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Regional Festival Honors UTEP’s ‘Cenicienta’ as Best in Show

Last Updated on March 17, 2022 at 12:00 AM

Originally published March 17, 2022

By Daniel Perez

UTEP Communications

The University of Texas at El Paso earned several honors at the recent Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) for Region 6 to include the festival’s top prize. As a result, some will participate in the national festival that will take place virtually in April 2022.

UTEP theatre students Mara Morciglio, left, and Sadie Aiken flank Adriana Dominguez, Ph.D., assistant professor of theatre. The trio earned awards at the recent Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Photo: Laura Trejo / UTEP Marketing and Communications
UTEP theatre students Mara Morciglio, left, and Sadie Aiken flank Adriana Dominguez, Ph.D., assistant professor of theatre. The trio earned awards at the recent Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Photo: Laura Trejo / UTEP Marketing and Communications

Cenicienta,” a bilingual version of “Cinderella,” won the Directors’ Choice/Best Production Award against five competitors from throughout the region made up of schools from Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Organizers conducted the regional festival virtually Feb. 25-27, 2022.

In addition, the festival honored Sadie Aiken and Mara Morciglio, junior and sophomore theatre majors, respectively. The regional judges selected Aiken as the Excellence in Arts Leadership/ASPIRE National Alternate Award based on her presentation about the theatre that she could like to create for the Deaf community. Morciglio was the first runner-up for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. She will compete in the national competition if the regional winner cannot participate.

​Adriana Domínguez, Ph.D., assistant professor of theatre and director of “Cenicienta,” said that the six directors from the nominated shows chose the winner. The play, which UTEP’s Department of Theatre and Dance produced during the fall 2021 semester, went through three levels of evaluation by three different groups of theatre artists. 

“This is huge, and I am bursting with pride,” Domínguez said. “This award demonstrates that UTEP is competitive and innovative while being student centered. I am honored that our team was selected as the region’s best production. The entire “Cenicienta” process was true magic. I continually am in awe of the amazing work our students do.” 

This is the third time that a UTEP production has earned this award. The previous UTEP winners were “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” in 2004 directed by Joel Murray, a former associate professor and department chair, and “Lydia” in 2018 directed by Kim McKean, an assistant professor of performance.

“Cenicienta” is eligible for national awards and commendations. The national festival will recognize the production during the virtual awards ceremony in May 2022. Organizers usually conduct the national festival in person in Washington, D.C., but it has been virtual since 2020 because of the pandemic and federal funding issues.

Aiken’s festival journey started with four workshops she attended in January and February led by national arts leaders. Those classes helped her formulate a theatre concept that would inspire others, engage the community, be innovative and collaborative, and promote diversity. This is the third year in a row that the festival selected a UTEP student to attend the national festival in this category. The previous participants were Itzel Martinez in 2020 and Isabelle Rivera in 2021.

The Houston native called the workshop process “a little unconventional” because it was online, but she was pleased with the result.

Aiken’s theatre project focused on the Deaf community. She said her hometown theatre had a major connection to people with hearing impairments. One of her mentors was an American Sign Language interpreter and they would sign backstage to communicate.

 “I am proud of my work,” Aiken said. “I was excited, but surprised to be selected. I have a lot of passion for my project, but few people know about the lack of Deaf theatre in Texas.”

Domínguez said that UTEP students are successful in the Excellence in Arts Leadership category because they participate in all aspects of theatre and have several opportunities to get involved in department productions.

“We take great pride in mentoring our students and providing them with the support they need,” Domínguez said.    

As for Morciglio, the acting contestant said the process was hectic, but fun. She said it was a last-minute decision to participate, which took some of the pressure off. The El Paso native submitted two recorded monologues and a recorded scene with a partner, but she did not think anything would come from it. Industry professionals based their rankings on those recordings.

Morciglio said the competition took her out of her comfort zone and that she was excited about the outcome. The first-generation college student received $500 for placing second at regionals.

The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship honors and provides financial assistance to outstanding student performers who want to further their education. Ryan, who died in 1973 at age 70, was born in El Paso and had a long acting career. Fans know her best as the feisty “Granny” on the long-running television show, “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

Angela Guerra, sophomore theatre major, reached the final round of the Ryan scholarship audition. Her UTEP peers who made it to the semi-finals were Elias Perales and Carolina Flores Parada, junior theatre majors.

Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the college was proud of the accomplishments of the theatre and dance department, its students, and especially Domínguez for this important achievement.

“Our theatre productions have won multiple awards in recent years, especially at the Kennedy Center Festival,” O’Hearn said. “It puts us on the map as a leading theatre department in the US and the leading department in Latine theatre.”

The KCACTF is a national organization that celebrates the educational and creative process of university and college theatre. The festival 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.