EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The UTEP Dinner Theatre is taking a final curtain call after a final season of musicals.
A message that appeared on the UTEP Dinner Theatre website on Friday, Oct. 6 says the Dinner Theatre is having its final season.
“The UTEP Dinner Theatre bids farewell to its patrons with a final season of musicals. The university, along with the College of Liberal Arts, has decided that musical theater will now be offered within the Theatre and Dance Department and no longer through the UTEP Dinner Theatre,” said the statement released on Friday.
In a different statement sent out by the dean of the College of Liberal Arts on Oct. 4 it says musical theater will live on at UTEP.
“Musical theater at UTEP is not going away. The same professional-grade musicals, produced for
decades by UTEP Dinner Theatre, will continue at UTEP for seasons to come,” said a portion of the statement from Anadeli Bencomo, dean of the UTEP College of Liberal ARts.
The UTEP Dinner Theatre has been around for 40 years, and the news of its final season comes after the founder, Greg Taylor, retired.
However, Taylor tells KTSM he was unaware until his last days at UTEP that the Dinner Theatre would not continue.
“I turned in my retirement papers on a Thursday to retire the following Thursday. On Friday, I found out that the dean had told the people still on the staff at the Dinner Theatre that they were going to close down in December, they were going to close them down in December and the staff talked them into letting them do it for the whole (school) year,” Taylor said.
Taylor got choked up when talking about the students, actors, and community members who have reached out to share their memories of the theater.
“It meant a lot to students. Students learned at the Dinner Theatre, and they continue to learn at the Dinner Theatre and they should continue to learn at the Dinner Theatre in the future. I think this is a misguided decision by the administration,” Taylor said.
On Friday, Oct. 6, “Damn Yankees” opened the UTEP Dinner Theatre running through Oct.22.
UTEP theater student Chloe Curtis, who is working in the costume department for the musical “Damn Yankees” and has been on stage for numerous shows at the theater, says the Dinner Theatre is different than productions within the Theater Department at the university.
“We know obviously in the Department of Theater and Dance that’s where we’re getting our degree but what we want to stay is this place. We want the Dinner Theatre to stay and where we get to work with community members and people that have performed all over the country,” said Curtis.
Curtis, along with other students, created a petition to save the UTEP Dinner Theatre and says it has over 2,000 signatures.
El Pasoan Keri Baggs, who is playing Lola in “Damn Yankees,” is not a UTEP student and says she has been involved with the Dinner Theatre since 2010 when her husband was first stationed at Fort Bliss.
“We were here for three years. Then, we left and we decided that when he had jobs coming up that Bliss was at the top because I would have a place to perform so that’s why we’re back again,” Baggs said.
Baggs says it was the Dinner Theatre that brought her back to El Paso.
“I want to fight. I want to fight so hard for this,” said Baggs, just hours before she was set to go on stage at the Dinner Theatre on Friday.
El Pasoans Lisa and Danny Lopez say they have been a part of the Dinner Theatre for 30 years, Danny as a performer and Lisa as a choreographer. However, their love for the theater goes beyond that as the couple had their wedding reception in the Dinner Theatre in 1994.
“The UTEP Dinner Theatre is something different it’s something special and it’s something that will be sorely missed if the university lets it go,” Liza Lopez said.
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