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Where it all began…

In 1978, EL PASO DEL NORTE was reborn as VIVA! EL PASO, with a new production concept, energy and director —Hector Serrano. He conceived, staged and directed VIVA! EL PASO, which has entertained audiences for close to four decades. As we look toward the future of this production, we want to take a short journey back, reflecting on the early days of the show and the idea that developed from the very talented director.

In 1979, the second season, Mr. Serrano wrote:

“There’s nothing else around like VIVA! EL PASO. Quite often our biggest problem is finding a ‘label’ for the production. VIVA! is an ‘outdoor drama,’ but it isn’t. VIVA! Is a ‘pageant,’ but then again, not quite. It’s an ‘historical drama,’ but it’s not; and it’s an ‘outdoor musical,’ (and, once again, not).

“VIVA! EL PASO … It’s a unique combination of the drama that found and built the El Paso/Southwest; it’s a colorfully costumed pageant; it’s an historical presentation, while its emphasis is on entertainment; and, on top of everything else … it’s put to music.”

The next season he wrote:

“VIVA! EL PASO remains the greatest challenge of my lifetime. Paying homage to the Great American Southwest, providing local talent an opportunity to shine, developing a creative, entertaining, and a highly cultural production … such is the stuff this show is made of, and just like dreams, it does come true, every summer. I hope you enjoy it again, and again, and again.”

As we begin this 2020 season, I feel it’s important to go back to the production’s rich thematic roots, and celebrate the hard work and talent of a colleague and friend. Hector Serrano was the first director I worked with when I moved to El Paso in the 1980s. I performed for him at the Southwest Repertory Organization as well as his successful Shakespeare on the Rocks repertory. I was fortunate enough to be by his side prior to his retirement from EPCC, where we created the college’s Theatre Ensemble Main Stage Season of Shows, which produces two full stage productions each semester for the El Paso community.

As Hector Serrano stated in a 1980 magazine article titled, “Promoting the Arts,” “VIVA! EL PASO continues to grow and change each year. … The secret to the success of VIVA! EL PASO is that it offers entertainment for the whole family.” In honor of the show’s original creator, we send out a big THANK YOU for giving us a great beginning of this annual El Paso event! May we do you proud!!!

Keith Townsend
Artistic Director

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