Texas Tech University

Chatting with Charney

Mark Charney

January 22, 2019

Mark Charney

There are many reasons to be grateful in 2019.

At the beginning of each spring semester, while the world is committing (or not) to resolutions, I always try, instead, to remember for what and to whom I should give thanks. At Texas Tech, it's easy, especially in a year where the slogan, "From Here, It's Possible," is exemplified by our university in so many real ways.

Let me share a few of them.

We are very near to moving into phase one of our new 43-million-dollar complex, made possible by an administration that truly believes in the arts, and our incredible advocate, Dean Zahler. As you can imagine, this new space will alleviate the incredible stress that we've experienced by not having our own classrooms or rehearsal spaces for the last 50 some-odd years. The new flexible black box, the state-of-the-art CADD lab, the new Studio Theatre, three new classrooms, a performative lobby, new box office, and larger central offices, among many other improvements, will not only give us some room to breathe, but help with recruiting, retention, and, most importantly, education.

This alone is reason to be grateful. We move in this May, and soon thereafter, the Maedgen as we know it will be torn down, with the exception of the theatre that will undergo exciting renovations, and Phase Two will begin, increasing the size of our shops, bringing the costume shop back to us, and housing the Dean's Administrative Team.

We are about to participate in the American University of Sharjah Second International Theatre Festival, a week-long celebration that will feature an original play, Public Domain: A Play with Footnotes, written by TTU graduate students Patrick Midgely, Collin Vorbeck, and me. Public Domain playfully examines what it means to be a doctoral student struggling to research Shakespeare and O'Neill. Not only are we taking a group of five to the Middle East, but many of many of our travelers are teaching, as well as taking workshops in acting, playwriting, arts administration, and stage management (where we will meet and work alongside theatre artists from all over the world).

This semester, our students in dance and theatre attend major festivals: the American College Dance Association and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Both celebrate our students' work, and, again, offer our students the opportunity to network, learn from professional artists, and share their performative skills. In theatre, students are chosen to travel based on excellence exemplified in their yearly work on many of the plays you have seen.

Our site-specific and found-space season is thriving. Elephant's Graveyard pretty much sold out in the Equestrian Center, as did our Fall Dance Festival, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, opening very soon at the Ranching and Heritage Center, only has a few seats left. Best of all, from an educator's viewpoint, we are teaching skills that working just in a theatre cannot convey, and our designers, actors, and directors are rising to the challenge. We remain thankful to you, our audiences, for the flexibility you are exhibiting when you attend our shows outside of the theatre. And we continue to celebrate our city.

This is also the semester of national conferences, and our graduate students are excelling! Not only have many of them been selected to lead workshops and present scholarly papers all over the nation, but members of our faculty, such as Dorothy Chansky, Andy Gibb, Rachel Hirshorn-Johnston, and Dean Nolen are conference planners or hold major offices. As you can imagine, this increases the national awareness of our School. I'm always proud that the name of Texas Tech is now synonymous with excellence and leadership in theatre and dance.

Our faculty are receiving grants for their works, finding publishing opportunities for their research, and winning awards for their teaching.

But most of all I'm thankful that I'm surrounded by hardworking, collaborative, generous people who care deeply about art and prove this daily in their pursuit of scholarly and creative endeavors. Theatre and dance practitioners work long hours, looonnngg hours, but while we may indeed express exhaustion, we never take for granted just how important community is to help us all reach and sustain our potentials.

And, finally, in 2019, I'm grateful that we have you as audience members, donors, supporters, and volunteers, folks who love and support our program, for art does not exist independent of community and we have the best community imaginable.

Happy New Year!