Texas Tech University

Theatre in Raider Red

T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh

October 25, 2023

Red Theatre Company (RTC) is a student run thespian group, a haven for theatre students, a theatrical think tank, and an incubation lab all in one. 

How did it come to be?

Thomas and BenAbout two years ago, students Thomas Schnaible and Benjamin Stanford noticed that even with the multitude of productions SoTD presents each year, some students were feeling left out. Schnaible thought that there was not an opportunity for students where there could be.

Students who were not cast in department shows wanted their place on stage. Playwrights wanted an avenue to workshop plays. “It is hard to get a chance to direct,” Stanford noted.

They had ideas and knew other students did too. They also knew what a challenge it is for students to stage productions on their own. What if there was an organization that could help those ideas come to fruition? An official student organization would get a higher priority than independent productions and funding for its efforts.

They started planning.

“I'm always a doer,” Schnaible said. “I like to create.”

He was the undergraduate voice; Stanford brought the graduate perspective. The two brainstormed with other students, forming a mission to provide a “free, safe and comfortable environment” that would add to the university offering from a student perspective. They then formed a board to help govern and sustain their endeavors.

As their logo suggests, they named their project The Red Theatre Company because they wanted something bold, simple, and with one of the school's colors in mind.  

“I remember when Thomas Schnaible first came to me to discuss the Red Theatre,” recalls Dr. Mark Charney, advisor to RTC and director of the School of Theatre & Dance. “Not only was the school excited by the mission of this new organization, but also impressed by their initiative, their drive, and their vision.”

RTC went into full swing last fall with a successful new play workshop from then 3rd year Playwriting student Julia Anderson.

Red TheatreRTC encourages students to participate, with all ideas welcomed. If someone is passionate and willing to work, even if their idea is not fleshed out, RTC stands ready to help, as advisors and producers.

“My favorite thing about the company is how we've been able to serve the MFA Playwriting students by providing them with a workshop space for full-length plays,” remarked Jonathon Myers, whose self-declared title is Executive Team Member/Producer. The “catch-all producer” of the company's efforts, he also directed their Miscast Cabaret late last fall, a popular, nightclub-styled musical production with gender swapping, non-traditional casting. “We identify a population of students that are underserved and use whatever resources we have at our disposal to serve them.”

The theatrical umbrella of the company extends its shelter beyond SoTD. The audition process can be intimidating for non theatre majors. Consequently, the company has had a great deal of participation from students outside of the department, who are more at ease with student-led productions.  

“We're making theatre more accessible,” Stanford said, “not just to those who already immerse themselves in theatre, but to those who are exploring their interests in theatre and want to learn more.”

RTC provides a welcomed outlet for faculty members as well. Instructors are required to teach specific courses; but there are other topics they would like to offer.

The company's Faculty Workshop Series affords them that opportunity. This fall, students were treated to "Etudes" with new faculty member Chris Staley, and "Mastering Theatrical Lighting" with faculty member Jared Roberts. Etudes are part of theatre legend Konstantin Stanislavsky's system of Active Analysis. Roberts covered how to start up, navigate, program, and shut down the full lighting console in Maedgen 267, a gem of a rehearsal and performance space that is available for student productions.  

Next month, Professor Rachel Hirshorn-Johnston will teach a movement workshop, and more faculty presentations are in the works.  Charney believes that the company has strong faculty support because “they exemplify student empowerment. They're taking charge of their education and their experiences here at Texas Tech.”

Purple CarThis fall, RTC also continued its new play workshop series with Stanford's Purple Car, directed by Rebecca Johnson. On November 11, they will present Jada Campbell's A Better Place in the D.S.A., directed by Ayanna Taylor, at 7pm in the Maedgen theatre building, room 267. Stay tuned for details on their next holiday review!

The key figures at RTC enjoy the eclectic nature of their organization. All of them have taken on leadership roles for specific productions including senior undergraduate Musical Theatre major Mary Lantz, who joined the company with Myers after the two performed together in A Little Night Music and recognized in Schnaible a kindred spirit.  With many of them graduating by this spring, they are looking now toward passing the baton to the next theatre student innovators.

The call is out to those who seek to hone their performance, technical, leadership, and management skills through student-produced projects. RTC is a place, Thomas says, “for people to perform and for people to grow.”  Before he leaves, he would like to see the company realize a full production “from scratch.”  Navigating the school's production schedule is tricky, but with the accessibility they have, and the faculty's appreciation for what they do, he thinks that it can happen.  

Purple CarHe and the others are eager to mentor the next leaders. They need designers, and other artists, and not just majors or minors, but anyone willing to take the company in whatever direction it needs to go.

“Red Theatre is in flux,” Schnaible mused. “What I see is different than what other people see.”  

“I encourage others to rise up and take their places,” Charney added. “Understanding, of course, that they can transform this organization to meet their (own) vision.”

“Theatre,” Thomas concluded, “is meant for everybody. Come talk to us!”

The Red Theatre Company's events are free and open to the public.