Texas Tech University

Chatting with Charney

Mark Charney

September 11, 2019

smelling mimeograph paper

One morning, I asked my Director of Marketing, Cory Norman, if he'd ever smelled a mimeographed handout. He looked at me as if I was crazy. I do understand how weird that sounds, smelling a handout, but Cory is nearing 40, so I sorta hoped he'd get the context. He didn't, once again, reminding me just how 62 years old I am.

But those of you born in or around the late 50's through the mid to late 70's, well, you know what I mean.

Before Xerox, professors typed their quizzes, tests, handouts on 3-layered sheets using a mimeograph, a machine that forces ink through a stencil onto paper. It has a round cylinder with a crank, and you actually had to turn it to reproduce copies. And yeah, when the copies were made, they smelled of ink. No, they smelled of ink.

As another oldster friend of mine explains,

You had to type on special 3-layered sheets that were not cheap. The machine would transfer wax off the typed letters and you would throw that sheet and the top one away. The one in the middle was now porous (where the wax was removed). You put it in the machine on a rotating drum that pressed ink through it onto paper. The fumes didn't give anyone a buzz—ok, maybe a little one, but nothing to write home about--and while some people hated the smell, most loved it.

For most of my education, fall semesters smelled like mimeograph ink. When professors handing out well, anything paper, students would smell it. And that's what this fall semester smells like. So much of that has to do with our new building.

It smells new.

It smells fresh.

It smells like the buzz of returning to school after the summer, seeing old friends, sharing stories, and embracing a new class schedule with all kinds of vigor and hope and optimism.

It smells like mimeograph ink. It smells like hope.


We at the School of Theatre and Dance at TTU have reason to be optimistic, for finally, a dream long held is a reality. We are in our new space, and I never knew how much we needed it until the students actually returned.

Theatre and dance are both about community. Whereas many other arts demand solitude, theatre and dance beg for places to gather, to rehearse, to collaborate, to communicate, and to create. The old Maedgen denied us those spaces, so we made due. We dispersed all over campus—to basements, classrooms, labs...heck, even to different offices all over campus. The faculty rarely saw each other except for meetings once a month and in passing, and we saw the students crowded into the lab lobby, sometimes.

But, already, in the middle of the first week, I've gotten to know students by just joining them in one of the many collaboration areas around which the building was designed. Skylights. Offices. Classrooms. Black Box Theatre. Benches. Tables. Chairs. A real Green Room. A Studio Theatre.

And light. So Much Light.

We needed all of the labs and classrooms, but most importantly, we needed places to gather, and this new space offers that in abundance. Our building is designed with the art in mind, and I can tell already, it's a game changer.

During these last seven years since I arrived, we have produced miraculous work; don't get me wrong. Creating against the elements can yield great things. And it has.

But the promise of this fall, with our official opening on October 4th (ribbon cutting. Diana Moore celebration, Dr. Marks' retirement, our first Black Box show, Doctor Love), I'm sensing pure magic in the air.

So join us for all of our shows and events, but for now, heck, just come. Sit in our beautiful lobby. Roam the halls. See the art (when it arrives). Hang out. Talk to us.

But most importantly, share our community. We've always welcomed you, but now, we finally have a space that does as well.