Texas Tech University

Chatting With Charney

Mark Charney

October 24, 2018

mark charney

So, while we attempt to realize all that we imagine, these excellent artists who comprise our staff, by far the smallest number in the College, make things happen.

While it seems like the semester has just begun, we have already opened and closed Of Beauty Queens and Childhood Dream and Hands on a Hardbody; taken our production of Dona Rosita to the Tennessee Williams Festival along with seven talented scholars; held our 24-Hour Play Festival; performed our Plays on Tap; and are presently getting ready to open Passing and our Fall Dance Festival.

Whew, indeed.

It's not often that we turn down an opportunity that betters our students because we have come to recognize that the more risks we take; the more connections we make; the more expansively we understand the world and other disciplines; the better we educate our students.

In embracing this philosophy, though, imagine how much pressure this puts on our staff. Every new trip means a slew of paperwork; every guest artist means a new contract; every overseas trip or guest means some challenging work with the international office; and every new initiative requires imaginative funding, travel, and scheduling. Mary Lauderback, my Business Manager, has been with us for well over twenty years, and nothing would happen without her mad skills with the budget, but she pretty much understands everything else as well. She's a "mentor" of sorts, someone who understands almost all university policy and makes sure every event we plan can occur legally within the university system. Our School would not exist without her; she's the best of the best, not only in terms of keeping morale up, but also making the impossible happen.

Working along with her are Jeff Day and Miguel Cervantes, who do everything from pcards to travel approvals, from evaluations to budget work, and both with efficiency and a smile. Jeff just earned his PhD along the way, balancing this challenge with his myriad responsibilities, and although Miguel is new, he's learned more than we hoped in record time. Mary, Jeff, and Miguel represent the main office staff, and they do the work of eight.

Our two advisors, Abby Chowning, who is pretty new to graduate advising, and Beth Scheckel, who has been with us for many years as undergraduate advisor (once advising both graduates and undergraduate), make sure our students stay sane. Beth has deservedly won several awards for advising, and again, we would not exist without her patience, knowledge, and advice. She's remarkable, and in her short time with us, Abby is heading that way, using Beth (wisely) as an example of excellence. Students love Beth and Abby. During our major/minor meeting, it's rare that Beth does not receive a standing ovation, and the graduate students appreciate Abby's being there for them. They are conduits to all things curricular, funding, and policy, among many other items, and they help students graduate.

On time.

As Director of Marketing and Company Manager, Cory Norman handles all things marking, box office, promotion, while at the same time coordinating all of our travel and many of our experiential experiences, be it Marfa or Provincetown, Hong Kong or Turkey. Whenever I ask him for help, his answer is simply, "You got it." No wonder that, like Beth and Mary, he just won a staff award this fall. And he leads a huge group of graduate students, training them best practices aligned with our Arts Admin program. In an ideal world, we'd have two folks to do the work he does with excellence and patience.

Our production staff is remarkable.

I've never worked with a better Technical Director than Jared Roberts, whose work is fueled by goodwill, imagination, and skill. He has students working under him who learn as much as they do in any classroom, and he always finds the solution, not the problem. Josh Whitt and Amanda Staats, as our Props and Costume Supervisors, respectively, are much beloved and respected by faculty and students alike. They are creators and inventor, lovely skilled colleagues who instruct, create, and collaborate. And often, because all three have their terminal degrees, they take on a class. Students love them, and so does our faculty, who appreciate their advice, support, and creative ideas.

And our newest staff member, Darin Moody, is a terrific complement to excellence in his role as Master Electrician. His experience melds perfectly with the example of excellence set by Jared, Josh, and Amanda, and he has already facilitated Marfa and the Tennessee Williams Festival. We are fortunate to have them all.

So, while we attempt to realize all that we imagine, these excellent artists who comprise our staff, by far the smallest number in the College, make things happen. Unsung heroes is the wrong cliché to describe them, though, for we sing their praises every day. We would not exist without their generosity, enthusiasm and patience.