Texas Tech University School of Theatre and Dance students participate in theatre conferences throughout the year, attending workshops, submitting conference papers, and networking with other artists all over the country. In February, a group of students attended the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Louisville, KY and the Mid-Atlantic Theatre Conference in Chicago, IL.
Theatergoers from around the southeast look forward to SETC. The conference invites 5,000 plus participants to gather for workshops, keynote speakers, auditions, college recruiting, job interviews and performances from around the country.
I had the privilege of attending the Southeastern Theatre Conference with my colleague Shawn Ward. Shawn and I are both a part of the marketing team at the School of Theatre and Dance, and we led a workshop geared toward how to market your theatre with the popular app Tik Tok. Fifty-three theatregoers attended our workshop from professors to artistic directors where we investigated how to use new technologies to create content.
"My first time at SETC was a great experience," says Ward. "I am thankful for student travel funding from the school to help fund my trip and the ability to participate in various workshops and network with professionals in the field."
The Mid-American Theatre Conference in a national conference for educators that present papers and workshops on production, history, playwriting, and pedagogy, along with staged readings of new works.
Collin Vorbeck, a doctoral candidate currently writing his disseratation, presented a paper at the conference proposing a theoretical syllabus for courses targeting non-majors that help to sustain engagement from both students and instructors throughout the semester:
"My paper investigates the ways our newest and often least-experienced instructors approach classes that engage students from diverse backgrounds, I research the best teaching techniques that might be applied across disciplines. My project seeks to improve the levels of accountability for instructors in our non-major classes, so I also theorized success measures and cross-referenced them to existing pedagogical literature and theatre praxis."
Although conference travel and fees are not cheap, the department offsets the obstacle by providing generous travel funding for both graduate and undergraduate students due to the long hours and research that goes into presenting and sharing at a conference.
Bradley Hewlett, a first-year MFA Playwriting Candidate, participated in the Playwriting Symposium offered at MATC:
"My ten-minute play, Vaky Vaky Vaky, was workshopped by a director, a dramaturg, and a pair of actors before receiving a staged reading for an audience of conference attendees and an invited respondent, Ruth Margraff."
The first draft of the play came from the Script Raiders 24-Hour Play Festival during the Fall Semester. Without events such as that one, Hewlett states that he may not have generated this play.
Around the time of both conferences, COVID-19 was making its name known around the country. Although Vorbeck and Hewlett ventured on, some attendees, like Ph.D. student Garret Lee Milton, opted to stay at home:
"I had planned to present a paper as part of the Practice/Production Symposium. My paper details the process of what it was like to collaborate on an interdisciplinary project—an original piece of the theatre—with the College of Engineering at Texas Tech University."
Considering SETC serves ten southern and eastern states, TTU is fortunate to be a part of SETC, not only for the scholarly advancement, but also as a place to recruit and to network. As these students illustrate, sharing ideas and strategies continues to play an important part of their education.