKelligon Canyon.

‘Viva! El Paso’ will will begin Sat. Aug. 8 at McKelligon Canyon.

File Photo

File Photo

‘Viva! El Paso’ will will begin Sat. Aug. 8 at McKelligon Canyon.

Julia Hettiger, Staff Reporter

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An El Paso tradition that uses dancing, singing and narration to illustrate El Paso’s culture and history is returning to the Sun City after a year-long absence.

“Viva! El Paso”  began running in 1978 when it was first performed by the Los Pobres Bilingual Theatre Repertory Company, and is now back after being suspended last summer, revamped to suit a younger audience.

“Viva!” was created and directed by Hector Serrano, head of the El Paso Community College drama department. It was performed annually for 36 years before being suspended.

Along with the University of Texas at El Paso, the production will be offered in partnership with El Paso Live and the El Paso Community Foundation.

“It was a big job,” said Carol McNeal, director of sales and marketing at the El Paso Community Foundation. “It took over two years of planning with El Paso Live and being able to collaborate with UTEP’s theater department was a big endeavor.”

The show was suspended in 2014 after the managers declared they could no longer afford to produce it.

“The people who managed the show could no longer carry it forward due to financial restrictions so they disbanded it,” said McNeal.

The new “Viva! El Paso” is rumored to be more creative and better than before.

“I think it will fare better than it ever has because it’s promised to be a much improved with new good theatrical creativity,” McNeal said.

McNeal also said that it may take some time for the musical to create a new following, but the show will soon become an El Paso favorite again.

“El Paso loves this series, and they will come over and over again,” McNeal said.

The show will be directed by Chuck Gorden, associate professor of theater at UTEP

“I’m hoping to put on an entertaining show for the community,” Gorden said. “I like responding to people’s concerns like the show being too long or they like this but they don’t like that in order to put on as entertaining a show as possible.”

Gorden also said that in previous years, the musical relied heavily on narration and impersonal stories, but he plans to change that.

“We’d like to incorporate more relationships, dramatic emphasis and new stories to intertwine with the older, same stories,” Gorden said.

To make up for the lack of narration, Gorden plans to add a few more touches to the musical, including more dancing and singing.

“This year’s musical is actually going to include ‘The Legend of La Llorona,’ something that it hasn’t before,” Gorden said. “There will also be new songs and dances and even new costumes.”

Gorden also plans to incorporate the audience more.

“This time we’re working with engagement of the community,” Gorden said. “With the three-way partnership between UTEP, El Paso Live and the El Paso Community Foundation, we’ll have more production value and spectacle.”

Auditions were held for paid positions in April. Approximately 85 people auditioned, with only 42 being chosen for roles in the musical.

“I think the people who are in the play and even everyone who auditioned represent some of El Paso’s most talented people,” Gorden said.

In addition to the talent on stage, Gorden said he looks forward to working with his colleagues to direct the musical.

“I’m very excited to be working with such creative talent,” Gorden said. “The musical will be entertaining for the entire family.”

“Viva! El Paso” will begin June 19, with the final performance being on Aug. 8. For more information, visit http://elpasolive.com/calendar/1035-viva-el-paso-returns-to-mckelligon-canyon or call 915-534-0600

Julia Hettiger may be reached at theprospectordaily.ent@gmail.com.

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‘Viva! El Paso’ returns after year-long hiatus