Texas Tech University

Summer 2022 Signature Program Experiences

Jay Culmone

May 5, 2022

Eager theatre and dance students with no firm plans for the summer can take advantage of two headline programs the School of Theatre offers each summer: the Marfa Theatre Intensive and WildWind Performance Lab.

Both programs are seminal learning experiences for anyone with even the most passing interest in theatre/dance, and they are a far cry from the routine of your standard-fare classroom lecture. They encapsulate interactive, cooperative, boots-on-the-ground theatre education, and they exemplify theatre as its best: on the stage, with professionals—doing and making it.

The Marfa Theatre Intensive teaches devised theatre.  It combines a student's own independent work with the discoveries of collaboration. In just shy of two weeks, participants design and perform, from scratch, a play they then stage on the Intensive's final day. This year's Marfa Intensive will be led, as it was last summer, by famous New York playwright and director Richard Maxwell. Joining him will be a host of guest artists: theatre-maker and multi-hyphenate creative Modesto “Flaco” Jimenez; multi-disciplinary artist and Marfa-resident Natalie Melendez; and New York-based teaching artist Tory Vasquez.

At the other end of the theatrical-technical spectrum from the Marfa Intensive is the WildWind Performance Lab, which is less devised theatre creation and more holistic, intensive theatre and dance training. WildWind is made up of a month of week-long sessions that feature new play development and collaborative workshops in performance and design. Playwrights of the program benefit from conscientious feedback on their work, while actors, directors, and designers enjoy immersion in the inception, development, and performance of the freshly written play. And in WildWind, too, as in Marfa, students will learn from its own lineup of guests artists, which this year includes a motion-capture artist and stunt woman, a puppeteer, and a professional theatre stage manager. Each day is wall-to-wall activity: talk-backs with the guests artists; workshops in performance, design, and new play development; and immersive experimentation with structure, form, and delivery. 


In 2019 I had the great fortune to be a part of the Marfa Theatre Intensive, and I couldn't have been more pleased with the experience. It was what you might call my origin story. This was back when I was wrapping up an M.A. in philosophy here at Texas Tech, and believe me, I knew next to nothing about theatre. All I had under my belt at that point in time was a background in creative writing and a grab bag of English courses. Less than a week later, though, I was alone on stage, demonstrating my talent for gulping down hot sauce without the merest reaction, and by the end of the journey, I was acting on stage for the first time in front of a considerable audience. And I tell you, there are few greater joys than shepherding, from start to finish, a stage play borne of you and your classmates' very own collaboration, few better feelings than opening up and gaining friends I otherwise wouldn't have. 

Sadly, I've only observed WildWind.  But I have a painter friend who earned his studio MFA here and participated in WildWind in 2020. I remember he would always breathlessly recount for me what he had done in that day's session, which was often niche body work for the stage designed to push you out of your comfort zone. He had a real blast that summer in WildWind and told me that it informed his studio practice in exciting ways.    

And that's the clincher when it comes to the Marfa Intensive and the WildWind Performance Lab: there's truly something in them for everyone, be it the playwright, the actor, the director. and the designer too. But there is even something for the philosophy student, for the canvas painter, and for whomever else has the initiative to explore. While I can't predict what you may get from either experience, I can share with yhou what I gained when I participated: friendship, collaboration, an understanding of the power of art and interdisciplinarity, and new ways to develop my voice as an artist. 

So what are you waiting for? Should we pencil you in for a firm yes