Texas Tech University

Highlighting the "&" in Theatre & Dance

Charlotte Boye-Christensen

April 6, 2021

Charlotte Boye-Christensen

Frontier Fest (April 8-11), an evening of one-act plays and choreographic pieces, provides a unique platform for our dance students to work with theatre and design students. It epitomizes the collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit and philosophy that we preach daily in the School of Theatre and Dance. To prepare our students for the professional world, it requires that they communicate ideas succinctly and effectively to collaborators in other fields and engage in dialogue that can help substantially develop their work. I personally think it might be the most important creative opportunity that we provide our students while at Texas Tech University.

This year the students were asked to use a design piece as the point of departure - looking at shape, space, concept – to recognize how all work together to inform and shape their perspectives.

Professor Rebecca Gilman writes,

The visual image that inspired the plays incorporated elements from the past, recycled and reborn into a vision for the future.  The playwrights, inspired by that image, wrote uniquely theatrical pieces that both inhabit and inform the space.  The plays are as dynamic and muscular as the image itself. 

Producer of Frontier Fest, Thomas Laney agrees,

For the inaugural "Frontier Fest," we are looking at new perspectives. Using the set design prompt that scenic designerShawn Ketchum-Johnson developed last year, playwrights and choreographers developed new works. Shawn's set design was originally meant to encapsulate the feeling of being in a new space, a clear departure from the traditional theatre seating. A key aspect of the design was a number of chairs at various levels seeming to be blown away from the environment to make way for something new. We believe that this design also helps to capture our feelings of isolation and strangeness fostered by the quarantine.

One of BA dance students, Delaney Ellis, explains her role as choreographer: 

This experience has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. Being able to see your own vision come to life is an extremely emotional process. I have never created my own work before this, and was nervous to do so, but now I can't wait till I get another opportunity to build a performance from the ground up. Working through film was challenging but also relieved an immense amount of pressure. Being able to know exactly what your piece will look like during the show takes away the fear of something going wrong. This experience has also allowed me to grow closer with my dancers as well as many people in our theatre program. I love every time our worlds collide and get excited when given the opportunity to collaborate with others in the program. 

BFA dance student Sydney Rood defines her role as an artist in the process: 

Being a part of Frontier Fest, was a challenging step for me as an artist, one that I am glad I could take while being in college and still mastering my craft. Creating my own work was out of my comfort zone, but I was supported by the dance faculty and my cast through the process. I did not create this piece with a "story" in mind; instead, I wanted to evoke joy, peace, lightness to alleviate the audience from the darkness of this past year, looking to a more joyful future: the feeling of frolicking through a field on a spring day. 

Isabella Gonzales, one of our students in the new MA in Dance Studies track, wrote,

Destanie Davidson and I collaborated on our piece titled “Mislaid Blame,” highlighting the trials and tribulations that come with mental health in a relationship.  Our cast members, Gracie Wilson and Jessica Garcia, explored the struggles of how anxiety can affect the ways in which interactions develop within relationships. 

Our experience choreographing was unique because distance played a significant role in the choreography process.  With Destanie 1620 miles away in Virginia, while I was in Lubbock, we had to rely on technology to help bring this piece together. Due to COVID and having to adapt and learn how to utilize online video conferencing platforms, we were able to expand this collaborative project. Destanie, through zoom, worked with acting major, Gracie Wilson, and I worked in person with dance major, Jessica Garcia. Truly taking advantage of the partnership between theatre and dance, we collaborated to create the final piece. 

The spiritic placement of the set brought up the idea of disorganization and chaos which heavily influenced the subject of our piece. We had originally choreographed our dancers climbing on and around the set, but this, of course, had to be re-worked given the circumstances. Our initial piece was very heavily based on partner work, but with COVID, we changed our perspective to portray the same themes without physical touch and with distance. 

Overall, we learned how to take an original idea--reimagine and metamorphose it--as an example of our everchanging society.  We also learned that distance does not negatively impact the development of our piece, but, instead, adds a unique element to the process. We feel that, since we both had a voice in this project, our individual artistic visions came together to help “Mislaid Blame” flourish. 

Tickets to Frontier Fest are available for purchase online through the Theatre & Dance website.