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Shakespeare festival blending cultures together

SalmaPaola Baca
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare performed by UTEP Theatre and Dance.

Embodying the Shakespearean magic, a local community came together for a cross-cultural event for their annual festival of the Shakespeare play, “Twelfth Night.” Hosted at Madeline Park, Jay Stratton, the artistic director of the show, saw the magic the city offered and wanted to adapt this classic piece into something that everyone of all ages could enjoy.    

“It’s a diverse cultural event and it started because we said, ’Why do young people think they don’t like Shakespeare?’ Because we make it stuffy and inaccessible, so we made it into a party,” Stratton said. “We had a number of actors there (who) were Spanish speaking first and, in El Paso, there are a lot of people who are comfortable in Spanish. So, I said, ’let’s make it bilingual,’ so I raised money to make that happen.”  

A theater professor with experience in acting, Stratton coadapted the production “Twelfth Night” with the assistance of Gabe Reyes, a UTEP student who was a part of the play and is bilingual, who sought to add some El Paso flare to the script.   

Considered a romantic comedy, “Twelfth Night” is about a woman called Viola (Carolina Flores) who disguises herself as a man and ends up falling in love with a duke called Orsino (Adam Zarowski). The play goes on to add more playful characters, making the audience laugh with joy.   

Producer of the show, David Mills, is one of the many people who worked extensively to bring the show to life and considers the festival a way to blend Shakespearean and bilingualism in a play. 

“Anybody is welcome to come and enjoy it, it’s the nicest time of the year, we have audience involvement and the kids are invited to be a part of the play,” Mills said. “El Paso has had this bicultural identity and Spanish is widely spoken here so I think it’s appropriate that we combine the two in a place like this.” 

Among the group of actors, Isabella Camfield, a member of the neighborhood, plays a character called Olivia. An English teacher at Franklin High School and an avid lover of Shakespeare, Camfield finds the festival as an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the multiculturalism in the borderland.    

“We have vendors and a great group of actors, some are UTEP students and some of us are members of the community who all wanted to come together to make art,” Camfield said. “It’s a great opportunity to celebrate that multiculturalism and as you see in the play, its two different worlds coming together, and in the end all dancing together so it’s an exciting way to represent our beautiful vibrant community.”  

As parents unfolded their lawn chairs, with kids sitting on the fresh grass with their little picnic baskets and blankets, local vendors sold an array of goodies like vegan cupcakes, jewelry and had tarot readings given by Sabine Green, who considers the festival a way to bring two cultures together.    

“El Paso has had a longstanding reputation for being a mixing pot and bringing plays like this and having cross cultural events is perfect and if people watch the performance, they see that it has its own El Paso flavor within the script,” Green said. “We are diverse city and we sometimes forgot that so this kind of thing reminds us that we can coexist.”  

With parents laughing alongside their kids, the festival ended Saturday, Sept. 30, closing the two-week annual festival that brings families and a community together to celebrate the diverse cultures that El Paso has to offer.   

Erik Acosta is the web and copy editor and may be reached at [email protected] 

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About the Contributors
Erik Acosta
Erik Acosta, Editor-in-Chief
Erik Acosta is the editor-in-chief for The Prospector. He is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in theatre. He plans to pursue a career in broadcast journalism and print with hopes of working at LA times, Washington Post and ABC News.
SalmaPaola Baca
SalmaPaola Baca, Contributor/Photographer
SalmaPaola Baca is a senior at UTEP majoring in engineering innovation and leadership with a concentration and minor in civil engineering and an emphasis in computer science. Her passion for photography enables her to be photographer at The Prospector. While a full-time student, she freelances while planning to grow her platform through travel photography. After graduating, she wants to pursue a master’s degree in architecture while working on her photography simultaneously.
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