Three graduate students from the TTU School of Theatre and Dance attended the Second International Theatre Festival at the American University of Sharjah.
"When people ask me why I chose to come to Texas Tech, I point to experiences like this one," said Patrick Midgely, a PhD student in the Texas Tech Theatre Department. "These opportunities have not just allowed me to work closely with my mentors and sharpen my artistic and intellectual skills, but they also change the way I think and look at the world."
From February 2-10, 2019, three graduate students from the Texas Tech School of Theatre and Dance attended the Second International Theatre Festival at the American University of Sharjah. Midgley was joined by PhD student Collin Vorbeck and MFA Design Student Kelly Murphey in creating and presenting Public Domain: A Play with Footnotes, a performance lecture that theatricalizes one man's battle with his research into O'Neill and Shakespeare. The students also collaborated with Cory Norman (TTU Theatre & Dance's Director of Marketing and Communication) under the direction of Mark Charney.
"There's a depth to that achievement that I haven't quite grasped yet, but it is certainly not an accomplishment of one," said Vorbeck. "Mark Charney, Cory Norman, and Patrick Midgley allowed me to join in this project, and Kelly Murphey shaped its spectacle on the fly in an unknown space in a matter of minutes. I am infinitely proud of just how well our production was received."
For some of the students watching the performance, it was their first theatrical experience ever. Even so, they laughed at the jokes, stayed with the characters' journeys to the very end, and provided an energy that pushed the actors along, guiding the performances.
In addition to the performance, the delegation from Texas Tech offered educational workshops. Midgley led students from Michigan State, Clemson, Kuwait, Sharjah, and Dubai in a workshop on Shakespeare's verse that Vorbeck described as "direct, insightful, smart, and accessible—just what the students craved." Vorbeck himself offered a section on auditioning for students that were primarily from disciplines other than theatre in which the concept of an audition was able to be applied to aspects of their personal degree tracks. As the company's designer and technician, Kelly Murphey primarily focused on a session called "Design Storm."
"Our design process, from early brainstorming to presentation, was completed in a matter of two and a half days," said Murphey. "In other workshop sessions, I worked collectively with students to discuss a play and its themes before diving headlong into creating a shadowbox or collage of visual research that encapsulated our overall design approach. This was exciting beyond measure as never had I had the pleasure of introducing my ideas to an international audience."
During some rare down time on Friday morning, Midgely found himself swimming lengths in the Persian Gulf off La Mer Beach in Dubai. There he was, on the other side of the globe, performing a play about his research and sharing his passion for the theatre with students, artists, and teachers from all over the world. He couldn't help but smile.
"I'll never forget that moment of gratitude or any other moment of this remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime adventure of theatrical scholarship," said Midgely. "Sharjah was a remarkable experience."
Vorbeck was excited about the change of perspective provided by the experience.
"These students thirst for the very knowledge we often take for granted here in the
states, and they create using the basic tools that guide us at our earliest moments
of theatrical output," said Vorbeck. "I journeyed to Sharjah to teach, and I was taught.
And when I think of how giving, how welcoming, how altruistic the whole experience
felt, I say to myself:
"Damn, look what we can do, humanity. Look what we can do."