Texas Tech University

The PLPS Outreach Program (and its “m-pact” on the School of Theatre & Dance)

Jamison Driskill

November 24, 2021

On the evening of November 3rd, 500+ audience members gathered in Texas Tech's Allen Theatre to witness an energetic performance by Los Angeles pop/jazz acapella group, m-pact. The group's innovative and entertaining arrangements of familiar songs were delightful and everyone in attendance seemed to rejoice in the return of live performances through The Presidential Lecture & Performance Series (PLPS). Earlier in the day, m-pact put on a much less publicized show for a significantly smaller audience with more profound impact.

The audience? A group of musical theatre students from the School of Theatre & Dance (SoTD).

The event? A masterclass in vocal performance.

Graduate instructor Brad Frenette reflects on the experience: "We were thrilled to welcome m-pact into our musical theatre performance class. Their insight into making a career in the arts, specifically in music, was enlightening and inspiring. We were also lucky enough to get a private performance from the group which was the cherry on top of this fantastic masterclass."

Mary Lantz, BFA musical theatre major in attendance agrees: “It was an amazing opportunity to watch m-pact perform! Their ability to take older songs and create new musical experiences through a cappella singing was a sight to see. It was also very beneficial to ask experienced musicians within the industry questions about music composition and their personal involvement in the musical theatre industry.”

Most in the Texas Tech community are aware that PLPS, which is celebrating its 15th consecutive season, regularly brings in a wide range of spectacular performances including award-winning musicians, dance companies, theatre groups, comedy troupes, and speakers to the intimate 936-seat Allen Theatre located on campus in the Student Union Building. However, it is not widely known that the thoughtfully curated and remarkably diverse selection of lecturers and performers are additionally contracted to interact directly with students in the form of a masterclass, class visit, or demonstration.

PLPS Lead Administrator and SoTD alumna, Dóri Bosnyák (MFA 2019), explains how the outreach component works: “Based on the PLPS mission, we ‘entertain & educate.' I keep this in mind as I find our next events. I do my best to book programming that will be fun, but also teach at the same time. This actually helps narrow down options from a sea of musicians, dance companies, theatre troupes, and speakers. On top of looking at the main engagement at the Allen Theatre, I will always arrange for at least one outreach event.”

In fact, Bosnyák explains, PLPS requires artists to engage directly with students: “Many artists don't conduct outreach – they just feel that they don't have the personality or the passion to teach – and no matter how much I want to book a talent, I will forgo them if they aren't interested in teaching our students. It is a vital part of the program.”

BodyTrafficWhen PLPS hosted Los Angeles-based contemporary dance company BODYTRAFFIC in the spring of 2019, they taught a masterclass in the Creative Movement Studio for SoTD students. Bosnyák recalls conversations she had with dance students who participated: “Some of the students were brought to tears as they shared their feelings about the ‘lifechanging' experience they had working with the company. BODYTRAFFIC even held auditions for these students that day. Our students would typically have to travel to at least Dallas or Austin to have such an experience. The fact they had this opportunity here, and to learn in their own classroom, was just incredible.”

Some of the previous SoTD engagements through the PLPS outreach program include:

  • Taylor 2 (New York City), September 2006 – dance masterclass
  • Pilobolus (Washington, CT), March 2010 – dance masterclass
  • Ailey II (New York City), February 2011 – dance masterclass
  • Parsons Dance (New York City), February 2012 – dance masterclass
  • Complexions Contemporary Ballet (New York City), April 2016 – dance masterclass
  • The Second City (Chicago), November 2016 – improvisation masterclass
  • MOMIX (Washington, CT), April 2017 – dance masterclass
  • The Other Mozart created, written, and performed by Sylvia Milo (New York City), March 2018 – Milo charted an entire build of The Other Mozart to the doctoral students in the cross-disciplinary “Arts in Contemporary Context” class.
  • Reduced Shakespeare Company (National & International Touring Company), April 2019 – acting masterclass

SoTD students have benefited tremendously from the PLPS partnership, and they can look forward to more opportunities to interact with the talented artists who visit campus through the series. In the meantime, they can depend on PLPS to continue to offer a wonderfully diverse program of lecturers and entertainers.

Next up for PLPS: on Friday, February 25th, PLPS will host the Grammy-winning Ranky Tanky. “The soulful songs of the Gullah culture are brought to life by this band of native South Carolinians who mix the low country traditions with large doses of jazz, gospel, funk and R&B.”

To round out the 2021-22 season, on Thursday, April 7th, PLPS will host the Lubbock Lights Festival: Celebrating the Life and Music of Mac Davis. This special event hosted by Kenny Maines will feature many local musicians covering his songs to honor Mac Davis's contribution to the world of entertainment.

All events begin at 7:00 pm, except for Lubbock Lights (8:00 pm), and take place in the Texas Tech Allen Theatre. Tickets are available now through Select-A-Seat (806) 770-2000 or www.selectaseatlubbock.com.
Texas Tech students receive one free ticket with valid TTU ID at the East information desk in the Student Union Building.

PLPSVisit the Presidential Lecture and Performance Series website for more information and to buy tickets. Keep up with PLPS by following them on Facebook & Instagram (@ttupresidentialseries) and on Twitter (@PLPS_TTU).