Faculty and Students Started the Semester with a Virtual Welcome Week

"Welcome Home" over a picture of the UT Tower

Though the pandemic has forced students everywhere to reimagine the start of the fall semester, the Theatre and Dance Undergraduate Advisory Council (UAC), with the help of our brilliant faculty, facilitated a warm welcome for incoming and returning Longhorns. To accommodate today’s virtual world, the UAC planned a week of digital events to introduce incoming students to the department, culminating in this year’s Convocation. In a video circulated to all undergraduate and graduate students, the UAC compiled introductions and words of encouragement from faculty in all areas of the department. Along with providing descriptions of their areas of study, the faculty communicated their belief in the resilience and adaptability of the strong community of artists that populate the F. Loren Winship Drama Building.

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A Look Back at EVOLUTION (VIRTUAL EDITION)

dancers in different locations in front of a brick wall

There was no shortage of creativity and ingenuity in this year’s Evolution showcase, an annual collaboration between student designers and choreographers from the Department of Theatre and Dance and the School of Design and Creative Technologies. Though students didn’t have the B. Iden Payne Theatre to house their larger-than-life creations, in the true spirit of Evolution, they experimented with new forms and innovations, reimagining their performances for the virtual sphere. We’ve collected performances from this year’s month-long virtual showcase, which took place July 30-August 20, 2020, featuring selections of Evolution (Virtual Edition) performances that exhibited the resilience and adaptability of our students, as well as insight into the process of remote collaboration.

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An Interview with Libby Carr on Attending the M.F.A. Playwrights’ Workshop

cast of SAD GIRL HOURS through Zoom and Libby Carr's headshot

We recently spoke with undergraduate student Libby Carr, who attended National New Play Network’s M.F.A. Playwrights’ Workshop this year. As one of only two undergraduate student playwrights selected nationwide, Carr participated in a virtual workshop of their play sad girl hours with a professional director, dramaturg and a collection of established actors. Carr shared their inspiration and goals for the play, the origins of this work in Patrick Shaw’s playwriting course and the lessons they have learned from working within a collaborative theatre community.

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Theatre Students Have Instrumental Role in Welcoming Incoming Longhorns

Anna Skidis Vargas headshot, Andrea L. Hart headshot and Zoey Crow headshot

Thousands of incoming freshmen and transfer students are preparing for their first days as Longhorns, a time filled with excitement and anxiety even without the backdrop of a global pandemic. In a typical year, they’d be counting down the days to UT Orientation, when stepping on campus signifies the beginning of their college journey. This year is different. This year, the first step on their college journey is through a computer screen. Luckily, thanks to a collaboration with Theatre and Dance students Andrea L. Hart, Anna Skidis Vargs and Zoey Crow, these incoming Longhorns get to experience the energy of The University of Texas at Austin, despite being unable to attend orientation on the 40 Acres.

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Ariane Stier on Winning the 2020 LMÁS Senior Thesis Award

Ariane Stier headshot and cast meeting over Zoom

We recently interviewed 2020 Latino Media & Arts Studies Senior Thesis Award winner and recent B.A. in Theatre and Dance graduate Ariane Stier. Her project, “Mírame: Deconstructing Latina Representation and Empowerment in Performance,” takes a critical look at the film and theatre industry’s representation of Latinas and advocates for more truthful, complex Latinx characters. Stier discussed her process and plans for the project, as well as her inspirations and goals as a theatre artist who is eager to amplify the voices of those who have been historically silenced.

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An Inside Look at the Dance Area’s Virtual Performance Showcase

Three dancers posing

Each semester, members of the dance area have traditionally come together to present a showcase of student work known as the “Dance Area Performance Showcase” or DAPS. This year, with the shift to online learning amidst shelter-in-place protocols, faculty and students have had to adjust their plans to preserve some semblance of what a normal semester would look like. For our dancers, this included reinventing their DAPS showcase as a YouTube playlist; sharing videos of online classes and experiments as well as virtual performances of their final projects.

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Celebrating the Class of 2020

Collection of graduation images

Graduation is now behind us, but this year’s commencement and the final semester of many students’ college careers will be remembered for years to come. The resilience and diligence of our students when faced with unprecedented challenges has been nothing short of inspirational. Without the ability to honor these graduates in a usual commencement ceremony, programs within the Department of Theatre and Dance utilized new and creative ways to celebrate their seniors, including everything from car parades to socially distant yard processionals and Zoom celebrations.

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An Interview with Keene Prize Winner Jaymes Sanchez

Jaymes Sanchez headshot

We recently interviewed M.F.A. in Playwriting candidate Jaymes Sanchez about winning the prestigious Keene Prize for Literature (College of Liberal Arts, The University of Texas at Austin). Sanchez was recognized for his script The Cucuy Will Find You, a play that incorporates Mexican-American folklore to address the tensions between traditional and individual identity faced by Latinx millennials. The Keene Prize, awarded to an undergraduate or graduate student every year, earned Sanchez $50,000 for his creation of a work that exemplified the future of American literature and, as Mr. E. L. Keene said when establishing this prize, provided a “vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm.”

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Moments of Contact: How One Dance Class Transitioned to Online Presentations

dancers posing in their kitchen

Tackling choreography in the style of contact improvisation seems nearly impossible in a time when physical contact is limited. In Dr. Rebecca Rossen’s Dance History II class, undergraduate students Ashley Stone and Lindsay Ball were tasked with exploring this style for a group presentation. As their class transferred to an online setting, the two had to find a way to incorporate aspects of contact improvisation, a form rooted in physical collaboration, while maintaining social distancing restrictions. Luckily, they had a special advantage—they’re roommates!

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Finding a Creative Space When the Studios Close

Gracyn, Lindsay, and Bridget dancing

The closure of dance studios for the remainder of the semester poses an obvious question for many students: where, and how, can we continue learning through movement? Faculty member Leah Cox’s dance composition class has reimagined this challenge as an opportunity. As they study postmodern movement, the students have let new dance spaces inspire their work, and the resulting video assignments have opened new conversations about searching for creative places in confinement.

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